Terra Galleria Photography

Three USPS Waterfall Stamps by QT Luong


I am honored that three of my images have been selected by the U.S. Postal Service to be part of the new commemorative stamp series “Waterfalls”, released today, June 13, 2023.

The new postage series (on sale here) which pays homage to the variety and beauty of American waterfalls, is released by the U.S. Postal Service as a panel set of twelve forever stamps. Each stamp features a photograph with the name of the waterfall and the state in which it is located beneath it. In 2016, one of my photographs had been featured on a stamp panel, but this time, I am even more honored that I am the only one among the nine photographers included in the series to have three images selected for the project.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, one of the images depicts Nevada Fall flanked by Liberty Cap in Yosemite National Park. If you compare the NPS photo in the LA Times article to mine, you’ll see that even for such an iconic scene, how one approaches composition still matters. It was also the most favorable light and weather conditions that I experienced on my repeated visits to the Mist Trail, which is Yosemite’s signature hike. Despite the popularity of the trail, getting drenched by the namesake mist from the waterfalls and walking through rainbows always brings me a sense of untamed wildness. Because of the relationship I have developed with Yosemite, it is my favorite among all national parks. As Yosemite Valley is loaded with photographic lineage from Carleton Watkins to Ansel Adams, I tried to find unmediated inspiration from the landscape and my sense of awe.

Each year, the USPS issues a Stamp Yearbook. The collectible hardcover book contains sketches, design explorations, and reference materials from the stamp creation process. Insights from stamp designers, artists, photographers, and art directors provide behind-the-scenes glimpses into how stamps are made in the U.S. I am honored that the 2023 Stamp Yearbook will feature my photograph of Nevada Fall and a quote from me.

Click on image to enlarge

It is always special to photograph a waterfall because I am capturing something perpetually in motion to make an image frozen in time forever, an eminently photographic act. The second stamp depicts Waimoku Falls in Haleakala National Park, Hawaii. It is maybe the most beautiful waterfall on the island of Maui and certainly the tallest one accessible on foot, at the end of the Pipiwai Trail – possibly the best hike on the whole island of Maui. I scrambled precariously on the hill to the right of the falls so that I could point the camera straight – with the aid of a special adjustment on my large-format camera – to maintain the cliff’s verticality in the photograph. Together with the tight framing excluding the waterfall’s brink and outlet pool, this created the impression of an endless sheer wall of green, although the waterfall is “only” 400 feet tall.

The third stamp depicts Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. It seems that most visitors equate the park with its main artery, Skyline Drive. However, it was leaving the road and walking that let me experience the real beauty of the place. The waterfalls are a good example. To see them, you have to hike downhill from Skyline Drive—and then uphill back! The easiest-to-reach waterfall is Dark Hollow Falls. On my first visit there, I thought that sunny conditions created less than ideal light, but I embraced them in creating an off-kilter composition. It sharply contrasts with the graphic simplicity of the previous stamp. Afterward, I was glad I made that photograph, as it turned out to be more dynamic than those I made of the same waterfall on a return trip.

Stamps are miniature works of art that tell the best story of America. If you are curious about how “the marvelous process of creating stamps is a marvel in and of itself”, refer to the long-form article The Extraordinary Design Journey of a Stamp—From Quasi-Secret Society to Perforated Perfection. Here is a quote from USPS Director of Stamp Services William Gicker:

… stamps are, at the end of the day, a limited security of the United States government. They’re like currency, but for limited use. But unlike currency, we get to celebrate our culture through them. Currency still has presidents, and that’s pretty much it. We get to highlight other parts of our culture, both people and events and things. It’s exciting to have it out there. But at the same time, we only do about 24 issues a year, so it’s still very limited. Considering we receive about 30,000 suggestions a year, we only do about 24—and maybe that’s even a little bit high. So it’s still quite an honor and quite a distinction to actually be on a stamp.
I never submitted anything but instead was contacted by an agency that works with the USPS. Like in almost all image licensing transactions, the payment consists of a one-time licensing fee, which is rather modest considering the 35 million copies, rather than royalties. But there are not many media that will provide a larger print run for a photograph! More importantly, as stamps are a collectible portion of the nation’s historical records, I am grateful for the incredible honor to be – again – a small part of America’s national identity.


  1. Don Pugh says:

    Congratulations on this honor. I have read of your national parks photography for many years but only recently came across your blog. I am taking a 2 month trip starting in mid August to Colorado, southern Utah and northern Arizona and will be reading through your blog posts to supplement the research I’ve already been doing – including the Martres series of books that include several of your photos. I’ll be driving and tent camping out of a high clearance 4WD vehicle to get to a lot of out of the way places like Toroweap Overlook, the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands, the Cathedral Valley Loop in Capitol Reef, White Rocks and a lot of locations in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

    • QT Luong says:

      Thank you Don! I suppose you read about my national parks photography in Treasured Lands? The Martres books for the Southwest are in my opinion the golden standard in terms of photography guidebooks, you cannot go wrong with them.

  2. Marie says:

    Congrats! Well deserved honor!

  3. Pearl Chow says:

    Congratulations, QT! What a wonderful honor. Well-deserved and so happy for you!

  4. Nita Winter says:

    Congratulations. This is so exciting.

  5. QT Luong says:

    Thank you Marie, Pearl, and Nita!

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