My latest photography column has been published in the National Parks Traveler. It’s about the yin and yang of a composition, Click the image above if you would like to read the article.
My latest Traveler’s Checklist has also been published, and it has a beach theme like the image above, because it’s all about Padre Island National Seashore. To read that article, click on the image above.
“April showers bring May flowers.” While that might be the case in the lower elevations of the park, that’s not really so in the upper elevations. If you visit during mid-late July, however, you’ll see an explosion of wildflowers in the park, including the beautiful tiger lily.
As I was driving up the road from the Nisqually Entrance toward Paradise, one July a few years ago, I saw this patch of bright orange, strangely-shaped blooms. There was no place for me to stop along the narrow road, so I drove on, trying to figure out where I could park and then hike down to this patch. Luckily for me, a day later, while driving Stevens Canyon Road, I saw these flowers again, right next to a convenient pullout.The tiger lily plant, also known as the Columbia lily, can grow to a little under 4 feet in height, with a few or numerous orange blooms dotted with brownish spots. They are apparently lightly-scented, which I did not know, otherwise I would have bent down to sniff (and probably breathed in pollen and then gotten an allergy, so probably just as well I didn’t know this). Tiger lilys are just one of the many wildflowers you’ll see during a July visit to this national park.
Did you know the North Cascades was so named after its numerous cascading waterfalls, including Rainbow Falls, pictured here, located within the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area portion of the North Cascades National Park Complex? This two-tiered waterfall is a total of 390 feet tall and is one of those must-sees whenever one visits the small community of Stehekin, located about 5 miles, give or take, from the waterfall.
You can learn more North Cascades trivia, and also test your North Cascades knowledge with the latest quiz and trivia piece I penned for the National Parks Traveler.
To take the quiz and learn more about the North Cascades National Park Complex, just click on the image above.
The next time you visit a place that has some elevation difference, take a moment to observe the other differences due to that elevation difference. For instance, notice the differences in these images here? The lowland forest interior, captured at the entrance to Westside Road in Mount Rainier National Park, looks deep and dark and is filled with lush vegetation like ferns and devils club along with dead logs and moss on parts of the trees. Sunlight makes its way into the forest in spots. Whereas the forest along Trail of Shadows in the Longmire Historic District looks – well – clearer, with more space in between the trees, less moss, and a clearer forest floor. Yes, there’s vegetation there, too, but as you can see, not quite as thick. In part because it’s not quite as wet as it is in the lowland forest, plus the difference in elevation between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire creates a difference in temperatures, too. Observation is key to getting nice photos, rather than just a grabshot.
Ok, I know it’s Tuesday, but the Labor Day holiday makes today feel like a Monday. Anyway, here’s a video for your Tuesday morning. I call it “Waiting For Sunrise At Sunrise.”
I’m trying to capture more videos when I visit the national parks. I tend to keep them relatively short because most readers’ attention spans aren’t that long, and most of the videos (99/9%) are captured with my iPhone 11 (it’s just easier and the iPhone does a nice job).
So, here’s a video I took while waiting for sunrise in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park. I was at my favorite spot on Sourdough Ridge Trail. I’d like to capture sunrise looking the other way, instead of looking straight at The Mountain, someday, but the parking lot for that particular “other way” spot is always jam-packed and I don’t want to be standing cheek-by-jowl with others at this point in time.
Anyway, enjoy the almost-sunrise at the Sunrise area of the park.
Let’s see: I managed to visit Crater Lake just prior to all the stupid stuff people started doing there, like illegally hiking (slipping, sliding, rolling) down the very steep rim of Crater Lake to get to the shore (FYI there’s only one legal place to get down to the shore and that’s the Cleetwood Cove Trail). I also managed to visit prior to people defacating along the shoreline of the lake, flicking their cigarette butts into the lake, throwing underwear into the lake, and bringing their little paddle boards and other illegal watercraft to navigate the lake (illegal watercraft can have invasives like quagga mussels encrusted on their bottoms), all of which pollute the pristine waters of this amazingly blue lake that only gets its water from rain and snow and no sort of creek, stream, or river.
There’s a new kind of visitor to the national parks since the coronavirus pandemic: those people who are used to going to Wally World and waterparks and theme parks where there are restrooms and trash cans and food kiosks. These people don’t know how to conduct themselves in a national park, where there may not be those little conveniences. Unfortunately, there are not enough ranger staff to educate the ignorant, so environmental destruction has run wild in these places. While I think it’s great that more people discover the joys of being outside and exploring national parks, it would help if they visited the NPS.gov sites for these national parks to learn what they can and cannot do and can and cannot bring and at least care a little bit about keeping parks in good shape for future visits.
Since that Crater Lake visit, I’ve taken a short, mid-August trip to the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park to fulfill a bucket list of goals such as photographing sunrise, sunset, and the Milky Way in that particular area of the park. I accomplished that and have written a photography article that should post late next week (Sept 4th) in the National Parks Traveler.
As for future plans, I am considering a trip in October to Redwoods National and State Parks to see (and photograph and report) if the California wildfires affected the redwoods there, but that remains up in the air at this point in time.
