Tag: Landscape Nature Photography

Coke Oven Views

Funding Our National Parks

Funding our National Parks

by Steve Fullerton

Donna and I recently completed a 3-week trip to South Africa. For Donna, who is a professional artist/photographer, this was a bucket list trip and with the opportunity to visit several diverse areas of the country it provided a great experience and a lifetime of memories for us.  Since outdoor tourism and activities have become a focus of our hometown, Grand Junction, and for that matter dozens of towns and cities across the USA, I thought it appropriate to write about the cost of our National Parks and the debate over the NPS wanting to raise entrance and annual pass fees.  The increases are indeed warranted and needed to account for the cost of maintaining and repairing our parks, monuments, and memorials as we are truly loving them to death.

We had heard and saw first hand, that the South African National Parks have a multi-tiered system of fees with international travelers paying the highest cost. As international visitors we are charged R340 per day per person to enter Kruger. This is roughly $30-35 US per person per day depending on the currency exchange rate. And think about this: It is a park that is only open from dawn to dusk and it doesn’t matter what time of day you enter, you still pay the full rate. And do not be late leaving the park by the stated closing time as fine can be as high as $200 per person. It gets worse if they have to come find you.

Additionally, your visit to a SA park is almost entirely experienced from inside of your vehicle except for a few specific areas. There are very few opportunities to do anything remotely approaching a hike and nothing like the availability of trails we have here. This is of course a safety concern as there are lions, leopards, and other predators about, but at the same time we have bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and other predators in our own parks.

Other facilities we take for granted in our own parks were also limited and spartan at best: Picnic areas, camping, visitor centers, etc. were far and few between in most parks. By comparison, in the US we charge at most $25-30 per car load and most Parks include a 7 day use with an annual pass costing only $80 for two people but still good for a car load and includes entrance to over 400 NPS units. I explained this to guides and park employees and their wide eyed, open mouthed response was always: “How do your parks function charging so little?”

It is time for our National Parks to be properly funded legislatively as well as charging fair market value at the gate. We should adopt a multi-tiered systems of fees as well as looking at changing our fees for residents and regional visitors. I see no reason to not have a per person charge versus a vehicle charge. A car does little damage if people keep to the road and assigned parking areas versus people on foot, not staying the trail or other direct impacts related to their visit. And $80 for an annual pass is way too low in my opinion. By way of comparison the average family vacation for a week at Disney runs $3,500-10,000 with the average cost being $6,300 for travel, food, passes, and related expenses. (Source: www.time.com Money May 15, 2017)

We have heard for years about the need for people “To Pay Their Fair Share”.  Our National Parks are a great place to start.

Kruger Photography Tour

Our Experience Using a

Professional Guide Service

As part of our South African vacation we spent an entire week in the Kruger National Park region. We rented a car in Johannesburg affectionally known as Jo’burg, and drove the 5 hours over with the intent of doing self-drive tours in the park in addition to using a professional Photography Tour. Trust me, to see all of Kruger(the size of Maryland) you will need several days. There are obvious reasons why one self drives:  save money, privacy, control of your schedule and where you stop, etc.  Those are all great reasons in stateside National Parks.  However, in Kruger it is a bit different and here are some reasons why using a guide service should be part of your planning for a visit:

  1. Obviously they know where to go and where the highest concentration of animals might be found.
  2. They are dialed in to spotting animals and can pick up wildlife that would be camouflaged by the bush to the average tourist.
  3. They don’t need maps so you are not spending precious time looking at a dirt road and trying to decide if it is the way you should go.
  4. In a vehicle set up for touring, you will be much higher off the ground than sitting a rental car,  and your viewing and picture taking will be better.  South Africa rental cars and most cars there are smaller. We save very few off-road vehicles.
  5. Your not allowed to get out of your car except in very specific areas.  Having control of your schedule and where you stop is a non-factor.


So while we self drove on two of our visits into Kruger, we did book an all day private photography safari with a small local tour company.  Two operative words here, private & small. Yes it cost more money but here are some reasons why we chose this route:

  1. We were not crowded into a truck with a dozen or more people all scrambling for space to take a picture or see animals.
  2. The guide was focused on our needs and not worried about trying to cram in as many viewing areas.
  3. With a group you will have to deal with people who may not want to sit still long enough to see what an animal may do next, or care about the animal you are interested in at all and want to quickly move on.
  4. We saw with the bigger operations, when one guide spots one of the Big 5 he will get on his radio and alert the other company guides.  In no time, you will have a dozen or more vehicles clogging the area and inevitably the animal will move on due to the crowds and noise.   The leopard or lion will move along.


