2019, Fall Color Photography Lessons

Capitol Reef National Park, October 2019

Join us for two days of photographing the Splendor of Wingate Sandstone and Fall Color in Capitol Reef, and Boulder Mountain Aspens in Utah.

We will create amazing photographs as we “loop the fold” following the Waterpocket Fold, from the Fruita District, to Boulder Mountain to the Burr Trail and beyond.  Bring your favorite camera gear, camp, or we can suggest accommodations in nearby Torrey, Utah.

Kit Frost will teach you her favorite photography and post-production techniques to capture the Gold.  Kit spent 14 weeks at Capitol Reef and knows the Park very well.  There are slot canyons, huge Navajo and Wingate Sandstone Walls, Orchards and the Park is an International Dark Sky location.

Contact Kit Frost for more information and to confirm 2019 dates for the best locations for golden color in Capitol Reef.

Artists in Our National Parks

As an Artist in Residence at Capitol Reef National Park,  I organized a talk about the History of Artists and Art in our National Parks.  When chosen as a residence, one of the “give backs” is to lead a hike, give a presentation, or any number of ways to contribute to the Park.  I presented to a group of visitors some techniques for using their smart phone more successfully.  And, I made a presentation at the Fruita Campground Amphitheater in Capitol Reef, and a public presentation at Mesa Verde National Park.

Artists have contributed to the formation of our parks from the early days of the Hayden Survey in 1871, all the way up till the present day, where the Artist in Residence programs thrive in our Parks.  Thomas Moran, William Henry Jackson, Frederick Dellenbaugh, painted and photographed in the West, as did many others. Today, contemporary photographers and artists contribute to our understanding of our precious National Parks and create images that speak to the preservation and expansion of our Parks.

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Click this link for a full copy of the presentation of Art in Our National Parks.

Contemporary Art in our National Parks

Visit any National Park Service site and you’re bound to see photographers, artists, film makers, musicians, sculptors, writers, inspired and working on-site.   And many visitors use their smart phones for selfies, and bring home memories in our Parks, our Public Lands, and recreation areas.

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Many of our Parks sponsor Plein Air Invitationals and host Artists in the Parks. Capitol Reef joined the list of about 50 National Parks that offer time and support for an Artist in Residence in 2017.  I was honored to be chosen as their first AIR.

Links to contemporary art being created in our Parks

Long-time Alaskan Kim Heacox spent a part of 2012 as one of Denali’s three writers-in-residence, and donated this essay after his experience.

A 2010 residency at Devil’s Tower allowed Chavawn Kelley to experiment with photography, and later inspired her written works here

Kathy Hodge, Artist in Residence.

Here’s a link to my portfolio of Artist Residencies in our Parks.

 

Hillman and Lookout Peaks, with Wizard Island.

My first look at Crater Lake. Artist in Residence, 2015

Annie Spring-Snowmelt

Annie Spring, Crater Lake National Park. ©Kit Frost

Clouds moving over Capitol Reef National Park

Autumn Gold, Capitol Reef National Park. Between 2016 and 2017 I spent about 14 weeks at Capitol Reef. In 2016 I volunteered as an Information Ranger. And in 2017 I was honored to be chosen as the first Artist in Residence in the Park. This image was made during the golden days of autumn in Cap Reef.

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Long House, Mesa Verde National Park. ©Kit Frost, 2017 Artist in Residence

National Park Photography

The Challenges of Photographing in National Parks

Capturing the grandness of the canyon from Grandview Point. ©Kit Frost

Capturing the grandness of the canyon from Grandview Point. ©Kit Frost

These images were all taken in our National Parks.  As a frequent visitor to our Parks, I see an increase in visitation, especially this past year.  If you went to a National Park during the summer months of May, June, July and August, you could expect crowds.  But this year I retired, so I could travel whenever I pleased.  I choose May for Crater Lake, June for Acadia, September for the Grand Canyon, October for Capitol Reef, and November for Zion.

I don’t know whether it’s because the #FindYourPark campaign is driving more folks to our parks, or the economy is truly in recovery (Average entrance fee: $30.) but I do know this: unless you get away  from the rim, away from the favorite hiking trails, or find an off the beaten path location in the parks, there are crowds, big crowds. Add to that the tripod I carry and before you know it, I’ve got a crowd setting up their selfie sticks and cameras nearby (sometimes kicking my tripod). In Zion this year, it’s estimated that there were over 1 million more visitors in 2015 than 2014.

2014 Visitors
Great Smoky Mountains     10,099,276

Grand Canyon                          4,756,771
Yosemite                                    3,882,642
Yellowstone                              3,513,484

Zion National Park                 3,189,696

I’m not suggesting that we lock the park door behind us, but I am saying that as someone who enjoys our National Parks, a good hike, some photography, and backpacking and camping in our Parks I’m concerned.

I made this "sketch" with my iPhone.

I made this “sketch” with my iPhone.

Crater Lake is a stunner in the winter. As the resident artist in May, I had the opportunity to explore the park during all kinds of weather. Very few crowds along the rim trail. The Lodge was closed for the season, so there were no accommodations.

