Driving to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas, watch for the sign at the entrance to the new Memorial Bridge Parking Plaza where the parking is free. Follow the signs at the parking area to a pedestrian walkway across the bridge. You can climb several flights of stairs or follow a longer but easier ramp up to bridge level. A solid concrete barrier separates the sidewalk from traffic on the bridge. Large trucks crossing the bridge create a vibration. Wait for them to pass before making your exposures. You will see several spectacular views as you walk toward the middle of the bridge. In the middle, a straight-on aerial view of Hoover Dam is what photographers have always wanted. A vertical image with a super-wide lens includes the new road, directly below the bridge, and the cloud-filled sky above the dam. On both sides of Hoover Dam’s base are 17 power generating turbines, eight on the Nevada side and nine on the Arizona side. To avoid morning shadows, the dam is best photographed in the afternoon.
Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley is a crossroads where plants and animals of western grasslands meet the same hardwood forests that cover New England, displaying a riot of autumn color each year around the middle of October. This long, narrow national park follows Ohio’s Cuyahoga River Valley and forested hills to the east and west. South of Cleveland and north of Akron, this park is surrounded by cities, communities, and industrial centers. Like Central Park in Manhattan, it is a peaceful oasis of natural beauty where many people get outside and take a walk in the woods. Reserve a seat to Cleveland on your favorite airline to photograph autumn color in Ohio.
By late October, the vineyards across the Napa and Sonoma Valleys have turned yellow. By the second week of November, the remaining leaves change to shades of red. Here, in the San Francisco Bay Area, you will discover landscapes similar to the rolling hills of the Palouse in southeastern Washington State and autumn color as vivid as New England’s. Intertwine your photography with wine tasting tours through the area’s famous wineries and a few of the best restaurants in America. Newsletter #106 includes directions to my favorite spots for sunsets across the vineyards of Northern California. The grape harvest can begin as early as August, but the picking usually occurs in mid-September. By late October, grape leaves that are still on the vine have turned yellow. By early November, leaves begin to turn red. A ripe bunch of grapes makes a nice close-up subject surrounded by bright red leaves. It’s easy to find a few unpicked clusters of grapes that were missed by the pickers. Stay a week and watch the colors change. If you can’t schedule an autumn visit, mid-summer is almost as good. The vines are bare in winter and early spring. March is the mustard season when the fields are yellow.
Washington’s North Cascades National Park, in the northwest corner of Washington State, has some of America’s most beautiful mountain landscapes. Nature photographers who have not yet discovered this wilderness will find countless waterfalls dropping from ridges below jagged peaks and hundreds of glaciers, more than any other national park. Miles of trails through dripping rain forests connect jewel-like alpine lakes. Rainstorms blowing in from the Pacific are blocked by the North Cascades Range. Rain falls on the west side of the Cascades, creating a moss-covered rain forest. The highest point along the road through the park is called Rainy Pass. More snow falls here and piles up into deeper snow packs than in any other national park in the lower forty-eight states. A few miles east of the summit, ponderosa pine forests cover dry mountains rolling down toward the Columbia River Valley. Driving eastward, away from the Cascades, you’ll see dry, rolling hills receding into the distance.
Notes and images from Bob Hitchman.