The Best National Parks to Photograph in Spring

 Ocotillo. Big Bend National Park. Texas.

Ocotillo. Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Which national parks are at their very best in the spring? If I could go on a fabulous spring photography trip to the national parks of my choice, all expenses paid, which ones would I pick? Here are my choices, grouped by state from west to east. This list includes the favorites I have been to and want to go back to again, plus the ones I haven’t seen and most want to photograph.

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Painting People with Light

Rachel painted with light.

Painting with light is an interesting technique that gives you a different kind of look from using a flash unit or ambient light. As with other kinds of light you can make your subject as light or dark as you want. For these images I went with a darker, low key look. Inanimate objects are the usual subjects for painting with light because they do not move during the long exposures, but I wanted to try it with a live human being so I asked a friend to be my subject.

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How to Photograph Jupiter, Saturn, and Their Moons

Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn with their moons. December 21, 2020. Click to see a larger version.

With a tripod mounted camera and a 300-400mm telephoto lens, it is possible to photograph Jupiter and its four Galilean moons (they are named for Galileo), and Saturn and its biggest moon, Titan. I captured them during their Great Conjunction a little over two years ago. Jupiter is on the left with three of its Galilean moons. Saturn is on the right and Titan is just to the right of Saturn.

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Sometimes You Get Lucky

Greater White-fronted Goose and Canada Goose.

I was at one of my favorite local lakes and hundred of geese had shown up. Some of them were in the process of leaving the lake. By the end of the afternoon all but a few geese had left the lake. Some left a few at a time and others left in larger groups.

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Elk in a Snowstorm

Elk in the Snow, Rocky Mountain National Park
Elk in the Snow, Horseshoe Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. February 24, 2008.

Today is an anniversary of sorts. February 24, 15 years ago, was a great day in Rocky Mountain National Park. The snow was falling when I found this small cluster of elk in Horseshoe Park. It is one of my favorite photos for the day.

Happy Birthday, Ansel Adams!

Ansel Adams, Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, 1927. Photographed in his home Dec. 2, 1980.

Ansel Adams in front of “Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, 1927”. Photographed in his home Dec. 2, 1980.

Ansel Adams was born 121 years ago today, February 20, 1902. He is “the” icon of American landscape photography. Trained as a concert pianist, his love of photography and time spent in Yosemite National Park led him to a career change.

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Today’s “Screen Saver Surprise” is a Special Image

Egg, Pearls, Rings

After a morning office break, I walked back in to our office and this image greeted me on the computer monitor. This happens to be a really special image for me. As an anniversary gift back in September 1993, my wife signed me up for a black and white printing class at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. The gift was initially – let me say – “puzzling” to me. I was pretty much a 100% color slide film photographer. The only time I ever put color negative film in my cameras was to photograph weddings. But it was a gift, so I went.

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Violinist in the Snow

Beth playing her violin in the snow. February 12, 2020.

It was three years ago today, but it started two months earlier in December with a plan to do portraits of Beth with her violin. Back then she was the principal violinist and concertmaster of the Graceland University Orchestra. (Today she is doing graduate studies in violin performance.) When I asked her to send me examples of the kind of portraits she liked, some of the photos she sent me had a violinist outside in the snow. I asked her if she wanted to shoot in the snow and she said yes. So we waited for snow and on a cold, snowy day in January we did portraits in the snow.

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The Photographer’s Bookshelf

Photography Books. Click the photo to see a larger version.

Michael Freeman’s Capturing Light is new to this bookshelf. It is a Christmas gift from one of my children. If you aren’t acquainted with Freeman, and you love photography, it is time you meet. So I took a picture and decided to write about the books in this photograph. You are looking at one half of one shelf of two bookcases filled with photography books. I learned long ago that great photographers read a lot. Photo books, composition books, lighting books, art books, location guides, and a whole lot more. So I read books too.

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Shirley Cards: Why they are important and how they are used.

Shirley Card for use with Vericolor negative film.

