• Facebook

    500 K / likes

  • Twitter

    1 M / followers

My Experience Photographing for the National Park Service


My name is Connar L’Ecuyer, and I shoot photographs for the National Park Service. That’s me in the photo above, off-duty in front of one of my LAX prints. Currently, I am working at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which is down in Southern California, near Malibu and Santa Monica.

I started by volunteering at Santa Monica Mountains, doing photography, then I got offered an internship position doing photography and media work for the park for three months. Now, seven months later, I’m still interning, doing photography for the park.

Doing photography for the National Park allows me to work across divisions – which means working with Law Enforcement, Wildlife, and Interpretation. I have also been able to photograph landscape scenes as well, which we use to help promote areas of our park.

My work has been published both on the main National Park Service website, our park website, various social media and news outlets, and prints throughout domestic and international terminals in LAX.

One of my photos at LAX.
One of my photos at LAX.

Working with Law Enforcement

Working with law enforcement is an interesting balance of photographing, helping the Rangers out, and knowing when to stay back (since I’m not Law Enforcement). Some situations, it would be appropriate to photograph them working with visitors, while other situations called for leaving the cameras in the patrol vehicle, while some situations called for staying back with potentially dangerous visitors.

Out on a patrol with Ranger Bishop.
Ranger Snow, chief of Visitor and Resource Protection, patrolling on horse.

Every patrol is completely different, however — some days are slower, we visit different sites, talk to different people, and do a mix of day and night patrols. The adventure of not knowing the plan makes for exciting days.

Photographing Interpretation Programs

Photographing interpretation programs is always a blast as well – Programs are always different, even if I photograph the same program for three weeks in a row. The lighting is always different, and something is always minorly different, either with the visitors, or the positioning of the Ranger leading the program.

Ranger Razsa running in Native American Moon Races.
Ranger Fernando leading a program about creatures of the night.

Visitors are almost always willing to have their photographs taken with Rangers, and kids love being in front of the camera. The program pictures are massively helpful for promoting the next program because then we have photos that people get excited about. Plus, we invite people to view the photographs after the event as well!

Landscapes in Our Park

Cheeseboro Canyon, one of our popular running and mountain biking areas.
A highway pullout during a fire at sunset.
Solstice Canyon waterfall, one of our most popular sites.

The Santa Monica Mountains has a huge variety of landscapes, from beaches to mountains to streams, which is ever-changing with the rain and fire seasons. And because of the mountainous terrain, sunlight doesn’t directly hit parts of the canyons, making the landscape photography easier because I don’t have to worry about getting the peak light.

Because we’re also the biggest urban National Park, most of our popular sites are accessible by car, so we invite the public to visit the popular sites and take plenty of personal photographs! For those who are willing to hike though, we’ve got lots of views further back in our network of trails.

Working with the Wildlife Teams

Working with wildlife was also an adventure every time I went out with them. I’ve helped with everything from frog population monitoring, to observing urban wildlife, to stream monitoring.

A red-legged frog, an endangered frog that we’re restoring in the mountains.
An urbanized coyote who learned to steal food from a grocery store.

Working with the frog teams, we went to several sites and had to wade, climb, and bolder our way through several miles of streams and poison oak to be able to reach where the frogs lived, with no guarantees that we would see a frog.

Going out with the coyote and deer teams was completely different, as we would go to where we had tracking signals from the animals, and wait for hours to try to see an animal (and some days we came back empty handed). The days we did see the animals, however, was always hugely exciting.

Photographing for the Santa Monica Mountains is always an adventure, and every time I go out it creates something different in the images, along with creating different adventures along the way. If anyone is interested in volunteering for a National Park, it is absolutely worth the time and massively rewarding!

About the author: Connar L’Ecuyer is a National Park Service Photographer and landscape photographer on the side. You can find more of his work on his Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram. You can also find photos and info from the Santa Monica Mountains on Flickr, Facebook, and Instagram.