Crowds vs. Conservation–Conflict or Cooperation

Crowds of tourists and photographers start to gather by Delicate Arch hours before sunset.

Crowds of tourists and photographers start to gather by Delicate Arch hours before sunset.

Story & photo by Frank Gallagher

Where do you draw the line between access and preservation?  At what point does introducing a larger number of visitors to the wonders of nature start to endanger that very nature?  It’s a tough call and one that land owners, government agencies and photographers are facing every day.

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The Fantastic Four Corners, Part I

Standing high above the Utah desert, eye-catching Sixshooter Peak is the calling card

Standing high above the Utah desert, eye-catching Sixshooter Peak is the calling card
of the Needles section in Canyonlands National Park.

Story & photos by Jerry Ginsberg

The Land

In only one place in all of America do four states come together. The perfect right-angled corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet at one spot in the desert of the great Southwest. That spot has become quite a tourist attraction. Here you’ll find a platform from which to take snapshots of fellow tourists straddling the many state lines, the local Navajo offer souvenirs, crafts and lots of artery clogging fry bread and Navajo tacos.

For Nature photographers like us, this little speck on the map is noteworthy because it is the center of some of the most stunning landscapes on Earth. Surrounding this tiny spot are no fewer than thirteen National Parks totaling almost 3,000,000 acres as well as many state and tribal parks.

Often overlooked Fairyland Point in snow and fog at the north end of Bryce Canyon National Park.

Often overlooked Fairyland Point in snow and fog at the north end of Bryce Canyon National Park.

The Route

A circular itinerary through the Four Corners region has long been called the Grand Circle. It’s one big loop. Since such a trip can be very extensive, you might want to break it up into bite sized chunks of more than one photo trip.

We can design a logical itinerary in any of several ways. For example, by state, by proximity or simply by highlights, while including some places and skipping others.

Just for the purposes of this column, let’s consider segmenting the whole area by state. It is certainly easy to combine portions of two or more states depending upon how much time you are able to devote to a major photo trip like this.

Your route can work equally well traveling either clockwise or counter-clockwise. Since I seem to have almost always done it in a clockwise direction, I’ll describe it that way.

One of the most stunning hoodoos anywhere, the ochre colored pinnacle dubbed Thor’s Hammer rises high above Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park.

One of the most stunning hoodoos anywhere, the ochre colored pinnacle dubbed Thor’s Hammer rises high above Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Utah

Setting out from the prime gateway airport of Las Vegas, head north up I-15 toward Zion National Park in the Southwest corner of Utah.

It’s an easy matter to loop across Utah from west to east through Zion and tiny Bryce Canyon National Parks sprawling Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument long and narrow Capitol Reef National Park (NANPA – June, 2016) and on to Moab, gateway to both stunning Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Right next to the must-see Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park is Dead Horse Point State Park, definitely worth both a sunrise and evening.

South of Moab you’ll find Natural Bridges National Monument (worthy of at least two mornings) and Hovenweep National Monument. From Natural Bridges, it’s a short drive to sprawling Monument Valley Tribal Park with its many fantastic red rock formations.

The Dilemma

If there is a problem with planning a photo trip such as this, it is one closely related to pesky syndromes such as eating potato chips or pulling weeds in the garden; it’s so hard to stop! There’s always another one – and it’s so close by.

Just past Hovenweep is historic Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado, just a bit past popular Zion is isolated Toroweep Point and the spectacular North Rim of the Grand Canyon and on and on throughout all four states.

Probably the most under-rated of all the ancient structures in Mesa Verde National Park, Balcony House looks best in the first light of early morning.

Probably the most under-rated of all the ancient structures in Mesa Verde National Park, Balcony House looks best in the first light of early morning.

Colorado

A completely different option is starting from Denver and making a circuit through Colorado, a place with a look very different from that of contiguous Utah, but a land with just as much glorious natural beauty. Colorado boasts four national parks, just one less than Utah and a host of other gorgeous places to photograph.

These four parks are arranged in a virtual rectangle within the larger rectangular shape of the Centennial State.

The best fall color can usually be found here in the Front Range of the Rockies in late September and in some years stretching into early October. The area surrounding Telluride and Ridgeway is simply loaded with quaking aspen groves and stunning mountain shapes which combine for an endless variety of thrilling compositions. 

One of the real gems of Rocky Mountain National Park, Bear Lake glistens just after sunrise.

