20 Stunning Photos of Nature’s Rarities

20 Stunning Photos of Nature’s Rarities

Every now and then, we’re lucky enough to capture that natural rarity — the one that sparks our imagination and gives us a deeper appreciation for the world around us. Then there are the nature photographers who make it their mission to not simply catch the event, but also to create something that’s both striking and emotionally captivating. The following is a collection of some of the most incredible images of nature’s rarities that we’ve found among the PhotoShelter community.

Star Trails

Jim Goldstein is an independent photographer specializing in landscape, travel, environments, nature and event photography for advertising and editorial use.

“This photo reflects 7 hours of star movement in the night sky above Mobius Arch in the Alabama HIlls near Lone Pine, California.”

Ghost Panel

Bret Webster has been rather fanatically exploring the wilds of the Colorado Plateau for his lifetime, leading to an awesome presentation of images.

This is an image of the famous ‘Ghost Panel’ in Canyonlands National Park. It’s part of a larger panel and is probably North America’s most magnificent ancient rock art panel. It takes some work and some hiking to get there and the shot was very hard to get so I liked it. I retook this shot over 40 times as we tried to ‘paint’ the cliff with light….back and forth with a large spot light as we tried to get it to look natural. At ISO 3200 and 57 seconds the Milky Way is actually a little ‘over cooked’ in this image but the cliff lighting is perfect. The panel is large and intimidating and I wondered how I would feel as darkness fell but ultimately all I could sense was indifference. Another hard thing about getting this shot is you cannot camp in the canyon…therefore after waiting for total darkness and shooting for several hours, I had the joy of packing up all my gear, lenses and lights and then hiking out in the wee hours. It was worth it though as this shot is hung 20 feet tall in the brand new Utah Museum of Natural History scheduled to open in November 2011 and has had many other awards and accolades including NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day.”

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Photo by Bret Webster

Aurora Borealis

Landscape photography was Dave Brosha’s first area of interest in photography. Aurora Borealis is one of Dave’s specialties and these photos capture the drama of the world-renowned Northern light show.

“I’ve viewed hundreds of displays of Aurora Borealis and although the technical process of photographing this spectacle isn’t overly difficult or challenging after you initially ‘figure it out’, I never fail to be inspired when I’m out there, in the cold and dark, shooting. Photography of the aurora is one way to force yourself outside to view it. Believe it or not, many northerners don’t ‘see’ the aurora that often; they don’t want to leave the comfort of their warm houses. I myself have fallen victim, at times, to the line of thinking ‘ah, they’re always out – why bother looking?’ which is a little sad. We take for granted one of the world’s most amazing natural sights. It only lasted minutes, and then moved on to some other wonderful formation… but it reminded me of a breath, or a whisper, or wind coming from the stars themselves.”

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Photo by Dave Brosha

Volcanic Eruption

Native Icelandic photographers Bjorn Ruriksson and his two sons display and sell their aerial, landscape and geographical photography on Ruriksson.com.

“On April 14, 2010, Mt. Eyjafjallajökull awoke with a fierce volcanic ash eruption after 180 years of quiescence. Disrupting air traffic worldwide for a number of days, the volcano became one of the most notorious in historical times.”

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Photo by Bjorn Ruriksson

Christopher Lund is a certified guide in Iceland doing what he loves most–photogr aphing and traveling. Today he leads photographic tours in Iceland.

“On the 14th of April 2010, Eyjafjallajökull resumed erupting after a brief pause, this time from the top crater in the center of the glacier, causing melt water floods (also known as jökulhlaup) to rush down the nearby rivers, requiring 800 people to be evacuated. This second eruption threw volcanic ash several kilometres up in the atmosphere which led to air travel disruption in northwest Europe for six days. This image if from the 19th of April when the eruption was calming down quite a bit and the first signs of magma could be seen. I shot this through the open window of a small Cessna which I charted. I used my Nikon D3x with a 50mm f/1.4 lens shooting at f/2.0 and 1/250s. The light was disappearing fast and I was already up to ISO 6400. I continued shooting with my Nikon D3s and got usable stuff even at ISO 25600. You have got to love the the latest digital cameras and their low light performance. Only a few years ago I wouldn’t have dreamt about getting usable shots in these conditions.”

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Photo by Christopher Lund

Working as an itinerant travel and wildlife photographer, Paul Souders has been around the world and across all seven continents. 

“Molten lava flows across the coastal plain during the Kilauea eruption at dusk in Hawaii, Volcanoes National Park, USA.”

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Photo by Paul Souders

The Wave

Adam Schallau is a photographer and workshop leader with a passion for the outdoors and the cultures of the land.

“This is the west entrance to ‘The Wave’ in the Coyote Buttes Permit Area at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona.”

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Photo by Adam Schallau

Double Rainbow

Blaine Harrington is a travel/location photographer, based in Denver, Colorado. He is the 2005 and 2006 SATW Travel Photographer of the Year.