What I do to mitigate the crowds

Number One, I remember that the parks are for all of us.  In order to have my experience and to honor others, I find the quieter, less crowded times of the day to explore.; that means I can enjoy pre-dawn photography, and get to an off beat location for sunrise.  Oftentimes the shuttle driver is the person suggesting where to photograph sunrise and sunset (I scout my preferred location away from those suggestions). The other joy: I stay at camp later and explore the park later in the day, when the tour buses are less likely to be dumping visitors at the most popular trails.  Here are some ideas:

  • Explore the parks during “off season”.
  • Get out and stay out, exploring the park while others are having breakfast/dinner
  • Scout locations before setting up for new images
  • Steep hikes and long trails (get going early, stay late)
  • Tripod: bring it along, but avoid setting it up in an exposed area.  It’s like a magnet
  • Go off the beaten path (Angels Landing, Emerald Pools, Bright Angel Trail are filled with hikers)
  • Take advantage of storms (great photo ops, rarely crowded locations). But be safe.
  • I like to go find a tree to sit under, have a snack, and get away from the trail and the noise.  It’s never wise to go too far off-trail, but as long as I feel safe and know my way back, I’m golden.

Soundscapes

The Parks Service is introducing a series of programs aimed at showing visitors the importance of listening. I prefer long, quiet hikes and  look forward to the “soundscapes” focus in the next few years. 

Sound Level

Sound levels in national parks can vary greatly, ranging from among the quietest ever monitored, to extremely loud. While, for example, the din of a typical suburban area fluctuates between 50 and 60 dBA, the crater of Haleakala National Park is intensely quiet, with levels hovering around 10 dBA. Along some remote trails in Grand Canyon National Park, sound levels, at 20 dBA, are softer than a whisper ( Bell, Mace, & Benfield, 2009). The noise levels standing near a snowcoach in Yellowstone National Park, however, can be compared to standing three feet from a churning garbage disposal (California Department of Transportation, 1982).

Our world is getting noisier. With dramatic increases in traffic, the explosion of digital gadgets (think of your buddy’s constantly chirping Smartphone) and our increasing capacity to reach once-remote areas, quiet solitude is a diminishing commodity. Not surprisingly then, the American public comes to parks with natural quiet in mind. They come for the soothing effect of a gurgling stream, a delicate bird song, or the rustle of leaves on a fall day. From the awe-inspiring thunder of a waterfall to the gentle rustle of leaves in the breeze, natural sounds have a subtle but profound impact on visitors. In fact, 72% of Americans say one of the most important reasons for preserving national parks is to provide opportunities to experience natural peace and the sounds of nature (Haas & Wakefield, 1998).

However, natural quiet in parks is increasingly at risk. To study the effects of human-caused noise on visitors, volunteers at Muir Woods National Monument cataloged all sounds they heard, day and night, for a year. What they found was surprising. It was rarely quiet (Monroe, Newman, Pilcher, Manning, & Stack, 2007). Parks are experiencing an on-going acoustic assault by everything from air tours to maintenance equipment. Such noise affects visitors’ perceptions of solitude and tranquility. In a related study at Muir Woods, visitors found increasing levels of human-caused sounds to be unacceptable and even annoying (Monroe et al., 2007). Noisy visitors, loud talking, and other related sounds were found to substantially detract from the quality of the visitor experience. In other studies, noise has been shown to be more disturbing to visitors if it is loud, occurs in bursts, is unpredictable, or if it interferes with quiet activities such as bird watching.

Isolated areas are not exempt. In Grand Canyon, no single location is totally free of aircraft noise, and in some areas it can be heard up to 43 times in a 20-minute period. Backcountry hikers, after September 11, 2001, reported knowing that something was very wrong because there were no sounds from commercial aircraft (Bell, Mace, & Benfield, 2009). Tranquility, it turns out, even in the most remote areas of our national parks, is at stake.

Natural and cultural sounds awaken the sense of awe that connects us to the splendor of national parks and have a powerful effect on our emotions, attitudes, and memories. The National Park Service regards these sounds as part of a web of natural and cultural resources that must be protected.

You can make a difference.

Click this link to the National Parks, Natural Sounds site.

  • Speak softly when having conversations, especially on hiking trails and at campsites.
  • Be aware that the noise you make could affect other visitors, and encourage friends and family to do the same.
  • Be considerate of campground quiet hours.
  • Look for mute options on electronic equipment such as cell phones, watches, or cameras.
  • Turn off cell phones / avoid using speakerphones.
  • Consider leaving iPods and or personal radios in the car or at home.
  • Avoid using external speakers that others can hear.
  • Participate in non-motorized recreational activites (i.e., hiking, birdwatching, snowshoeing, canoeing)

The great thing about soundscapes is that with just one small change, you can make a dramatic difference. Imagine just talking a little quieter the next time you visit a national park. That alone can help to greatly improve a soundscape.

The rim of the grand is a great location to work with warm/cool light. ©Kit Frost

Along the Rim Trail of the Grand Canyon is the most crowded of all the places I visited.

