Park Place: Picture Perfect

Local photographers tell stories behind their most stunning park shots. 
The cascading water is an unexpected and mesmerizing sight as it plunges in torrents over rocks and past the network of boardwalks that cling to the side of Brandywine Gorge. One of the most popular attractions in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, it's become a year-round beacon for photographers. "The traditional views are from the boardwalks near the falls," says Bill Dickinson. "From there, you really can't take a picture of the complete falls." The Northfield resident captured this view in November 2009 while standing at the base of the iconic spot. He had originally been down-creek that day photographing a secondary, and lesser known, waterfall located off the Brandywine loop trail. Eventually, Dickinson and the friend he was hiking with waded up the creek until they arrived at this location. He cautions that anyone hoping to get a similar shot shouldn't go it alone. "It's much too dangerous to be hiking in that area without anyone as a backup." 8176 Brandywine Road, Sagamore Hills
For Jerry Jelinek, the secret to capturing a memorable nature photograph is repetition. Sure, you'll get some nice shots visiting a place once, but going repeatedly is when satisfactory turns to stunning. Jelinek visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park's Beaver Marsh countless times before capturing this striking sunrise shot looking east from Riverview Road. "The marsh probably has as much energy as any of the locations in the national park just because there's so much wildlife," says Jelinek, who lives nearby in Northfield Center. "There are a lot of plants, and a lot of atmosphere that comes off the marsh itself." Although summer is when it teems with activity, Jelinek took this photo on a November morning. He says the park's seasonal shifts continue to draw him back. "The valley changes from week to week throughout the year," Jelinek says. "Different migratory species might be coming through. Different plants might be in bloom. Even during the winter, it changes." Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail north of Ira Trailhead, 3801 Riverview Road, Peninsula
Debbie DiCarlo is on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail year-round — walking with her camera during cold months and biking with it spring through fall. For her, it's a merging of exercise and appreciation for the national park she's enjoyed since moving to Richfield 12 years ago. DiCarlo took this photo on a summer morning while biking the Towpath Trail near Peninsula. "I love the unusual environmental situations, and that particular morning was so pretty because there was fog. It was early, the sun was coming through the mist. • I just stopped my bike and shot away." Summer also brings the best weather for another of DiCarlo's artistic pursuits: star-trails photography — a multitude of 30-second exposures she uses to create a composite image that turns the night sky into a swirl of lights surrounding the North Star. "It's much nicer to sit on a lawn chair at night rather than sitting in a freezing car." Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail north of Lock 29 Trailhead, 1648 Mill St., Peninsula
This view may be the most popular western-facing vista in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Ritchie Ledges draw crowds — big ones — and its signature overlook is a popular spot for photographers. But getting a shot without people in it, as Jeffrey Burcher of Valley City did here, isn't as easy as it looks. "When you go there in the summer, you have to be prepared for the crowds," he says. "You'll notice, to get away from the crowds, I had to sort of get out over to the right edge. ... Sometimes you can incorporate people in the shot, which makes a nice image too." Burcher has to travel about 45 minutes to get to the park, adding that he primarily visits to capture the area's waterfalls. "My passion is waterfalls photography, and the Cuyahoga Valley has some great ones," he says, pointing to the Great Falls of Tinkers Creek and Brandywine Falls as two of his favorites. That being said, the Ledges Overlook is always on Burcher's list. "Probably once or twice a month I'll hit that spot," he says. "I try to mix it up a little bit. I like to go out in the winter, because it's not as crowded. ... But the really nice sunsets then are few and far between." Kendall Park Road, 1 mile west of Akron Cleveland Road, Boston Heights
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