Travel Blog

Photography, travel, and self-reflection

How The American National Parks Sparked My Travel Photography Career

One hundred years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson signed an act to protect and manage America’s National Parks. Our National Parks are spectacular, but they also hold a special place in my heart as the inspiration for my travel photography career.

Way back in November 2003, I took my first trip out west to Las Vegas, Nevada. I had been a photographer for a few years shooting weddings and portraits with a Pentax 35mm film DSLR and my very first digital camera — a Canon Powershot Pro90 IS. But no matter what I photographed, I was never really in love with my work. I wasn’t inspired.

So there we were in Sin City. The mountains looked so beautiful on the horizon beyond the neon lights of Las Vegas Boulevard, we couldn’t help but to rent a car and go exploring. We made our way straight to Arizona. Within a few hours of crawling down bumpy desert roads, I stood on the west rim of the Grand Canyon in the golden hour and snapped this photo with my 3MP camera:

Grand Canyon, 2003, Canon Pro90 IS

Grand Canyon, USA November 11, 2003

Looking back, it was this first trip to America’s quintessential National Park, the infamous Grand Canyon, that made me fall madly in love with the Southwest USA.

No wonder I had been so uninspired back home — babies and brides have nothing on the color of the desert at sunrise. I was smitten. I had finally found my niche that sparked an insatiable desire to create. I wanted to see more, travel more, photograph more.

Falling in love with our National Parks changed the course of the rest of my life.

I flew home after that vacation and immediately applied to the University of Nevada. It was a great excuse to live out there awhile and explore more of those stunning mountains and parks. Within a year, I closed up my photography studio — the little storefront I had rented in my hometown — and made my way to the Mojave Desert.

I spent many years between Detroit and Las Vegas, putting thousands of miles on the road photographing Death Valley, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, and many more American National Parks and Monuments across 47 states.

Being out on the road and photographing travel sights felt so right. I built up my portfolio, my network, and my confidence. It put me on a trajectory that lead me overseas to shoot travel photography in Europe and Africa. I’ve been living my dream and working abroad for five years now.

All this, because one day thirteen years ago I stood in awe on the edge of one of America’s most iconic sights and felt that spark.