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.



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.


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.


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

Fall Color Photography Lessons, 2019

Photograph Fall Color in Fabulous Southern Colorado

October 14-15.
Our Two Workshop in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado

Let us teach you how to photograph grand landscapes like this one between Durango and Silverton, Colorado. ©Kit Frost

Let us teach you how to photograph grand landscapes like this one between Durango and Silverton, Colorado. ©Kit Frost

Our Colorado Fall Color Photography Workshop takes place in the San Juan Mountains.  Round-trip from our accommodations at Cascade Village, we take you to our favorite grand and intimate scenic locations throughout Southern Colorado, stopping along the way to teach lessons such as:

  • Composition for the Grand Colorado Landscapes
  • Photographing Aspens in the Forest
  • Patterns and Textures of Aspen
  • Working with Depth of Field and Shutter Speed.
  • We make sure you’re familiar and comfortable with YOUR camera.
Photographing in and around aspen forests is a fun, learning experience on our Fall Color Workshop. ©Kit Frost

Photographing in and around aspen forests is a fun, learning experience on our Fall Color Workshop. ©Kit Frost

Day One finds us exploring the landscapes, light and aspens between Durango and Silverton, we explore locations for lessons at the Pigeon, Turret view, along Lime Creek Road, Molas Pass.

Skills learned:

  1. How to properly use YOUR camera to combine f-stop, shutter and ISO to make your images sing.  Discussion of what makes a good photo into a great photo.
  2. Aperture control for depth of field
  3. Shutter control for those “quaking” aspen.
  4. Choosing back-lighting, front, and side lighting to improve your photography

Day Two After an early check out of our accommodations, we continue chasing the fall color and mountain compositions that “call our names”.  We teach you to improve your photography skills.  Digital video instruction (optional) will be demonstrated as we make our way through the mountains, creating short video clips of your adventure, the forests, time lapse of the grand and intimate scenes.

We travel up and along the scenic highway from Silverton to Red Mountain Pass, Owl Creek Road to Silver Jack Reservoir.  The Cimmaron Mountains are our backdrop as we explore “near-far” relationships in the autumn landscape.  At sunset we will photograph the Sneffels Range from Dallas Divide, a must see fall scene in Colorado. Learn what composition skills are needed to isolate beauty in the “big” scene. This workshop ends at 5pm on Day two.

Skills learned:

  1. Using leading lines in your photos.
  2. Create near-far compositions and learn to select the proper f-stop
  3. Working with exposure compensation (+-)
It's always surprising to see the mix of color in our golden aspen forests. Let the landscape show off to you and photograph this awesome display. ©Kit Frost

It’s always surprising to see the mix of color in our golden aspen forests. Let the landscape show off to you and photograph this awesome display. ©Kit Frost

The Amazing Autumn Color  of Red Mountain Pass

The Amazing Autumn Color of Red Mountain Pass

Tuition and Accommodations

Accommodations in Durango are at Cascade Village where we share a 3 bedroom Condo.  Once registered for our Fall Color Photo Workshop, we’ll pass along more information about suggested gear, clothing. Click here for Kit’s suggestions for adventure gear.

Tuition, includes expert photography instruction, accommodations, light beverages and lunch at our photo locations. $1200. for two days

A light dinner will be served on our first night, and breakfast and lunch on day two.

For more information about fall color in Colorado.

And Why Leaves Change Color

And while in Durango.

Join us for our Adobe Lightroom class after your workshop,

Learn to upload, edit and sequence, title and add music to YouTube and Facebook videos.

Crater Lake National Park Artist in Residence

Map of Crater Lake National Park

Map of Crater Lake National Park

The Application Process

I spent the last two years applying to the National Parks Artist in Residence Programs.  The application processes are thorough and the competition is intense. Most of the residencies last two to six weeks, and are designed to give established artists an opportunity to concentrate on a portfolio of images with little interruptions and a break from daily life, and to “give back” to the Parks through a public event each week.

google image of Oregon's Crater Lake.  Image courtesy of

Google image of Oregon’s Crater Lake. Image courtesy of

The selection as an Artist In Residence at Crater Lake National Park is one of the big thrills of my life. I have photographed along the Umpqua and Rogue Rivers in Oregon, exploring waterfalls and lush forests, but to be given a solid two weeks to work in and around the Park is a real treat.  I will also escort visitors on a walk to demonstrate seeing and recording water, flows and movement. And will present a slide show of my inspiration and techniques.

