Sometimes I have to marvel at how lucky I’ve been. Despite the fact that I am not worthy, I’ve been allowed to live a charmed life. I’ve been able to not only visit, but capture lifelong memories at each of the places I am about to share with you.
It’s my hope that everyone who reads this and who has the desire, is able to visit these places. Many of them are special to me. I’ve been lucky enough to visit several of them more than once. Each has in some way impacted my approach and vision when it comes to photography. Each has also left me feeling in awe of the country where I live.
In no particular order, here are 13 places I think every landscape photographer (and anyone else who appreciates natural beauty) should see before they die.
1. Zion National Park
The massive canyon walls at Utah’s first national park are hard to put from your memory. I’m lucky enough to live three hours from this park and have visited it often. Don’t be afraid to ride the park tram. It takes you to magical places.
2. Yosemite National Park
Ansel Adams made this California national park famous. Once you get your first view of the Yosemite valley, you never forget it. It’s hauntingly beautiful. It looks like post cards were invented as a response to this place.
3. Teton National Park
In Wyoming, there is a place where the deer and the antelope really do roam. And they do it next to majestic mountains and rivers that are beautiful, inspiring and breath-taking.
4. Lower Antelope Corkscrew Slot Canyon
What if I told you that in Arizona you could find the place where the Anastasi Indians went to church? It’s true. Near Page, Arizona is one of the most unusual, alien-looking geological formations on this planet. The “slot canyons” are on Navajo land. The “upper” slot is popular with tourists. The “lower” slot is popular with photographers. It’s one of the most mystical places I’ve ever been.
5. Mt. Rainier National Park
In western Washington state, there is a land of mountains, rivers, streams and waterfalls. Mt. Rainier National Park is as green as can be and the snow piles high. Wildflowers adorn the valleys in the summer. Trails provide access to vistas that are simply life-changing. I’ve visited this park dozens of times and never grow tired of it.
6. The Palouse
Across the state of Washington on the dry east side, there is a place called loosely “The Palouse.” It’s not a national park. It’s a general area full of farms and plains that create a patchwork of visual amazingness that must be seen to be believed.
7. Olympic National Park
Also in Washington state, Olympic National Park offers views of the wet side of the state. From the coast to the mountains, the park spans hundreds of square miles of rain forests, snow-capped mountain ranges and beautiful lakes. It’s another place I’ve visited time and again and I always enjoy it.
8. Monument Valley
If you take my advice and visit the slots, you’ll also want to visit Monument Valley. Pay one of the Navajo guides to take you onto Indian land where the best vistas and icons are easily photographed.
If you like “Lost” or any television series like it, you’ll find plenty of similar landscape to photograph on Maui.* I highly recommend a doors-off helicopter ride around the island. It provides views you can’t get anywhere else on this planet. (Yes I know Lost is not filmed on Maui per se but wanted to use that as an example.)
10. Kenai Mountain Range
If you go to Homer, Alaska, across the straight sits the Kenai Mountain Range. It’s home to Kenai Fjords National Park and countless opportunities to photograph amazing landscapes and abundant wildlife.
11. Green Mountains, Vermont
If you want to photograph fall colors, head to Rutland, Vermont and drive Highway 7 between Rutland and Danby. The roads through the Green Mountains will always lead you to beauty. Be sure to explore all the dirt roads, back roads and paths. This place is full of U.S. history not to mention lovely trees full of orange, yellow and even red leaves. The local streams run through some of the most picturesque parts of the northeastern USA.
12. Sedona, Arizona
South of Flagstaff, Arizona is a special place full of lovely red rock formations and culture. This high desert has mild weather year-round, and is photographically spectacular all four seasons. It’s located at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon, where none other than the famous western Louis L’amour books were born. You can work places like Cathedral Rock above, or any of the other vistas over the 19-square mile town. Once you visit, you’ll never be the same.
13. Grand Canyon National Park
Last but not least, no photographer should die before seeing and photographing the great Grand Canyon. North or South Rim, any time of year, this place takes your breath away. This place simply overwhelms your senses. Only four and one half hours separate my house from this place and I’ve visited it four times in the last two years. I can’t get enough of it. It never looks the same. The seasons, weather and landscape change together. From above or down inside the canyon, your camera will love this place and so will you.
I could go on and on but then again – I’d have to change the title of this post from 13 places to —– whatever.
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