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Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America's 59 National Parks Hardcover – 25 Aug 2016
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About the Author
Q.T. Luong is known for being the first to photograph all 59 U.S. National Parks--in large format. Ken Burns featured him in The National Parks: America's Best Idea. His photographs have been the subject of two large-format books, several magazine profiles, solo gallery and museum exhibits. Dayton Duncan was the writer and co-producer of The National Parks: America's Best Idea documentary produced by Ken Burns. He's also been involved for many years with other series directed by Burns including The Civil War, Horatio's Drive, Baseball and Jazz.
Top Customer Reviews
We bought a second book for a christmas gift
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The Short Version: STUNNING – BUY IT! Buy a copy for yourself and buy copies as gifts!
The Long Version: This is a stunning book. “Treasured Lands” is not just a stunning book of photographs of scenery within our National Parks; it is a book that I find stunning from every aspect from which I have looked at it.
The photography is excellent, and the author has spent a large part of his adult life taking superb photos in every single National Park of the United States. Here you will find images of sweeping scenery and of intimate locations that you might walk past if you were not paying attention. Here you will find images from locations in parks like Yellowstone that are on the bucket lists of many, many people, and images from locations like the National Park of American Samoa that distance means most of us will never visit. Here you will find images from iconic locations within familiar parks, and images from almost unknown jewel-like scenes within the same parks.
But “Treasured Lands” is much more than that. The author has provided maps to help you find the locations within the parks from which the photos were taken, and descriptions of how to get to those locations. Many photos talk about the time of day that was needed to capture the image. None of this is unique, and I have books of excellent photos from places like Yosemite that do the same thing in even greater depth – for THAT specific park. But none of those books have done the same thing for *every single National Park in the United States*! This book is 457 pages long, which allows the author to cover the parks in greater depth than any of the other multi-park books that I have seen.
But all of this still does not begin to do justice to “Treasured Lands”. The text that accompanies the photos also provides the reader with a rich experience in other regards. If you want to know more about a given park, information is there - in clear and useful text. With text that ranges from the eco-system of Olympia to the geology of Bryce, you will end up with no excuse for saying, “I’m not sure if I will find anything interesting other than pretty scenery if I go to that particular park”.
Another area that I found stunning was the sheer value of the book. I have other books of landscape and other photography that are a fraction the size of “Treasured Lands”, for which I paid comparable prices – or more – and felt were good value. The content is superb, and the production values of the book are excellent. FWIW, I am putting my money where my mouth is – I have already ordered three additional copies from the author – all autographed.
My comments above probably make me sound like one of the “fanboys” about which snide remarks are frequently made on the web these days. I am 76 years old (and a fan of the National Parks), so I don’t think that any form of the word “boy” other than “old” is applicable to me. However, I will add that when I look at the glowing endorsement on the book cover that Ken Burns has given QT Luong and “Treasured Lands”, I feel comfortable in believing that my opinion still has validity.
Long version: This is a 450-page book containing about 500 photographs selected from an individual photographer's work for two decades in all 59 U.S. National Parks. There are also brief notes about each Park, plus brief but useful details aimed specifically at photographers: some of the author's favorite photgraphy spots, details about where each photograph was taken and at what time of day, and a discussion of each Park's seasons from a photographic standpoint, among others. The author (QT Luong) is the first person to have photographed all 59 of America's National Parks using a large-format camera. He did so traveling mostly alone, self-funded, and with the same kind of access to the Parks as any regular visitor. The book is a declaration of love for the Parks (using images instead of big words), a photographic travel essay, and an inspiration for readers to go see these magnificent places for themselves (and bring their cameras).
Just to clarify, this is not (and makes no attempt to be) a guidebook or a photography manual.
Brief disclosure: I've never met QT Luong, and have no vested interest whatsoever in this book. I bought the book (at the regular amazon price) because I had followed and appreciated the author's photography website, terragalleria.com, for many years. I was also fascinated by Ken Burns' epic 12-hour documentary "The National Parks: America's Best Idea", which featured QT Luong as one of its few living characters. I work in a field unrelated to photography or to the National Parks, but I love the Parks, visit them whenever I can, and I am an avid amateur photographer.
Below are a few pros and cons to consider if you're undecided about this book.
1. The vast majority of the book's approximately 500 photographs are stunning. The few that are not outright stunning are still very, very good.
2. It is clear that a lot of attention went not only into the choice of photographs, but also in the way they are arranged on the page, so that photographs presented together are thematically coherent and their combination is aesthetically pleasing.
3. The book covers all 59 (as of 2016) U.S. National Parks.
4. The writing is measured, modest and to the point.
5. There is sufficient information about each photograph to inspire and even help prospective National Park visitors who are interested in photography, but without unnecessary technical details.
6. Last, but not least, the book looks and feels really well made. The paper is thick and glossy, with virtually the same quality as dedicated brand-name photo paper, including great detail and colors. The binding seems solid (but I've handled the book gently; not sure how well it would take abuse). The dust jacket is thick, has a premium feel (including embossed lettering) and folds back on itself along the upper and lower edges of the book, which I think makes it more resistant to tears/wrinkles (though I have not purposely tested this).
The following may be viewed as Cons by some, but in my opinion are not:
1. The balance between images and text in this book may not please everyone, but in my opinion it is just right. For each Park there is one introductory page (text + photo), 3 to 7 pages of pure photography (1 to 4 photos per page and no text at all, except for the page numbers), and 2 to 3 pages of information (including thumbnails of all photographs in the preceding section, with information about each, and a few additional photos).
2. The book includes very little technical detail about the photographs. The author may mention use of a wide or telephoto lens, but almost never other shooting parameters or exact model of lens, camera, or film (yes, film). For most photographs, it is also not clear whether they were taken using a large-format camera, 35 mm film camera, or digital camera. I personally see this as a good thing.
3. Some people may decry the lack of GPS/geotagging information, but let's not forget that this book is the result of two decades of work, and geotagging nature photographs is a relatively recent concept. For each Park, the book does include a map with drop pins showing approximately where each photograph was taken. The map is small and not very detailed, but if one combines the map with the text description, then the location of each photograph becomes quite clear (in most cases).
4. The book is made in China, but in all likelihood this is part of the reason why you can buy an excellent-quality, 7 pound, >450 page photography book for less than $40.
Cons (I'm being really picky here):
1. For each Park, the book lists year established, surface area in square miles, rank in size, annual number of visits, and rank in popularity. I think the details about visitation could have been ommitted. This book is timeless- why include information that will be outdated in a few years?
2. For the number of visits, a small footnote on page 22 clarifies that the numbers shown are "the average of recreational visits recorded by the National Park Service for each Park over the decade 2005–2014". I'm not sure how many people will see that footnote. Without it, it is really strange to read, for instance, that the annual number of visits to Yosemite is 3,649,924. There's a level of detail in that number that I find frankly uninformative, and even distracting. I think some rounding algorithm would have helped (e.g. anual number of visits in Yosemite ~3,650,000). Of course, the rounding algorithm would have had to be adapted to the Park's popularity, with less rounding for less visited Parks.
3. The maps are not graphically consistent across all Parks.