In the early 1950s almost all color negative film sold in the U.S. was made by Kodak and Kodak had the monopoly on processing. When you bought the film the cost of processing was bundled in with the price of the film. When you finished the roll you sent it off to Kodak to be processed and Kodak sent you your prints. As long as you knew what you were doing (and didn’t do something dumb like shoot daylight film under tungsten lights) you got great looking prints back from Kodak. The exception was the rare person who processed their negatives at home and made their own prints. They did not like being forced to pay for processing they didn’t use.

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How To Photograph Comet ZTF (C/2022 E3)

Comet NEOWISE over Home Lake, Lamoni Iowa, July 13, 2020.

The key to photographing Comet ZTF is to know where to look. In the evening around 9 pm it is above the North Star and a little to the left. It moves higher in the sky every night and is almost straight overhead by February 5. For details and the best evening sky map I could find, read this article. Once you have found the comet with your naked eyes or with binoculars, you can photograph it.

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Winter Photography Safety Essentials

Some of the winter travel items I carry in the trunk of my car.

Some of the winter travel items I carry in the trunk of my car. This is the “kitchen” and “furnace”.

I grew up in Colorado where strange weather can strand you in any month of the year. Even though it is rare, I’ve seen blizzards in the Colorado high country in July. So I learned to carry some safety essentials when doing winter photography in remote locations. You never know when you might be stranded for several hours, a whole day, or longer, until the blizzard abates and someone can come find you. This is what I carry in my car when I hit the road in the winter and pretty much any time I am going to be in the High Rockies. I include a few winter travel tips, too.

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Metering Nighttime Winter Scenes

Twilight, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Twilight, Rocky Mountain National Park. Sirius, Canis Major, Orion, Taurus, the Hyades star cluster, and the Pleiades star cluster are all visible in the fading light. Click for a larger version.

You can photograph the night sky year around, but winter brings an added bonus: SNOW! When you don’t have the benefit of moonlight, most of the year land forms a dark to black silhouetted skyline against the night sky. In winter you have the possibility of including the highly reflective snow. You can see both in this photo. Any place not covered with snow is very dark to black. Having reflective snow is why winter is the favorite time of year for a lot of photographers to go out and photograph the night sky.

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Pushing the Limits: $239 lens vs $2159 lens

Bald Eagle, Home Lake. Canon SL3, EF-S 55-250mm lens.

Is a $239 lens as good as a $2159 lens? Much of the time, yes (see the first link at the end of this article). Sometimes no. It depends on the photo situation. I get lots of equipment questions and some of them have to do with photography on a tight budget. I’ve been comparing a refurbished Canon SL3 camera and a refurbished Canon EF-S 55-250mm lens to a Canon 7D Mark II camera with a Canon L series 100-400mm lens.

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MARTIN LUTHER KING – “I have a dream” – text

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929. He was a Baptist minister and a prominent civil rights advocate. King was the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize when it awarded to him in 1964. He was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

One of his most famous speeches was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963. Often referred to as the “I have a dream” speech, it is one of the most significant and powerful speeches of the 20th century. A portion of the speech follows. Links to the full speech and an audio file are at the end of this post.

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Experiment: Canada Geese at 380 Yards with a Focal Length of 400mm

Canada Geese at Home Lake. 100mm focal length.

After photographing our rare Tundra Swan, I was getting ready to leave Home Lake when I had an opportunity to test the kind of results I could get photographing distant geese with a 100-400mm lens. I was on the dam at Home Lake so I positioned myself so I was in line with the water facility apparatus in the lake and some distant geese. I did a reference photo at 100mm.

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Trumpeter Swan and Tundra Swan

Trumpeter Swan landing at Home Lake.

A Trumpeter Swan and Tundra Swan have been spending time together at one of our local lakes. Tundra Swans don’t usually get this far south and I wanted some photos. This is our second rare bird visitor this winter. In December we had a very rare Tundra Bean-Goose that spent a couple of weeks with our Canada Geese before moving on (links below). The Tundra Bean-Goose was supposed to be in far Northern Europe or Russia.

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