Visiting Five National Parks …with RitchieCam!

iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Color Negative — Arches National Park

This year I’ve had the opportunity to visit five different National Parks! I love going to National Parks to experience the wonder of nature. They’re great for photography, and they’re great for the soul. Anytime the opportunity arrises to visit a National Park, I jump at it. In winter, I traveled to Arches National Park in southern Utah, Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah, and Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming. In spring, I visited Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah and Hot Springs National Park in central Arkansas. These are wonderful locations that are worth the effort to experience!

While my main cameras are Fujifilm—such as the X100V and X-E4—I also use my iPhone for photography. Chase Jarvis famously coined, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” He was specifically stating that if your cellphone is your only option, then it’s the best option; however, I would go a step further and say that your cellphone can be used in conjunction with your main cameras. Why? Your phone might have a different focal length than the lens on your camera (versatility). It’s quicker and easier to share the pictures from your phone (convenience). You don’t have to think about the settings (simplicity). Your phone is more easily portable—you can have it with you when your camera isn’t as practical to bring along (compactness). It doesn’t have to be either your camera or your phone—it can be both, and I used both on my visits to these five National Parks.

Of course, when I photograph with my iPhone, I use my very own RitchieCam App, which is a streamlined camera app with no-edit filters. RitchieCam is intended to help you capture everyday moments—including those that happen while visiting National Parks—more beautifully while maintaining simplicity (anyone can use it, not just photographers). The app is free to download and use—becoming a RitchieCam Patron unlocks the app’s full capabilities. If you have an iPhone, be sure to download RitchieCam today (click here)!

I utilized RitchieCam on my iPhone to photograph these National Parks, and so did others in my family: my wife (Amanda), my daughter (Joy), and my son (Jonathan)—they used RitchieCam, too! While most of the pictures in this article were captured by me, there are a few that they took. After our visits, it’s a lot of fun sharing our photos with each other. We all love going to National Parks, and being able to share the photographic experiences—thanks to RitchieCam—makes it even better.

Arches National Park — Utah

iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Instant Color 3

If you love unusual rock formations, Arches National Park in southeastern Utah is the place for you! Protruding from the high-desert sand are massive red rocks, which form bluffs, pinnacles, balancing acts, and (of course) arches. There are over 2,000 arches within the National Park, which is the highest concentration of stone arches in the world! Several movies have had scenes filmed in this National Park, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Thelma and Louise, and Hulk, among others.

Arches National Park is a great place to visit anytime of the year; however, it can be extremely crowded in the summer (not to mention hot), so the winter is my favorite season. It snowed while we were there—a somewhat rare occurrence, although it does happen at least a few days each winter. I loved photographing the park blanketed in white snow, but it melted quickly, and was mostly gone by the end of the day. While we only spent one day in Arches National Park, we made a lifetime of memories there.

iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Analog Gold
iPhone 7 — RitchieCam — Analog Gold — Photo by Jonathan
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Standard Film
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — B&W Fade

Canyonlands National Park — Utah

iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Faded Film

The day after our Arches visit, we went to the nearby Canyonlands National Park. While Arches can get packed with people, I’ve never seen a crowd at Canyonlands—I’m sure it happens, but I’ve always found plenty of solitude. The Colorado River goes through both Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon, and they’re both on the Colorado Plateau—both are indeed natural wonders, and there are certainly some similarities between them, yet each offers a unique experience for visitors. Picking a favorite National Park is a difficult and unfair endeavor, but Canyonlands is without a doubt one of my top picks—maybe not number one, but definitely top five.

The reason why Canyonlands was on Day 2 and not Day 1 of our National Parks adventure is because it was closed the day prior due to the snowfall. A dusting of snow in Arches was a blizzard in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands, which sits about 6,000′ above sea level, and about 1,000′ higher than the terrain below. Thankfully, by the time we arrived, most of the snow had melted, and we had a fun day hiking, taking in the incredible canyon views that this park offers.

iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Standard Film
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Vibrant Color
iPhone SE — RitchieCam — Analog Color — Photo by Joy
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Dramatic B&W

Bryce Canyon National Park — Utah

iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Standard Film

In southwestern Utah is Bryce Canyon National Park, which is known for its vibrant red hoodoos. While I’ve visited the nearby Zion National Park a couple of times, I had never made it to Bryce Canyon until this last spring. Wow! I was really missing out—Bryce Canyon is absolutely incredible! It’s a National Park that everyone should experience at least once, if they can. While Zion is quite nice, too, if you only have time for one or the other, I would go to Bryce Canyon.

