Should LF photographers be given special car permits to access US national parks? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Sara Louise Kras wrote to View Camera magazine (Sept/Oct issue) to express her dismay over the "no car" policy at Zion National Park in Utah (a shuttle-bus-only transport policy is also likely to be phased in at other over-exhausted national parks). She and her husband drove up to Zions gate with "an 8x10 and a 4x5 camera with several lenses" but were apparently unprepared to walk very far from their car (or from a shuttle bus) with their equipment.

"Anyone who has visited a national park in the past can see why the bus system is being put into place," Ms. Kras concedes. "Wildlife was diminishing and the overall nature experience was becoming quite frustrating and maddening fighting the traffic."

On the other hand, she says, "park officials should be aware of photographers, painters, and other artisans [who] wish to communicate their experience through an art medium. Special concessions should be given to these artists. They keep our national park alive through proxy for those [who] cannot visit them."

Ms. Kras doesnt suggest a policy for determining whos a photographer and who isnt, nor does she mention such considerations as balancing the wishes of photographers and painters vs. the wishes of others who may want to drive a car in these parks (such as those who are merely disabled or elderly but not particularly artistic). Thoughts, comme

-- Micah (, September 21, 2000


A typo in my post above: Ms. Kras wrote "They keep our national parks alive" (not "park"); she was referring to entire National Park Service, not just Zion. Also, at the end I asked for "thoughts, comments?", not, like, "comme."

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-- Micah (, September 21, 2000.

NPS will surely charge for such a permit... anyone not prepared to walk from a bus stop should stay in the studio.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, September 21, 2000.

That's the thing about remote and isolated places--they're remote and isolated and hard to get to. It seems like the Park Service wants to keep them that way, and I think photographers should want to keep them that way too, unless they would rather make stock shots of SUV's, off-roaders, and tourists in the national parks.

-- David Goldfarb (, September 21, 2000.

As a professional photographer I am all in favor of a car permit system being put into place. However, I certainly don't think it would be fair to limit it just to photographers or other artists. It should be available to anyone who wants to take advantage of it. To discourage people from driving their cars into the National Parks they can put a hefty price tag on the permits thus limiting the number of cars entering to those who are serious about their need or desire to use a car. What price would discourage the majoirty of people from using their cars and yet make it reasonable for those of us who "need" our cars?

There has been talk of requiring permits just to photograph in the Parks. If that is implemented (at a cost of $200/yr?) then I would hope that a special car permit would be included..............

-- Mark Windom (, September 21, 2000.

Another unfortunate aspect is the closing of roads in some National parks during the Fall deer mating season to prevent poaching which has become widespread despite heavy federal penalties. It seems that illegal hunting can't be prevented by means other than closing the roads. So during some months, you cannot enter the Shennandoah Park in the pre-dawn hours to photograph a nice sunrise in the Blue Ridge because the roads are closed!!

-- C. W. Dean (, September 21, 2000.

No, LF photographers should not be given special car permits to access US national parks. I say that as a LF photographer who might benefit from such a system. The reason we LF photographers must share the pain of these shuttles systems is that, mostly, we are part of the root cause of crowding that created the need for them. And I don't mean by taking pictures which inspire more people to visit.

Shuttle systems, vehicle pollution controls, car pool lanes, etc. are coping strategies established to deal with an excess of people. We have too many people because humans worldwide fail to control their reproduction, and countries such as the US which have slightly more reasonable birth rates (though not nearly low enough) fail to effectively control immigration, legal or illegal.

As usual, the innocent are punished with the guilty. So, if your family size is small enough to make you think you should be given special treatment, forget it. Start paring down your gear to a size that can be easily carried on a shuttle bus.

-- Sal Santamaura (, September 21, 2000.

I was in Yosemite on March 8th (middle of the week). There were at most a dozen other cars roaming the valley. We had to get in by 8:00 AM and couldn't leave until 4:00 PM. The entrance road was closed for repairs between those hours. The park service could not afford to operate a bus for the volume of visitors when I was there.

I was at Yellowstone about 15 years ago the week before Memorial Day. The park was practically empty. Memorial Day came and the park instantly filled up.

If the park service adopts this policy in peak seasons, it makes sense. If they make decisions without regard to demand, we will have to rally in the next election.

I doubt any LF photographers really want to photograph in the peak season anyhow.

I do think, however, it is rather silly of any of us to think we can preserve the parks as they exist today. Five years ago, half of a mountain fell off a peak in Yosemite. Considering its geological situation, changes have happened and will continue to happen quickly in Yosemite, regardless of man's interventions.

-- Charlie Strack (, September 21, 2000.

There are plenty of other photogenic places in the world that are not in national parks. Besides, most national parks are over photographed anyway!!! Also, there are many national parks that have relatively low visitation that allow the use of private vehicles.

