When the Indiana Dunes became America’s 61st national park in February, photographer QT Luong knew he had to act fast. “I literally had to call my printer to ‘stop the presses,’” he remembers with a smile.
That’s because a new edition of his book, “Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey through America’s National Parks,” was about to be printed. And the Indiana Dunes had just earned the right to be included.
Plenty of fine photographers have captured the wonders of the national parks, but as far as we know, Luong is the only one to photograph every one with a large-format camera – the type used by legendary photographer Ansel Adams and others.
“The first time I took a picture with that camera, when I came home I looked at the transparency and I could see more details in the transparency that I could see at the scene,” he said. And it was then, he says, that he realized that with if he made a picture with that camera, he could “place the viewer at the scene because then he’ll be able to see as much as I saw. He can explore the scene for himself.”
Luong was featured in Ken Burns series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”
Luong doesn’t just visit the easy national park vistas. He must often travel for days.
To get shots of the Arrigetch Peaks in Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska, he had to fly on two commercial flights, then a mail plane, and then a floatplane. “And from there,” he says, “we backpacked for a couple of days to get to the base of the peak.”
The Indiana Dunes’ best views are quite accessible. And Luong says he was struck by the ecological diversity. “Within the park you see forests and you see wetlands and you have the dunes and you have the coasts so it’s quite a bit going on in such a small park.”
Each large-format photo costs $10 for film and processing. So these days Luong mostly uses a digital camera – which he says can approach the level of detail that drew him to large-format photography a quarter century ago.
But if a 62nd national park is created – Luong will be there with the camera he has now carried to 61 of them.
Note: This story first aired on Chicago Tonight on March 5, 2019.
The second edition of his book, including photos of the Indiana Dunes National Park, is scheduled for release on Aug. 1, 2019. Autographed copies can be pre-ordered here.