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Photographing National Parks: A Guide For Scouting And Shooting America's Most Cherished Lands

Author : Chris Nicholson
Published : 2015-08-01

I know, I know:  there are a ton of books out there (Amazon pulled up thousands of results) dealing with different aspects of photography within our national parks.  So what’s the big deal about yet one more book thrown into the ring?  Well, while I haven’t read all of those books from the thousands of results Amazon pulled up, I will tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing Photographing National Parks - A Guide For Scouting And Shooting America’s Most Cherished Lands, by Chris Nicholson. 

The Author 

Mr. Nicholson is a professional photographer and a former magazine editor.  He’s taken his cameras and equipment to all 59 national parks to photograph the unique beauty found within each.  He’s wrapped up his photos, his experiences and his advice using some engaging writing (and humor).

The Book 

Photographing National Parks is divided into several sections, beginning with an introduction of the author, how he came to be where he is, and why he wrote the book.  This, in turn, is followed by a section specifically filled with advice regarding research methods and information searches pertaining to whatever national park one may be interested in photographing.  The Logistics section gets down to the nitty gritty of planning and preparing for travel (for yourself and your camera gear). This includes park fees, getting there, staying there, food, clothing, safety, etc.  The sections after Logistics include the kind of camera (and clothing) gear to take, what types of environment the photographer may experience within a particular national park and how to photograph subjects within a specific environment. 

The author makes the effort to not go into camera brands, as he understands everybody is different, with different photographic likes and needs.  There is a nice Techniques section with advice for shooting such environments as desert, night sky, mountains, etc. This section includes gear and exposure considerations as well as other pointers the photographer should find useful. 

All of the sections noted above precede the chapter on National Parks “From Acadia to Zion.”  Because there are 59 national parks, the author keeps each park section concise, with a description on what one might see to photograph (lakes, mountains, specific trees, specific wildlife) as well as tips on certain places of interest (ex. Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park and East Bison Flats Trail in Wind Cave National Park).

Becky’s Caveats

While I really like this book, I have a couple of slight issues with it – my opinions only. Mr. Nicholson has a little section in the back of the book titled Sources with smartphone app suggestions, gear suggestions, and websites to help the reader further their park and photography research. I personally would have liked to see the author give his reasons for why he preferred a particular piece of gear (ex. why does the author like a specific GPS tracker over any others on the market?).  You see, I’m always interested in the reasons for a photographer choosing his/her equipment.  Just a short explanation would have been helpful (to me, anyway).

The author is also a big proponent of spending as much time as one can within a national park in order to capture stellar images.  My take is that he doesn’t seem to think one can get really great photos with only a day (or less) in a park unless it’s totally by pure luck/serendipity.  Yes, I agree, incredible photos can be captured with enough time spent in one area.  But I don’t agree that one can only get truly stunning, thought-provoking shots with a lengthy stay in a national park. 

Many of us (who have day jobs with a set amount of vacation) do not have the luxury of spending more than maybe a week (sometimes less) in any particular location.  I personally believe that I’ve captured some awesome photos after just a day’s-worth of photography.  If we argue that my shots were captured purely by luck, I would have to say that – in my opinion – photography can be every bit as much about luck as it can be about research and length of time spent in a park.

Those two issues aside, I found the book to be an enjoyable read and quite helpful; some of Mr. Nicholson's suggestions I intend to use for my own photography when I am next out in the field.

Sure, Photographing National Parks is but another book about – well – photographing national parks.  Sure, there are descriptions of areas that have already been photographed to death and why on Earth would one want to photograph something that’s already been captured digitally or by film by thousands before?  I happen to agree with the author, who puts it this way:  yes, the “standards” have been photographed to death already, but there is a reason these places (like the Wild Goose Island view area in Glacier National Park) have been captured so much by so many:

It “doesn’t make the scene any less beautiful."

This 232-page book is due out August 2015 and sells for $27.95 on Amazon.  I’m getting it.


I am so eager to own a copy of this new publication as soon as it is available in August 2015.

The reviewer makes it sound like there are already tons of books about photographing the national parks. There are books about the national parks that feature photography (of course). There are quite a few books (and e-books) about photographing a particular national park. There are books about photographing a particular geographic area, which happen to include some national parks. However, could the reviewer list a single title which is specifically about photographing the national parks, besides the Tim Fitzharris book ?

I thought I replied awhile ago, but apparently not. Anyway, my bad, Mr. Luong. Thank you for keeping me an honest woman.  I was exaggerating to make a point.  I used search terms on Amazon such as "photography" and "national parks" and did pull up thousands of publications dealing with photography and national parks.  Upon further drill-down, I pulled up fewer (still over 100, at least) publications dealing specifically with certain national parks, such as "Photographer's Guide to Yellowstone & the Tetons: 2nd Edition" by Joseph K. Lange, "Photographing Yellowstone Park: Where to Find Perfect Shots and How to Take Them" by Gustav W. Verderber, "Photographing Acadia National Park: The Essential Guide to When, Where and How"" by Colleen Miniuk-Sperry and Eric Berg, "Guide to Photographing Mt. Rainier National Park - Vol 2: Plan-Explore-Connect" by Michael Schertz, to name a few.  The gist is that there really are alot of books out there dealing with photographing some aspect of a national park. Readers definitely have their pick.  And it's definitely not to take away from the fact that I enjoyed reviewing Mr. Nicholson's book.  While I have not read each and every one of those other photography books pertaining to a national park in one way or another, I believe that Mr. Nicholson's publication will probably do very well in competition wtih those publications as he has some good tips and advice.  As I mentioned in my review, I'm going to buy the book. 

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