At first pass, you might think that The Wonders of Geology exists purely to show off the incredible photography of Michael Collier. While that’s certainly a good reason, it also functions as an excellent textbook, sure to instill enthusiasm for geology into any student.
Michael Collier is more than a photographer. He’s a geologist, too. Read his words or listen to him speak, and you’ll hear the kind of passion that a cook might use to talk about their favorite recipes.
The bulk of the app is made up of a slideshow of Collier’s photos, which are jaw-dropping on the iPad. The lighting, composition, saturation, and crystal-clear resolution on each one is perfection. You can pinch-to-zoom on all of the photos (without losing resolution), and each one has a tiny caption in the top left corner so you always know what (or rather where) you’re looking at.
If you choose, you can switch on narration, in which Collier himself gives talking points about each geological feature, often with visual pointers appearing so you can focus on exactly what he’s referring to, and sometimes even animations. You can swipe to turn pages at your leisure, or let the app move on autopilot, providing you with a guided tour of everything it contains.
There’s high-resolution cross-sections of prominent mountains and canyons, and there are wide shots of some of America’s best known ranges, but this is only the beginning. You’ll find bird’s eye views of tectonic plates and faults, as well as fascinating looks at volcanoes, glaciers, and areas of erosion. For each photo, you can click on a “Map” tab, which pops up a full-screen map and shows you exactly where in the world the photo was taken. There are also diagrams, a table of contents, thumbnails, and more.
Touching on all corners of North America, The Wonders of Geology is a wonder itself. It functions perfectly well as a beautiful coffee table book, but plumbing its depths reveals far greater riches. It’s a must-own for educators, or anyone interested in the majesty of nature. The price is probably steeper than you’re expecting, at $12.99, but this level of quality doesn’t come cheap. It’s worth every penny.