The elevation of the park varies between 6,600′ and 9,100′ depending on where you’re at. Despite “canyon” in its name, Bryce Canyon is technically not a canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters. To really experience the park you’ll want to put on your hiking shoes; however, don’t expect an easy trail, as the paths are often steep and full of switchbacks. It’s completely worthwhile, though, and, if you are physically able to do it, I highly recommend going down a trail or two while you’re there.

iPhone 13 Pro — RitchieCam — Vibrant Color — Photo by Amanda
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Standard Film
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — B&W Fade
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — B&W Fade

Grand Teton National Park — Wyoming

iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Color Negative Low

The Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming is an amazing sight to behold! I had been once before—in late-spring several years ago—and this was my first winter visit. Unfortunately, the park was much less accessible this time, due to snow. Jackson Hole is a ski destination, so there were lots of tourists, but most of my favorite photography spots (that I was hoping to return to) were closed. I would say that it was disappointing, but when you view the towering range, despite the conditions, it’s impossible to be disappointed—it just made me eager to come again in a different season.

Within Grand Teton National Park are eight peaks that are over 12,000′ above sea level. The location of Ansel Adams’ famous Snake River Overlook picture is well marked and (normally) easily accessible—I had to hike through some knee-deep snow to get to it on this trip. Definitely worth seeing, but perhaps winter isn’t the best time.

iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Analog Color
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Instant Color 1
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Instant Color 1
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — Dramatic B&W

Hot Springs National Park — Arkansas

iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — B&W Fade

Perhaps the strangest National Park I’ve ever experienced is Hot Springs National Park. Located in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas, this park is free to visit (although the observation tower has a fee to access), but there’s not much to see. You can self-tour one of the bathhouses (which is now the visitors center). There are a couple of rather-ordinary springs that you can view—unfortunately, most of the springs are oddly capped with metal encasements. There are some trails that twist up a hill (along with a road), and at the top is a tower, which offers breathtaking views of the southern Ozarks. None of it comes close to the grandness that I have come to expect from National Parks, or even many state parks.

I was surprised by the beauty of this region. I liked Hot Springs. The National Park was a good place to spend a few hours. But I left wondering why in the world this was a National Park, because it doesn’t seem like it should be. It’s worth visiting if you’re in the area (and the area is worth visiting), but I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see Hot Springs National Park. Still, we had a good time, and made some family memories, and that’s what really matters.

iPhone 13 Pro — RitchieCam — Sunny Day — Photo by Amanda
iPhone 13 Pro — RitchieCam — Sunny Day — Photo by Amanda
iPhone 13 Pro — RitchieCam — Instant Color 1 — Photo by Amanda
iPhone 11 — RitchieCam — B&W Fade

There are 63 National Parks in America, and someday I hope to visit them all. It will take years—probably a lifetime! Five in one year is a good lot, and maybe the opportunity will arise to visit even more before January rolls around. I hope so. And if I do, not only will I bring my Fujifilm cameras, but my iPhone, too.

Find RitchieCam in the iOS App Store!

10 comments

  1. Barnabas Hamerlik · August 11

    Hi Ritchie,

    Great photos and article, thanks so much fór sharing. I would love to use your app, however…
    Are you planning to release it for Android phones as well? I am sure there are lots of readers, followers and fans of yours (including myself) outside of the US who are not iPhone users/owners and would love to have your app on their phones installed.
    Thanks for all your great work and generosity.

    All of the best,
    Barnabas

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · August 11

      I appreciate your kindness!

      Half of the people in the world use Android; however (and unfortunately), it would be about double the work (and maybe four or five times the expense) to bring it to Android (vs iOS), because there are so many different components and software, depending on your device—for example, Pixel 6, Galaxy S22, etc., etc., etc., and the app would need to be able to recognize and be optimized for each. Additionally, Android users tend not to subscribe or otherwise spend money on apps (for every six Apple subscriptions, there’s one Android, despite similar number of users). Sadly, it’s much less practical to do, so it’s unlikely to happen.

      Thanks for asking, though.

      Like

      • Barnabas Hamerlik · August 12

        Hi Ritchie,
        thanks for your reply. Bad news for me, but now – knowing the background – I totally understand. I just wish your app was available for me to use as well. However, there is lots to learn from you and experiment with the settings, so I look forward to trying more of the simulations from the huge amount available already.
        All the best,
        Barnabas

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · August 12

        There were a few months where I seriously considered the possibility, but the more I researched what it would take, the less positive I felt about it. Maybe in time, but definitely not soon, and probably not at all. I appreciate your kindness and understanding!

        Like

  2. stuartshafran · August 11

    Fantastic photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Francis.R. · August 11

    The care into the compositions show that you used your smartphone as a photographic tool, which shows in how there is a coherence in the trip despite the use of very different filters; and all this without turning it into something lacking of fun-Thank you for sharing it and hope you can achieve your goal to visit the beautiful national parks of the U.S. : )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · August 12

      Thanks so much! It is a lofty goal, but, God willing, I have a couple of decades to accomplish it, so if I can visit a handful each year, it might be possible. I appreciate your kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. juanimal · August 12

    Such a beautiful place and such beautiful photos, Ritchie! Instant colors are sooo nice! And I specially love this BW fade. Those washed blacks remember me my loved Ilford Ortho plus 80

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · August 12

      Thanks so much! A lot of effort went into creating those filters. First and foremost they had to be ones that I’d use. 🙂 I figured that if they were useful to me, they’d be useful to others, too. Glad to hear your kindly feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

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