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

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Use your smart phone for video

Why Video?

Over the years I have used 35mm, medium and large format film and digital gear to express my vision. Upon returning from an adventure, I spent days in the darkroom, developing and printing in color and black and while. And as the digital revolution began I scanned negatives, large format transparencies and slides. I now work with digital files in the lightroom, my studio.

My goal is to create images that speak to the moments I experience.  I like the slow process of becoming familiar with the subject, letting it speak to me, and then capturing the photograph, or a series of photographs.

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Expressing my vision with video

On locations, I often find that I want to capture a sense of place beyond the single still image.  Today’s smart phones and digital cameras include the function to record video clips. I use my smart phone (iPhone 5s) and my Nikon gear (D5300, D5200 and varied Nikon lenses) to record short video clips when the muse speaks to me. I record a series of 30-45 second clips. Essential gear is a tripod to hold the camera steady, but a monopod will do too.  And there are really small tripods available for smart phones and they work quite well when set up on a rock or boulder.

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I usually collect about 10-20 video clips at the scene, and audio, I edit the clips and decide during post-production whether to keep the sound for the final video presentation.

In National Parks, it’s rare to have a location to yourself, so I often explore out of the way places to make my video recordings.  The audio can be edited if folks nearby are chatting.

I upload all my photos to Lightroom, rate and reject, then develop the RAW files.  I aim to reproduce the light, color and essence of the moments I photographed the scene.  In Lightroom, it’s possible to develop a single captured image and apply those changes across the entire group of photos.  This saves tons of time in front of the computer (because I’d rather be in front of the creek!)

Video clips can also be developed for better saturation and contrast than the original.  Lightroom has the tools for that.

What do you like to use your iPhone video capabilities for?  Family gatherings? Vacation? The Auntie Show?

Do you serve popcorn at your laptop presentations?

Links to Video Samples

Capitol Reef Video Sequence: Fremont River Song

Crater Lake National Park: As the Water Speaks (created during my recent Artist Residency in the Park)

And in Zion National Park, a series of still images combined with video clips for my YouTube channel. 

Artist in Residence at our National Park

How to Apply for Artist Residencies in our National Parks

Late January and early February were quite busy.  I applied for eight Artist Residencies in our National Parks.  Each application was challenging to write, demanding of my time and a huge commitment, requiring a thorough examination of my portfolio for the “right” kind of images to send.  Most of the applications require a 1-2 page statement of intent, a small sampling of  4-8 images, letters of recommendations, and curriculum vitae.  And all applications include a proposal for the project I plan to complete during the residency. Most residencies offer an opportunity to devote 2-4 weeks’ time in a cabin or other rustic accommodations.  All offer a considerable chunk of time to make art. All require a public presentation each week of the residency, few offer a stipend, except for nominal travel, many require comfort in wild places.

The biggest challenge in the application process was to select a small sampling of images that speak to each park’s specific need. Some, like Crater Lake in Oregon, asked for projects that focused on Climate Change; many parks have a set of specific goals that the committee would like addressed in the application.

I chose to apply to the following parks as I would LOVE to spent time in each of them, increase both my time lapse and still image portfolios and since I love teaching, I submitted plans for “walks in the parks” to share with visitors my vision, techniques and suggestions for digital photography.

Part of the research involved googling each park and reviewing the artists chosen for previous residencies. It’s best to google the parks you’d like to visit.

North Cascades ………Not Offered a residency in 2014-2015
Glacier National Park ………Not Offered a residency in 2014-2015
Great Basin National Park ………Not Offered a residency in 2014-2015
Isle Royale National Park ………Not Offered a residency in 2014-2015
Acadia National Park  ………Chosen for 2015, June
Crater Lake National Park ………Chosen for 2015, May
Petrified Forest  ………Not Offered a residency in 2014-2015
Sleeping Bear Dunes  ………Not Offered a residency in 2014-2015
Great Smoky Mountains  ………Not Offered a residency in 2014-2015
Zion National Park ………Not Offered a residency in 2014-2015, Application pending 2016
Joshua Tree National Park  ………Not Offered a residency in 2014-2015

Results, so far

As you can see, just like submitting art for exhibition, it helps to get thick skinned and to keep plugging away at the applications.

Crater Lake National Park, Chosen as one of the Artists in Residence, May 2015
Here’s a sampling of the images and video clips I made while in Residence.

Acadia National Park, Chose as one of the Artists in Residence, June 2015, wow, was that some cross-country travel.  Oregon to Maine.  Here’s the portfolio I posted of my time in Acadia.  And some time lapse instruction on my blog.

Inspiration

I decided to research the Photographers and Artists who have been chosen in the past or are currently in our National Parks as Artists in Residence.

Rick Braveheart, Native American Fine Art Photographer (blog with link to his website too) Rick is currently At Zion National Park, writing a weekly blog about his residency.

Many of the artists, painters, who participate in Plein Air competitions in our National Parks also have experience as Artists’ in Residence.

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art
Grand Staircase, Escalante Canyons Arts Festival
Zion Plein Air Arts Invitational

Other Links for Arts in Our Parks, please let me know if you have a special event you like to attend or a Park you’ve applied to as Artist in Residence.