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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Photography Icons Of The NPS

Our quick guide to some of the best U.S. national parks for shooting

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In this brief guide to the best national parks for photography in the United States, we aim to give you a glimpse into some of this country's greatest treasures. Many of the parks we list here are huge. Yellowstone, for example, our first national park, is more than 3,500 square miles. That's bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island put together! With so much to see, it's impossible to be comprehensive on these pages. Rather, we hope that what you see and read here will inspire you to make plans to get out and explore these parks on your own.

Under "Best Times," you'll see that we frequently comment about the crowds of summer and the relative quiet of the other seasons. While it can be frustrating to deal with crowds, keep in mind that the vast majority of all national park visitors never venture more than 100 feet from the side of the road or the parking lot. Head off onto a trail, even a more popular trail, and you can find yourself almost alone within just a few minutes. All of this is to say that you have plenty of opportunities to enjoy solitude and get photos devoid of other people, even during the busiest times of the year.

Olympic National Park, Washington
Best Times: Because of the possibility of extreme weather on the Olympic Peninsula, summer is usually considered the best time to visit Olympic National Park. The variety of the landscape here is considerable, from coastline to temperate rain forest.

Most Iconic Locations: For most people, the coastline and the famous haystacks of Pacific Heights are Olympic's calling card. Sitting just offshore, the haystacks tower out of the water, with trees dotting their peaks. These favorite subjects are often rendered as backlit silhouettes. Up into the mountains, Hurricane Ridge gives you a commanding vantage point over the Olympic Mountains. Quinault Rain Forest is a verdant, moss-covered sanctuary.

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Best Times: Spring and fall are the best times to photograph in Joshua Tree. The weather is good, and in spring, if you're lucky, you may see the trees, for which the park was named, bloom. Like the rest of the desert Southwest, Joshua Tree can be very hot in summer, while in winter, keep aware of flash floods that can accompany rain. Despite the pervasive drought in Southern California, flash floods can occur without warning.

Most Iconic Locations: The park sits between two major desert systems, the Mojave and the Sonoran, which creates a varied landscape. Other than the signature eponymous trees that are prevalent, there are massive granite cliffs and lumpy boulders in the Jumbo Rocks area. In spring and fall, expect the boulders and rock faces to be populated with rock-climbing enthusiasts from all over the world. The Cholla Cactus Garden is an excellent location early and late in the day when you can use sidelight or backlight to capture the distinct glow from the cactus needles. Bring a polarizer to help maintain contrast, and try to shoot during the very edges of the day to bring out the best of Joshua Tree.


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