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Last weekend, I had the great pleasure to spend a few days in one of the most powerful and stunning places this planet has to offer, Yosemite National Park. I always cherish the times that I am able to step away from the rat race of life in the city, get out into nature, and recharge the batteries - and this trip was no different in that respect.

During my three days in the park, most of the time was spent instructing and guiding a hardy group of enthusiastic photographers as we braved torrential downpours, heavy hail, and numerous thunderstorms. The water falling from the sky, while presenting photographic challenges, was a welcome change for the High Sierra's, and California in general, during this time of drought! But I digress from the purpose of my post...

Gates of The Valley - Yosemite by Joe Azure.

This iconic view of Yosemite Valley has been recorded by many photographers, from the most famous ever such as Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell, to the most mundane and unknown, such as myself.

With the recent release of another movie about Steve Jobs, a man who arguably helped change and shape the world, in a very obvious and visible way, I could not get keep that phrase, "Think Different", out of my conscious mind all weekend long (Check this out if you don't remember). I was applying the phrase to all kinds of things... think different about the rain, think different about the composition, think different about the depth of field, think different about shutter shutter speed ... you get the idea 🙂

While that was fun and all, I found myself thinking even more deeply about the amazing location that I was seeing, and how it could have easily been destroyed had not people like John Muir thought differently. And even more importantly... did things differently.

John Muir, through his writing, lobbying, activism, and being different, helped shape the thinking of California, as well as the rest of the country - no small feat, especially before the age of the internet! In addition to all of this, he founded the still-existing Sierra Club Organization. Talk about a lasting legacy... The Sierra Club was instrumental in the formation of the United States National Park Service... and with part of its mission statement being:

"To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth[...]"

is a testament to what can be done by thinking differently!


William E. Colby  wrote in the Sierra Club, Vol X:

John Muir will never be fully appreciated by those whose minds are filled with money getting and the sordid things of modern every-day life. To such Muir is an enigma — a fanatic — visionary and impractical. There is nothing in common to arouse sympathetic interest. That anyone should spend his whole life in ascertaining the fundamental truths of nature and glory in their discovery with a joy that would put to shame even the religious zealot is to many utterly incomprehensible. That a man should brave the storms and thread the pathless wilderness, exult in the earthquake's violence, rejoice in the icy blasts of the northern glaciers, and that he should do all this alone and unarmed, year in and year out, is a marvel that but few can understand.[...]

One of his Biographers,  Donald Worster, even thought that Muir's mission was "...saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism."  I kind of like that 🙂

What if people like John Muir had not thought differently about the vast areas of wilderness throughout the world? What if he saw those areas, like so many others, as a source of limitless natural resources to be harvested for the expansion of humankind into all areas of the continent possible? We need people to Think Different, Be Different.

I for one, am thankful, and eternally grateful, that some of these amazing wilderness areas, with their stunning beauty and grandeur, are still around for all of us to experience and enjoy. Imagine how boring my photography portfolio might be if these fabulous locations were no longer in existence ... I shudder at the thought!!!

 - Joe Azure, October 2015   

If you want to support The Sierra Club, you can read more here:


  • Tanya Lake at Sunrise
  • Special Light in Yosemite Valley
  • Sunset with a Rainbow at El Capitan in Yosemite Valley

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