As I am writing, the country and, indeed, most of the world is shutting down due to the spread of the novel corona virus. There is certainly a lot of information about it in the media so you don’t need me to add to it, especially since, when choosing a career long ago, medicine was not even close to the top of my list. So even though I write regularly about photographing our national parks and other great travel destinations, it is apparent that park visitation and travel in general will be way down for a while to come.
I hope that you will enjoy my description of our sixty-second and newest national park, White Sands, which appears below and will file it away for a calmer and more normal time. For those of us with the travel bug, now is a good time to do some deep and thorough planning for our next trips.
Until then, stay healthy, safe and keep honing your skills in the digital darkroom.
Over the last several years, I have written in this space about each of the eight wonderful national parks scattered throughout our 49th state. Alaska is so big, wild and open that getting from one of these huge parks to another is not as easy as jumping on the interstate highway system in Ohio and smoothly cruising to somewhere like Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. It’s a bit more complicated than that.
For many years, I photographed only landscapes and natural subjects, being careful to avoid anything showing the intrusive hand of man.
Separately, I have been an avid international traveler for all of my adult life. One day, I suddenly got the bright idea to combine my travels with serious image making. Photographing cities is certainly a one hundred and eighty degree U turn from nature photography but, with the proper mindset and viewpoint, it can be just as artistic. Well, almost.
One of the nation’s newest National Parks is a tiny speck of land on the west bank of the mighty Mississippi River. At a mere 91 acres, Gateway Arch National Park is by far the smallest of our sixty-one National Parks.
The Mountain State of West Virginia was admitted to Union in 1863 at the height of the Civil War when the Unionists of the northern and western counties of secessionist Virginia themselves chose to secede from that Confederate state. It was a real public relations victory for President Lincoln and the Union. Don’t worry: That’s the end of the history lecture.
It doesn’t have the granite domes of Yosemite or the geysers of Yellowstone, but Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts over 11 million visitors each year making it the most popular in the nation. That’s more than Yosemite, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks combined.
As the years roll by, there is an ever diminishing percentage of photographers who spent their early years shooting and archiving film. At the risk of sounding like my pre-TV era father, back in the good old days before the advent of digital photography, we simply stored our film originals, both negatives and chromes, in an assortment of paper and plastic boxes, pages, etc. Absent the house burning down, there was little, if any, concern over losing our precious images.
The national park movement originally grew out of the 19th century recognition that it was important to protect the spectacular natural wonders of the American west. It took a few more decades for the eastern part of our country to gain some respect for its own scenic gems. Eventually, however, many national parks were established east of the Mississippi and now play host to scores of millions of visitors annually. Three of these, Mammoth Cave, Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains, form a line through the Appalachians and were created at the urging of FDR.
The dictionary defines ephemeral as transient. e-fem-e-ral — Temporary, or passing, as changing as the rocks.
In the case of the rock formations that dot and decorate our Earth, we could also add, “in transition” for the rocks do not stay the same. Even though they may look to us mortals that they do, it is only because we are changing faster than are they. Sometimes.
As some confirmed night owls and insomniacs reading this may have noticed, I recently appeared on ABC TV’s Nightline.
Aside from simply showcasing my good looks (Ha!!), the story made a serious and thoughtful point.
Social media, and especially Instagram, have contributed
very significantly to over-crowding in our National Parks and other federal
lands originally set aside for their ability to help us re-connect with Nature.