For the centennial anniversary of the Nationwide Park Service, I had a dream project photographing the nationwide parks. I traveled to and photographed all 59 (on the time) of the U.S. nationwide parks in a single yr for Nationwide Geographic. Whereas different Nat Geo photographers had been spending as much as a yr on project in a single nationwide park, I used to be racing by way of them at breakneck pace. It was a whirlwind yr crammed with extra magnificence and nature than anybody particular person ought to ever get to expertise in such a brief timeframe.

The ebook, A 12 months within the Nationwide Parks: The Biggest American Highway Journey, chronicles Irish’s journey.

Should you’re doing the mathematics, you’ve in all probability realized that photographing 59 nationwide parks in 52 weeks is near not possible, and also you’d be proper. However I used to be loopy sufficient to pitch it, they usually had been loopy sufficient to let me attempt to do it. Trying again, it was for sure one of the vital difficult years of my life. I used to be out photographing each dawn and sundown, I hiked all day, edited late into the evening (after I wasn’t capturing astrophotography), and bought little or no sleep for all the yr.

I had so many blissful, “pinch-me-I’m-dreaming” moments as nicely. In a rustic as various and picturesque as the US, the nationwide parks characterize one of the best of us. They’re the locations we maintain most sacred, for his or her purity and jaw-dropping magnificence.

Previous to this project, I had already visited about half of the U.S. nationwide parks, both alone or on project for numerous publications. The nationwide parks are very particular to me; they’re the place I fell in love with exploring the outside, they usually performed an enormous function in me turning into a photographer. For the centennial of the Park Service, I wished to problem myself and to provide again to these locations that had given me a lot over my lifetime.

It’s very onerous to distill a whole yr of wonderful nationwide park surroundings into a brief listing, however I’ve tried to share a few of my favourite photos and moments right here. Should you had been to ask me tomorrow or subsequent week to do the identical train, I’d doubtless have a totally completely different listing.

Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park & Protect

Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park & Protect, Colorado.

I like photographing sand dunes, and there’s maybe no higher place to take action than Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park & Protect in Colorado. These are the tallest dunes in North America, tucked up in opposition to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and provide limitless alternatives for artistic pictures. My favourite second from visiting this park got here not from capturing the sunshine and shadow at play on the dunes throughout dawn and sundown, however from backpacking far into the dunes and spending the evening beneath the celebs. The dearth of sunshine air pollution, coupled with the unbelievable tent location and the good star show overhead, was an evening to recollect. In truth, this picture ended up turning into the duvet of the ebook concerning the challenge, A 12 months within the Nationwide Parks: The Biggest American Highway Journey.

Demise Valley Nationwide Park

Demise Valley Nationwide Park, California.

Should you go to Zabriskie Level in Demise Valley Nationwide Park, California, you’ll little question find yourself setting your tripod subsequent to a line of different photographers. Many photographers I do know hate this side of nationwide park pictures, and I can perceive why. I, too, attempt to search for completely different and distinctive views in my pictures. Nonetheless, there’s nothing mistaken with capturing well-known vistas. Personally, I get pleasure from standing shoulder to shoulder with different passionate photographers, sharing suggestions and a enjoyable dialog. I’ve discovered lots from others, taught many youthful photographers my very own tips, and have genuinely loved the comradery of such a scene.

This picture reminds of not solely of what an incredible scene Zabriskie Level may be to {photograph} but in addition of the buddies I’ve made standing at such well-liked vistas who share my ardour for pictures. My suggestion is to spend a while capturing at these busy spots, after which forge out by yourself to create distinctive imagery. Each avenues are worthy of your time as a photographer. 

Redwood Nationwide Park

an image from a year photographing the national parksan image from a year photographing the national parks
Redwood Nationwide Park, California.

There are particular reminiscences that, after I suppose again upon them, nonetheless really feel extremely actual. This superb early-summer morning in Redwood Nationwide and State Parks in California is one among them. I went mountaineering on my own alongside the coastal path. The air was cool and crisp, I keep in mind a delicate breeze blowing, the songbirds had been singing and leaping from department to department…it was merely an ideal morning in nature. If I shut my eyes, I can journey again to this second directly and nonetheless really feel the mild breeze and listen to the birds chirping. I dwell for these moments in nature, as they’ve dramatic methods of refilling my religious cup. I’m not a really non secular particular person, but when I did worship, it could be proper right here on this cathedral made from timber.

Crater Lake Nationwide Park

Crater Lake Nationwide Park, Oregon.

