Nature as Medicine

Trail through moss covered forest, Fort Cascade National Historic Site, Washington
Trail through moss covered forest, Fort Cascade National Historic Site, Washington

A recent article in the Washington Post illustrated an interesting phenomenon that is occurring in the medical profession these days and perhaps the timing couldn’t be better. Just when the cost of health insurance has skyrocketed, doctors across the country are telling their patients to “take a hike” to fix what ails them.

They’re not trying to lose customers, but instead are medicating their patients with nature to treat everything from heart disease to attention deficit disorder. Detailed prescriptions are often written to include park or preserve locations, specific trails and mileage. In many ways, as Ken Burns pointed out in his excellent series “America’s Best Idea”, our national park system can and should be an integral part of our healthcare system.

As a landscape photographer, I spend a great deal of time on and off the trail and I feel fortunate that my work not only helps to protect these special places, but promotes my health in the process. Photography and outdoor recreation have always been an ideal match, and now they might just lower your medical bills as well!

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”    ― Rachel Carson

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Landscape Tip: What’s Your Angle?

The Wave, Coyote Buttes, Paria-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona (© Russ Bishop/
The Wave, Paria-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona (click to view large)

Compelling landscape photography is often comprised of one or more elements that make it stand out from the crowd. Magical light, richly saturated colors, and dramatic vistas can all make for great images, but sometimes we’re not rewarded with these sure-fire conditions even after the long hike or waiting out the inclement weather.

Fortunately there are other ways to create visually dynamic imagery when mother nature is not cooperating – namely your lens and your eyes. Perspective is a powerful tool that is limited only by your choice of lens and framing.

A wide-angle lens with both excellent depth of field and a wide field of view can be used to emphasize a foreground element such as a plant or rock within the context of its larger mountain or desert environment. In most cases this also creates an imaginary line directing the viewer’s eye across the frame, which in turn adds drama to the composition.

So the next time the elements aren’t working in your favor try adding a little visual spice to the composition. A subtle change in perspective can often create leading lines that add drama to a scene, and will entice your viewer to linger within the frame.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

America’s Best Idea

Last light on Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite National Park, California (© Russ Bishop/
Last light on Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite National Park, California (click image to view large)

August 25th is the 101st birthday of the National Park Service. Established in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, the National Park Service was created to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein…for the enjoyment of future generations.”

From its humble beginnings with just thirty-five parks administered under the Department of the Interior, today the National Park System includes over 400 units including parks, monuments, and historic sites. Ken Burns’ recent film The National Parks: America’s Best Idea rekindled the connection many feel with the parks, and is a wonderful tribute to the history and originality that first made them possible.

The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and a great resource for staying in the loop about events and activities at nearby parks or putting the finishing touches on planning your next big adventure.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Kauai’s Kalalau Trail

Lush vegetation along the Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii USA (© Russ Bishop/
Lush vegetation along the Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

The Kalalau Trail along Kauai’s verdant north shore is arguably one of the finest hikes in the world. Originally built in the late 1800’s to link early Hawaiian settlements along the rugged coastline, it is still the only land access to this remote part of the Island.

The trail, which starts at the end of the road at Ke’e Beach, hugs the sheer cliffs and traverses 5 valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach where the pali (Hawaiian for cliffs) create a natural terminus.

Along this mystical journey you pass verdant spires, wander through lush valleys, and are left with the feeling that you’ve truly entered the Lost World (not surprising since both King Kong and Jurassic Park were filmed here).

Whether you cover the entire 11 mile distance and camp at Kalalau Beach or take an afternoon hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach, this is the quintessential Na Pali Coast experience.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved