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How to have National Parks to Yourself

How to have National Parks to Yourself

It’s summer and all across America, people are heading to our National Parks. Marketing efforts to get people out to the parks, an increase in demand for experiences over things, and perhaps a desire for picturesque Instagram photos, among other factors, has driven record crowds at Parks across the country.

In fact, the past three years (2016-18) have been the busiest three on record, though 2018 was back down a little. My “home” park, Rocky Mountain National Park, is the third busiest in the system with visitation approaching 5 million.

(As a quick aside, I’m not complaining about the crowds. I’m glad people are out visiting our parks, because if people are having great experiences in our parks, then hopefully they’ll be supporters/defenders/stewards of them in the future.)

With so many people, how do you work around them, either for photography or just your own solitude?

Here are the top ways I commonly navigate (away from) the crowds:

1. Go early. While each park can be different, most visitors typically aren’t out at sunrise. During the peak season, I will still see some people, but seeing or passing a handful of visitors is a lot better than the dozens or more just a few hours later.

Sprague Lake at sunrise, nearly to myself
No Tripod? No Problem

No Tripod? No Problem

If you’re a landscape photographer, a tripod is probably one of the pieces of equipment you most consistently carry into the field. When a new landscape photographer is looking to expand their toolkit, a tripod, even an entry level model, is always at or near the top of the list. Effectively using a tripod can allow you to:

Dealing with crowds: 8 Tips

Dealing with crowds: 8 Tips

Photographing in large cities and popular tourist areas can cause frustrations – people wandering in front of you, too many people in a scene, the “action” not occurring when/where you would like, etc. In many ways, it’s like the urban equivalent of wildlife photography!

So how do you embrace such challenges? Read on for 8 strategies to overcome crowds.

Documenting trail work

Documenting trail work

This past summer I volunteered for Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), a statewide nonprofit that engages volunteers in stewardship projects across the state.  This includes restoration work, invasive weed control, trail maintenance, new trail construction, and more.

Previously, I had photographed other trail work trips I had been on (see previous post, American Hiking Society (AHS) Annual Report Cover), but this was the first time where I got to primarily photograph, rather than primarily work while occasionally grabbing the camera for a quick shot. It was a fun change of pace (not that hard labor isn’t fun too!) and a good excuse to photograph something besides landscapes.