When Nature is the Muse: Photography in National Parks

Katherine RivardNPF Blog
A wall of clouds lit orange and white by the setting sun at White Sands National Monument
White Sands National Monument – NPS

Like most iconic photography subjects, the parks are stunning, and they know it. Not only is the attention warranted, but they welcome you to revel in their glory, inviting you to take wonderfully composed pictures to immortalize your memories and share your park experiences with others.

Many national parks offer tips and classes to ensure that visitors can make the most of all they have to offer, be it landscapes, cityscapes, architecture, and more. Here are a few places that offer photography programs and lessons for all levels. Research a park of interest to see if they offer any guidance, or head out on your own, camera in hand, for more experiential learning!

Classes & Programs

North Cascades National Park

In North Cascades National Park, get blown away by the perfectly clear night skies, seemingly made for the sole purpose of being observed from Earth. Equally impressive is the knowledge of professional photographer Andy Porter. This class requires a DSLR camera and other tools, but after a discussion on the technical side of capturing the Milky Way, students assisted in creating their own mesmerizing images. For similar future programs, visit the North Cascades Institute.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park’s partner, the Joshua Tree National Park Association, offers field classes on photographing the park. They also actively use social media accounts, making it easier to take, tag, and share photos from a visit!

Lassen Volcanic National Park

View between red rocks from Brokeoff Mountain at Lassen National Park
National Park Service

Lassen Volcanic National Park hosts a Field Seminar Program with a variety of offerings, including a two-day photography workshop.  First, learn the basics in class, then head outdoors for a five-hour photo shoot.

Yosemite National Park

The Ansel Adams Gallery, located within Yosemite National Park, offers a number of photography education programs for every level — whether you’re an experienced nature photographer or more of a selfie expert. Another great option is art classes through the park’s partner, the Yosemite Conservancy. Here, children can participate in classes or adults can learn with the guidance of acclaimed artists and artisans.

Everglades National Park

Birds don’t often sit still for long — or at least that’s how it seems when you’re pulling out your camera to capture the moment! In Everglades National Park, you’ll need your camera ready as you explore the park and learn from artists-in-residence, like in this class that offers photographers of every level new insights into taking shots of nature.

Tips from the Parks

Sun-lit Mt. Helen behind an evergreen forest at Glacier National Park
Jacob W. Frank/NPS

Can’t make it to class? We’ve got a few helpful tips here or check out the park’s pages for advice from park professionals:

Olympic National Park

Rushing rivers, deep green forests, giant trees, or the crashing ocean. Photo opportunities are endless in Olympic National Park. Whether you have a disposable camera or a DSLR and a tripod, you’re sure to get some excellent shots. Before you go, check out these tips from the park.

Glacier National Park

With sweeping views and colorful wildflowers, every picture is bound to be gorgeous when taken in Glacier National Park. To one up your picture game, read through these helpful tips to best capture the lighting and setting.

Arches National Park

The colorful orange sun setting in the horizon of a snowy Arches Natoinal Park
Jacob W. Frank/NPS

Taking a trip to Arches National Park in Utah? Learn about how important light is in photography. Then make sure to have your camera ready at certain points of the day to capture the sun just so. This helpful guide to lighting will be a great resource!

Mesa Verde National Park

Though Mesa Verde National Park’s dry landscape and accosting cliff views are breathtaking in person, the correct lighting and angles are crucial in bringing these landscapes to life in a photograph. Here are some top tips to perfect pics of the cliff dwellings and landscapes in this Colorado park.

White Sands National Monument

Two girls taking a photograph of the rising full moon at White Sands National Park
National Park Service

The heat of White Sands National Monument provides an extra challenge for photographers hoping to capture the glory of these sandy dunes. This park’s tips remind you of the safety precautions necessary to ensure that you’re able to take any pictures at all!

The parks have long been influential in the art world — inspiring such phenomenal artists as Ansel Adams and lesser-known photographers like George Masa. To continue inspiring the next generation of park artists, we recently teamed up with Glacier National Park, bringing students from the area to visit the park for an overnight field trip and providing video equipment and computer software to create short movies about their trip. The students learned about the ecosystems and park management, while also creating the videos to share with family and other community members.

Our national parks belong to everyone, so take advantage of them, whether that means a picnic, a hike, or photography. Get outdoors and #FindYourPark, then share your pics to inspire others to do the same!

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