Since we are all staying at home, we all have the opportunity to do one thing we do not always get to. Go through our Lightroom catalogs and process old National Park Images.
We have 62 United States National Parks (and counting). Other than the mystifying Great Arch that was apparently made a National Park on accident, the parks represent of the greatest sights and backcountry in the United States.
I have visited 32 of these parks, and I have long realized they were not all represented on my website. Not every place can stand out like Joshua Tree National Park, which I have visited too many times to count. Many locations I have been to once or twice.
Here are some images I recently processed. Many of these represent the peak of my travel from 2007 to 2010, so they are mostly old photographs. Few would make the best of my portfolios. The compositions definitely do not represent how I work in 2020. The equipment was also quite limited. But, I enjoy the memories. The trips were almost certainly good enough to spawn future blog posts about lightning and weather, animals, hiking struggles, and so many other stories.
These are presented a little bit by Park.
North Cascades National Park
One of the huge challenges with North Cascades National Park is actually being in the park boundary. There are two large units, North and South, on either side of Washington Highway 20. There also other areas like Ross Lake National Recreation Area. While it is managed as one NPS complex, it is not part of the park proper. I included Ross Lake because of the management of the greater complex, and that some of the distant peaks are in the Park. So these National Park Images are tangentially National Park Images.
I included Gorge Creek Falls because while I am standing out of the park, along Highway 20, the waterfall comes out of the Gorge in the park itself.
I also have many, many, images of the peaks in the Cascades, but they are actually part of Mount Baker-Snowqualmie and Okanogan National Forests. The most visually striking part of the North Cascades from Highway 20 isn’t in the park itself!
I also added Ladder Creek Falls, which does flow from the park into the community of Newhalem, where the Park visitor center and headquarters are located. Ladder Creek flows into the Skagit River that is extensively used for hydroelectric power. One of the quirks is that Seattle City Light has alternating lights that “color” the falls each night. I stalked the Falls at 11PM at night by myself (yes, it was damn spooky) and caught many colors, but this was the result of a transition between colors that I really liked.
Channel Islands National Park
It is a shame I have only visited the Channel Islands once. These are from a 2009 visit to Anacapa. Many people say Anacapa Island, but that is a misnomer. Anacapa is actually three distinct islands, and visitors are only permitted on the East island. There are also several small rock outcroppings, including Arch Rock, which isn’t the one known in Joshua Tree.
Besides some compositional issues, I found some of my EXIF data to be….yikes. At the time, I wasn’t a full adherent to manual mode, and shooting in Aperture Priority created some unpleasing results. Because, of course a Nikon DSLR thinks ISO 3200 in mid-day light is just fine.
Now if I can just to get to the other 4 Islands of the park, particularly Santa Rosa Island as I want to see the original Torrey Pines.
White Sands National Park
Three of the last five National Park establishments have been for Sand Dunes (Great Sand Dunes, Indiana Dunes, and White Sands). And why not, is there anything cooler than photographing these?
Alas, White Sands (long a National Monument) is one of the big challenges in photography. It is tempting to just make black and white images of these. But the gypsum is white. I should mean….WHITE. Snowblind-level white.
You know who hates that white color the most? The meter of your camera. Even tricks like exposure compensation don’t truly replicate the pure white of the gypsum. The results are gray and too warm. So these images from 2009 aren’t great, but instead of just leaving them in Lightroom raw purgatory, I processed a few.
Maybe I’ll get back there and see how a more modern DSLR does in these conditions.
Petrified Forest National Park
This has been one of my least favorite parks, but over time it has grown on me a bit. My favorite here is the Puerco River with running water. This was after a passing monsoon hit the night before, and capturing some of these ephemeral water courses is always fun.
I have much more ground to cover here in the backcountry, especially in the Painted Desert to the North.
More National Park Images To Come (and Monuments)
Perhaps next Sunday, I can run through a number of National Monuments I don’t have represented on my website.
As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed these really old National Park images!
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T.M. Schultze is a San Diego-based photographer, traveller, and writer. He writes, photographs, and draws things of the outdoors that have inspired humans for thousands of years. He co-authored the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree Park which can be purchased here.