I still practice social distancing and wear a mask when out. Many people don’t do either, unfortunately. Until we have a valid, tested vaccine for Covid, I’ll continue doing that. Washington state has three face mask orders currently in place.
That’s pretty much it. In between writing photo articles and creating national parks quiz and trivia pieces for the Traveler, I help out around the house and yard and plan for future trips I may or may not take.
Stay safe out there, folks.
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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.
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.
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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It’s #WaterfallWednesday ! So here’s a bevvy of waterfalls, and if you click on each photo, you’ll read an interesting fact or two about each.
This image was captured during a winter in Zion National Park, in Utah, so the water is more of a trickle or a track, indicating it’s falling down the side of a hanging valley. According to the placard I read: “Side valleys began to form at the same time as the Virgin River Canyon. But, the main stream downcut faster than its tributaries, leaving them hanging high above the canyon floor. The mouths of hanging valleys are a likely place to look for waterfalls; they also indicate the river’s former level – a measure of the stream’s carving power.”
This image was captured after a bit of a sweaty trek for me, carrying a heavy camera pack (as per usual) and a heavy tripod, working hard to match the pace of my two new friends who insisted I hike with them to Fairy Falls in Yellowstone National Park, because of a bear frequenting the area. I enjoyed the hike more than the falls itself, because I had a pleasant time visiting with the very nice couple.
According to the NPS site page for this park: “Fairy Falls, 200 feet (61 m) high, is one of Yellowstone’s most spectacular waterfalls. From the trailhead, walk 1.6 miles (2.6 km) through a young lodgepole pine forest to the falls. You can continue 0.6 miles (0.97 km) to Spray and Imperial geysers, which adds 1.2 miles (1.9 km) to the hike.” I was too pooped to hike to the geysers, so I and the couple turned around after a short looksee at the falls. I saw that waterfall in October, so the falls wasn’t as “spectacular” in terms of water volume as it probably is during the late spring and early summer.
A waterfall that I *did* think was pretty spectacular was Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone National Park. There is a large parking lot for this next-to-the-road sight with several different vantage points you can walk to along a nice, wide, paved trail. If this is what the waterfall looked like during the autumn, I can only image how powerful it must look during times when the water volume is higher.
According to author Lee H. Whittlesey in his book Yellowstone Place Names: “Gibbon Falls is believed to drop over part of the wall of the Yellowstone Caldera, which is thought to be 640,000 years old.”
Marymere Falls in Olympic National Park, is reached via a very popular, less-than-2-mile hike on a trail that starts behind Storm King Ranger Station, a hop-and-a-skip from Lake Crescent Lodge. This long, narrow waterfall seemingly nestled within a bed of green ferns reminds me of a whiskey bottle, with a long, tall neck and a shorter, fuller, bottom. To get there, you cross a couple of neat log bridges then handle some steep stairs up to two different viewing areas.
If you ever have the opportunity to spend a few days in the remote community of Stehekin, Washington, located at the head of Lake Chelan in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, then take a hike (after visiting the Stehekin Bakery) or take a bus ride to popular Rainbow Falls. The waterfall cascades 312 feet down to Rainbow Creek, and there are a couple of vantage points from which to view this misty falls – near the bottom of the falls and a short hike toward the middle portion of the falls. It’s one of the most popular stops for day trippers to Stehekin (aside from the bakery, that is) 😉
The beautiful, cold, clear, turquoise water of the Stehekin River winds its final mile through a portion of North Cascades National Park before emptying into the head of Lake Chelan and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. During my visit to the small, isolated community of Stehekin, a favorite place for photography was at High Bridge, the dividing line between the national park and the national recreation area.
You can learn more of my favorite places for national park (and national monument) photography in the latest article published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler. Some of these places have partially or completely reopened to visitors, so if you decide to go out with your camera, please do so safely and at a safe distance from others. Who knows? My favorite places might become yours, or my favorite places might already be your favorite places!
To read the article, click on the image above.
Oh, if you use Instagram, go on over to @national_parks_traveler and check out the video I posted of the Stehekin River. Yes, I’m still maintaining and posting to the Traveler’s Instagram site. Show the Traveler some love and start following the account.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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Recently, I received my book Scenic Science of the National Parks. The National Parks Traveler had done a podcast interviewing the two authors of this book and it sounded pretty cool, so of course, I ordered it. I love learning things about the national parks I’ve photographed, and am pleased and proud that I’ve photographed some of the things mentioned in the book. Here are some interesting facts straight from the book.
This veiny-lettucy-cabbagey lichen in the photo above is called Oregon Lungwort, and it can pull nitrogen straight out of the air.
Oregon Spikemoss can grow 6 feet in length. When parts of this moss die, the spiky leaves curl up and turn brown.
These bright green, delicate ferns waving in the breeze are called licorice ferns. They grow on epiphytes (plants growing on plants) on Bigleaf Maple trees (I didn’t even know this was a maple tree until I looked closely at the leaves) and really do taste like licorice … if you like licorice, that is (ugh).
All images on these posts are the exclusive property of Rebecca L. Latson and Where The Trails Take You Photography. Please respect my copyright and do not use these images on Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat or any other business, personal or social website, blog site, or other media without my written permission. Thank you.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org