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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

Labels: Locations
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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Best Times: As one of the most popular parks in the entire National Park system, there's no bad time to visit the Grand Canyon. Winter has always been particularly popular with landscape photographers who want to catch the possibility of fresh snow against the red rock and desert flora. Summer offers the chance to capture booming monsoon thunderstorms, but those dramatic skies can be hazardous due to lightning strikes along the canyon rim. The North Rim is closed in winter, and crowds are smaller in spring and fall.

Most Iconic Locations: If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, prepare to be stunned. It's truly aptly named, and it's easy to get overwhelmed visually as you struggle to take it all in. We can't possibly do justice to the range of photo possibilities available to a photographer. Toroweap Overlook is a perennial favorite spot, although the compositional possibilities are somewhat limited. Mather Point is probably the most famous vantage point to capture a big view of the canyon. If you're in shape, hiking down to the canyon floor, with a guide, will get you into less photographed territory. The North Rim isn't to be missed if it's open.

Zion National Park, Utah
Best Times: Fall provides pleasant climate and dramatic colors. Winter is beautiful with the snowfall, but many areas require special equipment to access. Summer is hot. Spring brings a variety of weather, as well as wildflowers, which peak in May.

Most Iconic Locations: Zion is blessed with many arches (including Kolob Arch, one of the world's biggest free-standing arches, and the easier-to-access Crawford Arch), plus spectacular canyons. Some canyons require special skills and gear, but others don't, and there are nice overviews of several canyons from scenic viewpoints. The Virgin River and its Narrows are also especially photogenic.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee
Best Times: Great Smoky offers good photo ops year-round, but tends to be more crowded in summer, and parts aren't accessible in winter. If you want fall colors, you'll find them beginning in mid-September in the higher elevations, descending as autumn progresses. You'll also find conditions for pristine winter snow photography, as well as spring wildflowers. Different hiking trails provide a variety of subject matter year-round.

Most Iconic Locations: The classic overview is from overlooks along U.S. 441 and Clingmans Dome Road. There are many waterfalls, including two you can drive to, Meigs Falls and Place of a Thousand Drips. Open areas like Cataloochee and Cades Cove offer the best chances of wildlife encounters. Many historic log buildings can be found in the park.

Acadia National Park, Maine
Best Times: Fall in New England offers lovely colors, which peak in mid-October, and relatively mild conditions. Summer can get busy, and winter, quite cold. Native asters and goldenrods bloom in late summer.

Most Iconic Locations: Cadillac Mountain provides an exceptional overview of the area, plus good sunset/sunrise shooting. Somes Sound is "the only fjord on the East Coast." Eagle Lake and miles of Acadia coastline offer great photo ops, from the pastoral to the dramatic.


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