Marvelous Nature: Photographing Natural Wonders in CVNP & Around the World

| By Debbie DiCarlo, Photographer & Conservancy Member |

Consider for a moment the definition of the word marvelous — causing great wonder; extraordinary. Extremely good or pleasing; splendid.

Now look at a few synonyms — amazing, astonishing, breathtaking, sensational, spectacular, stunning, magnificent, glorious, sublime, delightful, too good to be true.

All of those words sum up how I feel about our natural environment, from the tiniest of floral and faunal citizens to the majesty of towering granite peaks that defy description — in nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park as well as around the world.

As a photographer, it’s a sense of marvel that propels me to be in the field, camera in hand, hours before the sun rises and hours after it sets. Don’t get me wrong—I love my sleep, but I also love to capture the breathtaking beauty of an ever-changing world as it morphs through the seasons and through the years.

I’ve read that almost 100 countries around the world have land classified as national parks! While my photography endeavors have taken me to only a teeny, tiny fraction of them, my life has been enriched immeasurably.

In Costa Rica I’ve been astounded by the rich biodiversity. There are many endemic species there, my favorite of which are the hummingbirds and frogs. Incredibly colorful and photogenic, these creatures captivated my camera lens.

In Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, I was in a perpetual state of awe. Incredible towering granite peaks that defied description, adorable guanacos with their large gentle eyes, milky teal glacial runoff, unbelievable waterfalls, and inky black night skies teeming with stars captured my heart and kept my camera working overtime.

The Yukon Territory of Canada is a wild, mountainous area covered by a vast coniferous boreal forest and a network of glacier-fed lakes and rivers and is home to amazing wildlife. The night sky is frequently emblazoned with spectacular Northern Lights, which astounded my senses and filled my camera’s memory cards.

Over the years, my camera and I have been to many other countries/states and photographed a great number of sensational subjects, so it’s reasonable that I frequently get asked this question: “Where is your favorite place to photograph?” And my answer is this: “Right here in Northern Ohio in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.”

Indigo Lake in CVNP 

I’m not denying future travel to astonishing locations but having a natural environment with diverse beauty so close by is pretty darn special! It’s right here that I am able to witness the changes that happen year-round without the expense of travel.

Each season in the Park brings with it a visual cornucopia — the colorful bouquet of spring flowers bursting forth after a long, cold winter is a joy for my macro lens. The lush, fern-covered banks of a hiking trail, fields alive with fireflies, birds flitting to and fro, and pollinators providing a valuable service delight my wide angle and zoom lenses all summer long. In the fall, I race to capture the Park’s waterscapes reflecting autumn in a shimmering, dreamy way and landscapes awash in color. And in the winter…my camera and I eagerly anticipate a fresh snowfall as it covers any environmental blemishes in a sparkling (albeit cold) white blanket.

Horseshoe Pond in CVNP

And it’s right here (and easily accessible) where I can witness the passage of time and its effect on our natural environment. I recall being nearly speechless when I saw and photographed the first bald eagle I’d ever seen in the wild, hunting the Cuyahoga River. Many years have passed, and the resurgence has been amazing to witness.

So yes, my favorite place to photograph is Cuyahoga Valley National Park because it delivers a plethora of subjects, day in and out, month after month, and year after year. And its close proximity affords much more than photographic fodder; it offers solace, recreation, spirituality, camaraderie, and habitats for a great many living things, small and large.

And all of that is certainly something to marvel at.


Debbie DiCarlo is a photographer from Richfield, Ohio. She is best known for the Howling Lesson, a photo of an adult coyote and two pups. The image has garnered worldwide attention and was featured in online stories including the Huffington Post,,, and more. Debbie’s work has been exhibited in various temporary galleries in Northern Ohio, Los Angeles, and St. Petersburg, Russia, as well as in private collections around the country.

Debbie leads photography tours and workshops where participants experience and photograph marvelous nature, locally and around the world. For more information about photo tours/workshops and to see additional work, visit Debbie also has a photography show, “Marvelous Nature,” currently showing at the Conservancy’s Seiberling Gallery until March 30, 2018—stop by to check out her work in person!