Posted by: kerryl29 | November 12, 2018

The Parking Lot Portfolio

[I’ll resume posting pieces dedicated to the Alaska trip next time.]

Many people I know take their cameras with them everywhere on the theory that you never know when a compelling photo opportunity will arise.  I don’t do this myself, but I’m starting to think that I should.  I was pondering this the other day and realized that, just over the past few months, I’ve made a number of images from parking lots.

The recent spate of asphalt inspiration began during the Alaska trip.  On August 30, we were scheduled to return to Fairbanks from the Denali area in preparation for our foray into the Brooks Range the following day.  The hope had been to make the journey via a scenic, circuitous route that included traversing the entire length of the Denali Highway and then taking the Richardson Highway northwest to Fairbanks.  This would have been an all-day affair with plenty of photographic opportunities but the weather forecast was awful; it was supposed to rain all day long throughout central Alaska and, indeed, that’s what happened.  Rather than covering the pothole-strewn Denali Highway during a soaking rain, we went back to Fairbanks via the simpler, shorter (and paved) George Parks Highway.  The rain finally slackened by early evening, but the sky remained cloudy, and we holed up in our Fairbanks hotel.  But only about 10 minutes before sunset, I glanced out the window, noticed partial clearing, and saw the first evidence of sunlight all day long.  It was too late to go anywhere else, but I’d noticed a nice stand of conifers at the back end of the hotel parking lot and suggested that we at least try to gain something out of what might be a nice sunset.

Sunset Sky, Fairbanks Northstar Borough, Alaska

We hustled down to the parking lot–it took no more than a minute–and watched as what turned out to be probably the nicest sunset sky of the trip unfolded.

Sunset Sky, Fairbanks Northstar Borough, Alaska

We might have been better suited to be elsewhere under these conditions, but the parking lot was better than nothing…by a long shot, I’d argue.

Sunset Sky, Fairbanks Northstar Borough, Alaska

Sunset Sky, Fairbanks Northstar Borough, Alaska

And that was just the start of the recent parking lot/image-making experience.

In late October I met my friend Danny Burk for an exploration of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail in northern Indiana.  The conditions were less than ideal but we poked our noses into several of the trail’s access spots as we moved east along the trail’s route.  During one break, as we were driving from one trail entry point to another, we stopped in the town of Middlebury, Indiana.  I’d noticed a beautiful maple tree, along the town’s main thoroughfare, which happened to be at peak color and, from the parking lot adjoining a gas station across the street, set up and made the image you see below.

Red Maple, Elkhart County, Indiana

Later in the day, just outside of Shipshewana, Indiana, we were in a trail parking area where we were afforded a nice view of a farm scene.  From the lot, the below panorama was produced.

Farm Panorama Black & White, LaGrange County, Indiana

The following week, on the day before I returned to northeast Illinois from central Indiana, I spent a couple of hours looking for images since it would be my last opportunity to be in the area before the end of the fall color season.  Less than 15 minutes from home I found each of the following two images from a pair of separate parking lots.

Maple Splendor, Marion County, Indiana

The above image was made from the parking lot of an abandoned sheet metal business.  The photograph below was made from the lot serving an athletic complex.

Fall Color, Marion County, Indiana

When I was considering writing this blog entry, it occurred to me that the profligacy of this parking lot photography matter isn’t an entirely new one.  Just off the top of my head, I thought of a number of other such opportunities in the past, including Florida:

Wood Stork, Paurotis Pond, Everglades National Park, Florida

Mexican Palmettos, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

Trade Winds, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

Pine Glades Lake Black & White, Everglades National Park, Florida

All of the above images were made from one parking lot or another.


The Dyke, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The above image was produced from a trail head parking area.  The photograph below was made from an overlook parking lot.

