National Parks

NATIONAL PARKS: Everglades National Park, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

As cold weather approaches in northern climes, a nature photographer’s thoughts often turn to warm destinations for a winter photo trip.

Everglades National Park stays warm year-round. It includes 1.5 million acres on the southernmost tip of the Florida peninsula. Established just after World War II, Everglades protects the last remnant of a precious primal wetland from the land-hungry development and agriculture that has gobbled up the rest of South Florida.

Everglades

Everglades

The major characteristics here are dictated by the primordial flooding and resulting overflow of Lake Okeechobee every summer. All of this water makes its way southwest as the venerable and slow-moving “River of Grass.” More a shallow sheet of water than a conventional river, the life-giving liquid has created vast areas of sedges, tropical grasses and countless raised hammocks. Tiny islands of loose land pop up from the swampy river and support small trees that take advantage of the increased drainage provided by their slightly increased elevation.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

This fertile land is home to a variety of wild creatures. First among them are many species of birds: herons, egrets, ibises, hawks, anhingas, cormorants, coots, moorhens, gallinules, pelicans and the occasional osprey and roseate spoonbill. Many of these birds can be found and photographed nearly anywhere in the park.

In the relatively dry months of winter, water levels are low, and many birds congregate in and around the ponds along the roads. Check Mrazek and Eco ponds, Florida Bay and Snake Bight for spoonbills and the western islands and sandbars off Chokoluskee for white pelicans.

Royal Palm Alligator

Royal Palm Alligator

After the birds come the famous reptiles. While most folks are familiar with the alligators that populate this area, less well-known are the crocodiles. Both are near the limits of their ranges here, and the two comingle in the brackish waters—a unique combination of salt and fresh waters. A word of warning: While appearing slow and somewhat sluggish, these carnivores are capable of moving very quickly, so keep your distance!

Gators often hang out in the sloughs along the Anhinga Trail in the Royal Palm area, Nine Mile Lake, and along the tram roadway in Shark Valley. Crocodiles are seen infrequently. Your best bet is the waterways in the Flamingo area.

The fabled Florida panther with its severely dwindling numbers may or may not be present in the park. The likelihood of seeing one in the wild is virtually non-existent.

West Lake

West Lake

At any time of year, the best photography is available during the low-light hours of early morning and early evening. Winter is the dry season, so true storm light will likely be hard to come by. Still, these subtropical skies can be dramatic at any time. Some of the best spots for sunrise and early morning light are West Lake, Nine Mile Lake, Florida Bay and right along the road to Flamingo, the southernmost headquarters of the park. For late afternoon light, I favor Paurotis Pond and Eco Pond.

During your time in the Everglades, try taking the tram ride through Shark Valley and a boat tour from the visitor center in Everglades City. Explore Big Cypress National Preserve and less well-known (but worthwhile) Biscayne National Park, only a few minutes east of Homestead.

The close-by section of US highway 1 through Florida City and Homestead offers a good choice of lodgings and restaurants. Rent any regular passenger car in Ft. Lauderdale or Miami Airport if arriving by air. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and insect repellent.

Note: There has been a recent infestation of deadly Burmese pythons in the Everglades, so exercise extreme care.

Jerry Ginsberg is a widely published freelance photographer and co-founder of Master Image Workshops. He has photographed all 59 U.S. national parks as well as most of the parks of South America using medium-format cameras. More of Jerry’s work can be seen at www.JerryGinsberg.com. Email – jerrygi@comcast.net.

NATIONAL PARKS: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Lovely Bridalveil Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.

Bridalveil Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Now that our long languorous summer is beginning to wane, particularly in the northern states, it is time to start thinking about fall photography. Let’s try something a little different.

Cuyahoga Valley, wedged between the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, is not your typical national park. Carved out of multiple semi-urban areas, several great tracts of land are now protected within the boundary of this relatively compact 33,000 acre park. Just two of the many highlights included here are wonderfully restored stretches of the historic Ohio & Erie Canal and the Cuyahoga River, once so badly polluted by chemical waste that it regularly caught fire.

Having been cobbled together from several disparate elements, when this park was established in 2000 it was part of an effort to bring the national park experience to more people. Located within a day’s drive of perhaps 40% of the American population, Cuyahoga Valley offers a wide variety of fun and great photography. This is particularly true around early-mid October when the woods are ablaze with brilliant autumn color. Read the rest of this entry »

National Parks: Great Smoky Mountains, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

 

Rich Mtn Rd. looking down into Cade's Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN.

Rich Mountain Road, looking down into Cade’s Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN.

While summer is still with us, it’s not too early to start thinking about good spots for fall photography, particularly if you happen to live in a northerly latitude. Luckily, one of the best in America is within a day’s drive of more than one-third of the nation’s population: Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Popularly called “The Smokies,” this big park is split equally between Tennessee and North Carolina. Three gateway towns provide access: Cherokee, North Carolina, in the south; the combined area of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on the northern edge; and the small, quiet village of Townsend, Tennessee, bordering the northwest corner of the Smokies. All offer a wide variety of lodgings and restaurants to suit every budget and taste with Gatlinburg being a bustling tourist mecca. Read the rest of this entry »

National Parks: Olympic National Park, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at Second Beach in Olympic National Park, WA.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at Second Beach in Olympic National Park, WA.

Seattle, Washington, is surrounded by a necklace of three national parks, each wonderful in its own right: Mt. Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades.

Of these, aptly named Olympic is located in the most northwestern corner of the contiguous United States on the remote Olympic Peninsula.

