Category Archives: nature

Fun Fact Friday August 20, 2021

Cooling down on a hot day in Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)
Just a pair of ravens chilling out on a snowy winter day in Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

It’s #FunFactFriday ! I have always liked ravens. I like crows too, but ravens more. So, here’s a few interesting facts about ravens. These birds are super smart and very curious. They are also quite acrobatic when flying, turning somersaults mid-air. They’ve got a vocabulary of about 30 calls (including flight calls, hunger calls, and danger calls) in addition to non-vocal communication (like snapping their beaks). Once mated, it’s for life, and they usually nest in the same location year after year.

You can tell the difference between ravens and crows in that (among other things), ravens are larger, have uneven tail feathers (which you can see when they fan them out) and have curvier beaks. Ravens usually travel in pairs while crows travel in larger groups (called “murders” as in a murder of crows).

When I stayed for a couple of days at the North Cascades Institute back in 2019, they talked about a pair of ravens they’d named Bonnie and Clyde. These ravens could unzip backpacks in their efforts to get at hikers’ food. I believe I actually met this pair one day while photographing at the Diablo Lake Overlook. They had landed on the fence railing and were eyeing my camera pack, then hopped down next to the pack. I had a feeling they were trying to figure out where the zippers were, so I had to shoo them away.

The one raven with its mouth open in the top photo is doing something you’ll see other birds doing: it’s called gular (goo-lur) fluttering and they do it to cool down on a hot day since they cannot sweat like humans do.

Oh, and while I am on the subject of fun facts, my latest quiz and trivia piece has been published in the National Parks Traveler. It’s all about “August notables.” To read the article, click on either of the images above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under birds, Fun Fact Friday, National Parks, National Parks Quiz, National Parks Traveler, nature, Photography

The Lure Of The Leading Line

Or maybe I should have titled this post “The Lure Of The Trail.” Both are appropriate and actually meld into one another. I love leading lines – they are my favorite theme – and my favorite type of leading line is a trail. That trail leads the viewer’s eye deeper into the composition and onward to whatever adventure awaits. And trails within forests are my favorite, if for no other reason than the forest’s interior glow surrounded by green and brown shadows.

All of the images above were captured with my Sony Alpha 7riv and a 16-35mm lens during my 2020 October visit to Redwood National and State Parks. And all of these images were captured along one of the many trails in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California. The tops of the trees are veiled a little bit in mist, as this trip was during the height of all the wildfires in California. Smoke drifted in from everywhere.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under California, forest, leading lines, National Parks, Photography, Redwood National and State Parks, Travel

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Nature’s Christmas Tree

Nature does a fine job at making her own Christmas tree, don’t you think? I photographed this lovely, snow-frosted evergreen along the side of the road in Mount Rainier National Park.

And, since it’s Fun Fact Friday as well as Christmas Day, here’s a little bit of Mount Rainier tree trivia for you:
The trees in this park extend all the way up to over 6,000 feet along the mountain flanks (over 1,800 meters, more or less). Forests cover approximately 58% of this national park. And most of the trees here are evergreen conifers, meaning they have needles and they keep their needles on their branches year-round.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Christmas, holiday, Mount Rainier National Park, National Parks, nature, Photography, Sony Alpha a7r IV, trees, winter

Happy Thanksgiving

Whew! Is the coast all clear? Can I safely do my turkey trot? Yup, you and your rafter (aka flock) of wild turkey friends in Zion National Park have made it to Thanksgiving Day intact. (I’m keeping mum about the not-so-lucky turkeys).

However you celebrate Thanksgiving – if you even mark it at all – please have a safe day and think about all the things for which you are thankful. I’m thankful for my family, a roof over our heads, food to eat, my cameras (of course), and that we all continue to be healthy within this pandemic (hope I haven’t jinxed anything).

