Fall in the Rockies

A couple weekends ago my sister and I went to Estes Park, Colorado and the Rockies to catch up and enjoy some photography together. I had never ventured west of the Mississippi to photograph fall, but wanted to capture some of those beautiful Aspen I’d often seen in others’ images.

Here’s some of what we saw in Rocky Mountain National Park just a few days before its first snow.


Aside from the picture perfect scenery, the air was cool and crisp and sometimes cold and windy, especially on the Trail Ridge Road. I don’t have any images to show from up there because the 12,000 + foot altitude made that part of the trip brief. Down in the lower elevations we enjoyed seeing the very large racks on the bull elk, although Park Rangers were quick to caution there had been two attacks on tourists in recent weeks so we kept a respectable distance.

I nevertheless got a few pictures of elk. The two below were taken from our car window. These elk were just hanging out on our hotel’s lawn.

All in all it was a great trip – great to finally see fall Aspen trees through my own lens, great to see some of the treasured landscapes preserved by the National Park Service, and great to be connecting again with my sister and Mother Nature.

Thanks for following my blog. I hope you also find time to get out and enjoy this beautiful time of year.

Seduced

Officially I was in Charleston last month to attend a two day photography conference. Unofficially I was there because it makes a nice stop when driving between Tampa, FL & Greenville, SC – where our kids are – and because I’ve been wanting to photograph Charleston’s low country for some time.

First stop was Edisto Beach at sunset. Great afterglow.

Crazy but it was not the most beautiful scene of the day. As I was driving toward the beach during the golden hour, fog and light fell on the low country marshes in an indescribably beautiful way. There was no safe place to pull over to photograph, but the scene is one I’ll never forget.

The next morning I skipped the conference’s keynote address so I could photograph the Angel Tree. Whether 400-500 or 1500 years old (experts disagree), it’s unquestionably a very old and beautiful live oak on Johns Island, just outside of Charleston. Some say it’s the oldest living tree east of the Rockies.

Angel Tree, Johns Island, South Carolina

Its sprawling limbs and gnarly trunk resemble something a movie producer would create, but it comes with a caveat: it’s not photographer friendly. If you want a photograph similar to this, be prepared to spend time in Photoshop removing people and large white signs cautioning visitors not to climb on the tree or sit on its limbs. There are also tripod restrictions. But, despite these obstacles (and some might say protections), it’s still worth a visit. This live oak is Mother Nature at its finest.

Just down the road from the Angel Tree is an Anglican church and cemetery with beautiful camellias and Spanish moss.

Camilla in bloom
Spanish moss in the low country is like Mississippi’s Kudzu – it’s everywhere

When driving over the bridge back to the mainland, there’s a great view of the low country marshes, but again, no place to pull over and photograph. I turned around and found a road leading under the bridge to a boat ramp.

Here’s my first photograph of the marshes. I would like to be in that yellow kayak.

It was in this area that I spent the next half hour or so stalking a blue egret as it hunted its breakfast. Click the Download button below to watch a short animation of this.

I’ve included this image in case you didn’t click download ūüôā
and breakfast

There is a unique charm to Charleston’s low country which I haven’t experienced elsewhere. Author Pat Conroy described it this way:

Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy and partisanship. I have heard it said that an inoculation to the sights and smells of the Carolina low country is an almost irreversible antidote to the charms of other landscapes, other alien geographies. You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes. – The Lords of Discipline

Seduced. I can’t think of a better word to describe it. I was seduced by the low country and as a consequence missed the morning session of my conference.

Seduction connotes something powerful and tantalizing, something that keeps pulling you back. Will I attend another conference? Probably. Will I make a greater effort to return and spend more time photographing Charleston’s low country? You bet.

What do you see when you look at the Angel Tree? Know what I see? I see those long outstretched arms motioning me to come back … Will you join me sometime?

Thanks for following my blog.

Instagram: @maryricephoto

Who spiked my punch?

It’s December 22nd, and I’m still buying and wrapping presents and trying to find the stockings to hang by the chimney with care.

I feel a little like this:

possibly the home of Clark Griswold’s other cousin?

There’s so much going on, just where do you focus?

And after periods of trying to whittle down my holiday to-do list, I … crash. Sort of like this:

Christmas afternoon 2009: Rex, at 14 weeks old, was a Christmas present

Only today it’s me instead of Betsy on the couch, and Rex now wears an ugly Christmas sweater. It’s the only thing he’ll wear. Ever.

