Terra Galleria Photography

National Park Service Centennial and Treasured Lands Book


The 100th anniversary of the National Park Service has finally arrived, and others have written more eloquently about the significance of the event than I could ever do. My contribution to the occasion is the photography book Treasured Lands. I view it as the 21st century version of National Parks Portfolio, the first photography book about the national parks, published exactly 100 years ago as part of the campaign that helped establish the National Park Service.

A complete presentation

If you are curious about National Parks Portfolio and its significance, please read my post the first national parks photography book. The publication aimed to be “the first really representative presentation of American scenery of grandeur ever published”. Each of its nine booklets strived to provide a complete picture of each park. For instance, for Yellowstone, we see not only Old Faithful as the cover image, but also a multitude of other thermal features, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and its waterfalls, Mount Washburn and Yellowstone Lake, and the park’s wildlife.

In the same spirit, Treasured Lands aims to be the most complete coffee-table book about the national parks published in the interleaving century. Having studied and collected many national parks photography books, I am pretty sure that the goal is met if you go by the numbers – 456 pages, 500+ photos, 130,000+ words, depicting 410 locations. In terms of richness of contents, Paul Schullery’s America’s National Parks (2001) came closest, depicting 56 national parks in 408 pages. David Muench’s books (1977, 1993, 2005) float at the top of the art books illustrated by a single photographer. His Our National Parks (2005) had 254 photographs in 232 pages, depicting 58 national parks – with the help of a few other photographers, including me.

However, what really matters is that not only the book includes all 59 national parks, but also the coverage of each park is deeper than any other coffee-table book. I tried to photograph each significant area of each national park, for example:

  • the five islands that make up Channel Islands National Park,
  • the three islands that make up National Park of American Samoa,
  • the three main keys of Dry Tortugas National Park,
  • the five districts in Canyonlands National Park,
  • the three units of Theodore Roosevelt NP, including Elkhorn Ranch.

It is often said that the National Parks are “loved to death” – the first such utterance may have been in Conrad Wirth’s Mission 66 introduction – a document still surprisingly relevant today. However, one often confuses visitation and crowding. Large visitation is great. In my experience of more than 300 park visits, crowding is an issue only at the most popular locations in the most popular parks. It is my hope that by giving equal treatment to the 59 national parks, and by highlighting lesser known locations in the popular parks, Treasured Lands can inspire visitors to discover the diversity of the national parks, experience new locales, and spread out visitation.

An invitation and guide to visit

Back a century ago, Stephen Mather recognized that if the parks were to be preserved, they would have to acquire a constituency, and the publication of National Parks Portfolio was an effort towards this goal. Each of the nine booklets ending page started with the heading “HOW TO REACH THE NATIONAL PARKS”, a railroad map, and concluded with “REMEMBER THAT [name of park] BELONGS TO YOU. IT IS ONE OF THE GREAT NATIONAL PLAYGROUNDS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE FOR WHOM IT IS ADMINISTERED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR.”

More than twenty years ago, as a newcomer to America, deeply moved by the National Parks natural beauty, I decided to make my home here, and embarked on a self-supported project to photograph them out of love for the land. It is a testament to the greatness of America that as a private citizen, I have been able to honor the NPS Centennial with Treasured Lands. As stated in my introduction, from the start of the project, one of my goals has been to propel you on your personal journey to visit, appreciate, and help preserve this magnificent but fragile land.

Unlike other coffee table books about the national parks, which after inspiring readers via images, leave them wondering about the exact locations, Treasured Lands is designed to inspire outdoor adventurers to “Find Your Park” using a detailed guide keyed to the images. For each of the images in the book, you’ll find a description of the location, the best times to be there, and sometimes comments about my experiences and photography, with the hope that they will help you plan your own trip. Note that as an innovative feature which I hope you’ll find practical, the guide will be available for download as a PDF specially formatted for mobile devices. Here are spreads of the book for two national parks. TreasuredLandsBook.com displays a larger selection of spreads, and they can be viewed larger if you have a big screen.

Updated Oct 1, 2017


  1. rob hastings says:

    looks great

  2. Tom Lambert says:

    This is so exciting! After following this project for so long, I am excited to have the book on pre-order and will look forward to hunkering down with it this fall and thinking about destinations for national park visits!

    Congratulations Tuan.

  3. Having read much of this book in various stages of development, I would echo complimentary comments from a number of the top landscape photographers endorsing it’s quality. QT, in this book you show not only an eye for detail and fresh composition, but a sense of quiet whimsy, curiosity and discovery in both writing and images that make you the perfect photography grand tour guide for the entire national park system.

  4. Susan Weltens says:

    I have been trying to get a copy of this book for my father. It is sold out everywhere! How do I get a copy? Will you publish more?

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