One of the real gems of Rocky Mountain National Park, Bear Lake glistens just after sunrise.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Closest to Denver is Rocky Mountain National Park. This great park offers many rugged mountains, sparkling Alpine lakes, rushing waterfalls and lots of wildlife. It might take months to cover it thoroughly, but with a week’s effort, you should be able to come away with many wonderful images.

To start with, Sprague, Bear, Dream and Emerald Lakes, close to the really neat gateway town of Estes Park, are all excellent sunrise locations. In Estes you can tour the venerable Stanley Hotel, scene of the classic Jack Nicholson movie “The Shining.”

The many mountain vistas of the Morraine Park section of RMNP are stunning, but for real excitement, drive the length of Trail Ridge Road, one of the highest and certainly most spectacular roads in America. The views will look markedly different when driving in both directions.

Not far south of Denver is Colorado Springs featuring the Garden of the Gods with dramatic red rocks and great views of Pike’s Peak.

After crossing the small Medano Creek bed, the Great Sand Dunes loom before you. Sunrise is the best time to capture the contrasts that make dune photographs dramatic and successful.

After crossing the small Medano Creek bed, the Great Sand Dunes loom before you.
Sunrise is the best time to capture the contrasts that make dune photographs dramatic and successful.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

In the San Luis Valley close to Alamosa in the southeast part of the state you’ll find Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. These seven hundred foot tall dunes lie just beneath the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the serrated Crestone Needles. They are wonderful right at sunrise when the play of light and shadow creates an endless variety of patterns on their sensuously undulating forms. As with all such sand forms, once the sun gets a little higher, the contrasts are lost and the scene becomes rather flat.

Once you walk across the steam bed of Medano Creek, many of the best compositions are to be found toward the left as you face the dunefield. Climbing up through the sand will certainly be your cardio workout for the day.

World famous Cliff Palace was the first of the ancient structures discovered by two cowboys in 1888. It was built around 1200 C.E. and remains the largest such complex ever found.

World famous Cliff Palace was the first of the ancient structures discovered by two cowboys in 1888. It was built around 1200 C.E. and remains the largest such complex ever found.

Mesa Verde National Park

After driving west from here, pass charming Durango for now (see below) and head for Mesa Verde National Park, the very first national park established to protect the works of man, rather than those of nature. Don’t miss touring Wetherill Mesa (road open in summer only). Buy tickets in advance for Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House. Cliff Palace photographs best in late afternoon light; the other two in the morning; the first tour of the day is ideal for both. 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Take a few days to explore the many fascinating ancient buildings and communities of the long vanished Chacoan people of Mesa Verde. Then head north to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

It’s not called a black canyon for nothing. These walls with their many ribbons of stone are as close to jet black as you’ll find anywhere. This presents a challenge in resolving the resulting high contrast ratios. Bright, high overcast light that opens up the deep shadows will be a great help. Absent that, you might want to employ some HDR. Shoot a very wide bracket. There’s no harm in going to seven, nine or more frames from one end of the scale to the other; perhaps at 1.5 stop increments.

Even though today’s HDR software offers improved alignment functions, I would attempt such a wide bracket only when using a good, solid tripod in order to avoid camera movement.

When tone mapping your Black Canyon images in HDR software, try using a light touch, come away with a fairly flat image that encompasses the entire tonal range and do the rest in Photoshop. Otherwise, you risk producing files that could look over-processed and scream ‘HDR.’

Most of your shooting along the well paved south rim park road will be from the many overlooks. Make sure to stop at the Painted Wall. A couple of trails start right along the road and descend into the canyon itself.

When exploring the unpaved, but maintained road along the north rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison, don’t miss shooting as late in the day as possible at the spot aptly named ‘Exclamation Point!’ Seriously.

Park at the little ranger station for the easy walk of a mile or so each way.

Towering Pike’s Peak is framed by the redrock forms known as the Siamese Twins in the sprawling and ethereal Garden of the Gods right outside Colorado Springs.

Towering Pike’s Peak is framed by the redrock forms known as the Siamese Twins in the sprawling and ethereal Garden of the Gods right outside Colorado Springs.

More

In addition to these four great national parks, there are several other locations in the Centennial State that you won’t want to miss. Among these are:

* Colorado National Monument is on the edge of Grand Junction and right near the Utah state line. Be careful not to include the city lights in your composition. A little fog will help and increase the drama of your images.