“On a trip to photograph wildflowers near Crested Butte, Colorado, I had settled into a campsite nearby, and waited out a summer rainstorm under some trees. As the rain was tapering off, I spotted part of a rainbow through the trees, grabbed a camera and ran onto the dirt road in the foreground. I think the thing that makes this rainbow photo unusual is that the rainbow is so close to the ground, literally underneath the mountains in the background, not just up in the sky. So the rainbow is the photo, not just an element of it.”

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Photo by Blaine Harrington

Lake Bubbles

As a newcomer to Canada, Olivier Du Tré believes that he has a greater appreciation for the beauty that surrounds him.

“Abraham Lake in the winter has to be one of the best kept secrets in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. A lot of people pass it on their rush from Banff to Jasper but never bother to take the turn on to Highway 11. It is such a beautiful area though! The lake is situated in a rain shadow area of the surrounding mountains and receives little snow in winter. These conditions keep the ice practically snow free. The ice is just perfect, filled with air bubbles and cracks as water levels drop over the winter time. When I took this shot, I was visiting the lake for the first time. The sun started to get lower on the horizon and the day was running close to its end when beautiful pastel pinks appeared in the sky. I had to move fast! Not having any cleats on my boots, it was very challenging to get down to the lake surface. Mix in a lot of wind and you can imagine me, being blown all over the lake’s icy surface. I sure had fun! If you are around during winter time, make sure to stop by this beautiful lake.”

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Photo by Olivier Du Tré

Mammatus Clouds

Patti Fowler shoots wildlife, weather, flowers and fungi.

“A typical storm came through Minnesota late one evening. It wasn’t very exciting, so I hadn’t gone out to get pictures of any lightning or wall clouds. Then all of a sudden I saw these clouds out the window. I grabbed my camera and ran out of the house (no tripod, no shoes even). All I could do was brace myself against a wall of the house and start shooting. They started out a very light yellow and proceeded through to this deep magenta. I managed to get just 10 pictures before the moment was gone.”

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Photo by Patti Fowler

Desert Geysers

A seventh generation Californian from a ranching family in San Luis Obispo, Londie Garcia Padelsky has become widely recognized as one of the leading women outdoor photographers.

“These are the Hot Spring Geysers at Block Rock Desert, Nevada. Wind played havoc with the spray but after 2 days circling these unusal forms the weather settled and I was happy with the end result. What a wild place!”

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Photo by Londie Garcia Padelsky

Sun Pillar

Martin Bailey is a professional nature, wildlife and portrait photographer, born in England though now a Japanese citizen, based in Tokyo.

“This is a shot of a Sun Pillar that we were lucky to see on one of my photography tours. The weather has be to incredibly cold for these to occur. It was minus 30 Celsius on this morning. The sun pillar is caused by the sun reflecting off frozen water particles in the air.”

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Photo by Martin Bailey

Sailing Stones

As a natural history photographer and writer, Phillip Colla focuses on wild marine mammals, the California kelp forest, inhabitants of remote eastern Pacific islands, National Parks of the American West and, most recently, waves and surfing.

“The Racetrack is an ancient dry lake bed in Death Valley, famous for its sailing stones. Located between the Last Chance Mountains and the Cottonwood Mountains, the Racetrack Playa lies at 3600′ above sea level, is about 3 miles long by 1 mile wide in size, and appears almost perfectly flat. Much of the year the Racetrack lakebed is totally dessicated and covered with small hexagonal mud patterns, although during the two rainy seasons that Death Valley experiences the playa becomes muddy and is sometimes ‘underwater’. At the south end of the Racetrack Playa are found the Racetrack’s famous ‘sailing stones’. Typically about the size of a shoe box or larger, the stones mysteriously move about the playa leaving trails behind them. Noone has actually observed any of the stones moving. One theory about their locomotion suggests that a combination of wet mud (during the winter rainy season) and high winds, perhaps combined with a thin layer of ice atop the mud, allows the stones to slide. Evidence indicates that the rocks move once every few years, and that tracks last only 4-5 years. My hunch is the occasions of the stones’ movement is a function of seasonal weather patterns and the presence or absence of sufficient water, wind and ice to trigger the sailing phenomenon.”

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Photo by Phillip Colla

Truckee-based, Hawai`i born Grant Kaye specializes in colorful, vibrant, and evocative landscape photography.

“This image was taken on New Year’s Eve on the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park. In the foreground, three ‘sailing stones’ can be seen, along with the tracks they left in the cracked playa. The sailing stones of the Racetrack are a bit of an enigma. They do move on their own, however no one has ever documented them actually moving, and scientists still disagree on the mechanism by which they sail across the playa. The leading theory holds that a combination of wind and ice move the rocks. During the winter months, when the playa fills with water, it occasionally freezes over. When it thaws, the ice breaks up into floes that push up against the rocks and drag them along the wet and slick ground.”