It’s important to get thick-skinned with when applying for exhibitions and residencies and as an artist, over the years, I certainly have learned not to take a “rejection” personally. There is a lot involved in a jury choosing one artist over another, and since many of us applying are established artists, it’s important to be a good fit, whether at a gallery or residency.

Travel to Oregon

The Crater Lake residency is coming up fast. The application was submitted in February, and I heard from the Education Coordinator in March. I’m scheduled to leave Durango on about April 19, drive west to Lake Powell and the Paria Canyons, and spend a few days in Zion National Park too. I scheduled the Zion Trip before I was offered the Crater Lake Residency so although it is along my route to Oregon, if I feel a “push” I may skip it. I love the drive up Hwy. 395 in California, so I will set up my route to follow the Eastern Sierras and take about 5 days to get from Zion to Oregon. I’m due at Crater Lake on May 1st and will be there for two weeks of a residency followed by a week of play, art, play, photography, play.  I hope to “pick the brains” of the Rangers to get the scoop on their favorite hikes and viewpoints.

It’s the journey, not the destination

In planning for a road trip, one of the first things I do is look at a map and explore some possible routes and see how much mileage I want to drive each day when towing my Saturn travel trailer, versus driving my jeep.  I usually only want to tow about 250 miles a day and so I set up a compass on a map to see how far I can comfortably drive.  It looks like a doable pace for this trip is to take about five days to get to Oregon from Zion.

This journey will take me through some of the most beautiful places in the West from Durango to Lake Powell from Lake Powell to Zion perhaps an overnight at Valley of fire State Park then drive the Eastern Sierras.  I follow Wheeling It blog and Nina and Paul love the Alabama hills and I’d like to spend the night or two there.  This trip is a mix of going with the flow a bit as well as a destination drive.

Screenshot 2015-04-02 09.03.46

I really have a blast when planning my adventures and road trips. I can choose to tow my Sunline travel trailer up to Oregon and I may choose to leave it there. That option gives me a reason to go back to Oregon in the fall to go get it. (Do I really need a reason!)

The thing is that when I leave Crater Lake National Park I have about 15 days to drive East because my next Artist Residency is in Acadia national Park in Maine in June. I don’t treasure towing on the freeways across the country, as I tend to “white knuckle” passing 18 wheelers. I am leaning towards safely storing my trailer.

Ask for help

At this time I’m recruiting some friends to meet me along the way and caravan for a few days or travel for a few days taking turns driving. I had hip replacement surgery on March 25 and gave myself a month to recover, and I’m devoted to the PT involved in being flexible and being able to drive.  But 4,000 miles across the country from Crater Lake to Acadia is a long drive. I think I can do it in about 15 days. I need to be in Acadia by June 5 and, frankly, the road trip from Oregon to someplace beautiful Idaho to an overnight at the Grand Tetons and then on to someplace beautiful South Dakota is pretty enticing to me.

I set up a rough map on Google with ideas for exploration and a bit of pedal to the metal driving too. In some ways I’m tempted to take my camper all the way across the country but I’m really thinking that it’s best for me to just load up my sweet ride (Jeep Grand Cherokee) and go ahead and make some time. My comfortable towing speed is about 58 mph and I can do 75mph in my jeep.

Screenshot 2015-03-30 04.23.10

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite spots to spend the night, especially eastward from Wyoming.

What Inspires Me

I have been planning, dreaming and scheming about this time in my life for many years. In July, I retired from a sweet job working as a graphic artist for a corporation, and I’m a retired teacher.  When I moved out West from New Jersey in 1995, I built a terrific, fun, business, teaching photography and darkroom skills; private and group lessons.  My career spanned the last twenty years and continues to fulfill me.  I take folks on photo adventures all around the Southwest and teach them how to properly use their digital cameras and develop their vision.

