Thursday, February 9, 2017

Treasured Lands

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My copy of Treasured Lands, the magnum opus (more than 20 years in the making) of photographer Q.T. Luong, finally arrived, weighing in at an impressive 7.2 pounds and standing about 10 inches tall by 12.5 inches wide. Its 455 pages dwarfs my 175-page Circumannuation of Mt. Tam. This is one big book!

When I first heard about it I wasn't sure I wanted yet another photography book on the national parks. A couple of things convinced me to take the plunge (unlike Blurb books, this is very reasonably priced, and the reproduction quality is much better). First of all, Treasured Lands covers all 59 U.S. national parks. Second, I love that a lot of QT Luong's work is shot in large format (5x7, if I infer correctly). I am a sucker for large format photography even when it's displayed in the smaller print size of a book as opposed to a gallery wall.

The images are mainly landscapes, frequently photographed in really gorgeous light. You can tell a lot of planning went into the making of these images, and Luong readily shares his hard-won information. Indeed, the book is meant to be a guide as well as a collection of images. Luong shares personal notes about each image, along with trail information and seasonal tips. I'm the kind of photographer who likes to explore places on his own rather than being guided to someone else's special place, but I admit I would be tempted to check out some of these spots. I also liked that he shows some of these parks in more than one season.

Not all of the images in the book were shot with a large format camera, but that doesn't hurt the overall book. In fact, my favorite landscape image was shot from a floating canoe, hand-held, using a 35mm camera (Cedar Creek in Congaree National Park, p. 338). There aren't many wildlife images in the book, but my favorite is a pair of baby owls in a Zion slot canyon (p. 146) that was also shot in 35mm. My only nitpick in this outstanding book is that Luong does not indicate which images were shot in large format. He must have had his reasons for leaving that out since this is a photography book targeted in large part for other photographers.

Treasured Lands is a unique and worthwhile addition to anyone's photography collection. I thumbed my way through the whole thing the first day I got it, then went back several times over about a week to go through it more slowly, the better to savor each impressive image.

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