It was the sheer delight in his eyes that hooked me. The kind of delight and wonder you often only see in the eyes of a child. Somehow this grown man had found a way to keep the joy alive and it was clearly evident as QT Luong showed off his collection of stamps from America’s National Parks in the film The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.
His collection, amassed on the inside front page of the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks, contained stamps from every single one of the parks — a precious souvenir from his 20 year odyssey to photograph every national park with his large format camera. It was unmistakable. In addition to his glorious photographs, the collection was a treasured possession from the treasured lands.
Tuan, we discovered, is a living, breathing testament to the power of “America’s best idea.” – Dayton Duncan
Tuan’s passion inspired me as I defined my own goals for my journey through North America. It was the land, the wild places, and the wildlife that I wanted to explore.
When I contacted him about my planned journey and career change, I was thrilled that he shared some of his experiences and knowledge of the parks with me. I have Tuan to thank for helping me find my path both in photography and life.
Why this book is important
Over 100 years ago, the National Park Service was established to preserve the land and the wildlife for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of future generations. This was accomplished in no small part due to the work of photographers who documented and shared the astonishing wonders contained in these lands. Photographers like Carleton E. Watkins, Stephen Mather, George A. Grant and continued later by Ansel Adams.
Today the legacy of protecting the parks for future generations through the magic of photography is continued by QT Luong in his book Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks. The book is a stunning accomplishment, both in the beauty of the photographs and in the thorough documentation of the nature and uniqueness of each of the parks.
Tuan is uniquely qualified to create such a tome. His relentless perseverance in his quest to explore all the national parks, to discover the locations and light conditions that are essential ingredients in his images, will now benefit us all.
Every chapter of the book, one for each of the national parks, begins with a description of the geography, flora and fauna that makes that national park unique. We see a series of stunning images, works of fine art made by Tuan during his ongoing journey. We learn all the necessary facts about visiting the park including how to access it, where to go, and how the park changes throughout the seasons.
Then we have the most valuable and sought after information by photographers. The location notes include a map showing the location each photo was made and detailed descriptions of exactly how to get there, what to expect, the best time to go, and even stories about Tuan’s personal experience during the making of the photo.
We learn when he got stuck on a mountain overnight, when he found himself with no food when everything in a village was closed, when there was a bear, and when he had to break out the survival blanket. Learning about these experiences is invaluable when planning similar journeys of our own.
There are 410 locations and 60 maps included in the location notes that will help photographers make the most of their own journeys. The location notes are also available in electronic format, making it easy to keep them handy in the field.
Having been to many of the places that Tuan describes in the book, I found that his descriptions match my own experience. Of course, being a mountaineer, Tuan is able to go to more difficult places than I can. On the south rim of the Chisos Mountains, in Big Bend National Park, Texas, Tuan hiked all the way to the end of the steep trail and stayed overnight to catch the morning light on the expansive view. I, on the other hand, went about half way and turned back, catching only the sunset light. Still, it’s a gorgeous hike.
One place I’ve been wanting to go for a long time is Havasu Canyon, in Grand Canyon National Park, but I’ve been unsure whether or not I would be able to make the hike. After reading Tuan’s description, I think I’ll take a mule!
Exploring the national parks has brought me much joy, and the act of photography was an extension of that love, a desire to share with others in a tangible way the elation that comes with being in such special places. I measure its success by how much these photographs inspire viewers to visit the places for themselves, for the happiness the parks bring through a deep connection with nature, and how the experience is likely to transform visitors into advocates for conservation. — Tuan Luong
In the quote above, Tuan’s gauge for measuring the success of the book is in being able to inspire others to visit the parks, connect with nature, and ultimately become advocates for conservation. This is exactly what Treasured Lands has accomplished — it’s a glorious testament to the purpose of conserving wild places.
Treasured Lands can be purchased directly from the author, or on Amazon.
My gratitude goes out to Tuan for helping me discover my passion for wild places through his photographs. And now his insight and experiences, as well as his inspirational photographs, can do the same for you through his new book Treasured Lands. A stunning publication that embodies his life’s work.
Janet Ortega says
Hi Anne, are you referring to Havasupai (Havasu Canyon)? It’s my understanding that they don’t have mules going down that part of the Grand Canyon but they have horses that carry your baggage up and down. These are managed by the Supai native Americans. They’ve come under a lot of fire lately in that they don’t take care of their animals very well. They may have horses to ride but I’m not real sure on that. I don’t think I’d want to ride them. The pack animals run up and down the trails and its important to know when they’re coming up and down so you can get out of their way. They don’t have anyone leading them.
Anne McKinnell says
Yes, that’s the place I’ve been wanting to go to. I read that there is also a helicopter, maybe that’s the better option for me 🙂
Janet Ortega says
Yes I forgot about the helicopter. They helo the veterinarian, the mail and dogs (for treatment or adoption) up and down also. Make sure you go in early spring after the rains and because it can get very hot down there. Sometimes the trails are completely washed out if you hike and they close it down for repair. It is beautiful down there and you would get some wonderful photos for sure. The people there are very friendly too.
QT Luong says
Thank you for a great review with a nice personal touch! According to the NPS (https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/havasupai.htm), both horses and mules are available. My write-up in the book did mention the helicopter. If budget is no object, that would be my preferred option since besides time savings and comfort, this would offer some aerial photography opportunities as well.
Nancy Hunt says
Beautifully written review! If I didn’t already own this book (and the ebook version for traveling), I would buy it right away. His photos and descriptions are just what I need when out exploring new parks.
Anne McKinnell says
Thanks Nancy, glad you’re enjoying the book, it’s just what we photographers need!
Pat Jenkins says
I am just going to order this book. I have been to several State Parks on my vacations in U.S., but I’m unlikely to be traveling there any more (due to advancing years!!!). I’ll be able to reminisce on the ones I’ve seen and drool over the ones I’ve missed.. Maybe one day I’ll get there again (unlikely).
Susan Dimock says
Thanks for the great book review, Anne. I’m definitely going to get this one!
Anne McKinnell says
Great! I know you’ll love it Susan 🙂 Thanks for the comments.
Ellen K says
I ordered this book in December, and it finally arrived a couple of weeks ago. I am savoring it…reading only 1 or 2 park descriptions each day. It is definitely “take your breath away” stuff visually, but also incredibly useful in terms of descriptions.
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Ellen, yes the photos are incredible and there’s so much useful information for those of us who want to visit the parks ourselves. I still have so many to see!