Congratulations to the winners of the National Parks Assignment, Cale Best, Gary Fua and Kristen M. Caldon!
1) Photographer: Cale Best
"Last summer, I spent a week camping in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada, by myself. One evening, just as I was returning to my campsite from shooting the sunset, it began to rain and continued all night. So, instead of having a campfire and shooting the moonrise over the mountains like I had planned, I went to bed early and was able to get up at 4 a.m., and take the half-hour drive to Jasper Lake for sunrise. I didn't plan this specific photo before arriving, but I knew this lake would be very calm, especially for sunrise. I drove past it the day before at midday and it was completely still. It's also very shallow. I saw some people walking a few hundred feet out and the water was barely up to their knees. I spent nearly two hours here as the morning light continued to grow over the mountains. Every 20 minutes or so, a long train of boxcars would pass along the base of the mountains across the lake (left side of the photo). This was, by far, my best sunrise experience and one of my all-time favorite memories. The only major change I made to this photo in post was to cool the white balance quite a bit. I originally had a very warm white balance set, and it cast the entire shot in a heavy orange. Cooling down the colors really helped separate the sky from the foreground."
Equipment: Sony a77, Sigma 10-20mm ƒ/4-5.6 EX DC HSM, Hoya CP, Cokin grad ND8
2) Photographer: Gary Fua
"The photo was taken at Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park, in Southern California, on April 11, 2015. My wife and our six-year-old daughter, along with two friends, booked an overnight camping trip. When we arrived at the island, we were greeted by the lone ranger of the park, and we realized we were too late for the wildflowers. The ranger said there was a heat wave, and the flowers were gone, so we pitched our tents and scouted the two-mile island during the afternoon. In the evening, I was hoping for a clear sky to get a milky shot, but then again, there was cloud cover. So, finally, in the morning, we headed to Inspiration Point and waited for the sun to caress the craggy islands with its golden warm light. I saw fog covering the other islands on the far end, but coming from the land of the fog (San Francisco), I know that when the sun rises, the fog will be lifted up, so I waited and waited until all things rolled up and the show began. For postprocessing, I used Lightroom and did a local adjustment for the shadows and highlights. Then, I used the GND filter to adjust the sky exposure."
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Manfrotto carbon-fiber tripod, Singh-Ray LB polarizer
3) Photographer: Kristen M. Caldon
"Myself and my model/assistant James Raymor were out in Death Valley for a week between Christmas and New Year's. The goal of the trip was to build on a portfolio I had been working on for a few years within this remote and desolate park. I camped nearby to set up and approach by first light. I had my shot list, separated into sunrise and sunset locations, and spent most of the midday traveling in between locations. We arrived at the Eureka Dunes in the afternoon, and I circumnavigated the three-mile field, searching for the best angles to capture the next day. It was windy, and very cold, and I wrapped my scarf around me to keep from getting pelted by the blowing sand. Not only are these dunes the tallest in California, but they're also known to "sing" in windy conditions. It's an eerie whistling resonance that seems to emit from deep inside the dunes, similar to wind moving through a burned forest, certainly a very interesting and unique soundscape, as well as a visually stunning landscape. The morning was freezing, still dark. I quickly grabbed my camera bag and some snacks, and headed up the dune before I could think about how cold it was. Timed near perfectly, just as we raised the crest of the tallest dune, Sand Mountain, the sun peeked over the Last Chance mountain range, lighting up James and his footprints along the ridgeline. I knew that was the shot the second I clicked the shutter."