-- Bruce Arnold (, September 21, 2000.

I believe that it is dangerous for photographers to ask for different treatment from other park users. Whenever there is any suggestion of imposing fees on photography, we (rightfully) howl in protest, arguing that we should be treated the same as other users of the park. If we want the same benefits as other users, we must be prepared to accept the same limits as well. Arguing for differential treatment establishes a precedent that will make it easier to impose additional burdens on photographers.

-- Chris Patti (, September 21, 2000.

I agree with Bruce that some parks are over photographed. If I see one more picture of Half Dome, I think I'm going to throw up... I think they should remove the golden spikes where Ansel set up his tripod and make the photographers find thier own spots!!! I don't understand why people feel they need to rush down the interstate highways at 90 mph to get to the "GOOD SPOTS", while totally missing hundreds of miles of interesting people and places on the backroads.

I guess the national parks are for the photographers that can't think of anywhere to go.

-- Dave Richhart (, September 21, 2000.

I spend the majority of my time photographing in the National Parks in my area. And yes, Dave, I can think of other places to go. However, in spite of the fact that many of them have been photographed extensively, there is still a big demand for images from them. Go to your local bookstore and see how many books and calendars have National Park themes.

Crowding is becoming a very real problem in our Parks and I agree that shuttle busses may be a viable option for helping to control this problem. However, from a purely selfish standpoint, I am against that being the only option available to us. How many busses are going to enter an area an hour before sunrise or depart an hour after sunset? Perhaps they should just limit the number of people who are allowed into certain areas each day whether it be by car or bus. Early bird gets the worm.

-- Mark Windom (, September 21, 2000.


-- Paul Mongillo (, September 21, 2000.

I've changed my mind on that issue after spending 10 days in Denali NP. In that park, the bus system has been implemented for a long time. After reading Joe Englender's article "Denali: the right of passage" in View Camera mag, I was expecting to have to battle red tape and find it difficult to do serious photography.

After seeing the system work and talking to people, I had to agree that it worked fine for the number one purpose of the Park: preserving the wilderness. I also found that if you are photographer with wilderness skills (this means only able to overnight, which isn't much), it was surprisingly easy to work in that park, which has at least a road (as opposed, to, for example Gates of the Artic, where I carried my 5x7, cold weather gear, and a week of food on relatively uncharted terrain). Admittedly, you'll have to slow down your pace, since you cannot zap from one location to another, but if your goal was to rush it, would you be using LF anyways ? This is not meant to offend anybody, but I feel that (a) we need wilderness areas (b) if you want to work in a wilderness area, you need wilderness skills. There are plenty of prime landscape locations in unregulated land.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, September 21, 2000.

Sure we should, as long as we do what the movies companies do in such circumstances, or Annie Liebowitz - hand over lots and lots of mullah for the privilege. I sure any LF photographer could do it right now if they wished :)

Tim A

-- tim atherton (, September 21, 2000.

We are limited both by the lack of service by busses as well as the lack of space for much of our LF gear. Just try getting on a shuttle early in the morning to get to where you want to be for sunrise, or staying out late enough to photograph the waning horizon light at 10:15 at night. No busses & the park types somehow get pissed when you camp out waiting for the light. Then, try getting on a bus carrying 8x10 or larger with tripod, holders and accessories, while taking up three or more seats. Many of the bus services won't let you. Then you have the nice case of no access by car while you watch a National Park Service employee take their vehicle and LF camera gear past you and photograph the park while on government time, or using their park employee status to both get special access and keep you out, all the while doing so to make money with the images. I say make a permit available.

-- Dan Smith (, September 21, 2000.

What about renting llamas?

Weren't they suppossed to be the answer to trail damage by hooved stock? Couldn't some entreprenuer make some $ and the Park Service grant licenses (and also make some $) to vendors who would include insurance and lessons for those who find the shuttle route unacceptable?

I dunno, just a thought

-- Sean yates (, September 21, 2000.

No. I should consider why I take pictures. I would not do so if I'm not moved by nature. Guess what happens if you allow another permit then another. Then I would not be moved or take another picture anymore. Dan's comment is interesting and they (the authorities) should not practice what they say no to the public. But they are feeding on themselves until they realize.

-- Masayoshi Hayashi (, September 22, 2000.

It is my understanding that commercial permits are already available...seems to me if you want special treatment, declare that you are shooting for commercial use, pays your money, and negotiate a deal. I have watched TV commercial's being shot in NPs and they certainly get special concessions from NPS. But the last thing we need is the NPS creating a special permit and fee that applies to everyone that has a "big" or "old-timey" camera.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, September 22, 2000.

The Parks should be preserved; not so photographers can go there and do their thing but simply because these are the last true "open spaces" left in our country.

