The desolate landscape of the South Texas Brush Country doesn’t look like much, but the biodiversity makes it one of North America’s best places for wildlife photography. It definitely ranks high on my list!
Scientists classify South Texas as a “semi-arid, sub-tropical” region. The result? Lots of wildlife! That includes a large number of bird species living at the far northern edges of their ranges.
Many—e.g. Kiskadee, Green Jay, Audubon’s Oriole, Couch’s Kingbird—are known as “South Texas Specialties.” And spring migration dramatically boosts the number of photogenic subjects that fly your way. By the end of April the summer breeders, such as Painted Buntings, Varied Buntings, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers have arrived.
The best photography occurs when the animals grow hot and thirsty and flock to water to drink and cool off. Painted Buntings, in particular, really like their baths! This makes late-May and June prime photography time in the South Texas Brush Country. Continue reading →
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 →
Talk about landscapes in Kansas and a lot of people are going to think of the stereotypical image of Kansas – one big flat wheat field. Kansas certainly does have some flat regions, especially in the western half of the state. Kansas also has a lot of wheat fields – which are beautiful in their own right. However, Kansas has a number of unique landscapes that may surprise a lot of people. The Flint Hills are one of the unique physiographic regions of Kansas. They are an especially interesting area as they contain some of the last large contiguous areas of tallgrass prairie. The interesting topography of the Flint Hills and the flora of the tall grass prairie combine to make for wonderful photographic opportunities.
Wide open views and gently sloping hills are characteristic of the Flint Hills. I like to use a wide angle lens to try and capture the sense of space and the unique shapes that can be found out in the prairies, but short to medium telephoto lenses are also useful to bring in details of the hills and focus attention on the lines and textures of the region. Magic hour light can really bring out the contours and shapes of the hills, and sunrises and sunsets are often full of amazing colors. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
Wilson’s Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) flock at South Tufa, Mono Lake, California, USA
Story and Photographs by Marie Read
Mono Lake is one of California’s most photogenic locations, a well-known destination for landscape photographers worldwide. Bizarre rocky spires called tufa towers punctuate the waters and shoreline of this desert sea, while the snow-capped Sierra Nevada forms a spectacular backdrop to the west. The well-kept secret is that Mono Lake and its surroundings are great for bird photography as well.
Mono Lake’s alkaline, highly saline water supports no fish, but it teems with brine shrimp and alkali flies, providing food for numerous breeding birds, including California Gulls, American Avocets, and Snowy Plovers. Osprey nest atop the tufa, commuting to and from freshwater lakes nearby for fish for their young. Around the lake sagebrush scrub, pinyon-juniper, and conifer-aspen woodlands support many other birds. I’d like to share some of my favorite bird photography spots. Continue reading →
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 →
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. Continue reading →
New Orleans usually conjures thoughts of Mardi Gras, the French Quarter and jazz. As a local nature photographer, I think more about moss-draped live oaks, alligator-friendly bayous and the uncontrollable explosion of nature that only hot, humid climes can provide. Situated on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, Louisiana, one of my favorite places to shoot is Fontainebleau State Park.
About a 50 minute drive from downtown New Orleans,Fontainebleau State Park sprawls over 2,800 acres. The park is open daily and you’d be hard pressed to find a better bargain than the $2 day use fee (camping is available at different rates). Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville developed the area as a sugar plantation until 1852, making Fontainebleau a historical site, but it’s also an interesting convergence of various ecosystems that offer a wide range of natural subject matter. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →