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!
Corniche and view of glaciers and Mt. Blackburn range – Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve is a park six times the size of Yellowstone. Walking alone from Kennecott, AK, I navigated across the crevasses and streams of Root Glacier and climbed the steep scree slopes of Mt. Donohue to get a commanding view of the wide local glaciers and of the entire Wrangell range. Only from the top of this range did I believe the glacier’s enormous size would be revealed.
However, when I reached the top of Mt. Donohoe in late afternoon, the air was extremely hazy due to wildfires. Despite not carrying sleeping gear (I had set camp at the base of the mountain), I decided to spend the night on the top. I shivered a bit, but unplanned bivies were something I had already endured during my mountaineering days. The view in the morning was great.
The Maidens with fresh show and a thin veil of clouds – Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska
When I embarked on the trek to the Arrigetch Peaks, in the heart of the Northern Brooks Range - one of the great wilderness areas of the world – it was the most remote place I had ever explored for the purpose of photography.
I flew to Fairbanks, AK, then on to the tiny town of Bettles by commuter plane, then to Circle Lake by chartered plane, then on to backpacking for a couple of days in trailless terrain with more than 65 lbs. of gear.
Yet, the peaks were nowhere to be seen for the first day, hidden by dense, low clouds. When I saw a possible clearing, I gave up breakfast. After hurrying to set up the camera with excitement, I waited. Half an hour later, the clouds lifted for five minutes. It was just enough time for this composition. For the rest of my stay, the clouds did not lift again.
Beached translucent iceberg and Muir Inlet at dawn – Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
In May 2001 we had paddled for a very full day in Glacier Bay National Park, starting in a light drizzle and stopping only shortly to cook dinner on a beach. We arrived at our first destination, a grassy flat near the mouth of McBride Inlet, at 2 a.m., and it took us an hour to set up camp.
I retreated to my tent, but did not fall asleep. I felt excited by possibilities — energized by the clear sky and the lingering half-light of the Alaskan summer. I could sense it getting brighter. The world felt so beautiful and just invited exploration. I wandered around the tidal flats until I saw this translucent iceberg, which was lying more than a hundred feet away in water. I knew the water was very shallow and that the tide was receding at a fast rate. If I waited, it would be totally out of the water.
I immediately waded into the water with the large format camera mounted on a tripod, the loupe and darkcloth around the neck, and a film holder in my pocket. This image reminds me of the curious state of heightened awareness I found myself in after being awake for nearly 24 hours.
Photos © QT Luong, http://www.terragalleria.com