Tag Archives: landscape

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.

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

Photography in The National Parks: Yosemite Tried, True, and New

Yosemite Valley Landscape, Yosemite National Park (California)

The National Parks Traveler has published my latest photography column. This month’s column is all about capturing iconic as well as new perspectives of this particular national park. To read the article, click on the image above.

As for this image: I drove into Yosemite Valley several times during my week’s stay in the park. Every time, I’d pass by this one spot along the road – a small pullout large enough for a vehicle, right next to the rocky banks of the Merced River, which was a trickle of its former self. So finally, I stopped, took out my camera and tripod, and gingerly picked my way to a spot to photograph forest, river, and El Capitan (I believe that’s El Cap) all beneath a blue sky with wispy clouds.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Photography In The National Parks, Travel and Photography, Yosemite National Park

Nevada Basin And Range Landscape

A Long Ribbon Of Road From Ely To Great Basin National Park
A Hazy Summer Morning Over Wind Turbines And Nevada Valley And Mountain Landscape

I’d left Ely (pronounced Eee-lee), Nevada, around 6:30 a.m. for an hour’s drive to Great Basin National Park. I was about 30-ish miles south of Ely when I rounded a corner and started heading down into this wide, flat valley. The wind turbines, ribbon of road that looks like it goes way up into the mountains on the other side of the valley, and the sunlight highlighting the veil of haze captured my photographer’s eye and I just had to pull over and get a few photos.

In reality, that long road going up into the mountains is actually a dirt road on someone’s private property (lucky them). This paved road takes an almost sharp turn to the left and parallels the mountains before rounding the corner to the right.

And those wind turbines made a great geographic marker for me on the way from the park back toward Ely on the day I headed back home to Washington state. I’d left the Baker area at 2 a.m. so it was dark heading toward Ely. Distances are difficult to discern in the dark because you can’t see the landscape. However, when I saw the synchronous blinking red lights, I knew I was driving toward and past that small wind turbine farm and that Ely was closer than I thought.

Nevada has some amazing landscape and geology, and the roads are very good, but the stretches of road through the state are long and out in the middle of nowhere, seemingly far away from civilization (and gas stations).

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under leading lines, Nevada, Photography

It’s Trivia Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A View Of Goat Mountain, Big Bend National Park (Texas)
Wandering A Trail Amongst The Redwood Trees, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (California)
A Wide-Angle View Of Bryce Amphitheater Seen From Lower Inspiration Point, Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
Soft Winter Morning Sunlight Over The Watchman And Virgin River, Zion National Park (Utah)

It’s #TriviaTuesday ! So, what do Big Bend, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park all have in common? They are all a part of the National Park System (no duh, right?). And the National Park System is overseen by the National Park Service. And who helped persuade Congress to create the National Park Service? One Stephen Tyng Mather, born July 4. So, in addition to celebrating Independence Day on July 4, we should also have lit a birthday candle to this man who “laid the foundation of the National Park Service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved, unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good he has done …”

And, speaking of Stephen Mather, today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has published my latest quiz and trivia piece. It’s all about July notables, including Stephen Mather.

To test your national parks knowledge and maybe learn a little something, too, just click on any of the images above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, National Parks Quiz, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Trivia Tuesday

A Day Trip To Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument (Washington State) With My Cameras

An afternoon view of the volcano from Johnston Ridge Observatory (Fujifilm GFX 100)

It’s been almost three decades since my last visit to Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Since moving back to Washington state, I’ve been thinking about a little return trip there to see what has changed in the ensuing years. I figured a May day visit to celebrate 41 years since the volcano’s eruption would be a great opportunity to field test a couple of new cameras (Sony Alpha 1, Fujifilm GFX 100).

It takes four hours to reach the Johnston Ridge Observatory from where I live in central Washington. In my case, it took a little longer, since I stopped at various view areas along the way. There are actually two ways to get to the volcano. There’s the slightly shorter route to Windy Ridge, on the northwestern side of Mt. St. Helens, with a great view of Spirit Lake (the road which is still closed due to snow). And then, there’s the slightly longer route along Spirit Lake Memorial Highway up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, slightly northeast of the crater.

Hoffstadt Creek Bridge (Fujifilm GFX 100)
Hoffstadt Creek Bridge (Sony a1)

The first view area at which I stopped was the Hoffstadt Bridge area. There are 14 bridges built along the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway leading up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This bridge pictured here is the tallest of them and is located at the edge of the blast zone in this area, about 22 miles away from the volcano. The trees and green foiliage you see in the images have grown since Mt. St. Helens’ eruption 41 years ago.

