Our book is available for pre-order!

The Greatest American Road Trip: A Centennial Celebration of the National Parks

*Concept cover design, subject to change.

We are almost to the finish line sharing our experiences in all 59 of the national parks! Just 3 more to go. What we've shared on this website is just a small sample of the whole project... in total, we took more than 320,000 photos during our year on the road. With such a breadth of visual material and a profound knowledge and love for the parks, we naturally feel that the next logical step is producing a book – a big, beautiful coffee table book that includes photos, park overviews, galleries, what life is like in an Airstream trailer, tips for making the most out of a national park adventure, and more. We hope that it will provide inspiration to future road trippers wishing to explore and experience America's greatest treasures. 
 
The Greatest American Road Trip: a Centennial Celebration of the National Parks is now available for pre-order at a discounted price of $49.95 (after it is released it will cost $59.52.) Our goal is to have it on your doorstep by December 2017 (with the consideration that unforeseen circumstances, though unlikely, could push delivery to the early part of 2018.)

As our way of acknowledging the amazing support we've received throughout the project and since, we are inviting everyone who makes a pre-order purchase to allow us to sign it to you in the 'Thank You' section. If you are interested, please include your name, state, and a brief sentiment in the comments box after completing your purchase.

Thank you for your continued support and for your cheers along the way. Happy trails!

Jonathan and Stefanie
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/59in52/

59 Parks in 52 Weeks ... On Stage At OPTIC 2017 in NYC

Hey folks! Jonathan here. I wanted to share some project-related news with you about an event I participated in this past summer, OPTIC 2017 in New York City. OPTIC is an annual celebration of photography in all forms, gathering thousands of inspired photographers and photography fans from around the world to learn about active photo projects. Viewing occurs either at the event in person or live-streamed online. The occasion typically includes a gear marketplace where photography brands can showcase their latest and greatest equipment while offering portfolio reviews and hosting nightly events. After that, a collection of seasoned photographers take the stage to share what they have been working on.

I was elated when I was asked to join them at this year's forum. Presenting alongside friends and fellow photographers whom I greatly admire -- Cristina MittermeierAllison WrightJeff MauritzenSam AbellRalph Lee HopkinsArt Wolfe, to name a few -- was a true honor.  

This year's event was a collaboration between Lindblad Expeditions and BH Photo, and I spoke on behalf of Lindblad. Our partner on the National Parks project was Fujifilm Cameras.

I hope you will take the time to watch my presentation. It is a deep-dive into what a year in the U.S. National Parks is really like, particularly for a photographer on assignment. I did my very best to touch on as many parks and ideas as I possibly could, and hope you will enjoy what I shared.

Happy trails!

– Jonathan

On Assignment in the Peruvian Amazon with the Fujifilm X-T2

I spent the entire last year on assignment photographing all 59 of the U.S. national parks with the Fujifilm X-T1. Photographing every single day in these beautiful parks over the course of the year, I shot over 275K photos (including time-lapse sequences). I beat the heck out of that camera, as well as the XF lenses, and after a full year it’s safe to say that I know the strengths and weaknesses of the Fujifilm system.

Now that the year is over and the new Fujifilm X-T2 has been released, I was excited to get my hands on it to see how it stacks up to the X-T1, in image quality, design, and function. A recent assignment in the Peruvian Amazon for Nat Geo proved a perfect opportunity to test this new camera.

The mighty Amazon River in Peru.

Before I begin, a few notes.

First, this is not going to be a technical review. Pixel peepers have unlimited resources to view and learn about the minute details of this camera. Instead, I am going to give you my straight up impressions as a working professional travel and adventure photographer. Think real world shooting situations rather than technical specifications.

Second, I was provided this test camera by Fujifilm, and have been a Fujifilm X-Photographer for three or four years now. Fujifilm has always been very clear that they only want the truth from me, even if it is a bad review, and I have always promised to provide exactly that. I choose to shoot Fujifilm not because I get to test camera gear, but because the cameras most closely align with the way I like to shoot, and the image-quality-per-ounce-of-camera-weight is simply the best. In other words, for such a small and compact package, their cameras deliver top notch results, which is important to me when I am backpacking or in the backcountry. If that ever changes, I will switch brands. But for now, I am unabashedly a devout Fujifilm photographer, and make no bones about my allegiance. However, I still promise an honest review. This isn’t so much intended for those who are looking to switch from one of the Canikon brands, but more a comparison of the upgrades from the X-T1 and how they made a difference in how I photograph.