 

Olympic National Park is high up on my list of favorites. It has earned this spot because of its abundant variety of subjects. Besides the dramatic Olympic Mountains from which this big park takes its name, there are sparkling lakes, lovely waterfalls, at least three gloriously green rainforests and, perhaps best of all, Olympic’s numerous and deservedly famous beaches. Read the rest of this entry »

NATIONAL PARKS: Katmai National Park, story and photo © Jerry Ginsberg

Alaskan brown bear (grizzly) with a salmon at the Brooks River, Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Alaskan brown bear (grizzly) with a salmon at the Brooks River, Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Katmai National Park is best-known for its three prime attractions: bears, bears and more bears. Within Katmai’s borders lie several spectacular mountains, such as Mt. Douglas volcano and Four-Peak Mountain, as well as scenic creeks, rivers and lakes that are seasonally teeming with salmon. While brown bears draw the majority of visitors, salmon draw the bears. Read the rest of this entry »

NATIONAL PARKS: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park by Jerry Ginsberg

Hale Maumau Crater before dawn, Kiluea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes, National park. © Jerry Ginsberg

Hale Maumau Crater before dawn, Kiluea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes, National park.
© Jerry Ginsberg

Story and photograph by Jerry Ginsberg ©

Hawaii. Just saying the name conjures up visions of a tropical paradise–palm trees, trade winds, sunsets and hula dancers gyrating to the rhythms of the eight major islands that make up the archipelago. Our fiftieth state boasts two national parks. There’s mighty Haleakala on the island of Maui and, the subject of this article, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.

Did you know that all of the Hawaiian Islands were formed from volcanoes over millions of years? Molten lava bubbling up through vents of a well-known hot spot on the floor of the Pacific Ocean is responsible for their creation. As the entire archipelago moves northwest in conveyor belt fashion, Hawaii is presently the island directly over the hot spot. Read the rest of this entry »

NATIONAL PARKS: Kenai Fjords NP by Jerry Ginsberg

Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Three Hole Point, a unique rock formation in Aialik Bay in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. © Jerry Ginsberg

Three Hole Point, a unique rock formation in Aialik Bay in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. © Jerry Ginsberg

In 1980, seven Alaska parks were created in one fell swoop. Specifically, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (or ANILCA) was passed by Congress on November 12, 1980 and signed into law a couple of weeks later. Among other things, the act provided for more than 43 million acres of new national parklands in Alaska. Kenai Fjords National Park is one of them.

Giving birth to Kenai Fjords came with some really sharp labor pains. The local citizenry was initially opposed to setting aside these lands, but they came to enthusiastically support their expansion as they experienced the injection of tourist dollars into their local economies. Read the rest of this entry »

Denali National Park by Jerry Ginsberg

Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Enormous Denali / Mt. McKinley and its mirror image in Reflection Pond..At over 20,000 feet high, it is the tallest mountain in North America. © Jerry Ginsberg

Enormous Denali / Mt. McKinley and its mirror image in Reflection Pond..At over 20,000 feet high, it is the tallest mountain in North America. © Jerry Ginsberg

Once you get past the Anchorage city limits, the rest of Alaska is nearly as wild and untamed as the old West was in the late nineteenth century. Denali National Park and Preserve, for example, encompasses more than six million acres of mountains, glaciers, valleys, rivers, wilderness and hills.The premier national park in all of Alaska is renowned for its unparalleled scenic splendor and array of wildlife. Within Denali’s borders is a good chunk of the magnificent Alaska Range. As the North American tectonic plate continues to slowly ride up and over the Pacific plate, the Alaska Range is thrust ever upward in growing scenic majesty. Tallest among these rugged peaks is Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley). At 20,340 feet, towering Denali is far and away the highest mountain in all of North America. Read the rest of this entry »

NATIONAL PARKS: Death Valley NP

Sultry patterns of light and shadow on Mesquite Flat dunes in Death Valley National Park, CA., (c) Jerry Ginsberg

Sultry patterns of light and shadow on Mesquite Flat dunes in Death Valley National Park, CA., (c) Jerry Ginsberg

Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

For those of us old enough to remember, there was once a TV series called “Death Valley Days.” The show used the vast Death Valley National Park as a backdrop for its slice of life vignettes. It greatly romanticized the harsh desert environment made commercially viable by its borax deposits. Twenty mule teams pulled heavy wagons laden with the stuff out of the valley and off to market. Today this valley encompasses the biggest U.S. national park outside of Alaska. With 3.3 million acres, it is half again the size of Yellowstone. Read the rest of this entry »

NATIONAL PARKS: Acadia

Story and photos by Jerry Ginsberg

Bass Harbor Lighthouse v 9

Bass Harbor Lighthouse v 9

 

While the national parks of the American West feature scenery that is stunningly dramatic, those East of the Mississippi possess a scenic charm that is more subtle. This is only partially true of the compact jewel that is Acadia National Park.

Lying mostly on Mt. Desert Island on the central coast of Maine, this meeting of land and sea provides more than enough drama for just about any photographer. Surf crashing against yellow granite cliffs and colorful lakes as flat as glass are just two of the many highlights.

Easily the best time to visit Acadia is the first half of October. Autumn color is at its peak and the road-clogging traffic of summer is gone. The park offers several opportunities for great sunrise photography. Allow enough time to drive to your chosen sunrise location and get set up at least 15 to 30 minutes before the rising sun actually cracks that horizon. Read the rest of this entry »

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