National Park Pictures

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National Park Pictures
The Virgin River – © Copyright 2012 by William Beem

National Park Pictures [pinit]

I need to spend more of my traveling time taking national park pictures, such as this one from Zion National Park.  To be honest, I’ve only taken one trip specifically to Zion for some photographs.  The rest of my national park pictures have been side-trips. Maybe part of the plan, but not necessarily the destination itself.  Perhaps the only other place that comes close for my travel was Washington, D.C., since there are so many sites supported by National Parks Services.

One of the reasons I want to visit more national parks is for something that I’ve heard other photographers scoff – trophy hunting.  I don’t mean trophies from wild animals, but rather, to get a photograph of a famous landmark.  I’m not too proud to admit that I’d like to get my own shots of photos that I’ve seen from others. I don’t find the slightest shame in taking popular national park pictures, either.  That’s why I made a day trip from Las Vegas back to Zion National Park to get the shot above.  Countless photographers have taken a photo of these scene and countless more will do the same.  In fact, I’ll go back again at a different time of the year when to get a shot when the trees aren’t so barren.

Why do some photographers look down on others for taking trophy photos? Some think it shows a lack of originality. It’s been done before, we have enough photographs of The Watchman, Half Dome or Mesa Arch already.  Go do something different and new.

I’m all for originality, if it’s good. That’s because I’ve also looked at a lot of original photos that really sucked. I don’t completely dismiss this notion, but I definitely dismiss it as a criticism intended to dissuade someone from taking their own national park pictures. First, the parks are always changing.  From different seasons to different weather and even different times of day, the scene changes. Your original effort may be to put a different spin on a popular subject. For example, some people are using long exposures to combine star trails and light painting of natural elements to create their photo.  It’s not something I’m likely to replicate, but it was a different attack on a common scene. Of course, that’s when the purists dismissed their photos as “gimmicks.”

The Photography Critic

The only time I hear these kinds of criticism is when it comes from another photographer. The average person who enjoys national park pictures doesn’t care if you weren’t the first person to take the shot.  They either like the photo or they don’t. I think photographers spend too much time dissecting photographs based upon their own bias.

Oh, another sunset? That’s so pedantic. You went to Mesa Arch? You and 30 other photographers every day. We photographers have a tiresome list of things that other photographers should and should not do. I’ve noticed that some folks add things to the list only after they’ve done it themselves.

I think that part of the joy of photography is experimenting and growing. To do that, we sometimes wish to shoot the same subjects that another photographer shot.  It gives us a basis of comparison.  It’s also a bit of a challenge, too. It’s a matter of testing yourself to see if you’ve grown enough to do something that you admire in another photographer’s work.  If nothing else, it’s a fine excuse to visit a beautiful place and take home a little piece of it for yourself. I see countless people doing that at every travel destination with Instagram or another mobile phone camera application.  Why shouldn’t it be just as acceptable for DSLR shooters?

The criticism seems to come from photographers who have become jaded.  Many of us have seen the same kind of photographs repeatedly, and I can understand the desire for something fresh. Personally, I don’t want to see another black & white long exposure of a pier in water.  Everyone who bought a 10-stop ND filter has made this shot. They want to see how they can smooth the water with a long exposure.  Most of the photos I see like these long exposures seem to demonstrate more technique than emotion, so I’m not really feeling anything from such images.  However, I wouldn’t dream of telling someone that they shouldn’t try it.  I have a 10-stop ND filter, too.  Maybe I’ll use it on a shot when I can think of way to include some emotional impact. Until then, I figure live and let live.  If that’s what you like, go shoot it.  Learn from the experience.

NPS Digital Image Archives

The nice thing about national park pictures is that most of us have access to them. In fact, you can research your favorite national park pictures on the NPS Digital Image Archives. There are plenty of free public domain photos to give you an idea of the major features of each national park.

I’m proud to announce that I have many pedantic photos in my library. That means I got off my ass and went out to shoot instead of telling myself all the reasons I should stay home because it’s all been done before. In the mean time, I’ll dig through these archives to see what other overshot sites I want to visit. When it’s all said and done, I’m really doing this for my own enjoyment.

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One Comment

  1. Really like the depth in this image and the color on the rock/mountain in the background — and the clouds that appear to divide the sky into sections.

    So many great parks — there are lots of great state parks here in Florida; I could spend years traveling to and photographing those alone.

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