A three-toed sloth with a baby look back from high up in the tree.

Lastly, the Amazon is a tough place to shoot. The wildlife is usually far away, oftentimes very high up in trees, and always with strong lighting variances. Animals aren’t dumb either….when it is 95 degrees out midday they are asleep in the trees, so it is imperative to be out very early in the morning when they are first waking up and most active. This means that I was often shooting far away subjects in low-light conditions. Not an easy thing for any camera, and a good test for this new X-T2. Just for reference, while photographing wildlife I was almost always shooting the XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens. For walking around local villages I was usually shooting the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR Lens or the XF 23mm f/1.4 R Lens.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s begin.

First Impressions

Taking the X-T2 out of the box was like seeing an old friend again. One of the things that initially attracted me to Fujifilm is the retro style of the cameras, and the X-T2 continues that cool, stylish, yet ultra-customizable and functional design.

AF Joystick and Button Customization

One of my favorite upgrade from the X-T1 is the new AF joystick. I had previously set the four-way pad on the X-T1 to AF select. This was not ideal, as those pads are not the easiest to feel when you are in the moment of shooting. The joystick is easy to find, and frees up the four-way pad for other customization. Brilliant.

For me, coming from the X-T1 where I had already set a lot of button customization, it was not a big learning curve. But I imagine the extreme level of button customization would take a bit of getting used to for first time Fujifilm shooters. However, once your hands commit to memory the different buttons and dials, it is a very comfortable and efficient way of photographing.

Articulating LCD

I never thought I would be so excited about something like this, but I find myself less and less wanting to lay down in the dirt to get the photo. That’s just the truth. The dual hinge LCD easily allows me to not only shoot landscape at ground level, but now portrait as well. I can think of so many times where this would have come in handy before and I didn’t have the ability. Laying down at the edge of a body of water, shooting in portrait mode and trying to squeeze as much reflection out of the scene as possible is just a real pain in the backside. This dual hinge LCD alleviates that issue.

24MP X-Trans Sensor

The 24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor and Fujifilm’s latest image processor (X-Processor Pro) combine for a huge upgrade over the 16MP X-T1. Files are big, crisp, and beautiful. 24MP is a great file size….big enough to print but small enough to store and manipulate in post processing. I do have a medium format digital camera, and shoot it from time to time, but I truthfully don’t need anything more than 24Mp in the work I do. 16Mp was a bit too small for professional use, but 24MP is right in the wheelhouse. 

AF system

A Squirrel Monkey forages for the day's meal.

The AF system has also been greatly improved upon since the X-T1 and had 325 total focus points (169 of which are phase-detect). This was probably one of the biggest gripes of X-T1 users, and Fujifilm has made a huge improvement to AF with the X-T2, especially in continuous mode. Once the camera locks onto the moving subject, it stays locked on about 98% of the time. It’s quite impressive. I will say that it sometimes still takes an extra half second or so for that initial lock-on, especially with fast moving subjects. But when it is locked on, it is deadly accurate. They’ve also added the ability to dial in AF based on local shooting conditions (much like Canon DSLR’s). If you know what you are going to be shooting (birds flying, athletes running, etc.) then this is a great feature. Because my subjects varied so much, I chose to go with a moderate setting that allowed for a variety of scenes, and was very impressed with the results.

Dual SD Card Slots

This is one of the improvements that puts the X-T2 in the professional camera body realm. Data security is one of the most important things a professional photographer needs to stay on top of. I use the second memory card as a backup of my original raw files, and it provides a peace of mind that is essential to today’s photography professionals.

Exposure Compensation

I’m also psyched to see that they’ve added a “C” position for the exposure comp, which extends the range of the EV from ±3EV to ±5EV. This was handy when shooting high up into the trees with dark canopies back dropped with bright sun behind (high variances in scene lighting), and exposing for the subject. I needed that extra latitude more than a few times.

Toggle Buttons

Fujifilm seems to have taken photographer’s feedback on small improvements as well. For example, the new toggle lock button on the ISO and shutter speed dials solves the problem of accidentally knocking them to an unwanted setting. I am rough with my cameras, often throwing them in backpacks, laying them at the bottom of boats, and in the dirt. These dials on the X-T1 got accidently turned more often than I liked. Not a huge deal, but big enough for me to notice.

