To gaze at a gallery image by Ansel Adams, the acknowledged master of landscape photography, is to be inspired.
The average viewer cannot help but look and be awed by nature. For photographers the inspiration is to attempt to express their own vision of nature and the outdoors.
State parks are perfect photography destinations, offering easy and safe access to the region’s most alluring landscapes with trail systems that present nature in every season and every mood. The best outdoor photography starts with the best information. The North Carolina state parks website is where to get started with trail maps and insight into what a photographer will find in each park.
Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina; PHOTO: © 2017 Charlie Peek
Begin a visit to a park by exploring the visitor center with its detailed information about scenery, habitats, and wildlife species you’ll encounter. If the opportunity presents itself, talk to a park ranger. They see the park in all its phases, and many of them are photographers as well.
The impulse is to plan visits to faraway, exotic state parks perhaps in the mountains or at the coast, but don’t overlook parks close by that you can visit repeatedly. Most landscape photographers will tell you that’s how to get beyond the obvious cliché photos in favor of a stunning interpretation that’s all your own. Some of Adams’s most famous images were captured in Yosemite—a magnificent place to be sure—but it helped that Adams lived there for a time and knew it intimately.
Ansel Adams, Half Dome, Merced River, Winter, Yosemite National Park, California, circa
1938, gelatin-silver print, 14 3/4 x 19 1/4 in., Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, Calif.;
Image courtesy Collection Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, ©
2015 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust
Travel light; remember you’ll be hiking, and equipment quickly gets heavy on the trail. Experienced photographers often carry only a small camera, a couple of small prime lenses (wide-angle and medium telephoto are good), and maybe a tripod if shooting in low light or if slow shutter speeds are desired for water features. Too much equipment makes it too much like work. Initially if possible, keep your photo hikes shorter. It’s not mileage you’re after but deliberate study of the scenery.
Carvers Creek State Park, North Carolina; PHOTO: © 2017 Charlie Peek
Landscape photography is usually best early or late in the day, when light is usually more interesting, and happily that’s when crowds at scenic spots are smaller. Just allow time to get off the trails before dark and out of the park before the gates close. Be patient with other visitors who may photobomb your shot occasionally—you can often make new friends by offering to help with those selfies. Permits aren’t needed for photography in North Carolina state parks except in the case of commercial photography, where models, lights, and other equipment and special access may be involved.
One last, important bit of advice for landscape photography: take a few moments to put the camera down, relax, and take in the experience. It’s all about inspiration, right?
Winners of the North Carolina State Parks Black-and-White Photography Contest
Jordan Lake State Park, North Carolina; PHOTO: © 2017 Andrew Futrell
Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina; PHOTO: © 2017 Renee Hillman
Pilot Mountain State Park, North Carolina; PHOTO: © 2017 Dianne Griffin
See more entries at #NCMAansel and #NCSPansel.