National Parks Aren’t Like They Used To Be– And Our Photos Of Them Aren’t Either

by Bret HoyLeave a Comment

As photographers or videographers, our role in many cases is to showcase a time and a place to an audience that stretches across wide distances.

Even if it’s just taking a photo on a vacation, you’re working to preserve a moment for someone that wasn’t there. I think there’s some responsibility in that. Photo-journalists and documentary cinematographers feel this pressure the most because their job is to display reality, but for a lot of us, the job is to do the opposite.

Ryan Prawiradjaja of PetaPixel has written a very interesting article about the reality behind the photos of National Park Landmarks—and to me brings up a lot of thoughts about the role of the photographer.

Ansel Adams photographed some of the most famous natural formations across America’s National Parks with his iconic and oft-duplicated shots. Or rather, tried to be duplicated. But now, these locations are swarmed with tourists, which really changes the nature of the photographer’s goal. Doesn’t it seem now that the goal is to take the best photo while avoiding people? And does that not accurately represent the location?

It’s a difficult question to answer. Also, a controversial topic is, why is it important for all of us to take photos of these places in the first place. However, what can’t be ignored is the way that digital photography has changed the general feel of taking a photo of these locations.

Prawiradjaja feels that our connection to National Parks as photographers must be as strong as ever, because of this. He ends his piece by setting out nine things that he feels are important for each of us to take to heart.

I agree with Prawiradjaja on this point. If photographers are more plentiful than ever, it’s more important than ever that we treat our subjects with respect. National Parks are part of what makes our nation unique. In a nation composed of immigrants and created on a multitude of cultures and ideas, the National Parks are intrinsically American. It’s our job to be the watchful eyes, preserving their power.

The Reality Behind Photos of National Park Landmarks

Via PetaPixel:

However, in some of the more popular parks such as Arches and Canyonlands, we barely found parking spots at the trailheads because of how crowded it was. And this leaves me feeling a little conflicted; in one hand, I find it encouraging that more people are appreciating and taking time to go outdoors instead of shopping Black Friday Sales. But on the other hand, it was really difficult to take in the stunning scenery when people line up to take group pictures and selfies.

Take the Mesa Arch for example, the most photographed spot in Canyonland during sunrise. Most of the pictures you see on the Web or social media portray the beautiful arch, glowing from the reflecting rising sun and the vast soft canyon landscapes beyond it. A beautiful sight of serene scenery.


But the reality is far from that narrative. In order to get the sunstar from just under the arch, you pretty much have to line up right in front of the arch. We got to the viewing point about 30 minutes before sunrise, and we barely got a spot to place our tripods down.


I ended up getting my shot at ISO 800, handheld — not ideal, but better than not getting it at all.

And at the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, we had to wait way after twilight to get a clean shot of the arch without visitors crowding and lining up under them. And by then, the soft glow and contrasting shadows were gone.

Read full article at PetaPixel “The Reality Behind Photos of National Park Landmarks”

Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before

(cover photo credit: snap from PetaPixel)

Bret Hoy

Bret Hoy is a filmmaker, photographer and writer based out of St. Louis, Missouri. Mainly focused on documentary and experimental film, he has produced, directed, shot and edited many short films and a few long form works.

He shoots a lot and often.
Bret Hoy

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