It's getting worse folks. I don't know what it's like in your area but here, in SC, they are tearing down every last patch of green they can find to put up more of 'plastic America.' It's sick.

Humans need to regain the connection of spirit with the Earth. The Parks show us something of what this land was like before it was corrupted. So the Parks are the only viable means of re-awakening man's need for open, unpolluted, undeveloped spaces.

So people need to be able to visit the Parks but this must be accomplished in a way that preserves the very reason that people should see to the Parks.

The bus system is a good idea. If you are shooting 8x10 as I do; carry it on your back along with everything else. If you can not, then go to a smaller format. The Park is more important than our desire to photograph them.

I would even go further to say that the number of visitors allowed to enter the Parks should be reduced by about 30% in the most visited ones and anywhere up to 30% in the rest, depending on visitation.

I know this contradicts my assertion that people need to visit the Parks to regain the connection with the Earth. But that is more of an ideal whereas I am now speaking from a more practical viewpoint.

-- Jason Kefover (, September 22, 2000.

I have to agree with Jason K. Let's not forget what the parks stand for. It is scary to see the increased traffic moving through these areas. I cannot imagine what will happen in 20 years!

With regards to the large equipment, if you can't carry it, move to a smaller format. MF offers 'movements' now. Besides, something about photographing a natural scene and knowing that my car is behind me that makes me feel funny.

-- Dave Anton (, September 22, 2000.

I have to agree with Jason K. Let's not forget what the parks stand for. They are protection areas. It is scary to see the increased traffic moving through these areas. I cannot imagine what will happen in 20 years! If there are special permits involved, i beleive that they should be carefully monitored. And by all means, there should be a fee for this. Gone are the days where people can do what they please in the parks. If North Americans have a problem with this, visit Europe and see how their wilderness areas are holding up.

With regards to the large equipment, if you can't carry it, move to a smaller format. MF offers 'movements' now. Besides, something about photographing a natural scene and knowing that my car is behind me that makes me feel funny.

-- Dave Anton (, September 22, 2000.

I just read that Edward Weston claimed "There's nothing photogenic more than 100 yards from your car." (Inexact quote).

-- Bill Mitchell (, September 22, 2000.

Since commercial use permits are already available, the question comes down to whether the Park Service should provide special access for LF photographers who are either hobbiests or who would lose money on their commercial work if they had to pay the fees. Translation of question: would it serve the public interest to subsidize these two groups? Since there are already too many people using the parks, there is clearly no public good served by increasing the number of commercial images promoting them. Similarly, why should one hobby be publically supported and not others? Shouldn't birders be allowed the same access? Painters? Black powder hunters?

Backpacking permits are still available for all of these parks, and while this may be impractical for 8x10 and 11x14 users, it is certainly possible with 4x5 -- even for those of us born when Truman was president :-)

-- John Lehman (, September 22, 2000.

On the idea that the parks are our "last open spaces", you havent' spent much time in the Great Basin. We have a lot of open space and much of it has no roads on it and we want to keep it that way in spite of the redneck politicians like Jimmy 'the jerk' Hansen, our local U.S. Representative who is no friend of either wilderness or open spaces. Visibility in our area is normally 75 miles plus though Magcorp, the US No. 1 polluter fouls it constantly. When a new area is designated a National Park, National Historic Area, National Monument or other national designation you can kiss a lot of access goodbye. The locals are often the first to be shut out, photogs or cowboys or hunters or whatever. New administrators take over and immediately the old jeep trails close, the dirt roads are blocked off and these new land cops don't like horses either. Anyone who frequented Great Basin National Park before it became one watched access from the West disappear and a lot of rules come into being. Photographers quickly lost access to areas and trailheads they used to drive up to in vehicles as diverse as 4x4's, Audi's and Subaru's. Now they are no trespassing areas or fenced off, with a 5-10 mile hike on the old road being required. Sounds easy to many until you realize you are going uphill with a 6000 foot elevation gain just to get to what used to be a trailhead with a dirt pullout for your vehicle. Photographer access? Yes, it is still there and now you have to add in 2-4 gallons of water as well. Where before you could zip up a 1-2 mile trail with an 8x10, gaining a few thousand feet you are now shut out. So is the sheepherder and cowboy who used to ranch in the area. I see no problems with photographer access on a permit basis, just like Tule Lake wildlife refuge does. A reservation basis with NO FEES for normal photogs. Involve a production crew and you invoke fees. It is simple and easy to do. Show up the day before & no one yet has the thing reserved and it is yours. It would be easy to administer and could have some regulations, such as go in by 5AM and don't come back out before a specific time, with road driving OK though limited in the shuttle bus area. Yes, some park personnel are excellent. Some photograph their own stuff and don't manipulate the system. But there are those who use their position to keep others out, many of us know some of them. The U.S. National Parks get so much positive publicity from the photography in the parks that restricting it is foolish and counterproductive. And, take up two or three seats on the shuttle very often with a pile of LF gear and you will soon find yourself not welcome at all. So, make an exception by permit for photogs, painters and the few others who have heavy and bulk gear to carry. It can be done in a way that doesn't interfere with the normal running of the parks. As for why anyone would want to photograph in some of them in the height of the tourist season...what if you want pictures showing the crowding? Besides, everyone shoots a bit differently & at times the light may be coming from the angles you like when all the tourists are there.

