Photographing The National Parks

Theodore Roosevelt National Park—North Dakota

Imagine a band of wild mustangs galloping through the prairie. Now imagine yourself capturing them in crisp photographic detail as the sun sets over the North Dakota badlands. Outdoor Photo Workshops offers the chance to do just that with one-on-one instruction in wildlife photography during their six-day "Wild Mustangs and the Badlands" workshops in the spring.

From $1795

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

May also happens to be during bison calving season in North Dakota. Photo by instructor Jason Hahn.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The sun rises over the badlands. Photo by Jason Hahn.

Katmai National Park—Alaska

Although you can see Katmai's famous brown bears remotely via "bearcams," nothing beats being able to capture a sockeye salmon leaping into a bear's maw with your own camera. Six-day tours during summer spawning season are offered by Washington State-based Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris. Informal instruction in action photography is provided, along with transportation from Anchorage and lodge accommodation.


Katmai National Park

Three of Katmai's brown bears, captured by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris guide Perry Conway.

Zion National Park—Utah

You'll need drysuit pants and a dry bag to hike the Virgin River Narrows on Greg Clure Photography's two-day Zion Canyon photo tours, but the photographic rewards are everywhere: yellow autumn cottonwood leaves accenting the continually changing rock formations; beams of light filtering down into the canyon; and a variety of wildlife.


Zion National Park

Zion's famous Subway canyon. Photo by guide Greg Clure.

Acadia National Park—Maine

The ever-changing weather in Maine's Acadia National Park makes it a great place to learn how to adapt and get the perfect shot even in challenging conditions. There's opportunity to capture the park's rugged granite shoreline, tide pools, waterfalls, deer and coyotes, and photographer-guide Carl Heilman will make sure you don't miss them on his 5-day Acadia National Park Nature Photography Workshop & Tour.

From $650; rates subject to change

Acadia National Park

The tiny fishing village of Bass Harbor is on the "back" side of Mount Desert Island, where most of Acadia National Park lies. Workshop participant Parker Griffin shot this on a recent tour.

Everglades National Park—Florida

With over 360 native species of bird, including seven that are either threatened or endangered, Everglades is birding paradise. Local operator Everglades Area Tours offers both private and group birding photography tours to places accessible only by boat or waders. The two-and-a-half-hour tours are typically guided by a naturalist or professional wildlife photographer, who will also be piloting the boat and doing most of the paddling as needed, so you'll be able to have your camera at the ready.

From $297 for up to three people

Everglades National Park

Naturalist-photographers at Everglades Area Tours will be able to point out the park's dozens of species of wading birds, like this great egret chick. Photo by guide Bruce Hitchcock.

Death Valley National Park—California & Nevada

Fine-art photographer Bob Gottlieb of Gottlieb Photo Tours hosts three-day December workshops in Death Valley National Park for all levels of experience. "If you don't know the difference between an aperture and an f-stop, fear not," Gottlieb writes on his website. "We welcome brand new photographers." Death Valley's surreal landscape has many highlights for landscape photographers: the rolling dunes of Mesquite Flat (pictured), the salt flats of Badwater Basin, and the multi-colored hills of Artist's Drive.


Death Valley National Park

Zabriskie Point. Photo by instructor Bob Gottlieb.

Great Smoky Mountains N.P.—Tennessee & North Carolina

Autumn in the Smokies is the perfect time and place to work on your nature photography skills. Rocky Mountain Reflection Photography offers field photo instruction to help you capture those perfect multi-hued compositions of waterfalls, old buildings and, of course, fall foliage. Photographer-guide Andy Cook also instructs in photo processing during the five-day workshop to help participants walk away with pictures they can be proud to blow up and frame.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mingus Mill (left) and Big Creek (right) are both popular shooting locations. Photo by instructor Andy Cook.

Great Sand Dunes National Park—Colorado

Time of day is everything when photographing the "endless sand sea" of Colorado's Great Sand Dunes. Big Sun Tours offers unique lessons on light and shadow with its two-day photo tours of the park, which will give you the chance to photograph the dunes' contours at dawn and sunset, and even under the moonlight if you're there at the right time.

$275/day for private tours; $350/day for small groups

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The park's iconic sandhill cranes flying against a backdrop of Rocky Mountain peaks. Photo by guide Gene Tewksbury.

Yosemite National Park—California

Yosemite is all about the views, even in winter. Don't have snow chains? Photo Safari Yosemite provides year-round photo excursions into the valley. The half- and full-day tours also take would-be nature photogs to spectacular vistas like Tunnel View and Glacier Point in the summer. NPS Guide and professional photographer Pat Althizer promises that "clients are expertly guided so as to be at the right place at the right time, to enable the traveler photographer in obtaining postcard style images."

$395/half-day tour; $695/full-day

Yosemite National Park

Half Dome in the distance, seen from Tunnel View. Photo by guide Pat Althizer.

Yosemite National Park

Giant sequoias at Mariposa Grove. Photo by guide Pat Althizer.

Yellowstone & Grand Teton N.P.s—Wyo., Montana & Idaho

Yellowstone and the Tetons are as well known for their incredible scenery and natural phenomena as they are for their wealth of large mammals: bears, bison, elk and even wolves. Award-winning Natural Habitat Adventures conducts eight-day "Hidden Yellowstone" photo safaris in the fall that specialize in "'secret' corners of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks that most visitors miss...where tourists are fewer [and] animals are more plentiful." One day of the tour is spent with National Geographic photog Dan Hartman.

From $4,795

Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks

The Tetons tower over grazing bison. Photo by guide Henry Holdsworth.