Tag Archives: National Parks

Director: Ken Burns

Ken Burns certainly didn't invent the documentary. But he's darn near perfected it. Uploaded by sacbee.com.

It’s not as if Ken Burns invented the long-form, multi-part documentary. What he did was to bring a sense of style to archive photography and video, a fresh historical context to his subject matter. He didn’t invent the form, but he’s just about perfected it.

Beginning in 1981, Burns made several traditional documentaries on topics ranging from the Brooklyn Bridge to Thomas Hart Benton. Then, in 1991, he created The Civil War, a documentary shown on PBS for five consecutive nights. It gave the network its largest audience ever at the time, and is still considered Burns’s masterpiece. It won two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and a People’s Choice Award.

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Burns is known for using distinctive music, camera moves on still photos to give the feeling of motion, and interesting and recognizable voices to read letters and historical elements. In The Civil War, for example, Sam Waterston read Abraham Lincoln, Jason Robards read Ulysses Grant, Morgan Freeman read Frederick Douglass, and Garrison Keillor read Walt Whitman.

Since that initial success, Burns has brought his special touch to other subjects: Baseball (1994), Jazz (2001), World War II (The War, 2007), and National Parks (The National Parks, America’s Best Idea, 2009) being the most successful.

Burns next project? A follow-up to Baseball, The Tenth Inning details the story of baseball from 1990 on. It will run for two nights in September, 2010…

Travel: Yellowstone National Park

Stories of exploding water and boiling mud were dismissed at first as tall tales. Uploaded by cache.virtualtourist.com.

The first American National Park, and arguably still the greatest. It’s located primarily in Wyoming, though it extends into parts of Montana and Idaho as well. Inside the park you’ll find an amazing variety of environments – lakes, canyons, rivers, mountain ranges, geysers, and the largest supervolcano on the continent.

Hikers, boaters, campers, and fishermen all love the park. So do grizzlies, wolves, bison, and elk. With a coverage of 3,468 square miles, there’s room for them all.

This area was so remote that the first serious explorations weren’t undertaken until 1869-70. Till that time, tales of “fire and brimstone,” boiling mud, steaming rivers, and petrified trees were dismissed as fantastic stories.

Interestingly, the new art called “photography” helped convince Congress that the Yellowstone area was a rare treasure. When photos of the region were seen in Washington, DC, it was only a couple of years later that President Ulysses Grant signed the law that created Yellowstone National Park.

These photographs will make you a believer:

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Travel: Grand Canyon

The Skywalk, located on the Hualapai Tribe lands, opened in 2007. Uploaded by grandcanyonskywalk.com.

The Skywalk, located on the Hualapai Tribal lands, opened in 2007. Uploaded by grandcanyonskywalk.com.

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona encompasses more 1.2 million acres. That is some kind of hole in the ground.

“Scientific consensus” is that the Canyon was carved over a period of six million years by the Colorado River. Don’t get me started on “scientific consensus.” Let’s just say that the Grand Canyon is an amazing part of God’s creation that’s unmatched in beauty anywhere in the world.

Teddy Roosevelt, probably America’s greatest naturalist president (not “naturist”, at least as far as we know), visited the Canyon in 1903. He started the movement toward making the Grand Canyon a National Park, though Congress didn’t act until 1919.

Uploaded to Flickr by anadelmann.

Uploaded to Flickr by anadelmann.

Some five million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. They come by car, airplane, helicopter, camper, train, and on foot. One of the latest ways to see the Canyon is the Skywalk, opened in 2007. It costs $70 for admission, and entails a 14-mile ride on unpaved, dusty roads. And you can’t even take your camera onto the Skywalk. But if you have the stomach for it, you’ll be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime view.

Of course, the Canyon can be viewed from several locations that are many miles apart. The South Rim, North Rim, and Grand Canyon West all have multiple viewing sites. This video is a condensed version of a helicopter tour offered daily from Las Vegas and other nearby locations: