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Expert Tips for National Parks Photography

national parks photographer Ian Shive

Photographer Ian Shive has shot hundreds of our nation’s wildest spaces, many of which appeared in The National Parks, Our American Landscape (Earth Aware). The only trouble: they’re often overrun with visitors. Here, Shive reveals five of his favorite experiences in parks both familiar and unsung.

National Parks: Maine

Acadia National Park: Scrambling up the granite rocks of Cadillac Mountain is a classic, but Shive recommends staying after sunset to watch the town of Bar Harbor light up. Where to sleep? “The Harborside Hotel ($$$) has a cozy, old Americana vibe.”

National Parks: Texas

Big Bend National Park: Langford Hot Springs is a series of 105-degree lithium-rich pools in a sheltered cove of the Rio Grande. “I like to lie there and look straight into Mexico.”

National Parks: Montana

Glacier National Park: To get away from the crowds on Going-to-the-Sun Road, Shive always stays at Granite Park Chalet ($), built a century ago seven miles into the backcountry and surrounded by panoramic mountain views.

National Parks: New Mexico

White Sands National Monument: If you’re lucky enough to get one of the 10 nightly backpacking permits here (given out daily; details at nps.gov), you can walk the moonlit gypsum dunes and camp on pure white sand. “It’s like falling asleep in a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.”

National Parks: California

Channel Islands National Park: “Don’t miss snorkeling in the kelp forest filled with garibaldi fish, spiny lobster, and hundreds of sea lions,” Shive says of the so-called Galápagos of North America. The eight-island archipelago is home to red foxes, bald eagles, and bottlenose dolphins.

Ian Shive’s Photography Tips

Change Your Point of View: “Compositions shot at eye level are the most challenging to create, since we all experience the world from there. Kneel or climb up on a boulder for a more interesting perspective.”

Shoot at Dawn: “Take pictures before and after the sun crests the horizon, when the light is low and rich.”

Revisit the Same Spots: “I often come back to key locations, watching the weather and the light. Good photographers need to be Zen masters, constantly aware of everything around them.”

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000

Photo by James Shive

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