Words by Dave Bradley
I was recently in the great state of Maine for a one week vacation with the specific intent to visit Acadia National Park. Not only to revel in its natural beauty but to make pictures. I shoot on vacation and I shoot for work. I just can’t stop.
I’ve made a serious effort over the past ten years to visit America’s magnificent National Parks. As I said above, last week was Acadia. Last year was Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, both in Utah and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The year before that was Glacier National Park in Montana. All have been beautiful and inspiring.
As a professional photographer I know it takes extra effort, thought and technical know how to create good images. But what is most important is being in the right spot at the right time, good composition and a lot of patience. One of the things I always notice is that I rarely see tourists at the early hours of the day, when the sun is coming up. I had Acadia pretty much to myself from 6:30 AM to 10:00 AM. That just happens to be one of the best times of the day to shoot. And you don’t see tourists very far off trail. You see them thirty feet from their car or bus at the scenic outlooks. The scenic views are awesome--that’s why they’re there. But there’s so much more to see if you just get away from that particular vantage point. That’s not to say you can’t get a spectacular shot from the road, but most likely you’ll want to shoot early in the morning or at dusk.
When I'm exploring the parks I usually have my DSLR and a Holga loaded with black and white film. But I always have my smartphone (iPhone). When I’m at a spot I feel really has potential, I’ll shoot with the DSLR and then with my smartphone--it’s hard to resist instant gratification.
But the trick is to get up early, stay late, get a different viewpoint, look around, and get off trail. It doesn’t matter what you’re shooting with. I used to travel over sand on the Cape Cod National Seashore when I owned a 4x4 SUV. I was always amazed at how many people would leave right before dusk, in my opinion the most beautiful time of day. I could almost set my watch to the exodus. I always stayed for the spectacular show Mather Nature was about to give me.
It takes extra effort to get that memorable shot. There’s nothing wrong with being a tourist. When I’m away I’m a tourist, but I intend to be a great travel photographer. Next time you travel, I want you to go off trail and look for that spot where I would get my shot.
Dave Bradley is a native Bostonian serves on the PNB Executive Board. He is a freelance commercial photographer whose clients include United Parcel Service, Oracle, Timberland and New Balance. (See more of his work at Dave Bradley Photography.com)
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