I am driven, and at this point I am teaching a few hours a week, privately, and teaching Photo Workshops about 5 times a year (this fall I am leading a group of Road Scholars around the Southwest).  I am learning to paint with oils and love to set up my pochade in the field and have fun.  I find that my life, although very balanced, is sometimes so full that I treasure the Artist Residencies in order to devote long periods of time in beautiful places to make art.  It’s amazing to me that the National Parks’ Service understands the need for art in the Parks and gives artists the gift of time and access.

Next applications: Joshua Tree National Park, Zion National Park, Denali

Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park

Crater Lake National Park

General Information about Artist Residencies in our National Parks

Wheeling It, Great travel RV blog

Inspired by Artists in Zion National Park

In early November of each year, Zion National Park hosts a plein air festival.  This year, 24 invited painters, using watercolor, pastels, acrylics and oils set up their pochade boxes and french easels.  What a treat to see these artists working en plein air to capture the intimate and the grand of Zion.  Here’s a link to the Zion Natural History Association with many examples of artists at work.

This year I scheduled my Chase the Light Photography Workshop in Zion the week before the plein air festival.  This allowed me to hang out, camp, make art and attend the many free demonstrations by the Invitational artists. And I painted a bit too.

I have a list of favorite, inspiring painters.  Here are a few.

Suze Woolf has been drawing all her life. After an undergraduate degree at McGill University, she pursued fifth-year studies in art at the University of Washington.

An early adopter of computer graphics, her professional career included graphic design of printed materials and interface designs for commercial and prototype software.

In the last few years she has devoted herself to the watercolor medium. From traditional landscape sketches –she calls them her love letters to the planet — to large scale industrial subjects and the numbering systems on utility poles; she loves to bring attention to what people don’t usually notice.

She finds intense visual experience to capture everywhere she looks. Much of her subject matter shares a theme of human impact on the environment.

Suze says, “I’ve met my goal when I’ve transported the viewer into the world of the painting but that viewer remains aware my hand wielded the brush. The painting walks a line between invoking reality and a collection of brush strokes.”

More of her work can be seen at

©Suze Woolf

©Suze Woolf

I really enjoy learning about art and artists, their inspiration and thoughts in the field and in the studio.  Here’s a blog entry by Suze Woolf, who was the 2013 Artist in Residence at North Cascades National Park (Stehekin). In the linked blog post she discusses and shows the reference photo and the painting.  It’s often about personal interpretation of the scene.  Not literal. Check it OUT.  And here is a link to Suze’s slide presentation while the Artist in Residence at Zion National Park in September of 2012.

Links to the Artists who participated in the Zion Invitational Plein Air Festival.

Roland Lee

Cody DeLong, also participated in the September 2014 Grand Canyon Plein Air Festival. 

Rachel Pettit, she did an inspiring demonstration of painting on-site in Zion.

Colors of Big Bend 18x24. Winner of a Purchase Award from Zion Lodge.

Colors of Big Bend 18×24. Winner of a Purchase Award from Zion Lodge.

Below the Narrows (Zion) 18x24. Cody DeLong

Below the Narrows (Zion) 18×24. Cody DeLong

Rachel Pettit is a favorite of mine.  She set up her canvas and demonstrated painting at the plein air festival in Zion National Park.

Rachel Pettit is a favorite of mine. She set up her canvas and demonstrated painting at the plein air festival in Zion National Park.

Rachel Pettit paints at Zion, November 2014.

Rachel Pettit paints at Zion, November 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 7.02.53 PM

I made the cover of RV West Magazine

Wow, how thrilling to receive the link for the Fall 2014 Edition of RV West Magazine and see they chose my life and art/photography workshops as the cover story.

Wow, that's my sweet ride on the cover of RV West Magazine.  Chasing Light and Adventure.  Click on photo to read the magazine online.

Wow, that’s my sweet ride on the cover of RV West Magazine. Chasing Light and Adventure. Click on photo to read the magazine online.

