Earl Park Lake – Apache County – White Mountains – Arizona

Located on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, Earl Park Lake is at an elevation of about 8300 feet. Fed by springs, rain and snowmelt, this lake drains into Hawley Lake about a mile to the North West. It’s one of the highest, cleanest and most pristine lakes I’ve visited in Arizona. It didn’t have the litter, smell or dirty foaminess along the shoreline like many other lakes do.

We visited in late September 2015, arriving a few hours before sunset. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect day. This is the kind of place where you can’t help living in the moment. It’s so nice here that everything else seems irrelevant. Warm sunlight beamed through the trees illuminating the ferns and moss on the forest floor near sunset. This is my ideal kind of place! It’s a perfect place to kayak, canoe or fish.

To get there from Pinetop-Lakeside, take Highway 260 East approximately 7-8 miles past Mc Nary. You’ll see a sign for the lake which is Highway 473. It’s a paved winding road most of the way in and is lots of fun to drive. The last bit is dirt road yet easily passable with most cars. There’s no fee to visit the lake but you might want to check regarding fishing, boating or camping.



How I shoot photos outdoors in the daytime:

These photos were taken with an Olympus e500 DSLR and a Zuiko 14-45mm lense. I tend to prefer wide angles, 1:1 and an occasional zoom in that order. I shoot freehand using the Landscape preset and store images in max-jpg. I know this goes contrary to ‘pro’ advice of shooting full manual and saving in RAW mode, but after much testing I’ve found this is what works best for me in well lit scenes. If there’s detail to be captured in the shadows, then of course RAW mode gives more dynamic range. And if the difference between light and shadow is really great, then HDR is the way to go. But that’s a subject for another time.

I used to spend hours trying to dial in that perfect exposure. Living life through the viewfinder, vacations turned into photo shoots and I’d miss other interesting subject matter. In the end I came home with fewer good shots than I do now. See, what few mention is the spontaneity factor. You can over-think every shot to death. Memory cards are cheap so relax, walk around and take in the place. When you see something that catches your eye just frame it up and pull the damned trigger!

I still strive to get the best possible photo in-camera so I usually need minor if any adjustments in post. For that I use Darktable. I usually use a CP filter (Circular Polarizing) outdoors as it improves color saturation and contrast, making skies a deep blue. There’s a good explanation of CP’s at:


So my advice to anyone wanting to up their game in photography is to experiment. You only get good at this by doing it. Try your cameras presets and full manual modes. Compare your results and see what works best for YOU. You’ll probably want to avoid full-auto mode because the white-balance will be different from shot to shot and that’s a PITA to fix later.

Keep it fun!


– Kenn Ranous


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