When things get a little out of sorts for me, I often look to nature and/or photographs I took in New Mexico, particularly those showing the seasonal migration of sandhill cranes to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

In doing that this week, something occurred to me. I’ve never shown you images of these amazing birds in flight! And I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of them!

So here’s one of my favorite bird-in-flight images.

seasonal migration of Sandhill Cranes to New Mexico

Do you know what’s so great about this photograph? It’s that the birds separated out for me. That’s what you want when photographing flying birds. You don’t want them to overlap. Well, there’s that and a pleasing flight pattern. It really can be quite challenging …

Well, I really should get back to my to-do list. Thank you for following my blog.

Oh, and I almost forgot, from me and all those gentle giants out there in New Mexico, Season’s Greetings everyone!!!

in an Oregon state of mind

Don and I spent some time in Oregon in June.  Neither of us had been there before. Here are some quick take aways:

  1. it has an incredibly diverse landscape;
  2. it seems like everyone has a dog and takes the dog(s) with them everywhere they go; 
  3. Road¬†signs say “Speed 60” instead of “Speed Limit 60.” Why no limits in Oregon?
  4. They don’t let you pump your own gas and gas stations often close at dusk;
  5. Seafood, beer, wine, fish hatcheries, logging, and Les Schwab Tire Dealerships seem to dominate the landscape (btw Les Schwab did a great job patching two flat tires for us); 
  6. Oregon appeals to a lot of outdoor enthusiasts and photographers (ask Don about breakfast with the professional windsurfers sometime); and, be sure to remember this last one …
  7. the Oregonians we met and spent time with clearly love Oregon and appreciate what they’ve got.

So what photograph(s) do I share?

Well, at this point, only two. 

So because Oregon is such a dog loving state, we’ll start with “Fetch.”

yellow lab chasing ball in water in Joseph Oregon

“Fetch” was taken in Joseph, Oregon, in the heart of what is called Oregon’s “Little Switzerland.” The mountains in Joseph look a lot like the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. I was sitting on a boat dock when a woman nearby started throwing a ball in the lake for her yellow Lab to retrieve. I went over and started talking with her and then made friends with Kona. Good times.

This second image was taken on the Oregon coast, I think near Newport.

Oregon Coast

 

 

I like the whimsical nature of this image. Often I look up at the clouds and think about the shapes they make. The boulders in the background of this image also invite you to imagine. Is that a dragon back there? Or maybe a clone of the Loch Ness monster?

It’s never been a goal of mine to visit all 50 states but when I took a silly Facebook quiz many years ago I realized I had then been to 40+ states and so started considering it. ¬†This trip made Oregon my 48th state to visit. What’s left? North Dakota and Hawaii. Will I visit those states? I don’t know.

Sure, I like to travel, but in recent years I’ve come to realize that while it’s fun to visit new places, lasting contentment does not come from travel; it comes from appreciating wherever you presently are.

A couple nights after coming home from Oregon I did a photography session with newborn twins. As I looked around at the location the parents had chosen, it occurred to me, particularly in that golden hour of light, that the setting was as beautiful as any I had encountered in Oregon, and I was so lucky to be there, in that place, with that family, in that moment.

That state of contentment where you appreciate where you currently are – it’s the only state you really must visit.

Thanks for following my blog and joining me as I remember our time in Oregon and think like an Oregonian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loose in the Palouse

I’m back to the blog after a little long road trip. This post is about how we started that road trip, after flying into Portland, Oregon, and then driving six hours across the state.

So … there’s a little patch of heaven in the southeastern corner of the state of Washington called the Palouse. Sometimes called “America’s Little Tuscany,” its pastoral rolling hills of wheat are vast and serene. It’s been on my bucket list of places to visit and photograph for years. Don and I went last month.

Before reaching the iconic fertile hills of the Palouse, we stopped in Palouse Falls State Park, a geological 180 from what I had come a long way to photograph. It has never been on my bucket list of places to visit or photograph, and we almost turned back several times before arriving.

Seriously, we had all sorts of reasons not to go — it was out of the way, we’d be late checking into our hotel, the park had closed recently due to security concerns after someone fell to their death when part of a cliff collapsed, and there were rattlesnake warnings all over the place — but I think …

palousefallsw

it was worth it. Pretty awesome, right?

