Monday, January 25, 2010

Ken Burns' The National Parks: America's Best Idea

Grand CanyonI never thought I’d be recommending a television show in this blog, but I guess there’s an exception to every rule.

If you haven’t had a chance to see Ken Burns' The National Parks: America's Best Idea, series of six two hour episodes, you’re in luck. The series is being reaired on most local PBS stations, on Wednesday nights, beginning this Wednesday, January 27th.

For wildlife and landscape photographers, or any photographer, for that matter, the US National Parks provide some of the most incredible scenery, and wildlife, both flora and fauna, which can be seen anywhere on earth. For nature photographers the US National Parks are some of the most inspirational locations in existence.

This series, Ken Burns' The National Parks: America's Best Idea, not only relates the history of the US National Parks, but does it in such a way as to spur anyone to see them and preserve them for generations to come.

Grand CanyonAs to the photography of the series, it’s exceptional. In fact, I’d say it’s awesome.

This isn’t just a travel guide which will cause you to get on the Internet or telephone and make a reservation to visit one or more parks soon, this is, as I believe Burns has intended, a series to motivate each of us to make the cause of preserving the parks, and other areas not yet sheltered in the Park system our own cause.

Via the series, Burns talks about Stephen Mather, founder of the US National Park Service, and his plan for the Parks as “land set aside, not for kings and noblemen, not for the rich, but for everybody in all time.”

Burns reaches back to the mid-19th century. He describes the struggle of conservationists to establish parks, especially the naturalist John Muir. It discusses the struggle to set aside the lands of Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, and the effort to protect them from being despoiled like Niagara Falls.

The series discusses how local government, business and private interests ran up against the federal government and it’s power. It talks about the rights of individuals versus the nation as a whole. Its not just a story of wildlife preservationists versus wealthy land owners and business interests, but also progressive interests to supply power to cities and towns with hydroelectric power, versus letting the rivers flow.

It's the story of American priorities and the role of government, and how the same story was repeated over US history, time and time again.

When I first started watching the series, I said to myself, “Twelve hours? I’m not going to keep watching this one!”

Then, as the video rolled, the slide show of stills went across my screen, and the incredible history of the Parks was detailed, as the names of Mather, Muir, Roosevelt, Kolb, Rockefeller, and Adams were mentioned, along with the names of unknown people with amazing personal stories, I couldn’t stop watching.

Monument Valley

The series chronicling the Parks includes:
  1. The Scripture of Nature (1851 - 1890)
  2. The Last Refuge (1890 - 1915)
  3. The Empire of Grandeur (1915 - 1919)
  4. Going Home (1920 - 1933)
  5. Great Nature (1933 - 1945)
  6. The Morning of Creation (1946 - 1980)
The first of my two favorites of the series, though I very much enjoyed each one, is The Scripture of Nature which includes the history of Yosemite. Ansel Adams’ photographs of Yosemite and his “Zone System” have been the most influential on me as a photographer. In it, the story of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt sitting at a campfire was amazing.

The other is Going Home which relates part of the story of Grand Canyon National Park. Watching it, reminded me of my first trip to the Grand Canyon, my mule ride to the base of the Canyon with my brother, and the awe of seeing that incredible place for the first time.

I even have the series in iTunes and on my iPhone, and have enjoyed watching it in each many times.

I hope you can watch this amazing series and view its photography. I hope it will inspire you to help preserve the Park System for our generations to come.

Monument Valley


Jon said...

I think the recommendation is a great one Ned. I have already seen the series and didn't know it was going to be repeated. I'll be tuning in on Wednesdays for the next month and a half.

The history is fascinating, and the photography, old and Burn's cameraman, Buddy Squires, work is amazing.

Thanks for the tip it's on.

Sharon said...

I never heard of the series, but I'll be watching Wednesday. If it's half as good as you suggest, it's amazing.

Bill said...

Ned your Blog rocks. Where else would we get such great info.

Dianne said...

Thanks for the schedule. I missed the series last year. I'll be tuning in Wednesday night. This time I'll be smart and DVR it too.

Marv said...

I've been watching the series since you recommended it. Thanks. It's amazing.

David said...

"The National Parks: America's Best Idea" is a must see.

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