-- Dan Smith (, September 22, 2000.

My answer as to weather large format photographers should get special permits to access National Parks by car is a resounding no. No because areas given National Park status are truly unique and beautiful places which need to be kept that way for all times. Yes, they may change naturally, through flooding, fires, geologic changes etc., but the human impact must be minimized. Human kind's imprints are everywhere, and as the populations grow, so does the destruction of plants, animals and landscapes. Those of us who love the natural outdoors are well aware of the situation and knowing this makes it all the more important we don't unnecessarily add to the carnage. There are those who find ways to abuse the system, but that does not justify us to stoop to that level. In choosing to be large format photographers we are at a disadvantage but it is by choice. As I carry my own 8x10 into the natural landscape, I often wish it were easier. It would mean less sweat, relief to a soar back and access to more photographic situations. But we must be wary for what we wish for, because the benefits can be far outweighed by the consequences. If the floodgates are opened, where everyone's needs must be accommodated we will quickly lose what's left of our natural areas. The NPS system is by no means perfect, but let's not add to its decline. By stating we as photographers and other artists, be they painters, writers, whatever, need special treatment because we help preserve them through our work is a cop-out to just make our endeavors easier. Our needs and desires should come second to the goal of maintaining and preserving our National Parks and other non- human created environments and the creatures who reside there.

-- Saulius Eidukas (, September 23, 2000.

Should we as LF users get special permits? No. Unless the park system sets up a permit system for those with large picnic baskets, coolers, baby buggies, etc. On the other hand, perhaps the park system could consider a Photo and Art Safari bus that could haul artists and photographers into the remote areas when the park is less crowded. The buses could be set up for ample room for photographic gear and easels,etc. and charge a premium fee. The bus could either visit all the popular scenic areas for enough time to photograph a spot, or drop the artist or photographer off at an area and pick them up later. It might add revenue in the off season. We don't have many truly wild areas left. What we have should be preserved. We as photographers shouldn't get any more consideration than any other group without being willing to pay for the priviledge. Besides, the last thing the world needs is another photograph of the national parks.

-- Doug Paramore (, September 23, 2000.

There are two very separate things being discussed here as one. On one hand there is the question of whether artists with a lot of gear should be able to drive a car on a pre-existing road which is already travelled by vehicles (buses mostly). On the other is a debate about the merits of making places like Great Basin NP which closed off existing access completely to all vehicles.

It seems to me there could be some sort of infrequent accomodations to photographers and other artists & handicapped people in the first case. But I personally have no sympathy for people who all of a sudden can't drive to a spot because the road has been closed off entirely and preferably obliterated in order to protect the natural ecology and beauty of the place. We go to these places because they aren't full of roads and idiots (most idiots stick to roads). The fewer roads, the better.

This happened to me just last weekend. I drove up an old logging road in Idaho and all of a sudden I found it had been closed by the Forest Service, and I faced a four mile walk I wasn't prepared to make. I turned around and took other pictures. And I'm glad they closed that road. Should've closed it ten years ago. Never should have made it in the first place.


-- Erik Ryberg (, September 23, 2000.