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under birds, holiday, Photography, Thanksgiving

Looking Past Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving

A Wild Turkey In Zion National Park (Utah)

On my next-to-last day in Zion National Park, I happened upon a flock (actually, it’s called a “rafter”) of wild turkeys. I first encountered them along the road through the park and thought that was pretty cool and I was tickled to have seen them then. Then, during a hike where I was crossing the bridge from Sand Bench Trail toward the Court of Patriarchs, I found a flock – er – rafter – of them hanging out around a park maintenance building. I had the best time walking along with them, photographing them. They weren’t the least bit afraid of me and that’s where I learned they can actually fly – enough to get up into a tree, at least. Wild turkeys, for all their grizzled faces, are pretty cool birds to watch, and their feathers are beautiful.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under 1DX, birds, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, holiday, National Parks, Photography, Thanksgiving, Zion National Park

Birdy, Birdy In The Sky

Brown Pelicans Flying Over Padre Island National Seashore, in Texas

The birds you see in national parks and other protected lands are part and parcel of these places, fleshing out the story of your visit. You don’t need to stake out a site for your tripod and use a mega-telephoto lens to capture great images of the birds.

This month’s photo column in the National Parks Traveler is all about bird photography with whatever camera/lens you happen to have on you during your hike or stop at a park overlook.

To read my article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under birds, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography

The Bald Eagle

After a presidential election, what better photo to post than the symbol of American democracy, the bald eagle. As I post this image, I am listening to National Parks Traveler podcast episode #91, about bald eagles in Chesapeake Bay and how populations in the national parks around the Bay have a bit of a better chance of survival. It’s a good podcast, if you feel like listening. It’s about 41 minutes long, and you can download it to listen to later.

To listen to the podcast, click on the image above.

This image was of a bald eagle taking off from a snag in the Brooks River in Katmai National Park, in Alaska was captured with my Canon 1DX and rented 500mm lens.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under 1DX, birds, Canon, Canon 500mm f/4L IS II, Canon Lens, Katmai National Park, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Podcast

Redwoods Were Made For Verticals

The road into the redwoods – Howland Hill Road, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

My monthly photo column is now published in the National Parks Traveler. In it, I talk about how Redwood National and State Parks are the perfect places to capture plenty of vertical shots, with the occasional horizontal thrown in for good measure.

To read the article, click on the photo above.

The image above is of Howland Hill Road, a dirt and gravel road through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, which takes the driver to the parking area of Stout Grove. This road was my first introduction to redwoods, and I actually almost got lost trying to find the road. You see, the road runs for about 7 miles and you can enter it either just outside of Crescent City, CA, or a mile or two east of the Haiouchi Visitor Center along CA Highway 199. I opted for the Crescent City approach only to discover that road was closed less than a mile in, for construction work. I was hemmed in by huge construction tractors and had to gingerly make my way back down the hill and onto the highway to get to Howland Hill Road via the Hwy 199 route. The drive was worth it, though, as Stout Grove is a perfect introduction to coastal redwoods.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under California, forest, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Redwood National and State Parks, Travel

Three Days in Redwood National and State Parks

Looking up at some very tall trees in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

If you only have a short time to spend in Redwood National and State Parks, in northern California, then you should read my latest article published in the National Parks Traveler, about what you can do and see in just three days in this collaboration of national and state parks.

To read the article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under California, forest, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Redwoods National and State Parks, Travel

It’s Fun Fact Friday, 6-26-2020

It’s Fun Fact Friday, folks! The image above is of a plant called devil’s club. It’s quite striking among the other greenery growing in the forest interior at Mount Rainier National Park. And, as you can see, it’s got little stickers on it. But, there’s more to this plant than what you think.

In addition to using devil’s club for an arthritis remedy, fishhooks and deodorant, Alaska Natives have also used this plant for coughs, colds and fever, skin disorders, and digestive ailments.

This plant was one of the quiz questions for National Parks Quiz and Trivia #8.

So, the next time you wander the forests of the Pacific Northwest and see this plant, you’ll know more about the forest and this plant than you did before.


Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Fun Fact Friday, Mount Rainier National Park, Mt. Rainier National Park, National Parks, nature, Nikon, Photography, plant