Funding Questions Arise Over Padre Island’s Sea Turtle Program

Nacho-sized, sand-encrusted Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings heading out to the Gulf of Mexico at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas

Back in 2017, I had the privilege of photographing up close and personal a release of endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings as they “swam” across the sandy beach of Padre Island National Seashore and into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to begin their life.

I also had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Donna Shaver, the expert in her field, and the head (at least, back then) of this national seashore’s sea turtle rescue program. Dr. Shaver has put her heart, soul, and smarts into the program to make it world-renown.

I find the article published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler very troubling. Like other aspects of life, nowadays, it would seem the non-experts are trying to force out the actual expert. I’m not the least bit impressed with the National Park Service’s superintendent for this national seashore and it makes me sad, angry, and disappointed over the muzzling of Dr. Shaver to keep her from doing the work which has made that program what it is.

To read the article, click on the image above.

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Filed under National Parks, national seashore, Padre Island National Seashore, Photography, Texas, Travel, Wildlife

Welcome To Fort Clatsop

I will be the first to admit, visiting forts or other historical parks was never on my top things to do with my cameras. But, after a visit to this very small fort at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Oregon, where Lewis, Clark, and their Corps of Discovery spent a monotonous winter, I have changed my mind.

It’s one thing to read about forts and such, but it’s another thing completely to actually be standing there in the footsteps of history, exploring the nooks and crannies of what he/she/they built so many decades / centuries ago. You get a feel for what it was like to live in a place like this, out in the forest of the Pacific Northwest, near a river, during a wet, cold, dreary winter.

I included a visit to this national historical park during my photo trip along the Pacific Northwest portion of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and my resulting article has been published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler. If you ever have a chance to explore a historic(al) site like a fort or home or battlefield, I urge you to take the time to do so, and try to imagine what life must have been like in that spot so long ago.

To read the article, just click on the image at the top of this post.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under history, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, National Parks Traveler, Oregon, Photography

Moments In History: Colter’s Hell

Wandering Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

Ever heard of a man named John Colter? He was a “skilled hunter and scout” who joined the Corps of Discovery and explored with Lewis and Clark and their members all the way to the Pacific Coast. As he headed back to St. Louis with the rest of the explorers, he joined up with some other trappers and set back out north and west. Sometime in 1807, Colter headed out by himself on his own 500-mile journey, where he became the first European-American to set eyes on the Tetons and the Yellowstone region.

Ok, in my best Rod Serling voice: “Imagine, if you will, a land where the air is filled with the smell of rotten eggs, ‘the ground is soft, but warm, beneath your aching feet, and all around you are jets of steaming water and pools of colorful splendor.'” How many people do you think believed Colter when he told them tales of what he saw and experienced? Not too many. They joked about “Colter’s Hell.”

You can read a short synopsis about John Colter and his expedition into Yellowstone country in an edition of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory’s Caldera Chronicles by clicking on the image above.

As for this image, I was wandering through my Yellowstone photo archives and came across an image that made me think of Colter’s Hell. There are two people, making great scale and reference, walking the boardwalk amid the chilly autumn morning steam issuing from vents, geysers, and hot springs in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, Photography, Yellowstone National Park

New Look (Sort Of) For The National Parks Traveler’s Instagram Account

The National Parks Traveler’s Instagram posts will have a slightly new look to them for 2022 (are you following the Traveler on Instagram (@national_parks_traveler)? If not, why not show the Traveler a little love and go over for a looksee).

And here’s the reason for the new look for the Traveler’s Instagram account:

Back in September 2017, I took over maintenance of the Traveler’s Instagram account and raised the followership from about 1,000 to almost 46,000 (and counting). Most of the images you see on the account are mine. If the images are not mine, then I do my best to give credit. Usually, the images are from the NPS’ public domain gallery, which means anybody can use the photos. If those images were captured by a volunteer photographer for the NPS, and their name is listed on the NPS’ gallery site, then I name that photographer, too. On occasion, I have copied lovely/pertinent park posts from other Instagrammers, but ONLY after asking their permission to do so. And, I also give credit for the repost.

The other day, I noticed one of the people following the Traveler’s Instagram account had basically stolen one of my images that I posted. They never asked permission, and they did not give credit for the post. They just copied it over to their own account. I guess they think the National Parks Traveler is a part of the National Park Service (it is not – it is a separate entity, editorially independent from any corporation, government, or agency, including the NPS) and it’s ok to use anything they see on Instagram from the Traveler’s site without asking permission or giving any sort of credit. This Instagrammer acted as if that photo was taken all by themselves. That really annoyed me.