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Photo by Grant Kaye


Rodrigo Gaya is a photographer based out of Miami, FL. He has a photojournalism background.

“This is a lightning storm over Brickell, Miami on Friday September 30, 2011. The change in weather has brought some extraordinary sunsets and weather patterns in the past few weeks. This was shot on a Nikon D700, 1 sec at f/7.1”

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Photo by Rodrigo Gaya

Russ Bishop Photography creates dynamic stock and fine art photographs with an emphasis on natural history, muscle powered sports, travel, and historic sites in North America. 

“Lightning striking the Ajo Mountains in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona.”

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Photo by Russ Bishop


Robin Lorenson of Rival Imaging is a stock library specializing in severe and unusual weather phenomenon and travel photography.

“In Overton, Nebraska, a tornado crossing the road and heading into a field.”

robin lorenson.jpgPhoto by Robin Lorenson

Arcus Clouds

Ryan McGinnis is Big Storm Picture.

“An arcus cloud rolls by north of Kearney, Nebraska, August 9, 2011. This thunderstorm was severe warned at the time.”

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Photo by Ryan McGinnis

Lenticular Clouds

Originally from La Paz, Bolivia, Sergio Ballivian currently resides in Boulder, Colorado. He has over 30 years photography experience. 

“This particular sunset lasted a good hour or more in late November in Boulder, Colorado. I was returning from a mountain biking trip and I saw the light begin to change slowly but in a special, almost strange kind of way and then I noticed the vast lenticular clouds that were beginning to catch on fire! I pulled off Route 93 and set up on the car hood (no tripod!) and then the light show began. The clouds were in place and then the light began to do its thing and changed from a yellow to slight orange then red then to purple as the sun set. But more than the colors, it was the clouds that were changing shape and the combination of changing light and ‘shape-shifter’ clouds created one of the most amazing light shows I have ever seen.  I shot like crazy and managed to have quite a few keepers and some I have sold as custom-made fine art prints. There is a reason NCAR is located in Boulder as supposedly there is no other place in the lower 48 states that has such variety of atmospheric conditions to study. I was lucky that day. I always have a camera handy.”

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Photo by Sergio Ballivian

Joao Maia is a part-time freelance photographer that specializes in landscape, nature and travel photography.

“I was shooting the reflections of Mt. Rundle on Banff’s Vermillion Lakes, in Canada. The sky was a deep blue, with a few wisps of white cloud which worked really nice in the reflections on the surface of the lake, since there was no wind and the water was totally still. Suddenly I noticed that the wisps of cloud just hung above Mount Rundle. More wisps came and just hovered there as if the mountain held on to them. I recognized what could only be the forming of lenticular clouds over the mountain. And what’s more amazing, they were forming at the perfect time for photography, just when the sun was setting and lighting them from below. The only thought that went through my head was something like ‘this is the most amazing sunset you have ever witnessed, so don’t mess up and bring home some photos…””

Photo by Joao Maia
What amazing photos of nature’s rarities did we miss? Tell us who, what, and why in the comments. Also be sure to check out tips from more great professional nature photographers in our guide, Selling Nature Photography.

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There are 15 comments for this article
  1. Joseph Howard at 1:59 pm

    Here’s a shot of the moon setting over the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley. Smoke from a distant wildfire added a red/orange hue to the scene. Exposure of about 90 seconds to (mostly) freeze the stars. http://jshowardphotography.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/New-Photos/G0000gkSq2w3_Jk4/I00000bDIZfgLebw Also a light-painting and star-trail image shot with a fisheye lens inside the ruins of the bank building at Rhyolite, NV. http://jshowardphotography.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/New-Photos/G0000gkSq2w3_Jk4/I0000fySzl6fhPgQ

  2. pam at 4:01 pm

    These are all outstanding. I had never seen an Arcus cloud. The last time I was out in a rural area the bus driver commented about how good it was to walk everywere instead of drive and how he was obsessed with clouds and the incredible variation in them.

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  4. Gunther Deichmann at 11:29 am

    A rare Rainbow over the Olgas, Northern Territory in Central Australia.
    It is believed that this is the first and only image ever taken with a rainbow over the Olgas until now. An award winning image published many times shot on Kodachrome film. http://gdeichmann.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/PORTFOLIO-Classics/G0000SgdJIsY7tsY/I0000sYFfwQlEQqI
    it was also use on the Cover of “Die letzten Nomaden” in 2007 by
    ARAKI PUBLISHERS, Germany published the book Die letzten Nomaden – The last Nomads of Australia by international Author William J.Peasley the book has been published numerous times in Australia and the Documentary Film received in 1997 a Gold medal at the New York Film Festival. Cover Photo by Gunther Deichmann, a well known and multi awarded image of the Olgas with a Rainbow taken in the Northern Territory of the Australian outback.

  5. Pingback: 20 Stunning Photos of Nature’s Rarities - Unofficial Network

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