Arches National Park along the 18-mile Scenic Drive. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top 3 National Parks For Landscape Photography

National parks provide some of the most iconic views and beautiful landscapes.

As a result, the parks are a tremendous resource for RVers―especially those who enjoy  photography.

But with so many parks it can be difficult to decide which ones to visit. In this article we’ll discuss three of the best national parks for landscape photography.

Hiking Crystal Forest Loop Trail at Petrified Forest National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking Crystal Forest Loop Trail at Petrified Forest National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Petrified Forest National Park

The colorful rock layers of northeastern Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park form an incredible visual display of eroded badlands, dating to the Triassic. Colored by iron and manganese, red, pink, orange, and purple hues paint the landscape, making it a true work of natural art for photographers to explore.

Petrified Forest is known for its treasure trove of fossilized logs, exposed after eons of erosion by wind and water. About 60 million years ago, tectonic action pushed the Colorado Plateau upwards, exposing the layers of rock containing the park’s Triassic fossils.

Photo Tip: Most visitors to Petrified Forest National Park drive through the park in just a few hours, stopping at some of the major overlooks, which afford spectacular views of the ancient landscape. For greater variety in your photos add more time to the park visit and explore some of the trails which meander through the vibrant badlands, particularly the easy Blue Mesa 1 mile looping trail which can be accessed by taking the 3.5 mile circular Blue Mesa road.

The two Windows arches, when viewed together, look like giant eyeglasses resting on a nose; they are also known as The Spectacles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The two Windows arches, when viewed together, look like giant eyeglasses resting on a nose; they are also known as The Spectacles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park

Arches National Park is a 76,679-acre landscape filled with colorful stone arches, balanced rocks, and pinnacles. With the planet’s highest density of natural arches, the park is a surreal wonderland of geologic features that continue to be shaped by the forces of nature. Located in the high desert of eastern Utah, temperatures in the park can change by as much as 40 to 50 degrees between night and day. While other national parks close at sunset, Arches National Park stays open 24 hours a day, making it one of the best parks for adventurous photographers to shoot long exposure photos of the night sky.

Photo Tip: Arches National Park is a photographer’s dream come true. Everywhere you turn is a photographic opportunity. The hiking is fun, but the reason to come to Arches is really for the photography. Make sure you understand and know which arches and places are good in the morning and which arches and places are best for the afternoon. Obtain this information from the visitors center and plan you day accordingly. For starters, the Landscape Arch and Double O Arch are best in early morning and Delicate Arch and Park Avenue Viewpoint are best in late afternoon and early evening

Related to the yucca bush, the Joshua tree was named by Mormon pioneers heading west. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Related to the yucca bush, the Joshua tree was named by Mormon pioneers heading west. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazingly diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases.

The Southern California park consists of two deserts: the Colorado in the eastern section, which offers low desert formations and plant life, such as creosote bushes, spidery ocotillo, and teddy bear cholla cactus; and the Mojave in the western part. This higher, cooler, wetter region is the natural habitat of the Joshua tree.

The fascinating geologic landscape of Joshua Tree has long fascinated visitors to this desert region. Exposed granite monoliths and rugged canyons testify to the tectonic and erosion forces that shaped this land. Washes, playas, alluvial fans, bajadas, desert varnish, igneous and metamorphic rocks interact to form a pattern of stark desert beauty.

Photo Tip: Joshua Tree National Park has no shortage of amazing scenery and fascinating rock formations to photograph. Of course, the signature plant of the park is the main attraction and the real star of many of the images you’ll be creating,

Their spiny leaves and trunks are interesting all by themselves but in addition each one has an unique overall shape. The trick is not just finding an interesting one or two to isolate as your subject but orienting them in your frame so that their shapes are visible against the background. Since much of the desert has the same muted earth tones, it is crucial to use lighting and shapes to create contrast in your image. Look for situations where they are either framed against the blue sky or against shaded rocks or some other highly contrasting background. Use late afternoon shadows to your advantage.

Please Note: This is part of an on-going series on America’s National Parks Centennial

Worth Pondering…

In my view you cannot claim to have seen something until you have photographed it.

—Emile Zola

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