Ok, so why should I be annoyed about a photo that was posted on a public platform being co-opted by some other Instagrammer? To me, aside from the ethics of it all, it speaks of sheer laziness. It speaks of someone who is too damned lazy to go out, enjoy the beauty of the Great Outdoors and get a photo on their own! It’s such a cool feeling to know that you, yourself, have captured this amazing image with your own camera, be it a smartphone, point-and-shoot, or tricked-out SLR. You did it! Not anybody else. You got up, you got out, and you used your own resources to get that photo – that one, beautiful moment in time. You didn’t steal it from some other photographer who made that effort because you were too lazy to do it yourself.

And, what if you can’t get to that same area as a photo you’ve seen? I’d like to get up to where I can see the Northern Lights, but I might not be able to do that anytime soon. Doesn’t mean you (or I) have the ok to utilize that image on your own Instagram account and act like it’s your own image. You like that image? Then message the original photographer and ASK if you can use their image on your own account, giving that photographer credit. If they say sure, go ahead, then wonderful! If they say no, then no is no. Period, end of sentence.

From now on, most of the images you see on the Traveler will have the Traveler’s logo on it. In truth, many, if not most, of the images you see on the Traveler’s Instagram account were captured by me. And I’m absolutely fine with the Traveler using those images. That’s what I do for the Traveler: contribute photos to this nonprofit, editorially-independent media site. To be honest, the National Parks Traveler is the reason I have continued to photograph within units of the National Park System. The Traveler has given me a voice I did not have before, with my writing and my photography. I’ll always be grateful for that, and it’s why I have no problem whatsoever allowing the Traveler to use any of my images they want. I believe in the Traveler’s news mission and am so glad I’m a part of that mission.

So – if there is ever a photo that you see on ANY public platform that you like (Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, etc.), find out first if it’s ok to share/use that image for your own purposes. If there is a Facebook Share button on FB, then it’s probably ok for you to share that photo. It’s nice if you give credit, while you are at it, and it’s even nicer if you ask permission, first. It’s also nice (and ethical) to NOT erase / cover over the watermark signature that might be on the photo. It’s the right thing to do. As of 2016, ethics seems to have gone out the door and into the trash, so it would be nice if people could rise above that, you know?

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Filed under National Parks Traveler, Photography

Happy New Year 2022! A Year In Review Of My Photographic Travels

High tide and harsh light, but a beautiful image, nonetheless – a metaphore for 2022, perhaps?

Every photographer I have been seeing on my Facebook photography page has been running some sort of “year in review” post. I hate those reviews, so here I am, doing one of my own (insert wink emoji here).

The font for the “Happy New Year 2022” is small, in keeping with the way things were and might become. The year is young, you know, and I’m not even going to be cautiously optimistic about anything at this point in time. 2022 has just started and we are still in the pandemic morass we’ve been in for the past couple of years (or has it been three years?).

A late-afternoon view of Mount St. Helens

I didn’t do much traveling during the first half of 2021, although I still had plenty of material to keep up my photo columns for the National Parks Traveler. I did take a short, 2-day trip to photograph in Mount St. Helens Volcanic National Monument in May, but my pandemic travels didn’t really begin until August. I’d originally planned on a Sequoia / Yosemite national parks trip in late June, only to be sidelined by a torn retina requiring surgery that took a month to heal. Luckily for me, I am retired from my corporate job so it’s easy for me to reschedule … providing there is lodging available near or within the parks at which I want to visit.

The view at Glacier Overlook in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state)

So, my first park trip was actually in late July, to the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park. It was a sort of test trip for me. As I huffed and puffed up to Glacier Overlook, I was scared shitless of something happening to the eye that underwent surgery. Nothing occurred, but I now realize eyes are delicate instruments and I like to have both of them in working order for my photography.

A smoky sunrise at Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park (California)

I finally made it into California in mid-late August to visit Yosemite National Park for a week. I’d had to cancel my June reservations for Sequoia and couldn’t get any August lodging, so Sequoia was out (it was in the midst of peak summer season, after all). Area wildfires were in full swing, which meant smoky days inserted themselves in between clear days. Due to the season and ongoing drought, all the waterfalls were totally dried up, so you don’t see Bridalveil Fall in this Tunnel View image of Yosemite Valley. Nonetheless, I’m so glad I went. In all my years of photography, plus my 9 years of contributing images and articles for the Traveler, I’d never visited Yosemite until 2021.

Hiking the Bristlecone Grove Trail in Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
A room full of speleothems in Lehman Caves, Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

Directly from Yosemite, I drove six hours across the stark, isolated, lonely, amazing basin-and-range landscape of Nevada to spend three days at Great Basin National Park. Although it was a busy park, it was nowhere as busy or as crowded as Yosemite during that time of year, and it felt like a breath of fresh air. It seems to be a sort of overlooked national park and it’s definitely out in the middle of nowhere. The nearby town of Baker, NV, has a population of 58, so lodging is slim to none. I stayed in a motel-style room at the Hidden Canyon Retreat across state lines in Utah, accessed by a 7-mile gravel road off of the main highway. It truly is located in a hidden canyon and my room was wonderful, although the available wifi was pretty much non-existent and cell service was pretty spotty.