Let me remind everyone here. National Parks belong to "all" the people of this good land. They don't belong to the National Park Service and the rangers that work for you and me. They were created for the citizens to enjoy the outdoor experience. They were created to keep specific scenic places and views as unspoiled as possible and allow "access" to the average citizen. Now all of a sudden "access" has become a catch phrase and is forbidden to the very people for whom the parks were intended. You and me. Back in the days of the rail and steel barons many places were bought or settled for the rich and their friends for next to nothing. The Hearst's own thousands of acres of prime forest and streams in NoCal that they got virtually free from the government at the turn of the century. The NPS and US Forestry are bloated giants that don't do what they were intended to do. Yosemite is a travestry with all the "ammenities" within it's borders. But let's face it. Most people who visit the National Parks are day trippers. They come in for a couple of hours and they're gone on to another National Park. And they all bring cars. That's the only way they can get from point A to point B. The NPS has known for years of the impending paralysis developing in the parks. We need to demand that they take care of bussiness and that congress give them the money to do this. I disagree vehemently with Dave and Bruce. Who made you king? You don't want to take photos in the parks ok but the rest of us enjoy our trips to shoot Half-Dome one more time. And the flowers at YankeeBoy Basin. The Arches. There will never be too many pictures of these beautiful areas. Shuttles? How do you get "any" camera to the upper reaches of Zion or the North Rim of The Canyon without a car? The upper reaches of Yosemite? Not without a car. If you are young enough and in good enough shape, God has blessed you. Dan and I are too damn old to get our limited equipment very far from our cars as are my elderly parents and yours who have paid for these parks far more than you youngsters. Permits and higher fees to keep the parks less crowded? Bullshit. What of the poor farm worker with 4 kids and grandma who want to visit "their" park? It costs $20 now to enter some of "our" parks. That's outrageous! Why are we paying for Bosnia and Iraq when we can't pay to administer the parks in a more efficient manner so there is no cost to the people who "own" them? Permits for LF? Hardly. I have the right as a citizen to photograph in the parks just as much as a tourist from Germany. Format has nothing to do with it. That is just the NPS scrambling to find more money to feed the bloated carcass it has become. And how about those roadless areas many of us used to enjoy exploring? Who of you can now carry enough water, much less anything else, to hike within Great Basin National Park and see what's there? The NPS employees just get in their truck and "inspect" their area but we can't get in. I can't hike to many places I used to drive into and camp but mining companies and timber harvesters can. The park service needs overhauling and I am in favor of shuttles in the parks. But I am also in favor of keeping the parks open to cars and camping during off season times. James

-- james (, September 23, 2000.

Several issues have been raised, and I'd like to comment on a couple.

Denali National Park has a permit system for professional photographers and artists. I used to get these when I was doing wildlife photography. Holders of the permits, drawn by lottery from qualifying applicants (used to require 25 published images per year, 4 of which were in publications with circulation > 250,000), can drive a private vehicle on the park road. About the only justification for this system is that it 1) allows NPS staff to keep tabs on the pros, and 2) makes sure that wildlife photographers work relatively near their cars when photographing bears. Like it or not, pros are driven by the need for income, and as bear photographs still sell better than most others, will do foolish things when trying to get the photograph. In the end, this saves the bears.

Lots of pros, full-time and part-time, have made excellent use of this system. Yes, there have been abuses, but it has worked reasonably well. But, it creates a two class population in the park - those who have the permits and those who don't. You can't begin to imagine how poorly some people behave, whether NPS rangers, bus drivers, or tourists. Most people seem ill-equiped to not have something that someone else has. Congressional delegations have even written to the park on behalf of constituents so that they might get a pass. So passes based on qualifications have problems associated with them, which ultimately add to the burden of park managers. In Denali, there seems to be a rationale. Elsewhere, the burden may not be worth it.

I do not think that opening the system to anyone willing to pay for the permit is a valid approach. The class strata will then be based on wealth. Those strata permeate life outside the park, and already affect park access enough in my opinion (aircraft overflights and in-park accommodations for those with more disposable income). I personally would prefer that they not have a more significant role in the parks than they already have.

The commercial photography permits that currently exist for parks and other Federal lands are not for landscape photographers, unless you have props and models. Yes, these permits will give you certain access privledges, but you also have to post a bond in most parks. So they have costs that go beyond the application fee. And once again, if you're not a pro, you may have trouble getting a permit, even if you conjure up some justification that goes beyond "my equipment is to heavy/awkward."

What should be done? I have heard that Grand Canyon NP is considering allowing consessionaires to operate small shuttles to take people to overlooks for sunset/sunrise. I think that this has some merit for most parks which plan to close their roads to private vehicles. These won't be as cheap as a standard bus, but they should still be affordable for small groups going to one or two places. As many other respondants noted, the parks' welfare should come before that of the photographers.

The other issue that I would like to speak to is the one of NPS rangers (or BLM or NFS staff) having special access privledges to public lands. This has been a significant problem in Denali NP, where rangers have been allowed to photograph bears along the park road while being on a bicycle, or allowed to do photography for sale while using government vehicles, often while on duty. I have been told by park managers that this custom developed because these rangers 1) donate duplicate images to the parks and 2) don't get paid very much as rangers. In my opinion, these answers are inadequate. Many pros and amateurs donate images to the NPS, but do not gain special access privileges. The decision to become a park ranger is a voluntary one. If you don't like the pay, work elsewhere. I have also seen several instances in which park rangers who subsequently became professional photographers, continued to have special access rights. This gives them an inherent competitive advantage over other professionals. Unfortunately, these abuses will continue because park managers support them.