The next day was the day I’d been anxiously anticipating. Armed with maps and apps, we drove to the top of Steptoe Butte State Park, probably the most popular photography destination in the region. Here’s my photograph of what I understand to be one of the more beautiful scenic overlooks of rolling hills in America:

Fog on top of Steptoe Butte State ParkFair to say, June 9, 2018, will not go down as the day I captured the beautiful expanse of the rolling hillsides of the Palouse.

Undaunted by the weather, I went ahead and made a few photographs that day:

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Palouse hills 1

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the ladder by Silo #6

wheat barn
simple but strong

Okay, but not what I had come to capture.

Towards the end of the day, when we were near Oakland, Washington, the sky opened up for a short while.

barnwebThat wet red barn on the rolling hillside is the closest I came to what many people view as an iconic Palouse scene. Still, it’s not the abstract photography I wanted from miles and miles of overlapping hills reaching into the horizon.

What is beautiful? Is it a red barn against a green hillside? Abstracts made from hills filled with light and shadows?  A waterfall into a deep canyon?

In an interview with Krista Tippett and published on http://www.onbeing.org, cellist Yo Yo Ma described beauty in this way:

It could be music. It could be a poem. It could be an event … [o]ften, in nature. But, when that encapsulated form is received, there’s a moment of reception and cognition of the thing that is, in some ways, startling … We are part of nature and we observe nature, but we’re part of the human realm, and there’s that moment, when essentially there’s a transfer of life. [I]t’s the human cognition of that vastness, the awe and the wonder, something that’s, in a way, bigger than yourself.

The Palouse is beautiful – all of it – but on this trip, the part where we felt that transfer of life into a world way bigger than ourselves, more than anywhere else, was the part we almost missed … Palouse Falls State Park. And you know what? At this point in my life, I really like that an old dry canyon with water and energy and life flowing in and through it, can on any one particular day be more beautiful than fertile fields many miles away.

Sometimes a little fog helps you see things a little more clearly.

Thanks for following my blog.

Stay tuned for the next post which will likely feature some aspect of our 2,000 mile jaunt through Oregon, where we saw whales, sea lions, elk, deer, marmots, eagles, dogs, more dogs, one cat, lots of fish, but no ducks. And they call themselves the Oregon Ducks? I’m not kidding, no ducks. Not one.

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some thoughts on cell phone photography (Part 2 – more cameras = greater transparency)

 

iPhone capture of La Spezia, Italy train station
a big wide world with people coming and going and sharing different viewpoints and perspectives as captured on my cell phone

We all see life and life’s events unfold through a lens that’s unique to our own lives. It’s a lens that’s based on where we’ve lived, our past experiences, those with whom we interact, books we read, jobs we hold, faiths we practice, places we have traveled, etc. ¬† It’s a big wide world out there with many different angles, viewpoints and perspectives.

So maybe it’s not such a stretch to suggest that media organizations also see through a filtered lens or subscribe to particular viewpoints. I know traditionally trained journalists pride themselves on unbiased, objective reporting, yet it seems more and more the daily news (or at least the news that’s emphasized) varies significantly from one media source to another.¬†

In the early days of cell phone cameras, I remember reading FB posts from some photojournalists saying how disappointing it would be if the major news organizations started relying on amateur photos and video from cell phone cameras instead of their own ¬†professional equipment and training. I’m not sure what these photojournalists would say today, but I do think American journalism is struggling, and cameras on cell phones have little to do with it.¬†I think many Americans today first learn of news from questionable or unreliable sources.

But recently during this period of evolving journalism came one very loud and clear news story: a troubled teen armed with semi-automatic weapons killed 17 and injured many more at a Parkland, Florida high school. And how did this news first break? Through student cell phones, which included still and video camera footage. You know what? That camera footage didn’t present the situation with a slanted, biased, or unvetted viewpoint; it presented the situation just as it played out.

There’s a lot of talk about the harmful effects of too much cell phone usage and with much of that I agree; it’s just that at the same time, I think it’s possible that that “transparency” so often promised but unfulfilled by politicians, is also lacking in many of the current media outlets. You know where you can find transparency? ¬†In the stills and video on your phone.

I’ve thought about posting some of the Parkland students’ videos here¬†but have decided they might be too disturbing for my audience so I’m now turning to discuss another form of camera phone transparency. ¬†Please keep reading – I’m building to a point here.