* The Maroon Bells: A short drive from Aspen, CO. Be there well before sunrise, find a spot along the edge of the lake and wait for the light to arrive.

* The area around Ridgeway is chock full of spectacular scenes. Explore some of the many byways and unpaved tracks through the San Juan Mountains. Among these is Last Dollar Road. You will be rewarded with a riot of colors and forms, sometimes blending, sometimes contrasting with each other. The patchwork of quaking aspens covered with blazing fall color is an embarrassment of riches.

To travel many of these remote roads, it’s a good idea to be driving a 4 wheel vehicle with high clearance, especially after a rain when these roads quickly become very sloppy.

* Mt. Sneffels: Look for the great pullout right along the northbound lane of Rt. 550 south of Ridgeway. Shooting from this pullout, especially when the autumn color is at or near its peak, is so easy, it can make one feel guilty. Almost.

This stunning Colorado fourteener is a great mountain to climb and is very popular with peak baggers and highly skilled heli-skiers.

* Crested Butte – Wildflower Capital of Colorado. July is best. Bring lots of insect repellent.

* The Durango-Silverton Railroad.  If you have never enjoyed this fun experience, board the historic steam powered train in Durango for the full day roundtrip to Silverton. Better yet, try to be there during the few days in autumn, generally the third or fourth week of September, when this venerable line offers special photography trips.

On those runs, the engineer stops the train several times at spots along the route featuring maximum color, photographers disembark and set up a short distance from the tracks. The railroad crew then runs the empty train back and forth a bit with the funnel spewing steam and ash with the autumn foliage as a background.

It can be glorious!

These special outings are held on just two weekends per year and usually limited to just 70 folks so reserve early.

That pretty much covers the highlights of Utah and Colorado. We haven’t even touched on the best of enchanted New Mexico and spectacular Arizona. Let’s save that for another day.

Each of the tourist friendly towns mentioned offers a wide variety of lodging and dining options. Some of my favorite Mexican food is in Crested Butte.

 

Jerry Ginsberg is a widely published photographer whose landscape, Nature and travel images have graced the covers pages of hundreds of books, magazines and travel catalogs. He is the only person to have photographed each and every one of America’s National Parks with medium format cameras. He has been awarded Artist Residencies in several National Parks and his works have been exhibited from coast to coast and have received numerous awards in competition. Jerry’s photographic archive spans virtually all of both North and South America.

More of Ginsberg’s images are on display at www.JerryGinsberg.com

Or e mail him at jerry@jerryginsberg.com

Exploring South America

Montevideo’s beach on the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver) features a colorfully painted seawall.

Montevideo’s beach on the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver) features a colorfully painted seawall.

Story and photos © Jerry Ginsberg

The enormous continent to our south has a mind boggling array of natural and cultural beauty. Here we can marvel at the wonders of the rugged Andes Mountains, wild Patagonia, towering Iguaçu Falls, the sprawling Amazon basin and several historic Spanish colonial cities spread throughout many nations.

Easily overlooked among the behemoth nations of South America is tiny Uruguay. That is precisely the point. Throughout its two century history since achieving independence from Spain, this small country has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight. Sandwiched between mighty Spanish Argentina and even mightier Portuguese Brazil, little Uruguay, smaller than Missouri, has perfected the art of staying out of the way.

The bustling capital, Montevideo, with a metro population of almost two million, boasts the majority of the country’s three and a half million total souls. This leaves plenty of room for open spaces out in the countryside.

Often overlooked as a tourist destination, today’s Uruguay is still a land of ranches and gauchos, very similar to the pampas of neighboring Argentina, authentic seventeenth century Spanish towns, crashing ocean surf and quaint seaside villages.

Your exploration of Uruguay might well include these highlights:

Uruguay’s imposing capitol showcases a classic symmetrical design.

Uruguay’s imposing capitol showcases a classic symmetrical design.

Montevideo

This modern capital is a really appealing city with some charming architecture. Don’t miss the soft sand beach on the Rio de la Plata, the very imposing Capitol building and the lovely old (vieja) town.

Fine wine ages in huge 100 year old oaken casks in a cool wine cellar.

Fine wine ages in huge 100 year old oaken casks in a cool wine cellar.

Wineries

Uruguayans do love their wines. The country is liberally sprinkled with numerous picturesque vineyards and wineries. Many offer tours and tastings. This can be a fun way to spend a couple of hours on a sunny afternoon when the light is too strong for landscape photography. Keep your eyes open for signs as you drive.