The colors of Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state)
A frosty morning at Tipsoo Lake, Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state)

In late September and early October, I returned to Mount Rainier National Park for some autumn color photography. The September trip provided amazing color in the Paradise area of the park. The October trip was cold, frosty, and beautiful. Plus, I finally got the shots I wanted: sunrise over “The Mountain” framed by the autumn-hued huckleberry bushes, and a sunrise over Tipsoo Lake that didn’t look oversaturated. In truth, the colors of sunrise at Tipsoo Lake are always saturated, but one would think as they look at a sunrise photo that the photographer really overdid it, even though that’s not the case. So the frost and new snow helped me with some gorgeous, very chilly, sunrise imagery.

A trail toward Horsethief Butte, Columbia Hills Historical State Park, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
The Beacon Rock, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
High tides and a ship around the corner, Cape Disappointment State Park, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

As I was driving back home along WA State Route 14 from my May Mount St. Helens photo session, with a stop at Beacon Rock State Park to hike up that eroded volcanic plug, I kept noticing signs marking the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. That piqued my interest enough to look it up once I returned to my laptop.

Again, in all those years of contributing articles and photos for the Traveler, I’ve really only focused on national parks. I’d started investigating national monuments around 2020, and certainly I’d never visited a national historical park or even thought to follow along a national historic trail. But once I decided to follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark in November and December, during their Pacific Northwest explorations of their 16-state, 4,900 trek from Pennsylvania to the Pacific Ocean, I was hooked. One of the most interesting things is how many state parks work in concert with the National Park System. If you visit the page for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and click on their State-By-State Guide, you’ll see all sorts of points of interest, some modern that the Corps of Discovery would never have encountered or even imagined, but much of it landscape just the way the 33-member expedition saw it.

From there, I penned three different photo columns all about this national historic trail, scheduled for publication this year in the Traveler. And I’m not finished. I’m going to change some of my current travel plans so I can continue exploring along the footsteps of Lewis and Clark (using cushy, 21st century things such as my Toyota 4Runner, my mirrorless digital cameras, fleece, Gore-Tex, and other accoutrements not available to the Lewis and Clark expedition) from eastern Washington into Idaho and Montana. As long as nothing unforeseen occurs to me or my family, that is.

Some of you may be interested in knowing how I travel during the pandemic. First of all, I am a total believer in science and the vaccine, so I have both Moderna vaccine shots plus the booster. In addition to that, wherever I travel, I do the same thing: drive not fly, take all my own food so I don’t have to eat out (the food is either canned, like Vienna sausage or tuna, or freeze-dried, like Mountain House-brand foods), take my own coffee, coffee maker, hot pot (to heat up those freeze-dried meals), and cream (for the coffee – real cream, not fake creamer), plenty of masks, plenty of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes to wipe down my lodge rooms, and most importantly, I stay as far away from people as I possibly can. I’m not a people person to begin with, so that’s relatively easy unless it’s at a popular view area.

There you have it: my 2021 photo trips in a nutshell. Hopefully, 2022 will be just as fruitful regarding photography.

I hope all of you have a good start to the New Year. Time for me to go check on the traditional New Year’s Day dinner I’m cooking: Hoppin’ John (a stew of black-eye peas, onions, garlic, sausage and rice) and boiled cabbage.

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Filed under National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Travel

Merry Christmas And Happy Holidays!

Looking Toward Home And Hearth

I know many of you will be traveling, if you are not already doing so, solo or with others, to celebrate whatever holiday you observe that comes around this time of year. So, I thought I’d get this posted, in case any of you decide to try out your own Christmas/holiday-themed photography.

Every year, it’s a tradition for me to photograph the decorated tree and to capture the warm and cool beauty of the season where I live. If it snows outside, which it has lightly done on and off for a couple of days, then I like to capture an image of the scene, including the snowy ground and looking toward and then through the window of the house, where we set up the tree and holiday lights.

Decorations During The Daytime
Christmas Tree, Presents, And Decorations At Night

I capture images of the livingroom decorations, tree, and all the presents as seen during the day and at night. During the day, the light tends to be cooler and the tree lights a little frostier and maybe even not as well seen. There’s a light, airy feeling to the daylight shot. Night, though, is a completely different story. The colors are richly saturated on their own, but with the addition of the warm gold from the tungsten lamps and the sparkly lights of the tree. Everything looks so inviting.

Looking Through The Window

I make it a point to go outside at night to capture the look of the tree and decorations through the large picture window. This scene above is a sort of yin/yang composition that I often create without even knowing it. There’s the cold blue-white light of the outside light, next to the warm, golden light of the house interior.

