Photography and the national parks have gone well together since long before Ansel Adams set foot in the Yosemite Valley in 1916.
As far back as 1871, photographer William Henry Jackson accompanied the original geological survey of the Yellowstone region; and it was in a large part the images he brought back of the area’s spectacular geysers that convinced Congress, in 1872, to establish the world’s first national park.
Indeed, to pack up your digital SLR, compact camera, or even your iPhone and head out on your national park vacation puts you in this long tradition of capturing America’s natural beauty.
And now that digital photography has made shooting beautiful landscapes and capturing wildlife easier than ever, photography tours are becoming an increasingly popular way to see the parks, (and the parks are becoming an increasingly popular subject for photography workshops).
Established adventure travel operators like Natural Habitat Adventures have expanded into the photo tour business, promising access to rarely explored corners of Yellowstone and even workshops with a National Geographic photographer who specializes in tracking wolves.
But you don’t have to be an expert with a camera to hike out into the wilderness and take memorable photos. Smaller tour companies, often owned and led by individual photographer-guides, cater to all skill levels.
Photographer-guides like Bob Gottlieb of Gottlieb Photo Tours can teach you how to shoot Death Valley’s stark landscapes, for example, while taking you to the park’s most stunning locations. “If you don’t know the difference between an aperture and an f-stop, fear not,” Gottlieb writes on his website. “We welcome brand new photographers.”
You might even walk away with your own “Ansel Adams.”
Reporting by Stephanie Hirata