In some respects, those of us who share or sell our images of the parks are to blame for their popularity. But if the parks were not popular, various administrations would have done away with at least some of them. Maintaining the parks' popularity while not allowing them to be loved to death is the problem facing park and other public land managers. I know that I don't have the solution, but I would be opposed to one that gives preferential treatment to any group of people without a justification that involves protection of the resource.

-- Bruce M. Herman (, September 23, 2000.

There is a solution for the means to access most park areas but it has it's problems too. I like the shuttle system now in place at Yosemite with a couple of modifications. And this shuttle system can be applied at most of the parks in the west that I've visited(that means all of them). The main problem with the shuttle system itself is that the shuttle busses don't go everywhere in the park that people visit. You can't get to the upper reaches of Yosemite NP on a bus. You can't access the Merced below the turn off at 120. And they don't start early enough in the morning and operate late enough in the evening. Many people hike to Half-Dome during the day and many are forced to walk back to Curry in the dark. And if they are staying in the tent area to the west of the Village, the walk is a very long one indeed. And not everyone is young and fit. But everyone is entitled to use the park. You can't get to Tuolumne or any other destination outside the Valley unless you use a car. The problem with a shuttle system is where do you leave your car? Mariposa? El Portal? And now how about Zion NP? One of my favorite destinations for B&W photography. The Valley is nice but I prefer the Mesa areas on top. How do I get there without a car? It's 20 miles to the top. It's hard enough of a hike with LF gear as it is because of the scarcity of parking places along the road anywhere above the Canyon. Checkerboard Mesa has about 30 parking places but that is just about at the end of the road through the upper Zion area. And hiking through this area, it isn't easy going from one little canyon to the next without getting back to the road and driving to the next canyon entrance. When I attended a workshop by Charles Farmer a few years back, we were going to rent a 15 passenger van to help alleviate the crowd of vehicles. The Park Service (I don't know where the term "service" comes from) wanted 90$ and $10 a head to enter the park for the purposes of a workshop. Well since we all had Golden Eagle passes, we all got in our cars and drove into the park and fuck the NPS and their stupidity. They spend millions of tax dollars on studies on how best to handle the crowds but never see the answers standing right in front of them. Do you realize how many cars are in Yosemite just to get people to work? Move all of these amentities outside the park and it wouls alleviate a great number of people and reduce some of the traffic. Get congress to fund the means of transport within the parks instead of helping fund wars around the world. And make sure that whatever answer they come up with accommodates "all" economic and physical groups who use these parks of ours. They are not just for the young, fit and rich among us but for all the citizens of this country.

-- james (, September 24, 2000.

First, let me say that Dave Richart's response is right on the money! I feel about "Arches" as you do about half dome...give me a break. I loved it, well said, sir! As to the question posed, I think that a certain arrogance develops in many of the photographers who label themsleves as "serious". They tend to believe that they are saving something for future generations. These are the same people who leave cigarette butts, film cans, film boxes, papers, food wrappers, etc. in the name of preserving the natural beauty of a park. I am, by no means, an eco-nut, however you really do need to savor the irony of the actions of these "serious" photographers. I say no to special permits for photographers. We are no better than a family with their video camera. Maybe this will force photographers to start looking at everything they have missed in their own back yard.

-- David N. VanMeter (, September 25, 2000.

Well David, I wholeheartedly disagree with your statement. It's a nice troll but it nonetheless shows how utterly uniformed and out of touch you are with "real" serious photographers. And I'm glad I won't need to trip over you in Arches or any other beautiful place because I know you will be in your backyard swing shooting pictures of your swingset. And that's Mr. Mickelson to you pal.

-- james (, September 25, 2000.

No. I live relatively close to Zion and visit there frequently and have to say that in the fall photographers are one of the most problemmatic user groups in the park. I have seen our fellow large formatters park vehicles willy nilly along the roads damaging unprotected landscape and congesting traffic because they didn't leave enough room for two way traffic. All because it was close to the shot. This is not to say anything about people who park their tripods in the middle of traffic or have the gall to ask hikers (who spent the better part of the day climbing several thousand feet) to move so they could set up a shot. To think that we deserve special priveledges (sp?) because we are serious artists is to not understand the nature of the problem. There are numerous groups who also have legal rights to use the park for their personal interests (kayakers and rock climbers come to mind) for whom vehicular access would be highly desirable, but, the attitude that parking as close as possible to a desired location has significantly diminished the quality of our most popular national parks. When you have the experience of visiting Zion on a non-holiday weekend and the scenic drive looks more like the parking for the Michigan-Ohio State game then something has to change. For me I'm happy to hike.

-- Kevin (, September 26, 2000.

