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Tag Archives: National Park

Slope Mtn 2

If ever there was a mountain that was aptly named, it has to be Slope Mountain.  Located in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska, its unique profile dominates the landscape…when the top isn’t hidden by clouds, that is.

My primary purpose in visiting this area was to photograph grizzlies, and that I did, but I couldn’t help sneaking in the occasional landscape shot, especially when the weather was so cooperative.

The other time I would turn to landscape photography was when the bears couldn’t be found.  Just because our itinerary had “bear viewing and photography” written on it, sometimes the bears had other plans.  Our guide knew the bears’ habits and where the critters were LIKELY to be at different times of the day, but that was never a guarantee that we would find any.

More often than not we did find bears, grazing, clamming, napping, nursing, bathing, playing and doing all of those cool bear things…but a couple of times we got skunked.

Fortunately the scenery was pretty, with or without bears in it.


Here’s another shot taken in the Smoky Mountains.  I love the gently undulating ridges stretching off into the haze.  This was a wonderful place to shoot.  There was much more variety of terrain and subject matter than I had anticipated.  And Spring was beautiful, providing a pretty assortment of wildflowers in the meadows and forests.

I highly recommend exploring this region of Tennessee and North Carolina, especially if you’ve never been there before.  And if you have been there, then you know what they say:  “Y’all come back now, ya hear?”

“There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow…”

That’s how the song from the musical “Oklahoma!” begins.  And it so aptly describes this image, which was taken in Tennessee, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  You’d never know from looking at images like this that it’s America’s most visited National Park.  Even there it’s possible to get away from the crowds.  Getting up in the dark to go shooting is one way to do it.

On this particular morning, I was enjoying shooting the ground fog which was lingering and giving the landscape an incredible dream-like quality.  The ground fog had mostly lifted by the time the sun came up.  This image was made as soon as the sunlight struck this field, which took a bit longer since it’s at the bottom of a valley.

As the first golden rays of sun illuminated the trees and grass and fence posts, it was magical.  The soft sidelighting  really stands out on the fence posts and tree trunks.  And the dogwood blossoms seem to glow from within.  I softened this image to make it look like a painting.

In just a few minutes, the light became harsh and lost that soft golden glow that only comes right at sunrise.  But for images like this, I didn’t mind giving up a few hours of sleep.  It was indeed a beautiful morning.


One of my favorite things to shoot is water.  Falling water, flowing water, still water, reflections in puddles…and let’s not forget frozen water in glaciers and icebergs!  It’s all good.

I remember how delighted I was when I first learned how to make “cotton candy” water images.  There’s really no mystery to it other than using a slow enough shutter speed to blur the water to a pleasing level.  Of course what’s pleasing to the individual photographer will vary.  I usually shoot at 2 seconds, but pleasing effects can be achieved with a shutter speed as fast as 1/8th of a second.  Of course, even that’s still too slow to hand-hold.  This particular image was shot at 1.3 seconds.  So a  sturdy tripod is critical!

Ideally the entire region of water that you’re shooting in the blurred images is evenly lit, and even more ideally, it’s all in shadow.  That’s because sometimes it’s too bright to get enough blur.  That is, even with your slowest ISO, and the aperture stopped down as far as it’ll go, your shutter speed will still be too high to achieve enough blur for the look you’re after.  Some people compensate for this by using multi-stop darkening filters, but I prefer to just go out very early in the morning or very late in the evening.  This is often even before sunrise or after sunset, although in a deep canyon or under heavy tree cover it can be later in the morning and earlier in the evening.

I like to keep  my compositions simple.  When you’re shooting a stream or waterfall with lots of fallen logs and overhanging branches and mossy rocks and fallen leaves, it’s easy to get too much clutter in your image.  Simplify, simplify!

This image has an old log in the upper left hand corner, and a newly sprouted dogwood branch in the lower right hand corner.  You could say it represents the old and the new, Fall and Spring, death and rebirth, the cycle of life, etc.

Or you could just enjoy it as a pretty picture taken on an April day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Like the photography of Half Dome in yesterday’s entry, this is another iconic image that always makes me sigh. One thing I like about it is that there are no signs of humans or human activity. It looks pretty much the way it would’ve 100 or even 1,000 years ago. There aren’t even any contrails in the sky, only a few wispy cirrus clouds. Perfect!

Yosemite is one of many beautiful places on earth that’s being “loved to death.” Each time I visit Yosemite, or Machu Picchu, or Venice, I’m aware that as much as I love, admire and appreciate these places, I’m also contributing to their damage. Yosemite had over 4 million visitors in 2010. Almost all of those visitors go to the valley. That’s a lot of footsteps and toilet-flushes and car exhaust for this place to endure.

According to the National Park Service website for Yosemite, 73% of visitors listed “taking photographs/painting/drawing” as their primary activity…

Guilty as charged!

This has to be one of the most photographed rocks on earth:  Half Dome in Yosemite, California.  I took this image in early March a couple of years ago, then altered it to give it a bit of a Carleton Watkins feel.  Like so many people, I never get tired of looking at, or photographing, this sublime icon of the American West.