After following QT Luong on social media and periodically exchanging short communications through such means, I finally met him in person when he invited me to join him into the interior of Yellowstone National Park in the middle of winter. He had already explored and documented every national park by early 2011, but he had never seen Yellowstone buried in snow. The few who have been there during that time, the interior especially, will tell you it’s a completely different park. Having not experienced it myself, I eagerly accepted the invitation.
I was able to watch and observe his technique, his patience, his eagerness with each subject. It made me realize that my approach to photography was not only too hurried, but was also missing the point completely. It brought forth more respect for his photography, and for his journey through every national park. I watched how meticulous he was with each hot spring, then realized he had tens of thousands of images on his website that were most likely just as meticulously crafted. Here was someone who loved the national parks, photography, and nature, and was able to convey it effortlessly in his work. Fortunately, we now have a chronicle of that journey.
Treasured Lands, A Photographic Odyssey through America’s National Parks, is a reflection of Luong in his element; at home in nature with photography gear in tow. With a foreward by Dayton Duncan and an introduction by Luong himself, the importance of the National Park Service to the United States is laid out on both a cultural level, as well as a personal level. He passionately lays out the importance of our parks for our country, and for personal discovery. The importance of simply maintaining parts of the natural world whose counterparts have been completely obliterated and buried under steel and asphalt. This book is both a wake-up call for humanity to take better care of our lands, as well as a celebration of successful events where we did so, complete with tips and suggestions for how to appreciate the best and most iconic views from each park.
What follows the messages of hope are several hundred pages of breathtaking photographs from all 59 national parks in the United States (as of 2016). Park by park, Luong brilliantly details key locations alongside information about the park itself, from geology, to history, to ecology, to park statistics. Each photo is offered twice, once as a beautiful photo to whet your appetite for that particular park, and then again in the following pages to give you specific information about how to access that location. He also offers the ideal time of day as well as how to dodge crowds and get the most out of each viewpoint and overlook. Simply stated, this book should be in every public lands enthusiast’s collection.
Along with many of the photos are stories about what he had to go through to get the shot, such as beginning the 10 mile hike out of Havasupai on an empty stomach because the stores were closed. Then turning back around to help a lost couple after dark and not getting back to the trailhead until after midnight. Or then there was the time in Yellowstone, deep in winter’s grip, he was settling in after a long day of hiking and exploring, belly full from a delicious dinner, only to see the clouds and snow finally clearing, revealing a cold and crisp moon. With a "warm bed beckoning," he once again bundled up in winter clothes and lugged down his camera gear to Old Faithful. In a place where thousands of people wait in anticipation all day during peak season, he was completely alone with one exception: I was nearby enjoying it with him for the same reasons.
Every photo does a magnificent job of representing its park. Using both close-up detail shots as well as wide-angle and panoramic shots, every park is represented in many different ways, giving you all the inspiration you need to want to start planning trips to each and every one of them. The book is geared toward both outdoor lovers, and photographers/photography enthusiasts alike. Whether you just want to discover a new national park, relive an old favorite, or see what this whole national park thing is all about, Treasured Lands is an ideal way to get started exploring.