I anticipate that we will see some changes in the parks over the next few years.  The parking lots are packed, sometimes with no place to park by 11am, and with or without the shuttle bus, the lines are long.  At the Grand Canyon, privately owned buses are allowed to “dump” groups of tourists at each of the overlooks, so for about 1/2 hour the noise level is high and the locations crowded.

I would not want to return to the days of cars in the parks, because the lack of parking and the unsafe conditions are really awful.  I think the shuttle service in the Grand Canyon and Zion, Yosemite, are a MUST do.  Not only does the driver tell stories, but the convenience is amazing; lines and all.  I’ve never waited longer than 10 minutes for a shuttle ride, and after a sweet, long hike, it’s kinda nice to sit and let the driver take me to my next location.

How wonderful to be at the Court of the Patriarchs during a somewhat clearing storm. ©Kit Frost

How wonderful to be at the Court of the Patriarchs during a somewhat clearing storm.  ©Kit Frost

What’s your experience?  When did you visit one of our National Parks? Did you experience crowds?  Did you love it anyway?

Crater Lake: Photographing the Moods of a Landscape

Photographing the Moods of a Landscape

While here at Crater Lake National Park I’ve been blessed with a wide range of light, clouds, weather and the luxury of photographing whenever the spirit moves me (and the muse strikes). Last week, the first week of my residency, the sky was what I normally call “boring blue sky”. But my experience here is that the lake is stunning when the sky is blue, with lots of deep, clear water and the sky reflected. It was great to open my eyes to the idea of photographing a big blue lake with a big blue sky.

There's nothing quite like seeing the sky reflected in Crater Lake.

There’s nothing quite like seeing the sky reflected in Crater Lake.

I made this

I made this “sketch” with my iPhone.

As the days flew by, the weather became more interesting for me.  Artistically I am inspired by clouds and cloud shadows, cast shadows on the snow, incoming and clearing storms, and the mountain hemlock, and whitebark pine.

I enjoy incoming and clearing storms. I photographed a series of images and created a time lapse sequence too.

I enjoy incoming and clearing storms. I photographed a series of images and created a time lapse sequence too.

Each visit to the rim, I was able to capture the changing color of the lake, and the clouds pouring white over the surrounding cliffs.

Each visit to the rim of Crater Lake inspired me, as the lake and landscape was ever changing.

The cliffs surrounding Crater Lake inspired me, as the lake and landscape was ever changing.

Hillman and Lookout Peaks, with Wizard Island.

Hillman and Lookout Peaks, with Wizard Island. I was hoping to know the land forms, trees and rocks by name during this residency.

I knew there was a possibility the sun would light up below the snow and fog.

I knew there was a possibility the sun would light up below the snow and fog.

I photographed while protecting my camera lens under my umbrella during this dusting of snow.

I photographed while protecting my camera lens under my umbrella during this dusting of snow.

And throughout the two week residency, I have been created time lapse sequences of each of the compositions that inspire me.  I set up my tripod, compose, and use the intervalometer of my Nikon gear.

Honored to be chosen as one of the May 2015 Artist’s in Residence, I have been given the opportunity, time and access to photograph at Crater Lake National Park. This video is a collection of time lapse photographs put together to show the Changing Moods of Crater Lake.

In most cases, the images were created at 5 second intervals, sometimes up to 300 photos at a time.

Photographing Fall Colors in Capitol Reef National Park

I spent the last few days at Capitol Reef National Park.  I planned this adventure after investigating online, guessing that the fall colors would be in bloom along the Fremont River and in the canyons near Capitol Reef.  I wasn’t disappointed.  When I make a decision to go out for photo “shoot”, I tend to pour over images taken by other photographers to see if I can guess at the best time of year, and the best week of the year.  Late October was my guess.

This past weekend in Capitol Reef was spectacular.  My favorite locations included near the Visitor Center, along the Fremont River, and in the orchards.  Apples are free for the eating in the orchard.

What to do in Capitol Reef

  • Get out and STAY OUT
  • Get up early, go for a hike (Spring Creek)
  • Take the drive to the Grand Wash and Capitol Wash.
  • Spend time in the Visitors Center, watch the film during the harsh light of noon.
  • Since the walls of the canyons are close together, I prefer the south-facing color late day
  • Wait for clouds
  • Best time of day: IMHO: 3:30-5:30
I love playing with compositions to see what I can do to make my images look painterly.  This cottonwood was HUGE. ©Kit Frost

I love playing with compositions to see what I can do to make my images look painterly. In this example I “stacked” the orange orchard against the large golden cottonwood, against the background red rock wall.  This cottonwood was HUGE. ©Kit Frost

October light in the Canyons ©Kit Frost

October light in the Canyons ©Kit Frost

Near the campground at Capitol Reef National Park, the late afternoon light painted shadows in the orchard. ©Kit Frost

Near the campground at Capitol Reef National Park, the late afternoon light painted shadows in the orchard. ©Kit Frost

Self Portrait: Capitol Reef Orchard. ©Kit Frost

Self Portrait: Capitol Reef Orchard. ©Kit Frost

The fall colors in and around the Fruita area are in full bloom right now ©Kit Frost

The fall colors in and around the Fruita area are in full bloom right now ©Kit Frost