Photographer Jonathan Irish: A Yearlong Adventure to All 59 National Parks

Jonathan Irish - Crater Lake NP - The Milky Way reflected in the crater lake.

Jonathan Irish - Kenai Fjords NP - More of our seal friends.

Growing up, Jonathan Irish loved exploring the great outdoors – often visiting national parks and immersing himself in the wild beauty of these places. Throughout his career as a professional outdoor, adventure and travel photographer, represented by National Geographic Creative, he’s often shot these parks, and had visited about a third of the national parks in the country. When he was tapped to partner with National Geographic to do a project around the centennial celebration of the National Parks Service, he came up with a truly unique idea – visit all 59 national parks in 52 weeks.

Dubbed “The Greatest American Road Trip,” Jonathan and his partner Stefanie embarked on a journey few have ever attempted, mapping out their yearlong trip and traversing many thousands of miles across North America. Along the way, they captured more than 248,000 images from some of the most remote and rugged environments in the United States, oftentimes hiking and camping out in the furthest reaches of these parks.

You can check out some of his breathtaking images on this page and a video gallery below, plus see more pictures and learn about what it takes to visit every national park by visiting their project website The Greatest American Roadtrip.

“Getting off the beaten path is the biggest thing for me. When we’d go to a new park, we’d visit the main parts the first day or two, but the most beautiful parts were off the trail and out further, requiring us to hike,” said Jonathan. “Because of this, being thoughtful and precise about the gear I brought with me was really important.”

In addition to his Fujifilm X-T1 and some lenses, Jonathan also brought two LaCie Rugged drives for saving images in the field. With their reliability, ruggedness, and small form factor, they were the perfect storage solution throughout his trip. “I’ve never had a LaCie drive fail on me, and I can’t say that about other brands.”

Jonathan Irish - Katmai NP - The search for food is endless.

Jonathan Irish - Mt Rainier NP - Mount Rainier reflected in a small pond near Reflection lakes.

Once he made his way back to the Airstream RV that was his home away from home throughout the trip, he would copy the images from the LaCie Rugged drives onto a LaCie 2big Thunderbolt 2 RAID solution, creating redundancies and keeping the footage in two different places in case of any accidents. Plus when he happened to have an internet connection he’d upload what he could to the cloud. “Redundancy is key in the field. We’d keep one drive in the trailer, and one in the car in case something happened.”

As a photographer, one of the more notable techniques he employed for this project was using a 27 foot tripod – earning him more than a few glances from passersby. This was the best way he could come up with creating a drone-like perspective without being able to fly his drone in the parks.

At the end of the trip, he and Stefanie had generated more than 16TB of images and footage.

“The goal was to showcase the beauty and the best of each park. We wanted to give back to the places we love and the parks that are so special to us.”

Jonathan plans to create a coffee table book showcasing the best images from each park. When he is not leading photography tours for National Geographic Expeditions to incredible destinations such as Antarctica, Chilean Patagonia, and Tanzania, he will be giving lectures around the country on the beauty of the U.S. National Parks and the continued need to conserve these wild places for both current and future generations.

Jonathan Irish - Saguaro NP

Jonathan Irish - Congaree NP

Jonathan Irish - American Samoa NP

Check out the short video below for some very special skygazing views across America’s national parks. You can also view all Jonathan’s images from each individual national park by visiting and by following Jonathan on Instagram.

Skygazing in our National Parks from Stefanie Payne on Vimeo.


About the Author:

John Paulsen
John Paulsen is a "Data for Good" advocate, with nearly 20 years in the data storage industry. He's helped launch many industry-firsts including HAMR technology, 10K-rpm and 15K-rpm hard drives, drives designed specifically for video and for gaming, Serial ATA drives, fluid dynamic HDD motors, 60TB SSDs, and MACH.2 multi-actuator technology.