Last year RV West Magazine did a story about Chase the Light Adventures as part of their online issue, now the print edition features a story about my search for “unpeopled” landscape.  Thanks Jessica for a great article, I’m honored.

RV West Magazine link to article about Kit Frost.


Learn to Edit your RAW files

Capture the best information

When I capture an image, at the location, I pre-visualize the post production.  I learned when studying Ansel Adams, the Weston Family and John Sexton.  In the camera, we capture the detail needed to create an interpretation of it later.  In the past, using film, I used the mantra “expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights”.

Digital cameras do a great job of recording a broader range of tones than black and white and color film, but it’s still important to remember that if you are lacking detail in the file, although not impossible, it’s harder to “get it” later.

My thinking process in the field runs something like this:

On location, in the camera

  1. Seduced by the light, I choose the proper lens for the composition.
  2. Many times my hot spot on the lens is somewhere around f16-22.  I like deep depth of field when the subject calls for it.
  3. Evaluate the highlights and see how much underexposure they will need. Clouds in particular need quite a bit of underexposure to hold detail.
  4. Let the shadows fall where they will.  Oftentimes the LCD view of the images will show and image that looks too dark and lacks shadow detail, but this is where digital captures really shine.

Upload and Process the RAW files.

In the LIGHTROOM, I still use the important technique of proper edit, exposure, development.  Mike Yamashita, a National Geo Photographer once told me that if I get any more than 4 good images on a roll of 36 exposures, my standards are too low.

Using Adobe Lightroom:

  • Import from SD or CF Card, add keywords, copyright, organize.
  • Run through the first edit for out of focus, overexposures, boring images. (x-mark for rejection). Be honest but not brutal.
  • Create Collections of my favorites from that photo adventure.
  • Begin using the Develop Mode.
  • In Develop Mode I open the panel (Command/Control D)and usually begin with exposure, white balance and contrast adjustments, saturation and clarity are also important.
  • These days I like the fine tuning available to me in the HSL Panel.  Sometimes when warming up and image the sky turns a bit aqua so HUE is the adjustment. Specific saturation is then applied to hues in the image, and I really like the ability to adjust LUMINANCE at will on individual colors.
  • Compare these adjustments to those we used to employ in the DARKROOM, like dodging, burning, edge burning, contrast filters, etc.
Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 12.11.38 PM

Before edits, RAW. 1/8 second at f22, -1/3 EV

Canyon hiking, Zion National Park

After editing in Adobe Lightroom. I underexposed the image in the camera to hold detail in the highlighted sandy floor of the canyon. ©Kit Frost

As you can see from this example, the RAW file looks bad, boring, and dark in the shadows while overblown in the highlights.  But since I underexposed by 1/3 EV, the highlights maintained detail as I had planned.  I knew it “felt” like a warm subject, so I interpreted it with a bit of saturation, clarity, highlight recovery and added a vignette. I often use a vignette to create a subtle or not so subtle darkness at the top of the photo.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 12.12.24 PM

Before Lightroom, 1/8 sec at f22, ISO 100, 1/3 Exposure Bias

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 12.12.14 PM

After Lightroom adjustments, warmed up the sky, Contrast, Opened up the shadows at the bottom, added a vignette.

In the case of stormy weather, the white balance tilts closer to cool.  And I tend to respond to warm tones better so I often adjust the white balance and tint accordingly.  Interpreting landscape to “feel” like it did to me at the capture is my constant challenge, and when I achieve it, my great joy.

Camera Settings:

  • Most of my photos are either under or overexposed to hold shadow or highlight detail. I use Aperture priority mode and the exposure bias button.
  • I use AUTO White Balance and if I need more warming or cooling, I use Lightroom’s develop mode.
  • In the camera menu I set the picture control to VIVID, this gives me a tad more saturation and contrast in my jpegs (choose high quality jpeg if you don’t care for post-production)
  • I prefer ISO 100 for large prints, but will sometimes photograph using higher ISO when I’m not pre-visualizing a print.
  • I photograph using RAW and normal jpeg
  • I edit the RAW capture using Adobe Lightroom