Christmas Ornaments And A Crochet Snowflake
A Warm Sparkle To The Ornaments
Santa Clauses
Travel Trailer Ornament (aka Becky’s Retirement Dream In Ornament Form)
Light-Up Christmas Chotchkies

And of course, I capture the ornaments and decorations, their colors and their sparkle.

This year, I used my Fujifilm GFX 100 and GFX 100s cameras. The GFX100 has a 45-100mm lens attached, and the 100s has a prime 23mm lens attached. The 45-100mm is analogous to a 35mm 36-79mm lens and the 23mm lens is analogous to a 35mm wide-angle 17mm lens. The photo above, however, of the light-up little snowglobes, was captured with a Sony Alpha a7riv and 24-105mm lens.

I hope all of you have a safe, peaceful, and photographically fun holiday time. Never stop taking those pictures, because that’s how you improve and learn.

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Filed under Christmas, Fujifilm GFX 100, Fujifilm GFX 100S, holiday, Sony Alpha a7r IV, winter

As A Photographer, I Am Thankful On This Day (And Every Day, Actually)

A Thankgiving Toast to the ones that escaped the dinner table

This was the best photo I could get of this rafter (flock) of wild turkeys seen out at the Columbia Hills Natural Area Preserve. Unlike the rafter of turkeys I encountered back in 2018 at Zion National Park, this group of birds was pretty skittish and flew (yes, wild turkeys can fly) away from me, scattering all over the place almost too far for my camera’s lens to get a decent shot.

As I sit here during the still-dark morning hours, sipping my nice, hot coffee from freshly-ground beans with a dash (ok, more than just a dash) of good ole fattening cream, I think about what I am thankful for on this day (good coffee is one of those things). I am thankful for much, not just on this day, but every day. However, Thanksgiving, like Christmas, tends to laser-focus one’s attention more on whatever it is that a particular holiday espouses.

As a photographer, I am certainly thankful for the fact that at 60 years of age (mentally, I’m still 30, btw), I am healthy enough, still, to take my cameras out and digitally capture the beauty, wonder, and ecosystems within the landscapes of the places I visit. I’m also thankful that I have venues in which I can write about and share with you and others these landscapes and the things within them that I photograph. Heck, for that matter, I’m thankful that cameras have come such a long way from my first HP-brand 2 mp digital camera (purchased from Walmart somewhere around 1999) in technological developments to allow me to render sharp, clear, detailed moments frozen in time. I could go on and on about cameras and computers and such, but you get the gist here.

On a more personal note, I am so very thankful for a roof over my head, clothing, and good food. I’m thankful to have a little bit of family left; my sister and I may squabble on occasion, but it’s sure nice to be with her. I missed out on so much from previous years that I am thankful for the time I have with her now.

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, have a good holiday. For those of you who do not celebrate or even have this holiday, then just stop a moment to count your blessings. Don’t ever take for granted the good things you have and the wonderful experiences you encounter. I sure don’t.

Rebecca Latson, Where The Trails Take You Photography, LLC

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Filed under Holidays, Photography, Thanksgiving

Photography In The National Parks: The Faces Of Winter

A winter storm over the red-rock landscape of Arches National Park in Utah
A winter evening at Kilauea Volcano, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii
A high winter cloud ceiling over the Tatoosh Mountains at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state

Winter has many faces in a national park. It might be snowing, it might not. It might be freezing cold, it might be balmy t-shirt weather. My latest photo column has been published in the National Parks Traveler and it’s all about capturing the many faces of winter. If you are planning a winter trip to a national park unit, you should check out the article.

To read the article, click on any of the images above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Photography In The National Parks, Seasons, winter

Photography In The National Parks: A Great Time At Great Basin National Park

Waiting For Sunrise Along The Wheeler Peak Scenic Road, Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

The National Parks Traveler has published my latest photography column. This one is all about tips, techniques, and places to photograph within Great Basin National Park, in Nevada.

To read the article, click on the image above.

As for this image, I had started out on the narrow, winding Wheeler Peak Scenic Road at dark-thirty, probably an hour and a half or so before sunrise. It’s a good idea to get started along this road early, because you really, really need to drive slowling along the curvy and did I mention narrow (?) road with plenty to time to get to where you want to set up for sunrise. I placed my camera on a tripod as the light was beginning to glow a little above the horizon. That helped me with focusing on the distant scenery.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Great Basin National Park, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Photography In The National Parks

Capturing The Color And Character Of Fall

The Beginning Of Sunrise At Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

The National Parks Traveler has published my latest photo column. This month, it’s all about capturing that last bit of autumn color before the monochrome palette of winter completely takes over.

To read the article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under autumn, Mount Rainier National Park, National Parks, Photography, Seasons, Travel and Photography