Treasured Lands – A Photographic Odyssey through America’s National Parks by QT Luong. – Forward by Dayton Duncan
Book Review by Gary Crabbe
Photographs by QT Long
I’m sure it’s fair to assume most of us have a bookshelf or two filled with titles that have become personal favorites we’ve collected over time. For many of us, some of those prized items take the form of large, coffee table-format books. The coffee table designation itself implies a place of highest honor where a book can be seen, picked up, and enjoyed by any visitor. For lovers of the American landscape and photography alike, no book is more deserving of this hallmark designation than Treasured Lands by QT Luong.
I’ve known QT for many years through numerous photography forums, and have had the pleasure of seeing him speak on several occasions. He has a very quiet, humble, and unassuming personality, yet the inclination that one might have to describe him as meek and shy is in stark contrast to his physical strength, developed through mountaineering and climbing, which enables him to carry incredibly heavyweight packs filled with camera and camping gear into some of the coldest, harshest, or wettest environments that America has to offer. The softness with which he speaks in person is completely offset by the power and clarity of his photography and its ability to communicate a sense of wildness, beauty, and grandeur.
I was delighted and honored when he called and asked me to assist him with this project due to my own background as both a photographer and photo editor. I worked with him over the course of several days reviewing nearly 10,000 images to help cull down a set of candidate images that would speak experientially to the heart of what each National Park has to offer.
As the first photographer to document all 59 of America’s National Parks using a large format camera system — a 20-year photographic project — Luong has created a beautiful volume worthy of the term “magnum opus.” Trying to cover the grandeur of all 59 National Parks in a single book is no small task to be sure, and the result is, as to be expected, no small book.
Treasured Lands begins with a foreword written by Dayton Duncan, one of the co-producers of Ken Burns’ acclaimed documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. In fact, QT was one of the people interviewed for this documentary series, and his stunning photograph of a sunset over Yosemite Valley was featured as the cover illustration for the series and featured on every National Park website.
The book is laid out geographically covering each National Park by region, starting with the Pacific Coast, then moving across the Colorado Plateau, through the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast, and then concluding with Alaska and the Tropics.
Each national park chapter opens with a short introductory text followed by a beautiful set of photographic plates. One of the things I like best is that the photographs are presented uncaptioned so that their place on the page is maximized for strong visual impact. He then goes on to provide a summary of each Park along with a geographical description and a few interesting statistics relative to each location. Containing over 450 pages, nearly 570 photos, along with image thumbnails with text describing each photograph, this book will certainly impress in both size and scope. At the end of each chapter, there is also a map of the park with additional descriptive information, and numbers on the map matching one of the thumbnail photos so that readers can instantly identify the location within the park each where image was made.
QT writes in his own introduction that his primary hope was that the book would Inspire visitors to go out and discover new places, and also provide enough information so that if you chose to, you could actually find your way to the place where each photograph was taken.
Despite the grandeur of Treasured Lands, it does not serve as a comprehensive guidebook; it is absolutely not meant to be that. Rather, it is more like a silver-platter sampling tray that whets the appetite by showing off some of the best and unique attributes of each National Park, but by doing so in a precise, comprehensive, yet minimalistic way.
This multiple award-winning book is produced using the highest quality printing materials and processes. The cover, the feel of the paper, and the quality of photographic reproduction are all excellent.
I have no doubt that folks like me, who are fond of the American landscape, photography, and the cultural and natural places that the National Park Service preserves and protects for the enjoyment of future generations — will surely treasure Treasured Lands as a prized addition to their collection.