Posts tagged ‘national parks’

HAVASUPAI REBORN, by Kerrick James

 

Havasu Falls and Rainbow

Havasu Falls and Rainbow

The landscape of the Colorado Plateau is ephemeral, a changeling, although to beings with short life spans this land seems immutable, a constant. But in canyon country stunning changes can occur in a single afternoon, altering the course of a stream, stranding a waterfall, even creating a new unheralded cascade. Thus, it has always been in Havasupai, named for the people of the blue-green water.

Havasupai, the mythic side canyon hidden well to the west of the South Rim summer mayhem and adjoining Grand Canyon National Park, has always been near the top of my favorite locations to photograph. I’ve been lucky to shoot this desert Shangri-la a dozen times since the late 70’s, with a progression of cameras from 4×5 to 67 Pentax to a variety of digital formats. For years I blithely assumed that the interwoven terraces of travertine below each of the three great waterfalls, Havasu, Navajo, and Mooney, would always be there to compose as one of the most artistic foregrounds imaginable.

Havasu Falls in autumn

Havasu Falls in autumn.

But in the mid-90s a major flash flood swept the canyon, ripping out the majestic rills of travertine, and though they grew again over the years they never regained their prior perfection. In August of 2008 a nearly catastrophic flood changed the course of Havasu Creek, turning secluded Navajo Falls to dust. But the perennial waters are yet lovely beyond belief, turquoise except during storms, and paradise has slowly been reborn.

My spring 2013 hike to Havasupai was a desire to see how the fabled canyon had recovered, how the familiar waterfalls had fared, and to explore the two new falls gifted us by that epic event, five year’s past. What I found was still pure magic, with scenes both grand and intimate, and wondrous beauty to photograph everywhere you turn. Of course, being an adventure shooter, I had to spice it up, so I brought a kayak. Really.

Havasu Falls in warm spring stormlight

Havasu Falls in spring stormlight.

We all grow as photographers over the years, seeing more acutely and sharpening our technique. But Havasupai seems somehow to offer the gift of extra time. Here the hours feel slower, richer and allow for reflection. In several languid days you can shoot the falls from dawn shadow light throughout the long day into starlight, as I did. And then you can do it again and again, doing variations of exposure (to fine tune the action and detail of the flowing waters) discover new compositions, and so much more.

For example, I had always dreamed of shooting Havasu Falls under the stars, lit by moonlight. But on this trip the tight canyon walls blocked the half moon, so I combined my warm LED light with a standard cool LED wielded by a friend, and over three nights finally made the images that had haunted my dreams. Patience is key with light painting. I liken it to burning and dodging in the darkroom, adding to and withholding light from your canvas of pixels, only you’re playing in real time and space. The exposure equation is complicated by fast diminishing light in the twilight sky above the falls, and by the constant adjustment of both ISO and actual exposure time.

Havasu Falls and starry sky

Havasu Falls at night.

My favorite Havasu Falls star images were shot in the range of 30-45 seconds at f/5.6, at ISO 800, with 12-14mm focal lengths on my Pentax K-3. You can shoot from the trail above the falls or beside the falls, but be wary. When shooting near the falls the spray can precipitate calcium carbonate on your front lens surfaces, and your eyeglasses too. I use older UV filters to protect the delicate lens coatings, and bring a hand towel to wipe off the persistent water blowing your way. An ounce of prevention is worth, well you know the rest! And obviously this requires a quality tripod matched to the combined weight of your camera and lens, plus a release to do long exposures. LED lights and extra batteries complete the kit, and all you need then is a clear night sky to make some magic.

Fern grotto below Mooney Falls.

Fern grotto below Mooney Falls.

Just to the left of old Navajo Falls was a green misty watery groove we called the Grotto. A small but realistic slice of Hawaii concealed in the parched Southwest, it was overwhelming in both beauty and mystery and is now forever gone. Luckily, fate gave us Rock Falls and New Navajo Falls, and these are actually the first waterfalls you’ll see as you hike the dusty trail down from the village of Supai. New Navajo Falls is well off the trail, but has a decided edge in grandeur over Rock Falls, which is more approachable and easier to shoot. Plan to spend a early morning here, catching the warm reflection of the dawn light off the sheer canyon walls on the cool blue waters of Havasu Creek, with intensely green water plants adding to the color palette.

Rock Falls, Havasupai, Arizona

Rock Falls, Havasupai Reservation, Arizona.

After exploring both of the new Navajo Falls and the gem that is Havasu Falls, cinch up for a bit of adventure, the cliff trail down to Mooney Falls. This winding, steep trail descends 200’ through travertine passages and then hold on to the steel cables the last 70’ to terra firma. A mid-size photo backpack will fit through the maze but don’t forget your tripod as you’ll need it for the intense falls experience below. I’ve shot Mooney Falls as a pure scenic many times, so this time I carried down my inflatable kayak, and drafted my friends to paddle the pool below the falls. Not for the faint of heart, but on a hot summer afternoon you’ll never be cooler or more invigorated!

I photograph cities and destinations for many clients, but my heart truly lies in showing friends exploring the natural world, and the challenge I made to myself was to get the wild spirit of the place and the kayaking into some key images. Never have I heard of someone kayaking the waterfalls of Havasupai, and Havasu Creek, and many questions were posed as to where we were going from here. I was tempted to say down the Colorado River to Yuma, but that was too tall a tale to spin, even for me!

Kayakers below Mooney Falls

Kayaking below Mooney Falls.

Truth is, whether you hike, ride the horse or helicopter (yes you can), into the wonderland of Havasupai, plan to stay at least two full days. Four is better, as you won’t want to leave. Bring plenty of camera batteries and memory cards, as there’s nowhere to tank up on electrons unless you stay in the Havasupai Lodge in Supai. It’s a long two miles from the village to Havasu Falls and the campground is well sited as a base to photograph the major falls. For reservations, contact the tribe at http://www.havasupaifalls.net

The water is Havasu Creek is a constant 72 degrees, perfect from mid-spring to mid-autumn, but chilly to cold in the winter. Summer afternoons are warm to hot, but the creek is always there, as it has been for countless millennia, to cool your body, thrill your soul and create future wonders in a faraway canyon in the high desert of the Southwest.


 

Kerrick James has worked as a travel journalist around the Pacific Rim and throughout the American West for 25 years, writing and shooting features for publications like Arizona Highways, Sunset, EnCompass, Natl. Geo Adventure and may others. Although his first love is adventure travel, he’s shot and covered all aspects of destination travel as well. He’s also taught nearly 50 photo workshops for Arizona Highways and his own private label, KJPhotosafaris. View his work at www.kerrickjames.com and www.kjphotosafaris.com.

 

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: 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 »

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 »

The Everglades: Rocky Pinelands

NANPA-

 

Story and Photographs by Paul Marcellini 

When most people imagine the Everglades, they probably picture large swaths of grass or some deep dark swamp loaded with alligators. In reality, it is a very complex ecosystem with a diverse landscape that includes pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress swamps, fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove forests, and beach dunes.

One of my favorite habitats is the rocky pinelands of the southern Everglades. Considered a globally imperiled habitat, the rocky pinelands are the most floristically diverse habitat in Florida. Historically covering more than 186,000 acres, there is now somewhere around 22,000 acres left, in part because it was the “high ground” and fell victim to urbanization and agriculture. Fortunately, most is now protected and Long Pine Key is a perfect place to explore this unique habitat. Occurring on the fringe of tropical and temperate zones, the range of plants found together is unique to South Florida.

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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