A couple months ago a friend invited me to join her at a http://www.Photovoice.org workshop in London. Rather than paraphrasing what Photovoice is all about, here are some quotes from its website:

Photovoice’s vision is for a world in which everybody has the opportunity to represent themselves and tell their own story. We work across the world to build skills in underrepresented communities, using participatory photography and digital storytelling methods. We have worked in partnership in over thirty five countries in seventy-three different projects. Photography for social change.

A caveat at this point – Photovoice projects sometimes use DSLRs or point and shoot cameras, but nevertheless often rely on the simplest and most available cameras, which often are cell phone cameras.

In trying to gain a better understanding of Photovoice, I began reading some of the  posts from those who have already put cameras in the hands of the marginalized. The posts which can be found on the website are powerful.

In one titled “Look Beyond – using Photovoice to break down barriers in mental health,” Dr. Maria Quinlan, a sociologist at the University College Dublin, asked a small group of students facing mental health challenges to tell their story – how they experienced life – by photographing their world. One student photographed an electrical socket with a cord plugged in on one side with the other side empty. ¬†His caption read: “Two sockets. One is connected, one disconnected. I have days when I’m connected to society and others where I’m totally detached. Lost, alone. I fight to stay connected, I want to, now stay connected. That is why the connected plug is first. This was not always the way.” ¬†

So what’s the point in all this?¬†The point is that in an age when almost everyone carries a camera with them at all times, there is a greater transparency of what goes on in our world. So while politicians and perhaps the media often fall short on transparency, the news is there, often on our camera rolls. This constantly growing population of cell phone photographers supply us with the footage from school shootings, other people’s thought processes, and worlds we have never seen or experienced before. ¬†

Do I miss the days of the Walter Cronkite type journalism I felt I could trust? Yes. Do I miss mornings where I would search through The Tennessean newspaper for amazing photographs from veteran photojournalists? Absolutely. But am I also glad we now have an opportunity to see a broader, more transparent, more immediate view of the world as captured by a larger group of photographers? Yes.

I am glad both to have lived during the days when people read newspapers and watched the evening news, and to live today where so many have a camera in hand and capture a reality we otherwise might never have seen or understood. Cameras in the hands of just about everyone, not just a privileged few, provide an educational opportunity for us to discover worlds not previously seen or understood, and to act when we discover those in need or suffering injustice.

Thanks, as always, for following my blog. ¬†I won’t be attending a Photovoice workshop this spring, but I will be making an exciting announcement in the near future. ¬†I hope you’ll plug in.

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some thoughts on cell phone photography (Part I)

Just as it seems like it’s a good time of year to clean out your closets, yesterday I spent some time scrolling through my cell phone photographs to see what was worth keeping and what could be trashed. In doing so, I was surprised to find, amongst everything else, a good many keepers. Below are some of these images.

This first set of photographs remind me of the types of photos I would often take as a photography student. They highlight lines, shape and form. These photographs typically convert nicely to black and white, although I left one in color because I liked the pink.

The warmer, golden images below are parts of light fixtures.

The next two photos are abstractions giving a hint or suggestion of a sunrise.

The cloud photo was how the sky looked above the Maryland Farms YMCA when I finished playing tennis a few weeks ago. The shinier sunburst image that I took yesterday morning is largely reflected light from the trash can at the bottom of the image.

So it seems when left on my own I take a lot of shape and form and abstract photos. Not really sure why.

Above you see more light fixtures and these have the bonus of having faces. These I found at the mall. BTW, one advantage to taking photos with your camera phone as opposed to one of your larger cameras is that it reduces the risk of being stopped by security. ūüôā¬†

Anyway, when shooting professionally, I still rely heavily on my DSLRs and mirrorless camera, but the times are changing.  More and more professionals are incorporating cell phones into their photography and cell phone photos and video are used frequently by the media, stock agencies, and yes, law enforcement. Cell phone photos also line the walls of many fine art galleries. 

Certainly the ever-changing technology in camera phones is partly responsible for this phenomenom, but I would maintain that it’s still the photographer and not the camera who is ultimately responsible for creating powerful imagery. It is, after all, the photographer who plans, who waits, who designs, and who clicks the shutter when the moment is just right.

To bring this point home, you might go back and look at the “FIRSTS Project” in one of the September issues of Time Magazine. In that project, Luisa Dorr used her iPhone to photograph twelve covers and 46 portraits of women who “are changing the world.” In doing so, she and the powerful images which came out of her iPhone made history. Here’s a question for you: Was the iPhone responsible for the success of the FIRSTS Project or was it the vision of Luisa Dorr collaborating with the Time editors who used the iPhone as a tool to realize and/or futher their vision? I think the latter. It’s all just amazing, however.

