Category Archives: National Parks

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.

Comments Off on Funding Questions Arise Over Padre Island’s Sea Turtle Program

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.

Comments Off on Welcome To Fort Clatsop

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.

Comments Off on Moments In History: Colter’s Hell

Filed under National Parks, Photography, Yellowstone National Park

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 NPS.gov 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.

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

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

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.

Comments Off on Photography In The National Parks: The Faces Of Winter

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.

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

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.

Comments Off on Capturing The Color And Character Of Fall

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

Where The Trails Take You Photography 2022 Calendars For Sale

The Covid Pandemic and emergency eye surgery put a bit of a damper on my travel, but not on my photography. I managed to visit three national parks this year (Yosemite, Mount Rainier, and Great Basin) and capture some awesome shots. So…

… It’s that time of year again, when I shamelessly self-promote through the 12-month wall calendars I create for each year. Here are three of four (fourth awaits review) calendars I have for sale via Zazzle.com. Right now, you can get 15% off your order with the promotion code ZFALLPARTIES.

I order these calendars for myself and my family, so I can attest to the quality of these items. Sure, digital junkies (like one of my twin nephews) will scoff at a paper *anything*, much less a paper calendar, but these come in pretty handy for writing reminders, and special dates and events that I can just reach over, look at, and mark off as needed. Guess I’m old-school, but these calendars are still pretty cool and look nice on the wall at home or at the office.

https://www.zazzle.com/store/rebecca_latson_photo to get to my Zazzle Store or, click on each photo to look at each calendar and its months, separately.

Comments Off on Where The Trails Take You Photography 2022 Calendars For Sale

Filed under Calendars, Great Basin National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, National Parks, Photography, Yosemite National Park

Revisiting A Favorite Spot In A National Park

Myrtle Falls, Mount Rainier National Park, 9/30/2020
Myrtle Falls, Mount Rainier National Park, 9/23/2021
Myrtle Falls, Mount Rainier National Park, 9/6/2016

I know I’ve written this before, and I tend to hammer it in to the readers of my photo column on the National Parks Traveler. But, I’m not going to stop hammering it in, so here we go again: it’s always a great idea to revisit and rephotograph a favorite national park spot, because – depending upon the season, time of day, and weather – things can look quite different from the last time you visited. If you are using a newer/different camera, the level of detail can look quite different, as well.

Take these shots of Myrtle Falls in the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state). Each of the three photos were actually captured in September, from late summer to autumn, and during the morning (I didn’t realize they were all captured in September until I looked at the file info). However, these images were photographed in different years (2016, 2020, 2021) and under different weather conditions. Makes quite a difference, doesn’t it?

The first image shows a sort of veiled mountain view that I photographed with my Sony a7riv. Smoke from a wildfire had wafted in that morning, when the previous morning was crystal clear. The second image is the most recent, captured the day after official autumn and conditions were perfect for a clear photo of everything and was photographed with my Fujifilm GFX100. The last photo was taken during a rainy day when The Mountain was completely hidden from view by fog/mist/low-hanging clouds, so I focused on the waterfall rather than the gray background with my Canon 5DSR. And the really nice thing is that during each of those photo sessions, I had the place all to myself (I may forget what I ate for breakfast the other day, but stuff like that, I tend to remember). Most people up there at that time of year tend to want to sleep in, I guess.

Anyway, look at these images and compare them to one another, then take my advice and revisit your favorite spots for more photos.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

Comments Off on Revisiting A Favorite Spot In A National Park

Filed under Canon, Fujifilm GFX 100, Mount Rainier National Park, National Parks, Photography, Sony Alpha a7r IV

It’s National Public Lands Day 2021!

Here’s a sunrise for your Saturday, folks. Today (Sept 25, 2021) is National Public Lands Day. Fees are waived at the national parks. It’s a great day to enjoy the outdoors and think about how you can help preserve a park’s environment for future visitors. It can be as simple as packing out what you pack in and picking up trash you see along the trail. I did that yesterday. I saw an occasional candy wrapper and even a discarded mask. I’d forgotten to bring a trash bag with me, but I still had other bags I could use for picking up and carrying trash. It’s good for one’s karma, you know. 😊

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

Comments Off on It’s National Public Lands Day 2021!

Filed under autumn, Mount Rainier National Park, National Parks, Photography, Seasons, sunrise