Tag Archives: National Parks Traveler

Yellowstone At 150: Challenges Go More Than Crowd-Deep

Sunlight reflections and paw and hoof prints on the shallow terraces at Midway Basin

Today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has a great Feature Story about the challenges and stresses facing Yellowstone National Park. No, I didn’t write it – it was penned by Traveler correspondent Rita Beamish. She’s a fantastic journalist and you should go on over and read the article. Just click on the image above to go to the article.

As for this image: I had joined five others for a snowcoach tour during my February stay in this national park. One of the places we stopped was Midway Basin, and we had the entire spot to ourselves and our driver/tour leader April was fantastic at teaching us about the various parts of the area as well as of the park, as a whole.

Here’s the thing about a visit to Midway Basin, no matter what time of year. You’re not going to see the overall stunning beauty of Grand Prismatic Spring like you do from the overlook on the hillside behind the spring (accessed by the Fairy Falls Trail, with a detour up to the overlook). What you *will* see are the various parts of the spring, as well as the other geothermal features in this particular geyser basin, each part of which has its own beauty.

The morning produced a sort of “watery” sunlight, trying to break through the cloud cover. It did so, in places, and one could see its reflection in the mirror-smooth water of the shallow terraces. One could also see the distinct little paw prints (can you spot them?) and the much larger hoof prints (thankfully, no boot prints here, that I could discern) on those shallow terraces. In the background was the steaming proof all around us of the underground geothermal machinery within the park.

Here’s a little bit of trivia for you: all the white stuff you see in the terraces and in the paw and hoof prints is *not* snow or ice. The water is too warm for that. What you are looking at is silica precipitated out of solution. Yellowstone’s geothermal waters are full of silica in solution, but once that water reaches the surface and flows away from the heat source toward the cooler portions of wherever it lands, that silica precipitates out. It tends to create milky appearances on the ground and within “cooler” hot springs, making them look sort of opal-ish.

Anyway, there is this beauty to Midway Basin that both has something to do with Grand Prismatic, and at the same time, does not. If you ever visit and can find a parking spot, it’s a worthwhile stop, even if you don’t see that areal view of color that you’d see in textbooks or at the Grand Prismatic Overlook.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Photography In The National Parks: Following In The Footsteps Of Lewis And Clark

A View Down The Columbia River Toward Horsethief Butte (center right}

In all the hustle and bustle upon my return from Yellowstone National Park, I’d forgotten until now that the National Parks Traveler published my latest photography column. This month’s column is all about traveling along the Washington state portion of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. It’s a three-part photo column and this Part 1 is about visiting and photographing Horsethief Butte and a portion of Columbia Hills Historical State Park. You’ll learn some photography tips and techniques and a little bit of history about Lewis and Clark, too.

To read the article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Photography In The National Parks, Travel, Washington State

National Parks Traveler Reader Poll: Are Crowds In Parks A Concern?

The crowds at Laurel Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo courtesy of the NPS.

Today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has a reader poll for you to take, folks. The Traveler wants to know what you think about crowds in parks, and the choices from which you can choose to vote on are the same ones the National Park Service is mulling.

To take the poll, click on the image above.

I like polls. They allow me a choice and I can put my two cents in on what I think about things. So, why not take a moment to click on the image above and take the poll, then leave a comment at the bottom of the comment section of the poll.

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Photography In The National Parks: My 10 Fave Photos From 2021

The First Kiss Of Sunrise At Tipsoo Lake, Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state)

Everybody has a favorite photo (or two or three or more) they’ve captured in a national park, right? I certainly have mine. Today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has published what was officially supposed to be my first Photography in the National Parks column for 2022 (but it got superseded by my Fort Clatsop article). Anyway, today’s article is a look back at my 10 fave images from 2021.

To read the photo column, see my other nine favorite photos, why I like them and how I got each shot, click on the image above.

This image, captured just at the beginning of sunrise on a frosty, snowy morning in Mount Rainier National Park, is one of those 10 favorites. For me, it was a culmination of trying to get just the right sunrise composition of this spot overlooking Tipsoo Lake, over which “The Mountain” towers. Sunrises are, of course, always gorgeous here, but they can often look waaaay oversaturated. In truth, that’s *exactly* the way sunrise looks, for maybe a minute, before the sunrlight then turns white on the snowcapped mountain. The colors for that one moment almost scream at the eye. So, for this shot, I waited for the perfect moment to photograph the composition just as the sun kissed the top of the mountain, leaving the rest of the scene looking cold in the blue/purple shadows of the morning.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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National Parks Quiz And Trivia #45

Surrounded by gold in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

True or false: you can tell a bison’s mood by looking at its tail. That’s one of the questions in my latest National Parks Quiz and Trivia piece published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler. And no, I’m not going to tell you the answer. You’ll have to click on the link and take the quiz yourself (ok, ok, answers are at the bottom of the quiz, but really, see how much you know about the units in the National Park System before peeking at the answers).

To take the quiz and read the trivia, click on the image above.

As for this image, it was captured during my autumn 2019 visit to this national park. I was driving along the park road heading toward the turnoff to West Yellowstone and I saw this lone bison standing in a field of golden grass. I pulled off onto a wide shoulder to get the photo before continuing on to my destination of Fountain Flat Drive (where I ultimately dropped camera and lens and broke the teleconverter but thankfully, not the camera or lens 🙄).

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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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

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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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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National Parks Traveler Checklist: Great Basin National Park

A Mid-Morning View Of Stella Lake, Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

The National Parks Traveler has published my latest Checklist. This one’s for Great Basin National Park in Nevada. To read the article, click on the image above.

As for the image above, this was my first day and first hike in this national park. I’d driven up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and managed to snag a parking spot at a pullout across the narrow road from the actual Wheeler Peak Summit Trail parking lot, which was almost full (the parking lots are small in that park and they fill up quickly).

I knew I was not going to hike the 8-mile round trip up to and back down from Wheeler Peak summit – I wanted to, but didn’t feel I was in good enough shape nor as acclimatized for a hike up to 13,000 feet, even though my visit to Yosemite National Park the prior week helped some with that aspect. Instead, I opted for the 2.6-mile roundtrip hike to Stella Lake, which is accessed via the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail but with a 0.1-mile turnoff to the lake. It’s a beautiful hike through stands of quaking aspen, some of which sported leaves already turning gold. It is, however, a narrow, uneven, rocky trail and would be easy to take a fall if one is not watching their step. No, I didn’t fall, but one little girl I watched almost did, because she was wearing sneakers with no tread and not paying attention to the trail.

At this time of year, Stella Lake looks more like Stella “Pond.” You can even see a sort of “bathtub ring” of different colored grass and bits of driftwood around the lake to indicate a higher water level during an earlier part of the season.

The mountains you see behind you are Wheeler Peak, to the right, and Doso Doyabi (formerly Jeff Davis Peak), to the center.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Great Basin National Park, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Nevada, Photography, Travel, Traveler's Checklist