National parks unleash the shutterbug in us all. But you don’t have to settle for the stereotypical, ho-hum shots on your next visit. Take stunning, frame-worthy photographs, no matter what type of camera or equipment you have, using these seven tips.Go early or stay late. Light makes all the difference. Head out while it’s still dark to capture the subdued colors and shadows as the sun rises. If you're lucky, an early morning mist can make for a more dramatic shot.
In the evening, use what photographers call “the golden hour” to your advantage. Not only can you record amazing sunsets, but the diminishing light bathes the scene in a flattering, warm glow.
Watch the weather. Bad weather might curtail other visitors’ plans, but moody clouds, lightning, and storms add visual interest and drama. Plus, rapid changes in light color and quality can result in once-in-a-lifetime photos.
Use the remnants of the storm to your advantage, too. Snow gives the scene a new perspective and texture while the puddles that formed after a rainstorm can provide a canvas for double-image shots.
Shoot from a new angle. If you want to avoid taking the stale images, change your perspective. Walk around your subject if possible. Crouch low or shoot from a higher angle, and try to compose your scene in a fresh way.
Adhere to park rules as you do this. Don’t head to restricted areas or climb on fragile formations, like arches, just for the sake of a good photograph.
Take a hike. What do you do between sunrise and sunset on a sunny day if you’re looking for an award-winning shot? Take a hike. Most visitors don’t venture past the designated viewpoints. Scout for new angles to shoot landmarks and seek out overlooked landscapes.
Experiment and have fun. With today’s digital cameras, you don’t have to worry about wasting film -- you can just shoot and delete. Plus, you get instant feedback on the shots, composition, and lighting. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Try panning wildlife for great action shots, play with the ISO and other settings, or shoot a scene at multiple exposures to blend together with editing tools back home.
Think like a professional. A professional photographer doesn't just point and shoot; he composes. Use the tried-and-true rule of thirds to offset your subject and create a more interesting image. Add layers with foreground elements, such as rocks along the shoreline of a clear lake leading to the double image of an iconic mountain.
If you don’t know much about photography, you might want to purchase a basic photography book, read your camera’s operating manual, or do some online research before you go.
Include wildlife. Whether it’s bison on the horizon at Yellowstone National Park or a condor soaring over the Grand Canyon, wildlife lends itself to breathtaking images. The best time to photograph wildlife just happens to be the best time to photograph in general: sunrise and sunset. Bring a telephoto lens, if you have one, and your patience.
Most digital cameras now have the ability to shoot in extremely low light, allowing you to linger as the sun goes down for additional opportunities. Turn up your ISO to make your camera more sensitive to light.
Bonus: Google photography tips for the park you plan to visit before you go. You might find information on specific shots, when to shoot, and elements to include.