New Partnership Announcement: American Samoa

American Samoa National Park. (Image credit:

2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii is the United States Territory and National Park of American Samoa, with rainforest, beaches, and protected coral reefs located on three separate islands. We are very excited to partner with American Samoa Tourism as we travel to the national park located farthest from the North American mainland where the precious tropical land sprawls out into the sea. 

New Partnership Announcement: Go Hawaii!

Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. (Image credit:

HVCB-20464_The Hawaiian Islands Bamboo Logo v1

The Hawaiian Islands are home to immaculate beaches, one-of-a-kind Pacific island culture, and two of our nation's most spectacular national parks. On the island of Maui is Haleakala, the site of an ancient volcano and endangered Hawaiian geese. On the Big Island, Hawai'i reside two of the world's most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. 

We've both spent significant time in Hawaii and are thrilled to go back there to document both parks in depth. In that spirit, we are very happy to announce a partnership with GoHawaii as we explore again the 50th state, a true island paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Aloha!

New Galleries, New Pages, New Press

Hello all! We've been going hard and have a bunch of miscellaneous project news to share. 

New Galleries:

Black & White: Select photos from the project with a black and white treatment.

Highways & Byways: This is the Greatest American Road Trip after all. Photos of roads to and in America's national parks. 

Outtakes: Candid, behind-the-scene photos taken with the Apple iPhone 6S  



NBC Channel 9 News, Colorado: One Year Journey: Photographer Traveling to All U.S. National Parks (TV News Segment & Article) 

National Parks Conservation Association The Great American Road Trip (article)

Malen Dyer Photographer Jonathan Irish on Capturing the National Parks, Life in the Outdoors (photography feature)

Smithsonian Magazine Beautiful Photos from America's Six Least-Visited National Parks (photography feature)

Travel Writers Network U.S. National Park Service Centennial (article feed)



Rendezvous with the Pendleton Airstream

Some press opportunities popped up during April that brought us to New York City, which turned out to be a perfect opportunity to pick up a Pendleton Limited Edition National Parks Airstream and drive it to Acadia National Park in Maine. We had seen these beautiful units while at Airstream Headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio earlier this year and we were thrilled to have a chance to live in one, if even for only one week.

At the Classic Car Club on Pier 76 in Manhattan is where we first stepped foot inside of the Pendleton. What a beauty. With classic park interior details of distressed wood, beautiful Pendleton blankets that are a work of art in their own right, maps adorning the interior as wallpaper, and a modernized shout from our youth—Coyote Butte Lucky Bear—we realized for a moment that as beautiful as the exterior of the Airstream is, it's what's on the inside that counts. 

A 1966 vintage Airstream retrofitted as an office at the Classic Car Club in Manhattan. And some car porn: vintage Vipers, McLaren's and other fine works of automotive beauty on Pier 76.

A 1966 vintage Airstream retrofitted as an office at the Classic Car Club in Manhattan. And some car porn: vintage Vipers, McLaren's and other fine works of automotive beauty on Pier 76.

The rendezvous point at the Car Club was special too—and not just because of our close proximity to vintage McLaren's and Vipers—but because we got to see what is undoubtedly one of the coolest Airstream refurbishments out there: a vintage 1966 Airstream retrofitted as an office for the club owners, and a matching restored 1966 Ford truck that toes it along (though we got the feeling that the duo is mostly stationary.)

Our tow-vehicle for the week, a Ford F-150 Limited Edition, had all of the muscle needed to tow the 27-foot travel trailer along with some bells and whistles that were equally impressive… automatic high-beams, we love you.   

A special thanks Airstream and the Ford Motor Company for giving us a traveling experience of a lifetime while on the road in Maine.

New Partnership Announcement: Visit Colorado

For different reasons, Colorado is near and dear to both of our hearts... and it is one of the greatest outdoor playgrounds in our country and world. We are honored to partner with Visit Colorado, and to explore the varied personalities of the four parks that reside there—Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, and of course, Rocky Mountain National Park. We can think of no better way to spend the Centennial anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service than in the Centennial State itself!

New Partnership Announcement: TravelNevada

There's a whole lot of Nevada to explore beyond Vegas and Tahoe! We've been excited to head to Nevada since the beginning of this project, and when we learned that it one of the most mountainous states in the U.S., we were even more so. In that spirit, we are really happy to be able to partner with TravelNevada as we venture into Death Valley and Great Basin National Parks!!


(Photo credit: TravelNevada

New Partnership Announcement: South Dakota Tourism

We are very happy to announce South Dakota Tourism as one of our partners! South Dakota is home to two National Parks: Badlands and Wind Cave. As a child, Jonathan visited South Dakota with his family and he has wanted to return to photograph it as an adult for some time; it is also the home state of Stefanie's beloved paternal grandmother. We are very exited to explore and capture what is called the land of infinite variety during the National Parks Centennial celebration (and also the 75th anniversary of Mt. Rushmore!)


Photo credit: South Dakota Tourism

New Partnership Announcement: Visit Montana

We are excited to announce Visit Montana as a new partner on the Greatest American Road Trip! Montana is the gateway to two of our most beloved National Parks: Glacier, dubbed "the Crown of the Continent" and Yellowstone, America's first national park. We'll be spending a good deal of time in big sky country, exploring both of the parks by paddle, on horseback, fireside while we camp, and along the trails with our cameras in hand. 




