"I am very interested in facts," Luong says, "but intellectual interest alone would not have been enough to sustain the project. Facts are about trying to understand the natural world. They are important because deeper love stems from understanding, but eventually it is love that matters the most. This is where the conservation part of the effort comes into play. I am trying to help the viewer feel the same emotional response as I felt myself when I experienced the land. This goes beyond just facts. I am hoping that they will feel moved enough to care for the natural world and want to help preserve it. Trying to elicit the emotional response is the artistic component. I am trying to teach and delight at the same time. Both are equally important."
I like to use best-of lists for many things. It makes it easier to make decisions—in this case, where to go—helps me discover things I wouldn't have thought about otherwise, and at the same time, focus explorations on areas that others have found worthwhile. The national parks represent the list of the greatest natural sights in America as nominated by the Congress. It was also a practical list for me: The goal was attainable—the count is reasonable, the infrastructure excellent—yet the sites were varied enough to encompass something representative of all the nature of America. I also greatly admire the very idea of the national parks, so I wanted to, modestly, help spread the word about them. I liked the fact, if my images hopefully inspired folks to visit themselves, thanks to the NPS, that would be something that most would be able to do.
When I return to a park, I try not only new locations, but also different seasons, which is why I've done so many park visits. I'd rather stay two days in three different seasons than a continuous week. For some places, like Yellowstone, the experience is so different, it's like visiting a different park. That gives me more chances to create different images. —QT Luong