In a National Park, Everyone Takes the Same Photo. Who Cares?
It’s only in the past few years that I’ve really become hooked on the National Parks. Growing up on the East Coast, it’s just not a thing; there are no national parks to visit. Sure, you can go to Acadia up in Maine, which is on my list, or Shenandoah in Virginia, which is also on my list. Everywhere is on my list. But none of them hold the world-class appeal, the stunning allure, the mystique, the untouched, pristine beauty of Yosemite, of Denali, of Yellowstone, of the Grand Canyon, of Crater Lake…of these wonders of the world that were protected by the U.S. government because there is nothing else like them on this planet.
Now in my 20’s, the National Parks are new to me. It’s a new experience to be able to go to the Grand Tetons for the weekend; it’s something that people all over this world come to Wyoming to see, and I can do it with a few days off. I want to take that opportunity and savor it. Steamboat is less than a 5-hour drive from a plethora of natural wonders, all of which I want to see.
Most travelers will find themselves taking pictures of the things they see, because they want to share them with family and friends back at home, they want to capture these moments for posterity, they want to get them printed and framed, and hung up in their house, memories of these places that they’ve been and these things that they’ve done. Pieces of art captured and encapsulated in a printed medium, and treasured for all time. But one of the things you’ll realize when you do go to one of these parks, is that everyone is at these good photo spots.
If you hike Angel’s Landing in Zion, one of the most difficult, extreme day hikes in the park, there are hundreds of people that have already done it…it is not that difficult, it is not that wild, it is not that out of the ordinary to do. It is generic, it is traditional, and it is something which most people can accomplish. So when you get to Angel’s Landing and you whip out your camera, and you see a sixty-year-old German lady pull out her Samsung Galaxy, walk to the spot where everyone else is taking a photo and snap one to send back home, you can hardly feel like Ansel Adams with a DSLR.
My photographs aren’t for other people. I’m not looking to make money off them. I don’t truly believe that by visiting the eighth most popular National Park in the U.S. that I can capture something that hasn’t already been captured. But I’ve become aware of this fact. It makes me aware that if you go to Moab and you take a photo of Delicate Arch, and the La Sal Mountains in the background are shrouded in clouds, that there is just somebody that’s been there on a day when its not cloudy, and has gotten a better picture than you.
Perhaps this exploration of the National Parks, of these places that are world-renowned, that everyone wants to see, is really a desire to do something that I want to do: take photos. Capturing a photo and taking it home means that I’ve seen the Tetons, that I have been in that spot, that I have planted my feet on that earth and seen that sight with my own eyes…sure, I can follow the Beautiful Destinations account on Instagram, but it’s hardly the same. It’s not the same as traveling there, hiking out to a spot where you can take a photograph and getting it yourself.
Sure, there are some generic photos that everyone is going to get. You might feel the need to really differentiate yourself, to really make what you bring to the table different from somebody else. But at the same time, there’s a reason why people take those photos. There’s a reason why people go to those parks…because they’re some of the most beautiful on earth. We live in a time where pretty much everywhere has been explored—you’re not going to be Lewis and Clark, you’re not going to be Ansel Adams, you’re not going to discover anything particularly new for mankind…but you can discover something new for yourself.
Enjoy the ride, and feel a sense of personal accomplishment in having made that trip, done that hike, and taken that photograph. Even if someone’s done it before…buy the ticket, take the ride. It'll be a worthwhile experience for you.