4K Video

Hard to find, and even harder to photograph, are these tiny Pygmy Marmoset's.

I am not a video shooter, as I don’t think you can do both stills and video well while on assignment. If my assignment is for stills, I’ll shoot only stills and focus my entire attention on that. But I do relish the ability to grab video from time to time, and I recognize that 4K has been the standard now. So the ability to shoot 4K video right from the X-T2 is fantastic. And from what I can tell, it looks really impressive.

Battery Grip (VPB-XT2)

I really love the addition of the battery grip as well. Not only does it hold one more battery than the X-T1 battery grip (for a total of three batteries) but it also adds a power boost mode that significantly improves AF speed, burst speed (14 frames/second!), extends 4K recording time, and reduces shutter lag. I was consistently shooting 1000 or so images a day while on assignment, using power boost mode most of the time, and I still had lots of juice left on the batteries. I could probably have gone three days shooting this way. I will say that I have a habit of turning off the camera when I am not shooting, and I save a lot of battery time that way. If you leave your camera on all the time then this will be significantly reduced. But once again, these added benefits put this camera more into the professional realm than the prosumer area.

USB Charging

I travel a lot and am always struggling with charging batteries while in the field. It might seem silly, but having USB charging capability is a godsend to someone like me. This means that I can take an external battery pack into a 5 or 6 day backpacking trip and make it through without having to carry 10 extra batteries. Or, in an extreme case where I have my laptop but no ability to plug in a cord, I can charge the batteries from my laptop. I can think of a thousand scenarios where having the extra ability to charge the batteries via USB would come in handy.

Welcome to the jungle.

Room for improvement?

There’s always room for improvement. And while the X-T2 ticks all the boxes for me, I can still see a few areas where I’d like to see changes.

For one, I found it difficult to lock onto a subject in low light while the subject (or I) was moving. This happened quite frequently in the very early morning hours, when the forests of the Amazon were dark and the birds quick to take flight as we approached in a skiff. I had to be extra careful to take the time for the initial lock-on autofocus, because if I couldn’t lock-on from the get-go, I was only able to lock on while the motion was happening about half the time. In fairness, I think this is particularly evident in low-light situations (like a dark forest canopy) while using a long telephoto lens like the XF 100-400mm. The X-T2 has come a long way with AF, but in low light situations with long telephoto lenses I think there is still some room for AF improvement. One thing that I love about Fujifilm is that they are always upgrading and improving the firmware, so I expect this to be fixed in the coming months.

I also found myself hitting the buttons on the battery grip, changing dials, more than I would like. I think this was partly my fault, as I hadn’t locked off the dials on the battery grip, but perhaps the ergonomics don’t fit my hands as well.

Lastly, although it is not necessary, I would like to see a touch screen display. Perhaps it’s just because I am used to being able to manipulate images on screens with my fingers (too much iPhone usage), but for the next iteration I’d like to see a touch screen display.

Conclusion

As a professional travel and adventure photographer, I (and my clients) hold a high standard for the gear I use in the field. The X-T2 is the camera that most closely fits my style of shooting and the demands I ask of a camera. Lightweight, weather sealed, fantastic image quality, customizable setup, beautiful design….this camera has it all. The upgrades of the AF joystick, the articulating LCD screen, the 24MP sensor, dual memory card slots, and improved Autofocus really bring the APS-C camera into the realm of the professional photographer. If this camera can handle the difficult lighting situations in the Peruvian Amazon, then it can handle pretty much any shooting situation. The X-T2 will be my go-to camera body for a long time to come.

Hasta la Vista, amigo.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Jonathan Irish is a professional outdoor, adventure, and travel photographer based in Washington, DC and represented by National Geographic Creative. He specializes in shooting active/adventure lifestyles, landscapes, and cultures abroad. Clients worldwide, including National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times, BBC, CNN, and many others, have published his work. Jonathan is a proud FujiFilm X-Series photographer.

Follow Jonathan as he shares his National Parks series on Instagram

 

New Partnership Announcement: American Samoa

American Samoa National Park. (Image credit: NPS.gov)

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: NPS.gov)

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  

 

Press: 

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)

 

Articles:

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