A trail to the side of the Hoffstadt Creek Bridge view area (Fujifilm GFX 100)

After photographing the bridge, I noticed this lovely leading line of a trail creating a yin-yang feel to the scene, with the bare white tree trunks on one side and the heavier, green foliage on the other side. No, I didn’t take the trail, so I don’t know where it ultimately led. I was trying to get closer to the volcano while decent morning light remained.

The scene from Castle Lake View Area (Sony a1)

I stopped at a couple more view areas, including the one above, with a side view of Mt. St. Helens and what I assume is Castle Lake to the center right of the composition. FYI, it’s reaaaalllly windy at this view spot as well as the Elk Rock Viewpoint, a stop before the Castle Lake Viewpoint. I was glad my tripod was heavy but still worried about camera shake because of the wind. I was also glad I had ear flaps to my Tilley hat, otherwise it would have blown off my head and far away.

Noble firs, planted 1983 (Sony a1)

All along the road up to the observatory, there are great stands of trees all about the same height, with signs denoting the type of tree and when they were planted. Most were planted between 1983 and 1986. This stand of noble firs was planted 1983, three years after the eruption.

A morning look at Mt. St. Helens from the Loowit View Area (Fujifilm GFX 100)

The first really good, head-on view of Mt. St. Helens, imo, is at the Loowit View Area, probably a mile – more or less – down from Johnston Ridge Observatory. As you can see from the image above, even at 8 a.m., good morning light doesn’t last very long, as the vista was becoming hazy with a slight blue cast to it. Take a moment to note that contrail in the upper left corner. Every single plane I watched flying over me made a beeline to the mountain. I imagine pilots include this view in their flight plan for the benefit of the plane passengers?

This view area (as well as the observatory area) was totally devoid of the chilly wind I’d experienced on the way up, which was a nice change. No real tripod shake and I didn’t have to worry about my hat flying away.

Where they lay – tree trunks still stripped and bare from the volcano’s blast even 41 years later (Sony a1)

It was interesting to see the growth that’s occurred in 41 years, yet still see very obvious signs of blast devastation. The cliff walls near the top of the image tower over the Toutle River (or what is left of it, after ash and mud spread out, flooded down, and clogged parts of the river.

I think I spent a good 45 minutes there before heading on up to Johnston Ridge Observatory. The observatory is closed, to date, and there are no restrooms or water, but the parking lot and view points are open. The last place for restrooms and water are at Coldwater Lake, some 8 miles back down elevation (or, if you look at a map, further north in distance) from the observatory.

In your face (iPhone 11 Pro)

It was after 9 a.m. by the time I reached the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The volcano was in my face as I walked up the paved rampway.

Morning view of Mt. St. Helens at Johnston Ridge Observatory (Sony a1)

As you can see from the image above, the atmosphere around Mt. St. Helens was hazy and had quite the blue cast to it. Regardless of lighting conditions, to see up close this volcano and the devastated area around it is truly impressive.

All that remains (Sony a1)

There is a paved walkway in both directions from the observatory’s main view area, so I walked up to this view of what remains of trees that were 150 feet tall. These blasted stumps are what is left of trees blown by the power of the eruption back to the valley you see in the background.

Mountain goat (Sony a1)

Before I left to head toward Longview and attempt an early check in, I walked the paved trail in the other direction from the image of the blasted trees. Lo and behold, right there on the hillside where the observatory building stood was a trio of mountain goats. I’d been given a heads up by a local photographer that I might see elk, so I’d attached my Sony a1 to my 100-400mm lens. I did see elk along the route to Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (aka Hwy 504), but they weren’t in the national monument proper and I was trying to get to the volcano while there was still decent morning light. I’d switched out lenses while photographing at Loowit View Area, so I had my 24-105mm lens attached, with which I ultimately had to make do for the photos I captured of the mountain goats. This image has been cropped from the original and it was the only one showing this goat’s front end (rather than the butt ends of the other two goats on the hill).

I was able to get early check in for my reservation at the Quality Inn & Suites in Longview, a little over an hour’s drive away from the observatory. In retrospect, I wish I would have stayed at the Comfort Inn, right next to the Three Rivers Mall and closer to places for take out options. The hotel at which I stayed is in Longview’s industrial section and is a bit dated. My room had cracks in the sink and the toilet, plus my room’s door wouldn’t automatically lock after shutting. Thankfully, that issue was fixed promptly, or else I would have asked for a different room. The hotel staff was very friendly, which was a plus to an otherwise meh hotel stay. I only stayed one night, so the room was fine enough.

