A shooting guide to some of country's most incredible landscapes
Zion National Park (UT)
This photo: NPS.Gov
Nestled amid the semiarid plateau country of southwest Utah, this gentle wilderness confronts the visitor with a glowing amalgam of daring color and sculpted rock evocatively arranged and gigantic in scale. Blessed with soft, warm light, the epicenter for photography is Zion Canyon, a gorge lined by sheer, rainbow-hued walls soaring 3,000 feet over a valley floor planted with juniper, willow, cottonwood, oak, and maple. Plentiful wildflowers and a routine smattering of wildlife round out the photographic attractions. The park is most beautiful in autumn.
Must shoot: The Watchman at sunset from Virgin River bridge, a social event.
Insider tip: Approachable, big-rack mule deer can be photographed on the grounds at Zion Lodge in autumn.
Yosemite National Park (CA)
This photo: Tim Fitzharris
The nucleus of this park’s grand landscape spectacle is Yosemite Valley, a gigantic, glacier-carved corridor walled in by naked peaks and smooth domes that reflect the sunrise and sunset as if forged in gold and bronze. This soaring tract of the Sierra Nevada range is laced by waterfalls that descend in an eerie, slow-motion roar, inundating valley floor backwaters that reflect magnificent vistas from all directions. Ancient groves of giant sequoias, wildflower meadows, flowering trees, flaming autumn foliage, and deep but gentle snowfalls add decoration during the appropriate season.
Must shoot: Mariposa Grove on a cloudy day, ideally in rain or snow.
Insider tip: Shoot the earliest morning hours during summer to avoid traffic and parking problems.
This photo:Vernal pool reflection at Tuolumne Meadows awaited the warm light of a summer sunset to show its colors, deepened by a polarizer.
Mount Rainier National Park (WA)
This photo: NPS.Gov
Mount Rainier’s isolated, ice-clad profile dominates the landscape for 100 miles in every direction. Its 25 major glaciers comprise the largest mass of permanent ice on any mountain in the lower 48 states. Below its shining photogenic crown, the slopes are carpeted by lush subalpine meadows renowned for their displays of wildflowers during August. Adding to this singular attraction are old-growth temperate rain forests, whitewater streams and rivers, cascades, waterfalls, reflecting lakes, and a confiding menagerie of alpine birds and mammals.
Must shoot: Reflection Lake with wildflowers at sunrise.
Insider tip: Use a reflector placed on the ground to dramatize foreground blooms in wildflower scenes featuring Mount Rainier.
Want to see more beautiful photos from our National Park Round-up? Head on over to our Bonus Gallery.