The Travel Diary: The enduring beauty of America’s national parks

The Travel Diary: The enduring beauty of America’s national parks

What you see along the way — Photographer Heather McCutcheon travels across the USA for her latest photo project, capturing the country’s most breathtaking natural wonders.

I was born and raised in Enfield, North London and starting getting into photography when I was about 15. After a while of shooting around my neighbourhood, I soon began searching for other sources of inspiration. I thought that my best work always came from holidays with my family; the ability to photograph new places and experiences quickly became the main pursuit of my work. In 2014 I spent the majority of my year travelling North America from New York City to the shores of San Diego – I fell deeply in love with the landscape, culture and life on the road.

My partner and I share a mutual love for the natural world, so we knew we wanted to visit as many National Parks as we could. We contrasted the Navajo desert landscapes with lush redwood forests and managed to catch sight of the beautiful fall colours in places like Yosemite and Zion. We spent the majority of the time camping either backcountry or within the park campgrounds themselves (in between motel hopping for showers along the way).

Badwater Basin Death Valley Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

My favourite place always changes every time I think about the trip because each location is really so different from the next, despite not being that far apart. I’m completely blown away by the diversity of landscape and ecology of North America. At this moment, I think it’s Saguaro National Park. We camped in a small ground and met children hunting for scorpions in the night, saw a flash of a purple hummingbird after saying desperately the whole trip that we hoped to see one, and hiked up the Hugh Norris trail to catch the silhouettes of the cacti at sunset.

My advice for anyone planning to travel to the region? Make sure to plan ahead, but not to overdo it. Note down where you would like to visit and connect the dots on the map trying to use the most scenic routes, rather than just bombing it down the freeway. Research towns along the way to stopover, rest and wash before moving on to the next place. Pack food that’s light and will keep like ramen noodles and jerky. Wear the right footwear and make sure that you have some comfortable tent-only clothes to change into at night. Eat at Denny’s for breakfast after a restless night and it will revive you. Make mix tapes to suit your surroundings and photograph as much as you can.

Death Valley Artist's Palette Saguaro Yosemite NP white sands Yosemite El Capitan Petrified Forest zion

See more of Heather McCutcheon’s work on her official website.

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