It's always such a joy to encounter a new Instagram feed that offers up great beauty and unimaginable sights that you can't readily find elsewhere. Becca's (@ralfafara) feed offers up exactly that. With some of the most unique vantage points of one of the United States most beautiful areas, we are constantly blown away by the impossibly gorgeous captures she shares with all of us on Instagram. Below are the highlights of a conversation we recently had with her. Enjoy!

I am Becca Alfafara straight from the streets of Detroit. Well, actually I was born in Detroit proper, but I grew up in a suburb (I claim the D so I sound tough)! I haven’t lived in Michigan for quite some time. Since college (Go Spartans), I’ve moved all around the country, living in some incredible places. As a park ranger for the National Park Service, I’ve been lucky enough to call places like Badlands, Zion, Yellowstone, Shenandoah and Glacier my office and my home. As a park ranger I get to meet folks from around the globe, plan visitors’ trips, lead hikes and educate people about the park. I cannot imagine doing anything else. What other job allows you to hike, take in fresh air, view breathtaking landscapes, and observe wildlife? Having national parks as my backyard is incredible because I love to explore - hiking, canoeing, and skiing are my favorite ways of doing so. When I’m not out adventuring you can find me knitting by my cats!


How did you become a park ranger?

I went to school at Michigan State University and, like most college students, had no clue what I wanted to do when I grew up. At a certain point (I think junior year) they made me choose a major. I went from interior design, to computer science, and then remembered a trip I took to Olympic National Park one spring break. I was a giant nerd and decided to do the Junior Ranger book and one of the requirements was to interview a ranger. She was really cool and seemed to love her job. Not loving spending endless hours in computers labs, I decided to change my major to Parks and Recreation. To finish my degree I had to complete an internship which sent me to a state park in New Hampshire where I did pretty much the same duties I do with the NPS (but I lived in a cabin with no electricity). I loved it and as soon as I graduated I started applying to state parks and national parks. I was very fortunate to get picked up by the NPS the next spring. I started in Badlands and then I went to Zion. I spent a winter in Yellowstone, went back to Zion, then to Shenandoah, and now I’m in Glacier. I absolutely love our national parks and feel so incredibly lucky to be able to call these places my home and my place of work.


How did you get in to taking pictures?

I got into the photo taking scene basically when I started working in parks. I wanted to not only remember the adventures and scenery but I wanted to show my family (and friends) where I was living and what I was up to. It started with sharing on Photobucket and Facebook and now I mostly just share on Instagram.

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Why Instagram?

I feel like Instagram is easier than other forms of social media because you’re only uploading one photo at a time. I remember trying to upload albums to Facebook and it would take hours (maybe my internet was slow). Additionally, my favorite thing about social media is seeing photos and obviously that’s what Instagram is all about. I don’t have to filter through tons of status updates to see awesome pictures on Instagram. Lastly, I have been able to connect with tons of really awesome people through Instagram that I wouldn’t have had I just uploaded my pictures to Facebook.

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What has been your favorite moment to capture so far?

I’d have to say my favorite moments that I’ve captured all include wildlife. I am a huge wildlife junkie and never get tired of observing animals in their native habitat. So when I have my camera with me and am able to document the sighting it’s special. When I look back at those photos it can take me back to that moment and I can remember what the creature was doing and where I was. Obviously I’m really into landscapes, but those landscapes are always there. Animals are wild and make the moment that much more special. I usually will shoot a bunch of shots and then sit back and enjoy the animal within the amazing landscape and that’s pretty awesome. I wish I could fit the entire scene into one photo! Now to narrow it down to my absolute favorite moment - one of the best sightings was of a mama black bear and her two cubs. It was my first bear sighting for the year (last spring and fresh out of hibernation) and they were just hanging out on a hillside. It was so great to watch them interacting with each other - especially the little cubs! And then the sun was setting and all three of them turned toward the glowing mountain as if they were watching the sunset too. It was just amazing!


You have a very light and natural editing style. What does your editing process usually look like?

You might say I'm all natural. Well, mostly. I love showing how beautiful nature can be without major editing.  Generally I shoot with my iPhone and occasionally a point and shoot. No fancy camera here for now but maybe one day! So when it comes to editing I often will start with VSCO to add a filter or just adjust the exposure and such. If I like what I see I'll post to Instagram. When I want a certain feature to pop or if the colors aren't quite right or if I'm just feeling like going wild I'll pop over to Mextures. I like to experiment with textures - usually Landscape Enhance or the season formulas. I also enjoy experimenting with Guest Formulas but am rarely gutsy enough to post those edits.  Once the photo makes it to Instagram I rarely use a filter but generally always adjust the positioning - I can't take a straight horizon photo for the life of me!


Is there anything unique that you feel like Mextures allows you to accomplish within your editing process?

I think Mextures is the best app for adding moodiness to photos. It's also a lot of fun to see all the different outcomes a picture can have by simply playing around with colors and overlays.


Do you have any specific goals in mind with your Instagram work?

In all honesty, I don't have any real goals with my Instagram account. I just post photos for the sake of sharing. People seem really interested and amazed by photos of Glacier in the winter - I suppose because barely anybody visits then (probably because most folks think it's completely closed). In my humble opinion, I think the scenery is way more impressive and dramatic in the winter and having the place to yourself is a major bonus. I post in the summer but not quite as much - that has more to do with when I'm working and how crazy busy the park is - but I think people appreciate the winter pics more.


What has been your biggest motivation to stay involved and invested in Instagram?

At first I had no idea what I was doing with Instagram and frankly I feel like I still don’t. Once I started getting a little more invested in Instagram, I was finding some really awesome accounts. I love seeing other people’s worlds (mostly nature photos). I decided that I’d try to show my world in day to day landscapes and such - which seemed to get positive reactions from people. So I just keep on doing what I’m doing. I go for a walk and/or drive pretty much everyday just to see what is happening and to document it as well as to get some fresh air. But probably one of the biggest things that keeps me invested is the relationships and friendships that I’ve made (even if only via the internet). Side note: You’ve gotta understand that I live in a very small community and I don’t have tons of opportunities for social interactions in the winter. The summer gets a bit more crowded and my friends return but Instagram helps me stay sane in the winter! I had no idea that I’d make so many friends on this app. I love interacting and seeing what these friends are up to in their lives!


Who are the people on Instagram that have really inspired you and encouraged your desire to continue to take pictures?

There are a ton but here are a some of my favorites: @haften @popscure @heidihoweth @metal_firecracker and of course @thedancingwind


We hope you'll follow along with Becca's amazing feed and her incredible captures at @ralfafara!