Ohio Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The same pattern holds for these images from the Smokies:

Sunrise, Foothills Parkway, Tennessee

Dogwood and Redbud, Oconaluftee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

And from various locations in New England:

Fall Color, Basin-Cascades Trail, Franconia State Park, New Hampshire

Fall Color, Lost River, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Long Pond, Orleans County, Vermont

Mooselookmeguntic Lake at Sunset from Height of Land Overlook, Franklin County, Maine

And the three below images from Yosemite National Park in California:

Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

Conifer Forest, Yosemite National Park, California

Dogwood, Yosemite National Park, California

And that’s just off the top of my head.

Maybe I should keep take my camera (and my tripod 🙂 ) with me everywhere after all…


  1. Sometimes when we are traveling, parking lots are the only opportunity to stop – and the only safe place along the road. I have noticed tourists passing wonderful views along paths from parking lots as they rush to get to the lookout. I guess we just have to keep our eyes open and our cameras handy.

    • Some parking lots double as overlooks, but most of the images I’ve included with this post were taken from lots that were merely places to park one’s vehicle, not proxies for photo ops. Definitely agree with your statement; you really never know with any degree of certainty when a photo opportunity will emerge.

      • I always look around when we are in hotel parking lots or gas station. I just may see something interesting, especially in the sky.

  2. What striking colors and beautiful photos–thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks very much!

  3. Lovely images, all. The parking lot theme reminds me of my own wildlife shots – many of the best wildlife images I’ve done have been taken through a window from inside our house. 🙂

    • Thanks!

      I can’t say that I’ve had many wildlife photographic opportunities from my home, but I’m aware of people who’ve produced first rate images of subjects from bears to mountain lions from inside their own homes.

      • Mine have been smaller, gentler subjects than those – i.e. deer, red squirrels, ducks, raven and other birds. Not sure I’d want to have photo opps of bears and cougars right outside my window! 🙂

        • I think an opossum is the most exotic wildlife subject I’ve ever seen from my window. 🙂

        • And that’s an animal which would be exotic to me, since I’ve never seen one! Raccoons are the closest thing we have to them here where I live. 🙂

  4. These are super images Kerry! In my mind it boils down to being at the right place at the right time (I know I know that expression is too often used)…parking lot or trial head, or just along side of the road. I think if one takes the time to compose an image rather than just a “snapshot” one can be rewarded with a good image of what lies before you. Having a camera and tripod with you can be very rewarding indeed. Well done.

    • Thanks, David. You’re absolutely right re your prescription. (Some nice light helps too. 🙂 )

  5. As one of your other readers commented, safety sometimes dictates the parking lot as the best place to shoot. Beauty can be found just about anywhere, and I love that parking lot shots are not new in your repertoire.

    • I honestly didn’t realize–until I performed a (very informal) inventory–how many parking lot-based images I had made.

  6. Gorgeous shots… particularly the sunset sky you started with! I don’t always keep the camera handy, but driving up or down the coast here has taught me that I never can tell what the light or the sky might be doing from one Cape or Point to the next. I’ve experience the regret too many times to not have the camera handy whenever possible.

    • Thanks, Gunta. Couldn’t agree with you more re the coast. I remember the first time I was there (2009), I was near Heceta Head, in a thick fog, and rounded a bend (one headland) on the Coast Highway to find myself nearly blinded by the sun bursting forth from a cloudless sky. Couldn’t have been more than 1000 feet on the road from one extreme to the other.

  7. And then there are photos OF parking lots. I’ve seen many terrific ones. It’s good to have the camera, but if not, the phone is often is decent substitute – depending on what you’re after, of course. 🙂

    • Terrific photos OF parking lots? Can you link a sample of said photos? 🙂

      • They might not be to your taste…but here are a few that focus in on the multi-hued oil spills in a parking lot – a different sort of intimate. 😉
        I know I’ve seen great images showing more of the parking lot itself but can’t think how to find them right now.

        • Those are definitely different. Thanks for going to the trouble of providing the link.

  8. Love the Long Pond, Orleans County, Vermont, shot!

  9. Wow!!

  10. […] there was time to do was race down a flight of stairs into the hotel parking lot.  I had noticed, upon arrival, that there was a very nice stand of conifers right next to the lot […]

  11. Beautiful sunset!

  12. […] Add another couple of images to the parking lot portfolio. […]

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