I agree wholeheartedly with you Kevin. But take the amateur point and shooter out of the picture and the park gets pretty deserted. People like you, me and hopefully some of the rest of this group know better than to do stupid things to the already desecrated environment we try to capture on film. I tend to go to Zion and most places in the off season or in season I get to the shot so early that most of the amateurs are still in bed daring not to brave the cold. And yes there are millions of places away from the road and the parks and many of us shoot these places. I've gone to many places I won't name that are absolutely stunning and never seen a soul. And even in our parks if you get the hell off the road a couple hundred feet you seldom see anybody. But I ask you to always remember that there are those who cannot, for one reason or another, get too far off the road or pathway. I have met many photographers who can no longer pack a 45 and can't walk more than a few hundred paces from their car. These photographers have just as much right to photograph Half-Dome or The Great Arch as anyone else. That doesn't diminish their validity nor there images. Hopefully when you reach my age you will still be able to get out and about. These places will still be available to everyone and not just the rich or you won't have to wait a year or two to get a permit to visit. When I say serious photographer I mean someone that takes the time to be careful where they step, where they park their car, takes the shuttle when available, is courteous, doesn't leave their end tears from their 120 film pouch laying all over the place, and generally regards the environment with the respect it deserves. I've been known to get a little hostile towards folks who don't show the same respect for a place that I do. And hopefully ther rest of us will do the same. Put it out there and help protect the environment from the idiots. But just because someone wants a shot of Delicate Arch doesn't mean they deserve any disrespect from anyone. Someone doesn't want an image of something that may have been shot a million times before they were even born doesn't need to go there and take the shot. But that doesn't mean they need to spout their disrespect of anyone who wants that shot. It shows to me what they're like inside. To each his own. We've got enough self-serving stuck up people around. We don't need that attitude among "serious" photographers here at the forum. And if you"re serious, you can call me James.

-- james (, September 26, 2000.

I read in many responses the question "how do you get there without a car?

WALK. Has anyone read Ansel's accounts of how he used to get around in the High Sierras?

If you can not hike with your gear, I am truly sorry; and I am being sincere here. But to say that the Parks "were created for the citizens to enjoy the outdoor experience..." is a gross understatement of the reason the Parks exist.

Humans need to get it through their collective head that this planet does not belong to us. It is not our possession; and for sure not a single one of us will take even a grain of sand with us when we check out. The Parks/Public Lands exist [or should exist] to preserve in some limited way what we _know_ should be preserved to a much larger degree.

Again, the Parks are more important than our enjoyment of them. There should be NO cars in any of the Parks except public transport to the main entrances. And I agree, get ALL of the amenities out of the Parks.

Is the NPS inefficient? YES! And we should be among the most vocal groups out there telling the NPS and congress what is wrong.

By the way, I am renewing my membership in the Sierra Club today. May I please suggest that, if you love the land, you should support this most important organization.



-- Jason Kefover (, September 27, 2000.

Congrats Micah on asking a question which has generated a lot of discussion!

As I recall one of the major problems NPS faces is congress-beings too willing to vote for preservation of area "X" but not willing enough to vote for an NPS budget increase. They are holding things together with spit and binders twine and a lot of unpaid overtime and volunteer hours.

-- Sean yates (, September 27, 2000.

I couldn't agree more with Jason. What he said reminded me of what has become a very important set of words to me over the last few years.

"The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth." -Chief Seattle, 1854

People need to stop thinking of the Earth, national parks included, as a possesion or some source of income, and start looking at it as what it really is- a living, breathing organism encompassing every plant and animal it supports. It distresses me to see so many harmful things being done to the Earth while seemingly few individuals even acknowledge that anything is even wrong. The Earth as a whole is far from healthy, there's no questioning that. What we can quesetion is how it got that way and how we can try to fix it. It is the responsibility of every person who has ever enjoyed nature in any way, shape, or form at any point in their lives to do something to preserve and promote it.

We, as large format photographers, posses an interesting capacity to capture things on film in a way that is entirely unique to large format photographers. We are able to create images with more detail by far and thereby visual impact than our smaller format brethren. So what? I say that because of this ability to impress, we have every right and responsibility to use our talents to promote conservation in any and all ways that we can. We should start focusing less on such things as where in the parks we can park our cars, and more on the things that will actually bring about a positive change in the way the Earth is treated, both inside the park system and out.

-- Dave Munson (, September 28, 2000.

Dave, there are an enormous number of small and medium format shooters that would disagree with your statement that we LF enthusiasts have anymore uniqueness in the way our images look or convey information. And many have never bought into the Gaia concept of the earth. Just do your part for your part of the earth. And don't blame the people who go to NP's to enjoy them. Blame the NPS for their mismanagement and shortsightedness in dealing with a problem that was building long before we photographers started showing up to shoot in these wonderous places. And while you're at it talk to the governments of southeast asia who have sold off half their trees and now are swimminmg for their lives in the floods they have caused. Photographers didn't cause that. James

-- james (, September 28, 2000.


