This post is part two of "Photographing National Parks in the U.S.". Click here to read Part One.
When we arrived at Zion National Park the leaves were changing colors. There were gorgeous yellow fall leaves, red rocks and emerald water to photograph. The hiking is great here if you are not afraid of heights and be sure to check out the Narrows, a slot canyon with a cold river bottom and the Subway, a rounded tunnel hike that requires a backcountry permit. The shuttle service in Zion is great because you can stop at any major point along the way to hike and not worry about driving. The shuttle drivers are also very informative when describing the wildlife, the formations and the parks early visitors. Zion is a must see for any photographer or nature lover.
Bryce Canyon is not a huge park and much of it can be seen in a day. It is approximately 8,000 feet above sea level and cold, but it is a must see with its large, orange graphically shaped hoodoos. It is best captured at sunrise because the position of the park makes it difficult to get a good sunset image.
Arches National Park, as its name describes, has many sandstone arches and there is probably not a better place for astro-photography due to the elevation and lack of light pollution. Pictures can never do the sheer size of Double Arch justice. It is a stunning, natural outdoor cathedral. If you are going to shoot Delicate Arch at sunset, get there early, you are going to have to share your elbowroom with a lot of other photographers.
Arches National Park is photogenic any time of day or season, I prefer sunrise and sunset, but if you are out in the afternoon, bring a polarizer to help bring out the colors of the sandstone and the blue of the sky. Give yourself at least three days and a couple of nights for stargazing. Remember to have flashlights and batteries for your flash. It gets really dark and quiet here and I'm talking hear the blood pumping of your ears quiet.
Canyonlands National Park is a very large park cut into sections by the Colorado and Green Rivers. Most of the park is only accessible by raft or 4×4 but the most well known section of the park has its entrance about 45 minutes out of Moab called the "Island in the Sky District". This section of the park has one of the most photographed arches in it, Mesa Arch. Photographers will create a half circle around the arch and there is a pact among them not to walk in front of the others so that everybody gets a shot. The down side to this is that there are so many images of the arch already out there that it is hard to create something original at this location, the up side is that you will get a beautiful image. This is also a good spot to meet and talk shop with fellow photographers. You never know what secrets they may have for additional locations or shots.
New Mexico seems like a dry and desolate place from the viewpoint of the interstate, but there are many hidden gems all across the state.
White Sands is white gypsum that forms sand dunes between two mountain ranges. No other place I have been has the ability to take away all the distracting elements in a photograph. It easily makes the image purely about texture, pattern, line or color. It is best to photograph in the early morning or late evening when the sun is raking its light across the dunes making stronger patterns. Another good time to photograph White Sands is during sunset, moonrises, full moons and at night. In fact during season, the park offers full moon walks. Don't forget long sleeves and sunscreen. I went to White Sands and forgot, the next day I could not walk due to sunburn!
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a great day hike. The 2 1/2 hour hike takes you through narrow slot canyons as you climb. This is definitely a 5 star hike. If you want to take a walk through the "Candy Land" game you must visit this monument.
Petroglyphs National Monument is a wonderful daytrip right outside of Albuquerque that is worth seeing if you are passing through. Bring water and shade as there is none during the hike.
Remember: The best light is early morning, late afternoon and in bad weather.
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