So have you taken a look through your camera phone images lately? Where have you been putting your focus? ¬†Do your photos track or follow your life or something you enjoy? ¬†Is there a photograph perhaps on your phone which is more important to you than a photograph you’ve taken with a bigger or more expensive camera? My guess is maybe so.

And now the end all question which I must ask on behalf of all photographers: Is there now really a need for you ever, ever, ever to ask a professional photographer this question: “Wow! What camera were you using when you took this photograph?” As many professional photographers say time and time again, “the best camera for you and for me both is the camera we currently hold in our hands.”

Thanks as always for following my blog. May you always find joy in your photography, no matter the camera you hold.

 

 

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RIP 2017

We did something a little different this year for Christmas. ¬†We spent Christmas at Scott’s new home in Tampa and just had a blast. We all needed a little break and the warm weather was a welcome change.¬†

In looking through the images I took in Tampa, I think there’s enough in the group to pay homage to 2017.

So here we go using Florida’s Christmas photographs to tell the tale of 2017…

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Busch Gardens Tampa roller coaster

I’m starting with the roller coaster photograph because that’s generally how I view 2017 – a wild ride. The year was filled with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, and some thrills. Enough said.

orangutan
orangutan at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida

How do I feel about 2017? ¬†Well, despite all the blessings in my life for which I am grateful, when it comes to thinking about many of the major news events of 2017, the country’s current political schism, and all who have been affected by loss or hardship as a result of one of the many 2017 natural disasters or mass killings (and the list goes on), I think I am a kindred spirit with the orangutan pictured above.¬†

Certainly there were reasons to celebrate during 2017, like the Nashville Predators making it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the very cool total eclipse of the sun this summer. A special highlight for me was a photography trip to Italy.  You just cannot stand in the middle of Florence and not be inspired by Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo. 

So while in Tampa one afternoon during our Christmas break, I ventured to nearby St. Petersburg to tour the Salvador Dali Museum to view the work of another inspiring artist. Dali’s work is, well, surreal. The cool architecture of the building was just icing on the cake.¬†

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spiral staircase in Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida

I suggest you visit the Dali Museum if ever in the Tampa/St. Pete area. It contains the largest collection of Dali’s work in the United States and is well worth the visit. ¬†

Before leaving the Museum I stopped in the gift store. Hiding in one of its corners was a colorful Christmas tree which looked a lot like a children’s art project. I picked up my camera and took this in-camera abstract. I’ve always liked abstract photography and experimented with it a lot of it in 2017.¬†

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So what’s a fitting way to bid farewell to 2017? I think a quiet sunset photograph over the Gulf of Mexico, the same Gulf of Mexico that just a few months ago played host to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

 

sunsetgulf
sunset at Honeymoon Beach near Clearwater, Florida

Times do change and it’s time now to put 2017 to rest.¬†

I hope 2018 brings peace, goodwill, good times, and well-being to all.

Happy New Year!

the Jesus Bakery

When working in downtown Atlanta, my friends and I would sometimes walk down Marietta Street to the “Jesus Bakery” to buy a cake or a pie or some other sinful dessert for a co-worker’s birthday or because we just wanted to. ¬†These bakery goods were the real deal, made from real butter and sugar, all the good stuff, no preservatives.

The bakery actually had another name, we just called it the “Jesus Bakery” because of the inescapable message you received when there. So, for example, if visiting to ask if they could have a red velvet cake ready for pick-up the next day, the answer would always be “if the good Lord is willing.” More than once I left the store with more than I went in to buy. You might think that’s typical of a lot of shopping trips except I didn’t ask for or buy these extra pies or cakes, they just freely gave them to me.

Recently I’ve spent a lot of time driving with my husband through the South: 20 hours to and from Tampa a couple weekends ago with furniture to set up Scott’s new apartment, and 12 hours last weekend to and from South Carolina for Parents’ Weekend at our daughter’s college. These were in no way photography trips. It was mostly a lot of boring interstate with a day wedged in between when we could spend time with our children.

But I always bring a camera and so I took this image of Spanish moss at a rest stop somewhere in northern Florida.

Spanish moss
Spanish moss hanging from a tree in northern Florida

In South Georgia I was struck by the thick white cotton fields alongside the interstate. Don kindly exited the interstate and took a nearby frontage road so I could briefly photograph them.