Late afternoon view from the Loowit View Area (Fujifilm GFX 100)
A lava dome and steam vents (Sony a1)

I returned to Mt. St. Helens later in the afternoon and the lighting was considerably better. I also noticed steam rising from a couple of vents in the lava dome that I had not detected early that morning. That was pretty cool.

Mountain goats and volcanic scenery (Sony a1)

I made my way from the Loowit View Area back up to the observatory (see image at the very top of this post). Once again, as I was getting ready to return to my vehicle, I saw the same three mountain goats I’d spotted earlier that morning. And of course, my Sony still had the 24-105mm lens on it. The goats were closer to the paved walkway, but I didn’t want to get too near as one of the three was rather aggressive and I sure as heck didn’t want to be on the receiving end. So, I did what any good photographer would do with a wide-angle lens on their camera instead of a telephoto lens (left back in the car): I made the wildlife a part of my landscape scene.

What did I think of my cameras? I love them both! That GFX 100 is the landscape camera of my dreams, although I sure wish they had a wider selection of lenses. Fujifilm apparently figured the GFX 100 would be used only for portraiture and architecture. That’s probably true for what the current majority of photographers who own this camera use it. But with the advent of the GFX 100s, I would imagine there are a great many more landscape photographers out there who will use this medium format for their work. Hopefully, the people at Fujifilm will take note and create more lenses.

The Sony a1 is an exceptional camera, as is the rest of its line. This one combines the resolution I like for my landscapes, along with a shutter frame rate (up to 30 fps) perfect for wildlife and sports photography. I’m hoping to get more wildlife action from this camera during an upcoming visit to Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite national parks. Yes, I’ll be keeping a long lens attached to this particular camera during that trip.

Becky and the volcano – yup, there was no wind so my hat stayed on my head

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Filed under Fujifilm GFX 100, Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Photography, Sony a1, Travel, Washington State

Fairyland Canyon Scenery

Fairyland Canyon Landscape, Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

I’ve been working on a series of short articles for the National Parks Traveler, titled “Traveler’s Checklists.” These are bulleted lists with tips on what to do, where to go, where to stay, what to eat, etc. for national parks and other protected lands I’ve visited. I’ve finished three already (Redwood National and State Parks, Big Bend National Park, Padre Island National Park) and each one is scheduled to show up weekly on a Wednesday.

I’m now working on my 4th Checklist, which deals with Bryce Canyon National Park. I’ve already found the images I’ll use for this Checklist, but as I was perusing the files, I noticed a number of images I have never worked on and thus never posted. So, I thought I’d do a little photo editing today, in addition to writing.This image was captured during my short hike along the Fairyland Loop Trail, in Fairyland Canyon, a separate amphitheater in Bryce Canyon National Park.

My one regret is that I never completed the 8-mile loop trail – I only hiked parts of it. Someday, when I return to this national park, I’m going to make it a priority to actually finish hiking the entire damned trail. It’s a well-maintained trail, and all I need to really remember (aside from bringing camera gear) is to take plenty of water. It doesn’t matter whether it’s hot or cold out there – the dry atmosphere will suck the moisture from your body in the blink of an eye before you even realize you might be dehydrated.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Bryce Canyon National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, Utah

2021 12-Month Wall Calendars Are Here!

According to one of my twin nephews, nobody uses wall calendars anymore when they can keep everything digitally on their computer and smartphones. I guess I’m old school, because I (and my sister, at least) still use calendars onto which we write everything. Plus, we love the beautiful scenes for each month.

So, here, for 2021, are four 12-month wall calendars filled with gorgeous images (at least, I think so) captured at three national parks, one national monument, and one national recreation area this year. I ended up safely traveling around to more places than I imagined I would this year, and four of those five places were new to me.

To see my storefront, use the link here. https://www.zazzle.com/redwood_national_and_state_parks_2021_calendar-158184821262320137

Or, to look at each calendar separately, click on each of the images above.

You can get 25% off today using the code TUESDAYGIFTS. The code ends today, but I’m pretty sure Zazzle will have some sort of discount code for tomorrow.

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Filed under Calendars, Crater Lake National Park, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, National Monuments, National Parks, Photography, Redwood National and State Parks, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Wildfire Smoke Affects More Than Just Your Ability To View A National Park Landscape

Tipsoo Lake in Mount Rainier National Park on a clear day versus a wildfire smoke-filled day

I know, I’ve been pretty remiss about posting to this site. I have good intentions and then I get either lazy or sidetracked.

