One day while I was photographing at Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon, a filled tour bus pulled up, a long line of elderly folk filed out of the bus and gathered together. A younger man with a hat and clipboard spoke loudly to the group and then led them to the overlook. I went up and asked the young tour guide where the tourists were from and where they were going. He said that they were from Orange County, California and, glancing down at his clipboard he told me, “We’re going to Arches National Park tonight. We need to leave…

Summer of 2013, my best friend Eric and I went on a road trip, going west, with a few destinations in mind other than Yellowstone National Park. We decided that we should probably go there because Yellowstone is, after all, the United State’s first national park, one of the most popular and widely known, and neither of us had been. If one is to be a National Parks enthusiast, or at least a traveler of the American landscape, a visit to Yellowstone is absolutely necessary. Other than that, our itinerary was left to what would catch our eye in our…

“We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. It was such a light as we could not have
imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to
make a paradise of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never
to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever, an infinite number of evenings, and cheer
and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.”

Tourists come to national parks in order to collect an experience, and for each person it takes a certain kind of action to catalog an experience. For many, that action is photography. If the tourist can walk away from a park with photographic evidence that they were there, then they can say that they have experienced that park. For me, I have to engage with the park more, leave the confines of my car, and actually put my feet on the ground and go hiking. I long to engage with the landscape instead of simply gazing upon it and capturing…

Nature is terrifying. It is especially so if only a few feet from where you’re standing the ground suddenly drops hundreds of feet onto an array of oddly shaped rocks. I can imagine that being a parent and having several rambunctious kids running around a canyon rim with only a slim railing standing between them and a terrifying fall can be a little nerve racking. Considering this, I wonder if the parents of the Bryce Canyon tourists enjoyed themselves as they were visiting since I saw quite a few who may have never taken their eyes off their kids in…

Dad and I drove through Wyoming, skipped northern Utah, and headed straight for Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce is 8,000 feet above sea level, and, at its highest point, is 2,500 feet higher than the highest point on the east coast. The park is known for its clean and crisp air that makes the canyon rim the perfect place to sit and look at a landscape that stretches for a hundred miles. Due to these reasons, Bryce Canyon is one of my favorite national parks, and this was the third time that I had visited the park. I’ve previously spent…

After spending three days in the Black Hills area, Dad and I needed a break from the crowds that surrounded Mount Rushmore. We were barely a week into the trip and were already getting tired. Before we started packing we pulled out the road atlas and scanned it to see what our next destination may be. The words “Devils Tower” stood out to me on the page, and immediately an image of an ominous jagged rock throne popped into my head. I had seen photos of this place before and they never quite looked real; I had my doubts that…

The first stop on our trip was Mount Rushmore, a national monument that stands out from the rest on my list of parks to visit. The monument is the quintessential photo opportunity of the American identity, an iconic image that’s been photographed millions of times, most of them indistinguishable. Everyone knows what the sculpture looks like, they have seen it a hundred times appearing right next to the Statue of Liberty superimposed on top of an American flag flowing in the breeze. An American tourist travels all the way to remote South Dakota to see the faces of the founding…

Every individual experiences this world a little differently, coming from particular perspectives, personal histories, and identities. My perspective comes from my identity as a citizen of the United States, born in the West and raised in the East. Additionally, my experience is shaped as a young restless student of both the classroom and the open road, as an explorer of meaning in our cultural and natural world, and as a photographer who expresses thought through imagery, often better than in words. …

James Crissman

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store