One among my photographic objectives for the challenge was to seize every park in as some ways as I might, which might inevitably discover me staying up means into the evening to seize a glimpse of the Milky Manner. There are a whole lot of nice “darkish sky” nationwide parks, and I take into account Crater Lake in Oregon to be the most effective for stargazing and astrophotography. This explicit evening was one of the vital memorable photographing the evening sky, because the reflections on the lake blew me away. I used to be fortunate sufficient to search out an outdated weathered tree for a foreground, which accomplished the picture.

Theodore Roosevelt Nationwide Park

Theodore Roosevelt Nationwide Park, North Dakota.

Should you had been to ask your folks which of the nationwide parks are their favorites, I doubt you’ll hear them point out Theodore Roosevelt Nationwide Park in North Dakota. It’s definitely one of many lesser-known among the many likes of Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon. Don’t depend out these quieter parks although—Theodore Roosevelt is likely one of the nice hidden gems within the park system. There, yow will discover badlands as spectacular as these at namesake park Badlands Nationwide Park in neighboring South Dakota, in addition to stunning rivers, unbelievable wildlife comparable to coyotes, wild (feral) horses and big herds of bison. I beloved discovering the off-the-beaten-path gems throughout the park system, and this park—named after the “Conservation President”—was one which blew me away.

Grand Canyon Nationwide Park

Grand Canyon Nationwide Park, Arizona.

One of many nice sights in the entire nationwide parks is watching climate techniques roll in over the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The thunderstorms throughout the late spring and summer time months may be immense and awe-inspiring. Standing at Hopi Level on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I watched as this fierce thunderstorm slowly overwhelmed the North Rim with menacing clouds and torrential rain. I felt as if I used to be witnessing one thing actually particular, and I used to be so lucky to seize it on digicam.

Katmai Nationwide Park & Protect

Katmai Nationwide Park & Protect, Alaska.

Katmai Nationwide Park & Protect in Alaska is thought for its massive inhabitants of grizzly bears. Most photographers in Katmai will spend a whole lot of time at Brooks Falls hoping to recreate the well-known picture (Thomas Mangelsen’s “Catch of the Day”) of the spawning salmon precariously perched in mid-air proper earlier than a hungry grizzly closes its jaws on it.

Nonetheless, I fell in love with Kukak Bay on the east aspect of the nationwide park, the place few guests attain and wild grizzlies roam free. Exploring by boat, we had been capable of get near and spend time with domestically recognized grizzlies like “One-Ear,” who confirmed off her two younger cubs. Nationwide parks are particular locations the place wildlife can wander protected as they’ve for millennia, and attending to see these well-known grizzlies is likely one of the nice wildlife experiences one can haven’t solely within the park system however anyplace.

Acadia Nationwide Park

Acadia Nationwide Park, Maine.

Surprisingly, the northeast U.S. doesn’t have many nationwide parks, however the few there are actually unbelievable. I first photographed the Bass Harbor Lighthouse as quickly as I bought to Acadia Nationwide Park in Maine, just because I knew it was an iconic shot, and I used to be anxious to seize it. However I stored returning to this scene over and over, mesmerized by the rock, timber, lighthouse and the altering colours of the sky. It’s such a “zen” scene alongside a rocky coast within the nice state of Maine, and over time it turned one among my favourite views in the entire parks.

Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park

Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park, Colorado.

On a yearlong quest to go to the entire nationwide parks, it’s not possible to go to every at one of the best season for pictures. Seasonality was a relentless problem on this challenge. I visited Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park in Colorado towards the tip of autumn and missed the autumn foliage that makes this park so well-known. One attractive morning at Dream Lake made up for the dearth of autumn shade. I don’t keep in mind ever seeing such a fiery dawn, and the aptly named Dream Lake mirrored the good colours. The snowy logs main as much as the deep reds of dawn on the mountains make this picture—and second—one among my favourite from all the street journey.

Grand Teton Nationwide Park

Grand Teton Nationwide Park, Wyoming.

Should you had been to ask me what was one of the vital stunning scenes I skilled in the entire nationwide parks, I might say it was this morning at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton Nationwide Park in Wyoming. Positive, it’s a well-known vista, and there are prone to be quite a few photographers there each morning. I occurred to go to Grand Teton throughout the peak of fall foliage, when all leaves had been exploding with autumn colours. Add to that the surreal pink sky from a ravishing morning dawn, and also you get one of the vital iconic and extremely gorgeous scenes in the entire park system. It was a view nearly too good to imagine.

Typically throughout this challenge, I felt prefer it was utterly unfair to take credit score for any pictures as a result of it was actually nature that was doing all of the heavy lifting. 

See extra of Jonathan Irish’s work at

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