Photography “Bucket” List

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Whether or not we reduce it to writing, I think all of us have a mental list of people, places and things we’d like to photograph. Recently I decided to actually write a list of places I’d really like to photograph – sort of a “bucket list.” It isn’t all inclusive but for now, they are the places at the top. Hopefully the photographs will indicate why the locations are on the list.

One thing you’ll notice very quickly is that the list is Western United States centric. I’ve been fortunate in my life to have visited 46 states and over 30 countries so I’m not suggesting that there aren’t any other places in the US or in the world to photograph.  However, the Western US has a number of spectacular locations that attract hundreds of photographers and I want to be one of them.

Monument Valley

This is a place I’ve wanted to visit and photograph for years. The use of valley in the name is really a misnomer because it’s actually a vast high desert with incredible buttes and rock formations.  It’s famous, among other reasons, as the setting for many Hollywood westerns.  In fact, when I look at the black and white image, below, I keep expecting John Wayne leading a cavalry column to appear from behind the nearest butte.

Scenes from the Old West - Monument Valley in Black & White

In my opinion, Monument Valley isn’t a day trip. There are many locations to photograph and morning and evening light are the best times. In fact, if I had the time, I would go there at different times of year – winter for snow and spring for thunderstorms.

Valley Drive

Sunup at Monument Valley - Utah

Bryce Canyon

Thor's Hammer

Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunrise Point.....Bryce Canyon

What an incredible place this is. The shear ruggedness of Bryce Canyon makes it worth the trip. I’ve seen it from 30,000 feet and am really looking forward to seeing it from ground level. The colors rendered by the sun the first hour after sunrise or the last hour before sunset can be spectacular.

Big Bend National Park

For everyone that thinks Texas is nothing more than a flat prairie, the highest peak in Big Bend National Park is 1,200 feet higher than Mount Mitchell, the highest east of the Mississippi River. To describe why Big Bend is on my list, I took this from Wikipedia.

Big Bend National Park has national significance as the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology, which includes more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles, and 75 species of mammals. The park covers 801,163 acres. Few areas exceed the park’s value for the protection and study of geologic and paleontologic. Cretaceous and Tertiary fossil organisms exist in variety and abundance. Archeologists have discovered artifacts estimated to be 9,000 years old, and historic buildings and landscapes offer graphic illustration of life along the international border in the 19th century.

Santa Elena Canyon

Desert Flowers

South Rim

Best of all, it’s never crowded.  After all, at 550 miles from Dallas it isn’t exactly a day trip.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

A Perfect Morning at Glacier National Park

From the remote wilderness of the Chihuahuan Desert to the grandeur of the northern U.S. Rockies may seem drastic but there are many attractions. Crystal clear lakes that on a still morning reflect the mountains, wild mountain goats and vanishing glaciers are but a few of the reasons why this is an attractive photography destination.

The Great Plains

Before you ask why anyone would want to go to the plains of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas or Oklahoma, think about what happens a lot there in April, May and June. Thunderstorms. Incredible cloud formations, sometimes reaching over 60,000 feet into the sky, and electrifying lightening storms make for awesome photo opportunities and the rural areas of the Great Plains is like having a ringside seat. Besides, it would give me an excuse to buy “rain gear” for my camera and lenses. Of course, it is important to be vigilant and avoid hail storms and tornados.

Thunderstorm, 4

Thunderstorm in OKC 5/16/2010

These are but a few of the places on my photography bucket list. You might ask why I left off some of the more well known places like Yosemite and Yellowstone. The primary reason is because it is so crowded. Other than Glacier, and the last time I checked you couldn’t drive an RV in the park, the places I mentioned are so large in size, or so remote, that they aren’t overcrowded. A bonus when you’re looking for landscape or nature photography.

All but one of the places I mentioned are national parks and are out-of-doors adventures but that’s my photography bucket list. I encourage you to make your own. Maybe someday I’ll make of list of places outside the U.S. If I do, Ayers Rock (Uluru) will be at the top.

Feel free to add a comment below recommending some of your favorite places.

I enjoy traveling and recording far-away places and people with my camera. But I also find it wonderfully rewarding to see what I can discover outside my own window. You only need to study the scene with the eyes of a photographer. – Alfred Eisenstaedt

Photo Credits:
Monument Valley in Black & White by Alaskan Dude on Flickr Commons
Valley Drive by Wolfgang Staudt on Flickr Commons
Sun-up at Monument Valley by edmondo gnerre on Flickr Commons
Thor’s Hammer by fundenburg on Flickr Commons
Bryce Canyon National Park by redeo on Flickr Commons
Sunrise Point …Bryce Canyon by Alan Vernon on Flickr Commons
Santa Elana Canyon by subarcticmike on Flickr Commons
Desert Flowers by Corey Leopold on Flickr Commons
South Rim by Adam Baker on Flickr Commons
Glacier National Park by Dave Sizer on Flickr Commons
A Perfect Morning in Glacier National Park by Stuck in Customs on Flickr Commons
Thunderstorm by CA on Flickr Commons
Thunderstorm in OKC by Paul L. McCord Jr. on Flickr Commons

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  • B Melinda14

    The National Parks out West is the reason I want to retire out that way to be 1-2 days away from the incredible beauty these places have to offer. Arches, Zion, Canyonlands, Bryce, Grand Canyon…..I want to hike back in and I want to take the donkey day trip at Grand Canyon to shoot it from the bottom up and so on! Winter at Yellowstone and the host of wild life that roam in the winter. The Western National Parks offer such a diversity from all rock formations to dense forests to clear lakes with snow in July as at Bear Tooth Pass, Mt. Rainier and Glacier National Park. I wish I could retire NOW so I can get on with my “bucket list”! Thank you for touching on a subject that obviously is deep in my heart!

  • AR Cherian

    Great bucket list. When my wife and I were living out on the west coast in Reno, we took the time to drive to all the national parks near us. We visited 10 so far and have come to enjoy every one of them and take some amazing pictures. But for many reasons, the one we both agree was magical and produced some amazing photos was Death Valley in the spring when the wildflowers bloom. I would add that to anybody’s bucket list, especially racetrack playa with the infamous moving rocks.

  • Scott

    Incredible photos, and a challenging bucket list. Here are a few from my “Europe” bucket list, I doubt I’ll ever get to the end of it…rnrn

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