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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

National Park Hot Spots Of The Pros

A selection of favorite places for photography in the national park system

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Pentax 67, Pentax 55mm, Fujichrome Velvia, Bogen 3021 tripod, Acratech Ultimate ballhead
James Kay
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah • Zion National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park: Nothing can prepare you for your first view of Bryce Canyon as you stroll up to the canyon’s rim. Carved from the sediments of an ancient lakebed, the multitude of pinnacles, hoodoos and crumbling sandstone towers filling the amphitheaters of Bryce are unique even here in this region of wildly convoluted, dissected desert landscapes. With an unobstructed horizon to the east, the first rays of the rising sun illuminate these formations with warm soft light as seen in this image captured from Sunset Point with a graduated-neutral-density filter. Sunrise at Bryce Point is perhaps the best single location within the park to capture the entirety of Bryce, but each overlook provides a unique view. If, after a while, all the overlooks begin to look the same, drop down into the canyons via the Navajo Loop Trail or the Peekaboo Loop Trail to photograph the formations from a completely different perspective.

Zion National Park: November cottonwoods glow in the late-afternoon light along the banks of the Virgin River beneath the sandstone walls of Zion Canyon. Freshwater springs gush from the base of the cliffs throughout this deep desert canyon and join with the waters of the Virgin River to create a lush desert oasis. When I first set out to photograph the canyonlands of southern Utah over 20 years ago, I was immediately attracted to these well-watered, desert-riparian environments. Zion’s unique combination of waterfalls, streams, lush vegetation and towering sandstone formations creates a diverse tapestry of photographic subjects. By early November, long after the aspen trees of Utah’s high plateaus have shed their leaves, the cottonwoods, maples and oaks along Zion Canyon reach their peak of color just as the crowds begin to thin out. As conditions vary from year to year, it’s best to check in with the rangers for a fall-colors update before you go.

See more of James Kay’s photography at www.jameskay.com.

Nikon F100, Nikkor 70-300mm, Fujichrome Velvia
John Moran
Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Shaped by water and fire, in flood and drought, the subtropical Florida wetlands known as the Everglades spills far beyond the borders of the national park that bears its name. The “River of Grass” flows slowly, inexorably south from Lake Okeechobee in south-central Florida to the Ten Thousand Islands and Florida Bay.

Contiguous with Everglades National Park to the south and east, Big Cypress National Preserve comprises a vast swath of what has been called Eastern America’s Last Great Wilderness. Sprinkled with distant palm hammocks, wide vistas call out to the landscape photographer. Hey, Montana! This, too, is Big Sky Country.

Wood storks, otters and white-tailed deer. Turtles, roseate spoonbills and alligators by the score. Even the occasional black bear and the elusive (and nearly extinct) Florida panther. You never know what you’ll come across on a tour of Big Cypress National Preserve.

Extending due north 21 miles into the heart of the ’Glades from Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41), the out-and-back Turner River Road is a personal-favorite photo drive here. An adjacent canal offers a steady diet of photo ops, especially early and late in the day.

A long lens, a quick finger, a dose of serendipity—and you may come back with some keepers from a day on the prowl in America’s first national preserve. Leaving the car behind, I suggest a paddling trip through the mangrove tunnels of the Turner River or an off-road swamp slog in a cypress slough.

See more of John Moran’s photography at www.johnmoranphoto.com.


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