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Photography still important to national parks celebrating 100th anniversary

During the 100th anniversary year of the National Park Service, the US Department of the Interior is looking for a photographer, but the position is less Ansel Adams and more Library of Congress.

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    This undated photo provided by Sotheby's shows a mural-sized, 1938 photograph by Ansel Adams, 'Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park," probably printed in the 1950s or 1960s. The US Department of the Interior is looking for another photographer like Adams.
    Ansel Adams/Sotheby's/AP
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Ansel Adams photographed America's most iconic natural wonders – its national parks – cementing the country's pastoral identity on film during the 20th century. He traveled from sea to shining sea and hit Yellowstone on the way back. And, 100 years after its founding, the National Park Service is still into pictures.

A job listing for a photographer with the US Department of the Interior has generated misplaced media buzz that the National Park Service is hiring the next Ansel Adams to honor the National Park Service's 100th anniversary, but this position reflects the parks' tradition of photography in other ways.

The media has hoped for a riveting set of iconic photographs to document the splendors of the American landscape, wrote Sam Byford for the Verge.

Names don't get much harder to follow than that of Ansel Adams, but the National Park Service's desire to hire someone into a similar full-time role is encouraging. Whoever ends up filling the position should be giving us some amazing pictures of the American landscape soon enough.

Social media has misrepresented a position that mostly involves documenting railroads, buildings, and some landscapes, Jeremy Barnum of the National Park Service told The Christian Science Monitor.

"It won't just be about hiking through the Grand Canyon and catching nice sunsets unfortunately," Mr. Barnum says. "We do want to be very clear that this is not an unusual position."

The 100th anniversary of the National Park Service is Aug. 25, 2016, and it is making plans for the occasion at the country's more than 400 national parks. Although the new photographer will work with the Heritage Documentation Program rather than the birthday festivities, the National Park Service has a tradition of using photography to promote understanding of the outdoors.

The National Park Service commissioned the already well-known photographer Ansel Adams to capture the national parks on film in 1941. His collection of photos from across the American West, some of which he took in the 1930s, consists of 226 photos now held in the National Archives. The theme was "nature as exemplified and protected in the US National Parks," although World War II cut the project short.

The National Park Service employs photographers now, as well. Tim Rains, a park service photographer at Glacier National Park, said photographs provide some of the parks' "best ambassadors."

"It is a thrill to show a softer side of the parks to visitors, and acknowledge that part of the park experience," he wrote on the National Park Service website.

Unlike Mr. Rains's position, the new job will be based in Washington, D.C., and require travel. The job description on the posting is to create "large-format photographic documentation to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the HABS/HAER/HALS permanent collection at the Library of Congress." The park service wants the photographs in digital and film format and black-and-white.

The job posting warns of "long periods of standing; walking over rough or rocky surfaces; recurring bending, crouching, or stretching; and recurring lifting of moderately heavy equipment and materials," so it's safe to say the job requires some hiking. This would be all-in-a-day's work for a parks enthusiast, whether it's the centennial celebration or not.

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