The National Geographic Society photography exhibition “Simply Beautiful” sounds like a joke. What National Geographic photograph isn’t beautiful? Oh sure, some of the several dozen images in the exhibition try to look tough, with their tumble-down urban façades, their defiantly peeling paint and their gritty iron-mine panoramas. But mostly you get the drop-dead gorgeous renderings of nature that you expect from Nat Geo—the diaphanous aurora borealis, the frenzied flights of fireflies on the Kansas prairie, a fog-lit atmospheric oddity in Maine’s Acadia National Park. To stand out in this crowd really takes something, and one image has it: John Burcham’s image of a tumbleweed hovering in mid-air over the lunar-like landscape of Utah’s Bonneville salt flats. It’s a thoroughly startling hybrid of landscape and action photography with a bracing dash of surrealist whimsy.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW DAILY 9 A.M. TO 5 P.M. AT THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MUSEUM, 1145 17TH ST. NW. FREE. (202) 857-7588.