New Partnership Announcement: Opal

I know it seems as though we are gallivanting through the parks, taking pretty pictures and enjoying every minute of our adventure without a care in the world—and we are doing all of those things, make no mistake. However, behind the scenes, there is a lot of creating, processing, and production going on. If you are into multimedia/content development, communications strategy, and the business side of what we're doing this year you'll probably be interested in this, so stay with me...

To break it down for those who are just now following this project—we didn't just quit our jobs to travel, but to collaborate on a creative project. Within that project, we didn’t want to just visit every national park, we also wanted to challenge ourselves to create substantial content in each of them. 59 parks in 52 weeks, told in stories, photographs, video, 360 video (in production), timelapse video, shareable graphics, illustrations (also in production), and social media posts. 

That's a whole lot of content to create and manage while averaging one park every six days, driving to all of them in an Airstream trailer (named Wally), and spending full days of exploration in the field. As such, it's vital that we use the best tools we know of to manage our content. 

Here is a snapshot of just some of the development tools we are using to create content:

Apple computers, iPhone 6S, Fujifilm cameras, GoPro (or many, many GoPros); iPad Pro/Apple Pencil; Squarespace, Dreamhost...

And just some of the applications we are using to process the content: 

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop; Schedugram; SocialOomph, Instagram (@Jonathan_Irish /@iStefPayne); Facebook (/59in52); in-car wifi (Vinli); gobs of data storage (LaCie); inspiration; our brains...

But what about the production and organization of our stories? Having content and the means to edit and deploy it is nothing without a strategy for releasing it. You know how it goes, sometimes you need to lay everything out on the bed before it goes into your suitcase. The same goes for a story. For this I lined up the best virtual storytelling suitcase that I've ever used—which I counted on nearly every single day at NASA to help tell the story of human spaceflight—it's called Opal, and here's how it works: 

Create story arc – this is the top level Story. Ours is to visit all 59 of the U.S. National Parks during the centennial anniversary this year. 

Plan content strategy – these are the ‘Moments’ within the Story. This encapsulates what we do in each of these parks, the moments that make up the whole of the experience. 

Tag stories/moments – tagging enables filtering so that we can search/find/see content with ease. This feature is excellent for use in out-briefs, presentations, and sharing content with others... not to mention helping us quickly find what we are looking for.  

Collaborate – there are several areas within the platform where Jon and I (i.e. teams) can discuss creative, storyboard ideas, add notes, consider corrections, etc. We live in a small vessel and are basically together 24/7, so we don't use the collaboration tools as much as a larger team would. However, in a professional setting, this is key so I'm including it here.  

Manage assets – this is the area where all of the pretty pictures live, as well as attachments and other forms of creative that are assigned to moments. Asset library editing tools allow us to assign information to each piece of content. I think of it as content meta.  

Those are just the basics. There are many other features that we aren't applying due to the fast pace of this project, such as content approvals, in-platform correspondence, email alerts, custom content channels... it's no wonder that big brands such as Levi, Nike, Nestle, Starbucks, REI, and many others to use this application for planning all of that content that we Like every day on the web and social media. As for us, we are grateful to be able to partner with Opal to help us produce, plan, storyboard, and remember this project and amazing year in our lives.

For more info, head to the official website: 

This is a screenshot of our Asset Library, where we assign what we think of as content metadata. 

This is a screenshot of our Asset Library, where we assign what we think of as content metadata. 

Breaking in New Kicks

"If your nerve deny you - go above your nerve."

– Emily Dickinson

(And Cheryl Strayed) (And Stefanie Payne)

We'll be hiking a lot during 2016 and my other boots have seen maybe one too many miles over the years, so I bought some new kicks. You might recognize them from the movie Wild. (As far as I can recall, these are not mentioned in the novel of the same name.) These are the shoes that Reese Witherspoon playing Cheryl Strayed wore on her quest to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail. I've worn mine only once. 

Danner hiking boots, size: not that of Stefanie's feet. 

Danner hiking boots, size: not that of Stefanie's feet. 

Stupidly, I decided to trot out for a full day of hiking along the Sunset Trail in Hot Springs Arkansas without first properly breaking them in. By the end of the day and for two weeks after, my ankles were blistered and nerve-shot and cursing me, as my much less expensive, worn-once-too-many-time Keen's came to my defense.

I still have great faith in these boots and feel that once they are broken in, I'll never want to part from them. So, I enlisted advice from some experts in order to make them work.

One of the park rangers at Hot Springs told me to put the boots on, step into the river, then wear them until dry, allowing them to form to my feet in the process. REI, from whom I bought the boots, precisely says not to do this. I took both of their advice, dabbing them with river water, wearing them around Wally until they stopped making my feet bleed ... Eureka! I didn't need to break them in, they needed to break in me. 

Still, I'm not completely convinced that my shoe troubles are over and I still wonder if these boots will at some point go flying into a ravine this year. In that spirit, I welcome additional advice of how to break in hiking shoes. Feel free to have at it in the comments box below. Thanks in advance!