Putting that aside, I recently visited Mount Rainier National Park during the week the smoke rolled in from the wildfires in California and Oregon. I didn’t realize this until after I got there, since the weather reports were calling for clear, sunny skies and I wanted to get out along Stevens Canyon Road and the Nisqually-Paradise Corridor to photograph and video some scenes. My plan changed a bit, as you can see.

When I returned home, I had questions about what might and might not be impacted by all this smoke (aside from being able to photograph a landscape), so I did some quick research, wrote an article, and the National Parks Traveler published it today.

To read that article, click on either image above or below.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

Viewing the Nisqually River from the bridge over the river on a clear day versus a smoky day

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Filed under climate change, Mount Rainier National Park, Mt. Rainier National Park, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Travel and Photography

Photography In The National Parks: A Short Stay At Crater Lake

Crater Lake just after sunrise

If you read my previous article published in the National Parks Traveler, then you’ll know how I prepared for my photography trip to Crater Lake National Park during the Coronavirus pandemic. My latest article published by the Traveler is about the photography you can achieve within this park.

To read my photo article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Canon, coronavirus, Crater Lake National Park, Equipment, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Nikon, Oregon, Photography, Sony Alpha a7r IV, Travel

A Little Advice For You Photographers Out There

Sunrise over “The Mountain” at Tipsoo Lake, Mount Rainier National Park

Each photo you take tells a story. I practically hammer that in to my readers in my monthly photo columns on the National Parks Traveler . But, I have some advice for you photographers who post your images out there on Flickr, Twitter, or Facebook:

Write a little bit about your photo, too. Add to that story.

People enjoy reading about how you captured the image, what you were feeling, what camera you used, even your settings. It adds to your story, fleshes it out, and helps others figure out settings for their own camera in similar situations. It also makes you more engaging, both as a photographer and a storyteller.

It drives me nuts to see an interesting image with no title, no commentary, no exif, no nuthin’. Now, I can understand why a photographer might not wish to indicate the location of the photo, since many places are loved to death, aready – no need to add to that. But, it’s a primary rant with me that many photographers won’t tell a damned story. Yeah, the sunrise over the mountains in that photo is gorgeous, and yeah, it looks a little cold, but surely there is more to it than that! What did you feel at the time you clicked that shutter button? How many miles did you have to hike to get there? Know anything about the ecosystem there; any sort of facts or trivia to impart to your viewers?

For instance, I took a couple of day trips this month (June 2020) over to Mount Rainier National Park, here in Washington state, for some photography. I was itching to get out with my cameras, but leery of things due to the coronavirus pandemic. When I visited, I practiced my social distancing, went to areas where there were few-to-no people, wore a mask where there were people, and thoroughly enjoyed myself – except for that one moment when a woman in a group not practicing social distancing came up to me, pointed at my mask, and told me I needed to take it off.

I posted some of those images on Flickr, and added commentary along with exif data (specific information about the image, including settings, etc.), because I want people to see the exposure information and to visibly see the difference visiting the same spot can make during different seasons, different times of the day, and under different weather conditions; in this instance, rainy and overcast versus a blue-sky day.

My first trip to the park since the coronavirus pandemic was June 8th, shortly after it reopened. My second trip was June 18th. The difference in weather is dramatic and you can see it in the images.

A fast-flowing stream on an overcast day, Mount Rainier National Park
A sunny day along the same stream in Mount Rainier National Park

The first time I visited, I did not go via Chinook Pass to Tipsoo Lake because I knew things would be snowed over and, due to the rainy, overcast weather, I figured The Mountain would be hiding behind an iron curtain of gray fog. The second time I visited, I did drive by Tipsoo Lake, as you can see from the image at the top of this post.

The view from Ricksecker Point on June 8th
The view from Ricksecker Point on June 18th

I won’t make this post any longer, since attention spans aren’t what they used to be. But you should get the gist of what I am saying to you. If you post to a public viewing site, then write a little commentary / story to go with the image so people get a better flavor of the atmosphere and feeling around the photo.

FYI, in case you wish to quibble, photo essays are a little different, and there, you do need to be able to tell a story with just your photos and captions. Flickr, FB, and Twitter, however, are not exactly conducive to photo essays.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Mount Rainier National Park, Mt. Rainier National Park, National Parks, Photography, Telling A Story, Travel, Washington State