The small fishing fleet of Punta del Este exudes a very laidback attitude for a commercial operation.

The small fishing fleet of Punta del Este exudes a very laidback attitude for a commercial operation.

Punta del Este

A great little resort town. Poised right on the corner of the Rio de la Plata and Atlantic Ocean, beaches wrap around Punta del Este. Strolling the charming streets, you’ll want to take in the lighthouse, the harbor with its little fishing fleet and sociable harbor seals and the shoreline itself.

Rocha is just one of many lovely protected natural preserves throughout Uruguay.

Rocha is just one of many lovely protected natural preserves throughout Uruguay.

Rocha

One of many natural preserves, Laguna Rocha is a tract with a calming, laid back feel and lots of subtle beauty.

Once out in the countryside, ranches and mounted gauchos (paisanos) are common sights.

Once out in the countryside, ranches and mounted gauchos (paisanos) are common sights.

Florida

As the name of both a department (province) and its largest town, Florida is largely a rural area featuring ranches, cattle and horses. With patience you should be able to locate some gauchos (often called ‘paisanos’) working with the livestock. These colorful cowboys on their small and hardy criollo horses make great subjects.

The charming cobblestone streets of the historic neighborhood of Colonia del Sacramento hark back to the days of Spanish colonialism.

The charming cobblestone streets of the historic neighborhood of Colonia del Sacramento hark back to the days of Spanish colonialism.

Colonia del Sacramento

The historic 17th century colonial Spanish village portion of Colonia is one of my very favorite spots in all of South America. Reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg, VA, these authentic buildings have been lovingly restored and maintained. Even the cobblestones that now pave the streets arrived here as ballast in the holds of Spanish galleons. Walking this compact neighborhood very early in the morning should allow you to capture the charm and romance without hordes of tourists.

Typical example of the historic buildings found all over the well preserved area of Colonia el Sacramento.

Typical example of the historic buildings found all over the well preserved area of Colonia el Sacramento.

Logistics

Flights to Montevideo’s international airport are available from several US gateways including Miami and Dallas.

Once in country, you will find a wide variety of accommodations. The cities offer modern hotels ranging from about two to five stars with three often being quite adequate. A buffet breakfast is almost always included.

Out in the countryside staying on a ranch (estancia) is an excellent way to quickly become immersed in the ambiance of the culture. It’s an ideal choice for equestrians!

Uruguayan roads are pretty good so renting a standard passenger car will prove adequate. To reach some of the roadless seaside villages, just hop on one of the shuttle-trucks that make the short run through the sand surrounding these little hamlets.

With its relatively long coastlines, the need for such lighthouses to protect navigation emerged early on.

With its relatively long coastlines, the need for such lighthouses to protect navigation emerged early on.

Note: While it is possible to get along without speaking Spanish, Uruguayans probably speak less English than residents of most other South American countries. Even in Montevideo, the last ATMs that I saw had no option for English instructions. A pocket dictionary or phrase book can be very helpful.

Jerry Ginsberg is a widely published photographer whose landscape, Nature and travel images have graced the covers pages of hundreds of books, magazines and travel catalogs. He is the only person to have photographed each and every one of America’s National Parks with medium format cameras. (Newly created Indiana Dunes N.P. coming soon!) Jerry has been awarded Artist Residencies in several National Parks. This October, he will be in residence in Shenandoah National Park in VA. His works have been exhibited from coast to coast and have received numerous awards in competition. Jerry’s photographic archive spans virtually all of both North and South America.

More of Ginsberg’s images are on display at www.JerryGinsberg.com
Or e mail him at jerry@jerryginsberg.com

 

 

 

The Case for Bridge

Bridge Grid View is one of several user-selected layouts for viewing images. The Grid is modeled on a traditional lightbox.

Story and photos © Jerry Ginsberg

A little history

Once upon a time, a lot of photographers did very well with film photography. 35mm slides, the old reliable, did a more than adequate job for us and the great majority of book and magazine publishers. We sent out a couple of vinyl pages of 20 mounted 2×2” slides and usually scored a hit.

Then came the digital revolution. And make no mistake; this has been a true technological revolution. Kodak and Nikon may initially have been on the cutting edge of the seismic shift as it pertains to photography, but such subsequent changes as smartphones, social media and cloud computing are all facets of the very same upheaval.

