Unique landscapes and captivating vistas draw millions of visitors to America’s national parks each year. Here at MapQuest, we asked our featured photographer, QT Luong, of Terra Galleria Photography, if he would select a few favorites from the photos he shot while exploring all 58 national parks, as well as share some of the stories behind what he captured. Enjoy!
Summit Ridge of Mount McKinley - Denali National Park, Alaska
So far, my greatest adventure was a solo climb of Mt. McKinley, on which I embarked on just a few months after arriving to live in California.
Mt. McKinley (20,320 feet, 6,200m) is the highest mountain in North America, but altitude is not everything: the vertical relief of the mountain is 18,000 feet (5,500 meters), and its latitude, just a few hundreds miles below the artic circle that can bring some of the coldest weather anywhere – especially during the fierce Alaskan storms with winds raging over 100mph and temperatures dropping to -40˚F. For these reasons and many others, climbing Mt. McKinley combines the challenges of a high-altitude climb with those of a polar expedition.
Each year, about one thousand climbers seek to summit of Mt. McKinley, the vast majority of them through the technically easy West Buttress route. About half of these climbers succeed. In the spring of 1993, I set out to climb and traverse the summit solo by ascending the more technical West Rib. The picture is taken just below the summit. It had taken two weeks to reach this point from the day I arrived at basecamp.
Colorado River and rock walls near Tapeats Creek. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Backpacking in Grand Canyon National Park from the North Rim to the river is reverse mountaineering. You descend first, but then have to climb back more than 5000 feet. Instead of contending with cold, you have to carry lots of water as it is found only in a few oases. Combined with my large format camera equipment, this made for one of the heaviest backpacks I have ever carried.
At the bottom of the canyon, my SLR camera suddenly died for no apparent reason. The large format camera – all mechanical, all manual – is not subject to those caprices; however, I used the SLR to meter the exposures. This means that for the rest of the trip, I had to guess the exposures without a light meter.
This was the first image I exposed under those conditions. (Above)
Additional image from this trip:
It was easy enough to guess the exposure of the first image as it was sunny mid-day, but the second one (above) – nailed to 1/2 f-stop – was more tricky.
Photos © QT Luong, http://www.terragalleria.com