on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Go Your Own Way

US National Parks: Photographic History & Personal Vision

Scott Walton

I love wandering the trails in canyons, forests or deserts; discovering where the paths might lead and what visual treasures await my eyes and camera.


Here in the US we are fortunate to have 58 national parks and many more national monuments and other federally protected lands on which to photograph the landscape.

The national parks have a rich history of photography and in fact the first national parks owe a great debt to early landscape photographers for their very existence. In 1872 Yellowstone was created as the world’s first national park, due in part to the amazing photographs of young, Civil War photographer William Henry Jackson who brought back amazing views that could barely be believed by those who had never seen anything like them.

Black Oaks Yosemite Valley

To me the legacy of that unbroken connection to the foundations of our chosen art form is truly something to be celebrated.
Carlton Watkins photographed Yosemite in 1861 using various large format, wet plate cameras including a 20x24. He felt the grandeur and scale of the place dictated these large scale views. In those days outdoor photography required a portable darkroom be located very close to where the exposure was made. This was quite a feat given the precarious and elevated locations Watkins favoured. He is widely regarded as a real artist whose images are credited with helping convince President Lincoln to set aside Yosemite as a protected area through his signing of the Yosemite Land Grant in 1864 which was the first time the federal government set aside scenic wilderness for preservation and public use. Yosemite would later become America’s 3rd National Park (Read Joe Cornish's trip report from Yosemite.) 

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