Around 1990, a group of very bright people created Photoshop. Overcoming a few less robust competitors, Photoshop quickly became the standard for processing digitally captured and scanned images in the new world of the digital darkroom.

Adobe’s ancillary program Bridge was born soon after. After several years and great advances in the feature sets, depth and breadth of these software tools, some streamlining seemed to fit a market niche. Enter Lightroom.

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Cruising Along The Eastern Sierras

The highest peak in the contiguous 48 states, at 14,496 feet, serrated Mt. Whitney rises among the mountains of the Eastern Sierra.

The highest peak in the contiguous 48 states, at 14,496 feet, serrated Mt. Whitney rises among the mountains of the Eastern Sierra.

Story and photos by Jerry Ginsberg

Overview

When most of us think of the spectacular Sierra Nevada range that forms the spine of east-central California, we tend to visualize the towering gray granite peaks and domes of Yosemite National Park. For a long time, my association was no different. It took several years, but eventually, I discovered the many facets of the Sierras beyond Yosemite.

Running on a north-south axis through the Golden State, the eastern escarpment of the Sierras provides a stunning backdrop to some of the finest photography in the West.

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Photographing the Canadian Rockies

Just one of Canada’s innumerable peaks, the last light of day shows this one to its best advantage.

Just one of Canada’s innumerable peaks, the last light of day shows this one to its best advantage.

Story and Photos by Jerry Ginsberg

Overview

Our American West is sprinkled with many spectacular national parks. Even a quick glance at the map will reveal that these preserves of nature are just islands in a sea of a burgeoning population surrounded by spreading towns and cities that often press against many of the parks’ very borders.

In sharp contrast, our Canadian neighbors have a nation of almost exactly the same size as the U.S., but with only about one tenth of our population. As a result, they enjoy roughly ten times more elbow room. With the exception of relatively small pockets of people, western Canada enjoys lots of wide open spaces. As long as we bring our passports along, those fine folks will let us share their pristine parks and vast wilderness.

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A Photographer’s Journey Through Peru

Grand view of ancient Machu Picchu, last refuge of the vanished Inca civilization in the Andes Mountains, Peru.

Grand view of ancient Machu Picchu, last refuge of the vanished Inca civilization in the Andes Mountains, Peru.

Story and Photos by Jerry Ginsberg

Peru is perhaps the most fascinating country in all of South America. Considering the many wonderful sights, both natural and cultural, to be found on this vast continent, that’s saying a whole lot. You will find a great deal of diversity here. From the arid lands of its long Pacific Coastal area to the snow-capped summits of the sharply carved Andes, there is something here for everyone.

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Returning to Badlands National Park

Yellow Mounds area in Badlands National Park, SD.

Yellow Mounds area in Badlands National Park, SD.

Story and Photos by Jerry Ginsberg

In my many columns for NANPA, I have never repeated a particular location. Until now. As a result of events described below, it seems fitting to add a new insight on a familiar location.

Being a National Park Artist in Residence

Last year, I had the privilege of being chosen by Badlands National Park in South Dakota as their Artist in Residence for the fall season. Many units of the National Park Service offer these opportunities, which appear on https://www.nps.gov/subjects/arts/air.htm. In addition to National Parks, many other units (National Monuments, Scenic Trails, Historical Parks, Battlefields and more) in the system offer such opportunities. The process is very competitive with many artists across a wide spectrum of disciplines—visual, writing, performance, etc.—submitting applications. And the actual judging criteria remains unknowable.

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Great Photography Spots in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Fantastic lunar landscape of the Wave, in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, located in both Utah and Arizona.

Fantastic lunar landscape of the Wave, in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, located in both Utah and Arizona.

Story & Photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Exploring the Southwest

Although the four states that comprise the great Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah) contain a combined total of thirteen national parks, this vast area has so much spectacular natural beauty that all of it could not possibly be contained within these parks.

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Arches National Park

Elegant and graceful, world-famous Delicate Arch dominates the scene in Arches National Park, Utah.

Story & Photography by Jerry Ginsberg

High on the list of the most photogenic landscapes anywhere is the Beehive State, Utah. With five spectacular national parks, each one special in its own right, Utah is simply not to be missed.

While in the past, I have written tips for a photo trip to Moab, Utah, Arches National Park is such a singularly important place for nature photography that adding an article focused specifically about it seems both necessary and worthwhile.

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