The 49th State, The Last Frontier, a vast expanse of mountains, lakes, forests, glaciers, rivers and seas. Following a clockwise route that took in Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali NP, Fairbanks, Wrangell-St. Elias NP, Valdez, Seward, Kenai Fjords NP, Homer and Katmai NP, this three week roadtrip barely tickled the surface of this spectacularly beautiful region but created memories that will last a lifetime.
There's a unique timeless quality to black and white images of the American landscape, one that harks back to the incomparable work of photographers William Henry Jackson and Ansel Adams. Some of this set were shot on traditional film (on a Leica R6.2), others converted from digital colour. (Credit where it's due: the best conversions were carried out by digital wizard Kevin Green - http://www.freelancebloke.com/).
Ghost towns tell the story of America's West, the communities that sprang up where the ground offered up its riches in the form of gold, silver, copper, lead or zinc. Worked out mines - and the towns that grew up alongside them - were simply abandoned as people moved on, leaving behind a slowly decaying but extraordinarily beautiful legacy.
Some are boarded up stores, abandoned after business ran dry; some are remnants of remote communities that a road passed by; some are solitary homesteads, lonely and unloved. Whatever the story, there are few sights more poignant than the slowly decaying shell of a place someone once lived.
Nothing more immediately says American road trip than the sight of a fading 1950s or 60s motel sign. These wonderfully evocative examples of roadside architecture reflect the golden years of American travel and their melancholic deterioration announces the passing of an era.
Described as America's "best idea", the concept behind today's National Park Service has been protecting and preserving America's most spectacular scenery for more than 100 years. Indeed, the first 12 parks - starting with Yellowstone (1872), Sequoia and Yosemite (both 1890) - predate the NPS itself, which was formed in 1916. Encompassing deserts, mountains, plains, forests, seas, historic sites and more, these are places of exquisite beauty, landscapes that are instantly recognisable even to those not fortunate enough to have actually experienced them in person.
The appeal of the roadtrip lies in the sense of adventure, the excitement of not knowing what lies beyond the horizon, the anticipation of experiencing views and landscapes unseen. For me, the visual shorthand for this is the sight of a straight, empty road disappearing towards a vanishing point to create a vista of wonderful symmetry.
Once a westward artery offering escape from the desperation of the dust bowl years, today a 2,451 mile-long tourist destination, Route 66 offers the complete American experience, from downtown Chicago, across the plains and deserts of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, to California's Pacific shoreline.
The world fell in love with America in the late 50s / early 60s and these years were defined as much by the auto industry as they were by its music. Rock & roll and teenage rebellion may be long distant memories but the era lives on in the evocative form of these rusting, timeless Fords, Chevrolets, Dodges, and Buicks.