Our guide was focused on our goals, what we had already seen, what we had not seen.  He asked us what we were looking to get out of the trip. He then made it his goal to accomplish them.  Our day started at 0500, well before sunrise.  We were at the gate when the park opened at 0600 and also at the gate when it closed so we had a full 12 hours with our guide.  Boy did we see the animals and birds!

We spotted a couple of gorgeous African Hawk Eagles, two Lilac-Breasted Rollers, Zebras, a Black Rhino, Leopards and Lions, one Leopard Tortoise, Helmeted Guineafowl and more on our Photography Tour.  The leopards were a special treat as you are lucky to see one during an entire visit. We saw 3 in one day!  The first sighting was of a mother who had dragged her Kudu kill up in a tree with a hyena nearby looking to steal some scraps.  In a neighboring tree was the leopard cub, separated from his mom and not happy about being trapped in an Umbrella Thorn tree. The second sighting was of a large male who was on the hunt and we watched him tracking Kudu and Impala for nearly 45 minutes.

Kruger National Park Plains Zebra

Pachyderms on Parade

There were so many elephants in Kruger. We spotted were some LARGE males, females and babies.  Watching the herds was so much fun with the the babies making an appearance here and there being pushed and pulled along.

It was late afternoon and we were headed to the gate when Arno, our guide with Kruger Private Safaris, spotted this Lioness.  We stopped and he started calling, loudly mimacing a lion. She was startled, confused and started returning his call.  She started calling to her young cub alerting him to a danger.  He’s like, “Yup, What’s up, Mom?” They were so sweet, albeit hard to see through the tall grass.  We hurried to the closing gate, pushing the time to its very limits.  You do not want to be late to exit Kruger.  The fine is like $200 or so depending on how late you arrive after closing time.

What is that?

What’s Up Mom?

Safe with mom.










We hurried to the closing gate, pushing the time to its very limits.  You do not want to be late to exit Kruger.  The fine is like $200 or so depending on how late you arrive after closing time.

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park

Our First Day in Kruger and the

Hazyview Area of South Africa

Giraffes in Kruger national park

So many animals in Kruger!

We decided to make Kruger National Park our first stop in South Africa.  We drove from Johannesburg on Friday the 16th of March, checked in early to the Sabi River Sun Resort in Hazyview, South Africa.  On Saturday we couldn’t wait to get our feet wet before our tour with Kruger Private Safaris the next morning, so we headed to the Park. Be prepared as its not a $20 fee for a whole car load and a 7 day pass like it is here in the States. It was roughly $35 per person, per day, regardless of the time of entry, so plan wisely. We didnt give it a second thought as we had plenty of daylight and were we ever glad we did. We spent the first few hours driving around, mouths agape, loving every moment and animal we spotted. Oh, and a quick note of warning: DO NOT MISS the park closing times. There is a very high penalty per person if you are not out of the park by closing time.

2018 Winter in the Colorado National Monument

2018 Winter in the Colorado National Monument

Four Winter Days in the Monument

I visited our local Colorado National Monument a few times in January and February hoping for shots of bighorn sheep or snowy landscapes.  My friends and I went one cold morning, brrrr…19 degrees, in mid-February. We started the hike at the Lower Monument Trailhead and headed toward the base of Independence Monument.  Thankfully it warmed up a little.  There was little snow on the trail until we got to the base of Independence.

There is road construction along Rim Rock Drive. Here is some info:  https://www.nps.gov/colm/planyourvisit/construction-projects.htm

A view from below Independence Monument with snow.

Candid shots of Hannah and Joan.

Behind Independence Monument in the Colorado National Monument

My Friends Hannah and Joan from behind Independence Monument.  We needed the ice-grippers for that part of the hike.  It was snowy and slick.

Below is a slideshow of images.

A Visit To Bailey, Colorado

Our Short Visit To

Bailey, Colorado

In the foothills of the Rockies and close to Denver lies the town of Bailey.  We arrived in Bailey, Colorado after a long drive on the icy I-70 to visit our son Shane.  I was hoping to see some snow and we did.

