A shooting guide to some of country's most incredible landscapes
Grand Teton National Park (WY)
This photo: NPS.Gov
The convenient combination of grand alpine scenery and abundant wildlife at Grand Teton is unmatched by any other park. The Teton Range, majestic and imposing, rises abruptly some 7,000 feet from the tawny benchlands of the Snake River, a broad watercourse that winds through stands of cottonwood and willow. Nestled against the lower slopes are pine-sheltered lakes and river backwaters that mirror the snow-capped backdrop on still mornings. Over this terrain roam large ungulates—bison, pronghorn antelope, elk, mule deer, and moose—readily spotted and easy to approach.
Must shoot: The Tetons from Schwabacher Landing at dawn.
Insider tip: For the best light, Teton scenics in the morning; wildflowers, wildlife, and forest views in the afternoon.
Arches National Park (UT)
This photo: Tim Fitzharris
The geology of Arches seems to have been created with photographers in mind. The park boasts the largest concentration of natural stone arches in the world (more than 2,000). These formations make good subjects in themselves, but also serve well as foreground and framing elements for views of the greater landscape, filled as it is with red rock canyons, pinnacles, domes, and snow-capped mountains. Close-up enthusiasts will be greeted by an assortment of desert subjects—wildflowers, cacti, lizards, and small mammals.
Must shoot: Turret Arch through North Window at sunrise.
Insider tip: Bring a reflector or a white umbrella to soften those cactus and wildflower close-ups under clear skies and harsh light.
This photo:The Devil’s Garden from Salt Valley shows its expanse thanks to the converging parallel lines of a dirt road.
Grand Canyon National Park (AZ)
This photo: NPS.Gov
One of the most stupendous geologic formations on earth, the Grand Canyon stretches for 277 miles, plunging thousands of feet in dizzying drops in numerous places. For photographers, it supplies four elements essential to creating world-class scenic imagery: rich, varied color; deep perspective defined by ranks of receding landforms and familiar near-field features; skies energized by cloud formations for much of the year; and dramatic side-lighting at sunrise and sunset due to the canyon’s east/west orientation. Any season is good.
Must shoot: Remote and spectacular Toroweap Overlook—make time to see it.
Insider tip: Get the Colorado River in your composition for deepest perspective (Pima, Mohave, Hopi, Moran, Lipan, Desert View, Toroweap overlooks).
Want to see more beautiful photos from our National Park Round-up? Head on over to our Bonus Gallery.