I never blamed photographers for anything. Nor did I put any blame on any park-goers, photographers or otherwise. And how did southeast Asia factor into this? All I'm saying is that we should all do what we can. And that goes for non-photographers too. Furthermore, I never said that non LF shooters couldn't create perfectly unique images. In fact, many of my favorite landsape images were shot on 35mm and rollfilm. However, there's no denying the impact of the incredible detail from a LF image, and that's something the smaller formats just can't provide, period. Before you jump down my throat, let me just say that I don't believe that LF is any "better" than 35mm or rollfilm, but it most certainly is different. Every photographer, regardless of format, is capable of creating very unique and powerful images, but not necessarily in the same way. Large format is just a different way of doing things.

Blaming how the NPS screwed things up in the past solves absolutely nothing. Arguing like this solves even less. I think we can all agree that something needs to be done, whether the intricacies of our personal philosophies agree or not. Therefore, why not concentrate on how to change the current state of things and prevent further environmental damage? It's certainly a better option that engaging in pointless disputes such as this.

-- Dave Munson (, September 28, 2000.

Unfortunatley, no one will ever know beyond doubt what Chief Seattle said.

-- Sean yates (, September 29, 2000.

Quite true. That's the problem with history- sometimes the specifics aren't as clear as we would like. However, whether or not we know what Chief Seattle said exactly on that day, it's the sentiment/philosophy behind what he said that counts. The idea that the Earth cannot be owned in the sense that one may own personal posessions is the key. And, regardless of whether people may agree with that idea or not, it is definitely something worth pondering.

Just my $0.02 for the day...

-- Dave Munson (, September 30, 2000.

300 million visitors to Nat'l parks in year 2000. Do we as individuals really believe all these folks have a right to drive their cars through the parks???? Come on folks! Beauty is a necessity for most of us,rich or poor, but having wild places left to enjoy is a privelidge not a right. We as photographers are just going to have to tough it out like other groups with needs. I am certainly in no position to hike but tough luck for me. The inept park service needs to change, but that is not a decent justification to destroy the parks. Greed, is just that, what do you really want a wild place with all of its splendor or 3oo million visitor with cars?

-- Julie Hancock (, November 19, 2000.

It is quite clear that the original question has been used as stepping stone for a number of indivuals to express relatively narrow points of view. For those of you who have used a shuttle system such as the system in place in Denali, you will attest to the fact that it does not work most of the time. Standing by the road in the pouring down rain with thousands of dollars of camera gear, waiting for a bus with an empty seat, is not particularly pleasant. Sitting on a bus with a large camera pack in your lap becomes more unpleasant when you are in the asile seat and you have to move whenever the person next to you wants to get in or out. Getting off a bus and having to walk 1 - 2 miles back because the bus driver, who fancies himself or herself as a "professional" photographer, claims that they did not hear you, makes it much more difficult. Finally, having to carry camping equipment because the bus does not run during the "magic" hours makes it almost impossible.

Years ago, the national parks virtually begged professional photographers to promote the parks so that they could get more funding from the federal governmnet. Now that we have achieved sucess and the parks have become popular, they want us to go away. The fact is that the overcrowding is being used as an excuse to expand the private consessions in the parks (for political payback). This has become quite clear with Denali reducing the number of road permits given to professional photographers (the permits are being given to the busses). In addition, Denali has significantly increased the eligibility requirements for the permits.

Now to address some of the asides. First, for those of you who do not want to see another picture of Half Dome or Delicate Arch, you most certainly are not professional photographers. As John Shaw has said, everyone has a picture of Mount Rainier but nobody has the best picture of Mount Rainier. Secondly, for those of you who begrudge the Ansel Adams tripod holes, what is wrong with letting others learn the art of photography by emulating the masters?

I do not believe that the format used should be a criteria, nor do I believe that the number of photographs one has published should be a criteria. On the other hand, an incentive system that removes a large number of vehicles from the roads would reduce congestion enough that "needs" vehicles could be allowed. This access could be controlled by a reasonable permit system which would take into account the needs of the applicant. The current Yosemite valley system may be the basis (with some modification) for a future model.

-- Paul Johnson (, January 25, 2001.

Paul: I have used the Denali bus system last summer, carrying a full 5x7 and 35mm system and overnight gear, and was quite surprised at how easy it was to work in the park, after hearing opinions such as yours or Joe Englender's. Denali is a wilderness park, and as such photographers wishing to work in it should be able to somewhat survive in the wilderness. We should be grateful that there is a bus system at all, which certainly won't be the case of Gates of the Artic and other wilderness parks. If you want to make the best picture of Denali, fine, but it's not the job of the NPS to help you do so more than it's their job to help you reach the summit of the mountain.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, January 25, 2001.

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