We stayed at the Bailey Lodge.  The owner, Scott, was very friendly and helpful a great host with a cute collie named Bonnie who was as friendly as she was cute. She loves my son.

The Adventure Course

We drove over to see the new Adventure Course. I am really planning to return in the summer! The course looks amazing.  Here are some photos from our snowy day at the site. Click to image enlarge.

Look at these photos.  It’s like Swiss Family Robinson on Steriods and with snow. : )

Can you imagine building these ladders and stands in the winter?  I loved climing trees as a kid, but never with snow. Brrr…

Foxes, Gems and Food!

The next morning we drove into Bailey. There is an outdoor Museum with an old school house, railroad car and more.

While I was preoccupied with the schoolhouse, I was spotted by a fox, a black fox. It was my first encounter with one and it was a short meeting with no introductions.

After buying some worry stones at the Gem Store we headed on to Coney Island Boardwalk for a hotdog and fries.

The owner was quite friendly and Steve and Shane loved their lunches.

Steve had the polish sausage and Shane the Durango. The fries were the best part, that and the Black Cherry Soda.

Here is a popular place with a good selection of wine with an interesting name that covers all the bases.

Leaving Bailey we found this large statue along the highway.

This is the Christ the King Statue erected in 1933.  I got a shot of the 55 foot Christ at the turnout.

It is located on private property.

We plan to return to Bailey in the summer.  We definitely plan to try out the zipline!

Death Valley Days

Death Valley National Park

From our First visit into Death Valley we fell in love with it’s unusual views and arid trails.  We say unusual because Steve and I grew up in wetter, greener locals.  The desert calls and we answer.  We’ve been back a few times for hiking, biking, canyoneering and photography.

Last Supper Sculpture

Goldwell Outdoor Museum just outside of Death Valley National Park is home to some very interesting sculptures. Click here is the website for the museum.

Leadfield Ghost Town in Death Valley National Park is home to many colors, the predominant one is rust.
One of many mine shafts in Death Valley National Park

Here are some Desert shots beginning with our trip in 2009

Gorgeous and colorful mountain views in Death Valley National Park.
Donna Fullerton in Death Valley National Park above Mosaic Canyon.
Sedona Red Rocks

Arizona in December

Arizona – Grand Canyon & Sedona

in December

Our trip to Arizona yielded beautiful sites in Sedona, Arizona and a Super Moon in the Grand Canyon.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon in the afternoon of December 2nd.  I was hoping for clear skies. We started the visit into the South Rim of the Canyon at the Watch Tower. There was a father & son sculpting duo that had some very nice pieces inside the watch tower.

Bull Elk by tree in the Grand Canyon

We were a little distracted on the drive for the sunset shot by these elk.  The bull elk was in the Watch Tower Parking lot area.  We watched a number of tourists going for selfies within 10 feet of this beast to the point where Steve finally cautioned a few of them.

He was shedding the velvet from its antlers.  It must really itch.  He kept at it for some time.

Grand Canyon Sunset

Driving over to find a good sunset spot, we stopped near Maricopa Point due to limited parking.  Tripod and Camera in hand I walked down the slight incline toward the Bright Angel Trail and the overlook.  I had no sooner started setting up my tripod when I spotted the moon peeking over the North Rim.

We spent the night at the Best Western -74 AZ-64, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023, after eating at Plaza Bonita which was a bit disappointing.

Next day we were up very early for the sunrise.  It was a bit chilly, but no snow. We spent a good amount of time talking to a Brazilian fellow traveling through the west on his way to NY.  I think he was surprised to find someone who(me) able to speak some portuguese. Junior was filming the sunrise, timelapse.  His journeys and photos can be found here.

Bird Watching

We headed over to Yavapai Point just to check it out. We hadn’t been to this point and it has a fantastic Geology Museum.

While Steve was talking to the NPS volunteers I headed out with the camera for views and birds.  I didn’t have to walk far to find a number of cuties drinking around a leaking water pipe. Click to enlarge image.

Sedona’s Red Rocks

We hurried on to our next stop, Sedona, mostly just to see the Red Rocks.  We were not disappointed. Click through the slideshow below.

All in all, it was a great trip to Arizona. We’ll be back later this year and I hope to get back to the Park.