When Garrett King quit his desk job to pursue a career in photography, his next move was all about location—specifically, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.
“[Rocky Mountain] has allowed me to get outside and constantly explore different areas that I’ve never been to,” he explains. “Living close to the park gives me no excuse not to get outside. It forces me to take advantage of all the epic scenery around me. The park pushes me to shoot different things, such as landscapes and wildlife, as well as portraits in those scenes.”
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Even if you don’t live a stone’s throw from the Rockies, chances are there’s a national park within driving distance to where you are. This August marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, once called “America’s best idea.” These natural places were set aside to be protected forever, and welcome millions of visitors annually—many of them photographers set on preserving their favorite landscapes forever in their favorite medium.
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“National Parks are important to me because they offer incredible landscapes and wildlife that make it easy to research and get to,” says King. “Without these preserved parks, we might not even know where and when to visit them or know they exist. I feel like the parks offer a meeting ground for creatives to visit and experience something together.”
Here, King shares his tips for creating images from your favorite national park.
1. Challenge yourself. “How can I shoot [this park] differently than the next photographer?” King says. “Is it my editing style or composition? I love to try and mix it up.” Play with weather—changes in cloud cover or sunlight can make a park look completely different from day to day.
2. Be your own person. “Don’t copy the person next to you. Stylize your composition and change the way you see it. Shoot above the crowds, below the crowds,” suggests King.
3. Put in the effort. “Go hike to get a view,” he says. “Nothing great comes easy. Get different angles than everyone else and offer something different. Play with lightning and always bring a tripod, even if you feel like you won’t need it.”
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