Georgia cotton fields
irrigation system over Georgia cotton fields

High Cotton
big white fluffy cotton ready to pick in South Georgia cotton field

I say briefly not because Don or I were in any hurry, but because within a minute I realized I was standing in ankle high ant beds with armies of red fiery ants crawling all over and in my sandals. If you think there’s a lot of cotton in that field, I’m thinking there’s at least ten times as many ants.

In South Carolina a week later, Don and Betsy gave me five minutes (bless their hearts) to take a couple photos of the boiled peanuts vendor who is always parked across the street from the local Walmart.

Hot boiled peanuts
Hot boiled peanuts vendor parked outside a Walmart in Greenville, South Carolina

Twenty minutes later, I returned to the car having eaten and learned all about boiled peanuts and then giving Don a bag of roasted peanuts instead. And people wonder why I frequently run late …

Here’s the peanut man getting ready to show me how to open a freshly boiled peanut:

getting a lesson in how to open a hot boiled peanut
How many peanuts have these hands opened?

Here he is inside his trailer posing. Notice the sign above his radio.

this unspoken message
peanut salesman posing in his trailer in Greenville, South Carolina

It’s occurred to me that the South is, in a sense, one big Jesus bakery. You enter it knowing you’ll be greeted by characters you just don’t meet anywhere else and you leave often taking home with you more than you bargained for. Yes, the Bible Belt is changing, but that’s why the real deal needs preserving through photographs.

Photographing the South is hardly an original idea; indeed, there are entire festivals and magazines devoted exclusively to southern photography, but I think,¬†this Mississippi bred girl is going to take it on, slowly (as in years) but surely, if … the good Lord is willing.¬†The landscape is beautiful, the people colorful, the culture intriguing, and … it’s home.

‚ÄúOne place understood helps us understand all places better.‚ÄĚ
– Eudora Welty

Happy Thanksgiving ya’ll.

 

 

 

 

Happy 101st birthday to the National Park Service!

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It’s possible Don and I are National Park Service (NPS) junkies. ¬†We’ve spent a lot of time visiting national parks.

I used to think it was Don’s endearing Clark Griswold-ish dad qualities that landed us summer after summer in a national park. ¬†For example … after Scott’s college graduation in 2015, do you know what we did? ¬†A 4,320 mile road trip to visit six national parks. ¬†Not kidding. ¬†With a teenager and a Millennial in the car. ¬†I still remember the kids and me trying to persuade Don before leaving that maybe you’ve planned too much this time, dear. ¬†But Don persisted, and we did it, and we loved it. Since then I’ve taken several trips on my own (you can draw your own conclusions on that), and now I’ve grown to realize it’s not just Don who loves the parks. We both do.

So let’s take a look at a sampling of park offerings.

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These photographs were taken in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.  The Smokies are the most visited national park. Last fall wildfires swept through and claimed 14 lives and more than 26 square miles. The good news?  The sites you see above were not affected and the park is still thriving. This is a great place to take your family.

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These photographs were taken at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. ¬†The NPS website describes White Sands as “like no place on earth.” I went with a photography group. ¬†The temperatures can be extreme and it’s easy to get lost. ¬†You can take your family, but if you’re going for photography, expect to hike pretty far in. People and animals leave footprints and trails everywhere.

If I had more time and/or a quicker system to retrieve archived photographs, I’d show you Arlington Cemetery or Ellis Island or the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to make the point that the NPS not only oversees parks with great natural beauty, but also man-made sites that honor and preserve America’s cultural heritage. ¬†You want to experience something so moving you’ll never forget? ¬†Visit Arlington Cemetery on a day when a horse-drawn carriage brings in a fallen soldier to rest. ¬†Oh the power of quiet, respect, dignity, and grace …

Well, with the NPS celebrating its 101st birthday this week, it’s a good time to review some quick fun facts:

  • Did you know there’s a national park in every state?
  • and if you’re aged 62 or over, the cost of the lifetime senior pass increases from $10 to $80 tomorrow?
  • and 4th graders receive free admittance?
  • and so do current members of the military and their dependents?

So many opportunities!

I hope you can visit one of the parks this year. ¬†I’ll be the first to admit that food and lodging can sometimes be challenging, but it’s only a temporary challenge. ¬†The memories you come home with will last a lifetime.

For more information, please visit https://www.nps.gov.