Cover Shot, July 2020

Regarding our national parks, historian Wallace Stegner famously declared them, “…the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” One can argue whether the parks are the “best” idea to come from American history, but they’re undeniably something of which we can all be proud and are fortunate to be able to enjoy collectively. 

In “10 Unique National Parks,” the feature story of our July 2020 issue, we showcase a selection of parks that may not be the most famous but that have some special characteristic that makes them noteworthy. Photographer QT Luong takes us on a virtual tour with his firsthand accounts of the photo experience at each, gained through his epic endeavor to photograph all of the national parks for his landmark book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks.

The issue also includes a photographer’s guide to Pinnacles National Park in California by Don Smith, and a very special feature from celebrated landscape photographer and “On Landscape” columnist William Neill, whose bold, elegant compositions have been a part of Outdoor Photographer beginning with our second issue’s cover, dated August 1985. 

On the cover is a photograph by QT Luong taken in Redwood National Park in California. Here’s the story behind the shot.

image of the cover of the July 2020 issue of Outdoor Photographer

“Redwood National Park is famous for the iconic namesake trees, the tallest on earth, but many other discoveries await photographers. The 2.8-mile Trillium Falls Trail is a popular hike in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park that loops through a band of impressive old-growth redwoods. The easy trail starts 2.5 miles north of Orick at a large parking lot along Davison Road near Elk Meadow, a clearing often frequented by a herd of elk. It is less than half a mile to Trillium Falls, a small cascade on an unnamed creek, surrounded by maples, ferns, moss-covered boulders and adorned by the white flowers of the Western Trillium in springtime.

“A metal footbridge provides a straightforward view of Trillium Falls, but from that high and distant vantage point, the perspective appears static. To improve it, I scrambled down and balanced myself on boulders to place the tripod right into the creek. The lower viewpoint restores a sense of height to the falls. The close foreground helps create depth in the photograph via a strong perspective. In the foreground, the modest stream spans the width of the image with a “Y” leading the eye from both corners to the background, where the stream shrinks to a small ribbon. I added a polarizer to obtain a longer shutter speed for smoothing the water, but I made sure to keep the glare in the stream since I liked the contrast of the silky whites with the shadows of the cliff emphasized by the low viewpoint.”

–QT Luong

The July 2020 issue is now available in a variety of digital formats including Apple News+.

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