Carr’s image of Denali National Park graces the cover of the June 2016 issue of Outdoor Photographer Magazine, featuring a tribute to the National Park’s Centennial. Read Carr’s full story below.
The Crown Jewels of North America, America’s national parks are the ultimate inspiration for anyone who admires beauty, art and the natural world. Whether you are an artist – painter, writer or photographer – or just an admirer of the natural world, the national parks continue to inspire all who take the time to absorb their amazing beauty and wildness. The national parks offer photographers an increasingly rare opportunity to photograph some of the remaining wild landscapes in North America.
For me, creativity begins with my mindset. Achieving artistically satisfying photographs is not only about framing the image in the camera, but inspiring myself to look past those images that are the typical pretty postcard, or just a visual recording of a beautiful place. I am more interested when making photographs to go beyond the literal and create something unique and altogether new. How do you accomplish this? Inspiration.
Get out of your vehicle, walk slowly through the forest and tundra, paddle the lakes and rivers, climb the mountains, boat in the ocean – and yes, sit still and observe. Don’t just be satisfied to visit the parks for a few days, live in the parks and take the time to get to know them. Revisit the ones that inspire you the most and keep going back until you are sure you have experienced the area thoroughly and the photographs you have made represent you and your relationship with that park.
My inspiration begins with my love of water, wilderness and adventure, so I tend to travel to the wildest parks where I do my best work. Whether it is boating in Glacier Bay National Park, Apostle Islands National Park or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, or rafting Canyonlands National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, my goal is to seek places and adventures that personally inspire me and cultivate my creativity.
The variety of terrain and habitat diversity in the national parks of North America is astounding with each type of park requiring a different photographic approach. In the west, the large grandeur landscape tends to dominate, while in the east a subtler but no less photogenic beauty prevails. The grand landscapes tend to overwhelm photographers and they miss the opportunity to discover the amazing world below the horizon and at their feet. I remind myself when photographing a grand landscape such as Yosemite, to make photographs at Yosemite and not to make photographs of Yosemite. This helps me avoid the cliché photographs that have been overdone and allows me to concentrate on making great images regardless if I’m photographing Half Dome or lichen on rocks.
My suggestion to photographers, professional or amateur, is to initially focus on photographing below the horizon in parks which are not dominated by massive peaks or amazing skylines. The misty, moody forests of Redwood National Park, or the delicate hardwood forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Acadia National Park, provide the perfect opportunity to experiment seeing landscapes filled with intimate details full of patterns and textures.
In the end, photography is about being inspired regardless of the landscape. It is important when creating great images that you are true to yourself, you are original and don’t copy or emulate what you have seen before. Above all else, photograph what truly inspires you! And don’t forget; tread lightly amongst our most amazing crown jewels.