Assignments: April 2013, The National Parks

The Best Of The Assignments Submissions From
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1) Photographer: Rod Stroh
Location: Glacier National Park, along the Going To The Sun Road
Equipment: Canon EOS 500D (EOS Rebel T1i), Canon EF-S 55-250mm ƒ/4-5.6 IS
Every year since retirement in 2005, we take a road trip to one of the national parks for photography and to fill up my National Parks Passport stamp book. This trip was to celebrate my birthday with a new camera. We spent two weeks exploring the back roads traveled both to and from Glacier Park, as well as several days exploring within the park. Coming away with several hundred photos, I ended up with a dozen or more that I felt were worthy of printing, and this is one of them.

WE’RE INCREDIBLEY FORTUNATE to have our National Park System (NPS). For nature photographers, the NPS yields an unlimited number of opportunities to create landscape and wildlife photos. The parks have grown so popular that complaints of overcrowding are frequent topics in newspapers and blogs, but even in the most heavily-traveled parks, you can find solitude by venturing just a short distance from the parking lots and campgrounds. The vast majority of people who visit the parks never go more than 100 yards from their cars. And, you don’t have to go off-trail to get away from the masses. Put on a decent pair of hiking shoes, grab some water and hit the trail, and within an hour, you can find yourself far from human contact.

I buy an annual pass every year. It’s like a little talisman of hope that I’ll be able to carve out time away from the day-to-day editing of OP to get to favorite places like Death Valley, Sequoia and Joshua Tree, and also explore new locations like Canyon de Chelly (I’ve still never been there) and the recently designated Pinnacles National Park.

When I ran the National Parks Assignment in 2012, I was inspired by the response. We received submissions from all over the U.S., and my list of must-visit places grew longer as a result. Here are some of the best shots from that Assignment.
—Christopher Robinson, Editor

2) Photographer: Blake Edwards
Location: Bryce Canyon Park, Navajo Loop Trail
Equipment: Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-105mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX, circular polarizer
My father and I decided to take an adventure through the Southwest Four Corners area while towing a Jeep® CJ-5 from North Carolina to the Seattle area. On our way from Moab to Zion, we were able to fit in a quick stop at Bryce Canyon National Park, but only having a couple of hours, I ran down into the canyon from Sunset Point with only camera in hand. My father was waiting on the rim, so I jogged the 1.3 miles, stopping to take photos. On my way out, I came across Thor’s Hammer and stopped to take a variety of compositions at different levels on the trail. I loved this image for its depth of field and contrast between the magnificent red rocks and the dark blue of the storm brewing over the distant mountains.

3) Photographer: Robin Black
Location: Yosemite National Park, Merced River
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 17-40mm ƒ/4 L, circular polarizer, Induro tripod and ballhead
Yosemite Valley is lush and green by late spring each year, and in 2011, after a winter of near-record snowfall, the resulting melt-off made for unusual and beautiful conditions there. The vegetation was wildly lush and green, and the Merced River was well out of its banks. I try to visit the park around this time of year, every year, to see the waterfalls roaring and photograph the delicate white blossoms of Pacific dogwood found throughout the park. On this day, I also had great weather conditions, with dramatic cloud formations rolling through the valley all day long. Those clouds and the flooded river framed Yosemite Falls perfectly, showing off its snowmelt-fueled flow.

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4) Photographer: Jim Shoemaker
Location: Lassen Volcanic National Park at Lake Manzanita
Equipment: Canon EOS 20D, Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/2.8 L IS, Manfrotto tripod and ballhead, cable release
Lake Manzanita is one of my favorite locations within Lassen Volcanic National Park. Even if I’m not photographing, I enjoy walking around the lake in the late evenings, especially in the late autumn when there are far less tourists. The fishing boats are gone from the lake, and watching the fading light on Mount Lassen in its mirror reflection is a good way to relax after a long day of hiking.

5) Photographer: Bradley P. Risk
Location: Grand Canyon, North Rim, the Wedding Chapel area at Cape Royal
Equipment: Canon EOS Rebel 3Ti, Canon EF-S 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS, Bogen model 3021 tripod with model 3025 head
Last year, I managed to get my youngest son—now in high school and way too busy for Dad most of the time!—out to Arizona with me for a few weeks. We took a long weekend trip up to the North Rim, where I grew up as a kid while my father worked for the National Park Service as a park naturalist. As usual, getting away from the crowds and the “easy” viewpoints is always rewarding anywhere you travel in parks and natural areas. We had left the main viewpoint and walked over to the Wedding Chapel area and had this beautiful view of the sun illuminating Cape Royal, while thunderstorms flashed and rained across the canyon on the eastern South Rim. Spectacular evening, and one of many wonderful memories created that summer with my son.

6) Photographer: Prashant Shah
Joshua Tree National Park, near the trailhead to Barker Dam
Equipment: Nikon D7000, Nikkor 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 VR, Gitzo GT2541 tripod, Velbon PH-263QL ballhead
My wife and I were exploring Joshua Tree National Park, and we were walking back from taking pictures at Barker Dam. The sun was setting, and we wanted to drive to a spot with a better view. On the way back to the parking lot, we spotted some sheep feeding and meandering along a path that would clearly intersect us. The male spotted us and stopped to watch to see what we would do. Meanwhile, this small flock kept marching slowly. I swung my camera into shooting position and took a couple of frames. I moved closer for a better shot and approached slowly. But, I must have gotten too close, and they abruptly ran away. I jogged down to their trail, but they were nowhere to be seen. So, we continued our walk to the car. When we got to the parking area, another family was excitedly pointing and taking pictures of a hill. I looked up, only to discover that on that hill was the flock of sheep I had inadvertently scared. Clearly, they went to higher ground. The sun was now setting beautifully behind the hill, so I quickly set up my camera and tripod. I took a few pictures, especially looking for a shot where the animals had separation and the horns were clearly outlined.