NATIONAL PARKS: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Soldiers' Trail, SNP

Soldiers’ Trail, Sequoia National Park

Horses and mule pack trail, King's Canyon

Horses and mule pack trail, King’s Canyon

While most of our 59 national parks stand very well on their own, a few can be viewed better when combined with another. One good example of this is the pairing of Sequoia National Park (SNP) and Kings Canyon National Park (KCNP) in central California’s Sierra Nevada Range. They have been jointly administered since 1943.

SNP was established in 1890 to protect several stands of giant sequoia (Sequoia gigantium) trees. The park originally included a portion of present-day KCNP. KCNP exists because of the singular beauty of the glacially carved canyon of the Kings River, a special favorite of legendary conservationist John Muir.

The shape of the road system through these two parks is similar to that of a horseshoe. The road enters from Three Rivers in the south as Route 198 and from the north as Route 180. Once within the parks, these roads are collectively called the Generals Highway commemorating some of the very biggest of the giant sequoias. What may not necessarily be apparent is that most of the KCNP portion of the road—including a good part of the section along the South Fork of the Kings River—actually passes through the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument rather than the national park itself. Continue reading

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

Powell Point Sunset

Powell Point Sunset

First explored by John Wesley Powell soon after the Civil War, Grand Canyon National Park is a geologic layer cake displaying more than two billion years of history. “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it,” heralded pioneering conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt, “The great sight that every American should see.” Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS – Moab, Utah, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Turret Arch

Turret Arch

Among the many areas of our great nation popular with nature photographers, few surpass the vicinity of Moab, Utah, for a wealth of iconic subjects in a concentrated area. Just a stone’s throw away from the heart of this high desert gathering place are two of the national parks that give Red Rock Country its name: Arches and Canyonlands.

Famed Arches National Park boasts more than 2,000 arches, a greater collection of red rocks in one place than perhaps anywhere else in the world. These fascinating forms are never static. Surprise Arch was discovered only as recently as 1963, while Wall Arch just collapsed in 2008. These marvelous natural sculptures start as depressions in a freestanding stone wall or “fin.” Add just the right mixture of wind, rain, and freezing and thawing temperatures working on the soft Entrada sandstone, and you get a hole or “window.” Let the erosion process percolate for a few more centuries/millennia and some of these windows will morph into full-fledged arches. Inevitably, however, these great stone sculptures will collapse. Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS – Yosemite in Winter, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Cathedral_Spires_-_snow-223x300

Most of us are familiar with Ansel Adams’s iconic black-and-white images of Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada Range. Adams considered the park to be “one of the great shrines of the world.” His images almost singlehandedly elevated landscape photography to recognition as a true art form.

Knowing that May and June are the months when Yosemite’s waterfalls are running at their heaviest is hardly news. But how many of us have considered Yosemite to be a prime winter photo destination? At only 4,000 feet of elevation, Yosemite Valley often gets better winter weather than many other spots in the Sierras. February can be magical here. Continue reading

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.

The Everglades

The 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.

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.

West Lake

West Lake

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: Redwood National Park – Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

 

Two Redwoods on Damnation Creek Trail

Two Redwoods on Damnation Creek Trail

Many of our national parks are found at northern latitudes, high elevation or both, and it is not always easy finding a weather-friendly location for winter shooting. If you are looking to schedule a winter shoot, Redwood National Park, flush against northern California’s Pacific Coast, should be considered. With ocean currents warming the land, the resulting mild climate can make the park a great winter photo destination. Each year is different, of course, but December in this part of the state can be delightful.

Redwood National Park is a patchwork of state parks and federal lands cobbled together to form a fragmented and spread-out whole. The various components are stitched together by U.S. Route 101, which runs right along the edge of the land where it meets the blue Pacific. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading