I’M FOREVER BOUND TO A sacred internal desire to capture and share the essence of the important places I find. The following photos were shot with my dad’s vintage 35mm film camera (Minolta XG-1) during a series of three trips to the national parks of the American West. A million thanks to him for entrusting me with his ‘79 Minolta and his ‘96 Caravan.


Badlands National Park, South Dakota

“It was here that the romance of my life began." — Theodore Roosevelt on his time in the Dakota Badlands


Half Dome - Yosemite National Park, California

We labored in the August heat up the Four Mile Trail from the valley to Glacier Point to snag this iconic view of Half Dome. Greeted by hordes of tourists at the top, we learned we could have driven the paved road to the summit. Ah well...it’s the journey, not the destination, right?


Death Valley National Park, California

The Rand McNally Road Atlas said the shortest route between Yosemite and Zion was through Death Valley. It was 125°F as we hurtled across the lowest point on the continent. Climbing out of the valley, we laughed off the sign that said “turn off air conditioner.” Minutes later the van started smoking.


Towers of the Virgin - Zion National Park, Utah

Of all our destinations, I was perhaps most captivated by Zion — the sheer redrock walls, the juniper-studded hills, the hidden springs. We waded up The Narrows, saw a mountain lion and pitched our flimsy borrowed tent under a full moon rising over the Watchman.


Sunrise - Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Driving through the night took a special blend of Red Bull, truck stop food and late 90s Wu-Tang. Sunrise was always a welcome sight, especially if it involved redrock monoliths, an empty desert and a vintage lens flare.


Island in the Sky - Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The empty space below the rim is hard to comprehend. We drove all night from Portland to Canyonlands, pulling into the Island in the Sky just in time for a sleep-deprived sunrise.


River Camp on the Colorado - Canyonlands National Park, Utah

We rented canoes out of Moab and paddled the Colorado until we got tired. We camped on sandbars, ate Spam and drank whiskey. I could have stayed forever.


Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

After that first trip to Zion, I convinced my future wife to spend a week exploring southwestern Utah. It only took one sunset over Bryce Canyon for her to say “we will move West one day.”


Olympic National Park, Washington

Like its own mini continent, on the Olympic Peninsula we experienced glaciated peaks, dense rainforests and wilderness beach all within a few miles of each other. We had lunch in the alpine air at Hurricane Ridge overlooking the Olympic Range, then an hour later had Pacific sand between our toes at Second Beach.


Second Beach - Olympic National Park, Washington

We had zero idea what we were doing but knew we needed to camp on the beach. We hiked in two miles with no backpacking gear, carrying sleeping bags, ramen noodles and a glass bottle of Knob Creek. While the sun kissed the Pacific, we explored the tide pools and built a driftwood fire in the sand.


Second Beach - Olympic National Park, Washington

Not all shots work out as planned. #blooperreel


Tidepools - Olympic National Park, Washington

Having previously known only the tourist beaches of the Carolinas and Florida, I was blown away at the sheer amount of life brimming in the tide pools of Olympic’s beaches. Anenome and sea snails filled the shallow puddles left behind by the receding tide. Starfish and mussels clung to the sea stacks. I was a kid again, digging in the dirt for nightcrawlers and overturning creek rocks for crayfish.


Glacier National Park, Montana

It was a 36-hour stretch from western New York to Montana, rotating three drivers and only stopping for gas and food. We arrived exhausted at the gates of Glacier, but were quickly rejuvenated by sights like this.


Glacier National Park, Montana

During our visit, the western half of Glacier was closed due to devastating forest fires. As an Easterner, it was my first glimpse at the destructive power of wildfire, but the haze hanging on the peaks at Logan Pass and the eerie orange light made for dramatic photography.


Calf Creek Falls - Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Photographically, I had no idea what I was doing other than some basic knowledge that if you used a longer exposure, a waterfall would blur. Having no tripod, I leaned against a tree, slowed my breath and hoped for the best.


Longs Peak Sunset - Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park was the last park we visited before pointing the van back east. I didn’t know it then, but our time there would take on special significance when, two years later I made a new home in the shadows of these sun-lit peaks.