The National Park of American Samoa is a United States national park spread across the islands of Tutuila, Ofu and T’au in the U.S. territory of American Samoa. Along with several national parks in Alaska and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, it is one of the most remote and least visited of the national parks. It also holds the unique distinction of being the only U.S. national park located in the southern hemisphere. The park holds and protects tropical rain forests on the islands’ volcanic slopes, beaches and coral reefs as well as birds, fish and other wildlife that thrive within those environments.
I chose to visit the National Park of American Samoa partly out of fascination with its remoteness and an interest in South Pacific islands in general, but also out of a desire to visit as many national parks as I can in my lifetime. Coming from Taiwan where I reside for part of every year, the park seemed closer than if I were to come from my home in South Carolina. Still, getting there involved flying from Taiwan to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to New Zealand, New Zealand to Samoa, taking a long taxi ride across the island of Upolu in Samoa from one airport to another, and then flying on a small plane from Samoa across the International Date Line and back in time 24 hours to American Samoa. The entire journey took well over a day.
Once in American Samoa, traveling to the more remote
sections of the park in the Manu’a Islands involved a flight on a well-used
Twin Otter aircraft to T’au and chartering a small fishing boat that puttered
across rough seas from there to Ofu. The splendid isolation coupled with the beauty
of the island and the park was well with the journey and the adventure of getting
there made my experience on the island that much more enjoyable.
In the coming weeks, I plan to share some photos and
accompanying stories from my time in the National Park of American Samoa, so
please check back or subscribe to this blog if you are interested.
Thousands of Buddhist temples dot the plains around Bagan, Myanmar. Built between the 9th and 13th centuries, and heavily restored starting in the 1990s, the sheer number of these temples and ruins is an impressive sight. Outside of the most famous temples, their multitude makes it easy to find temples, stupas and ruins available to explore completely on one’s own. I did not find such isolation when I arrived at one of the several small hills in Bagan that are popular viewing spots for sunsets.
Crowded with what seemed like hundreds of other people and souvenir sellers, I watched the sun slowly recede behind the nearby temples. Small herds of cattle grazed nearby, their tinkling bells punctuating the evening air as they stirred up dust that diffused the rays of dying light. It was a scenic moment, but its serenity was hampered by the crowds. Once the sun disappeared, the crowds evanesced, and I was left alone on the hilltop. As I turned to leave, I saw two temples nestled in the scrub of the plain with a soft backdrop of pastel evening sky and a full moon overhead. I drank it in, captured this photo and enjoyed the unexpected serene and contemplative moment.
Taking a walk through Brick Pond Park in my hometown of North Augusta, SC is one of my favorite ways to spend a morning or afternoon. I usually bring my camera with me as there are often birds, alligators, and other wildlife to see and photograph. On the day I took this photo there seemed to be no wildlife activity, so I thought my camera would go unused. Then I realized I had been ignoring the many dragonflies that were darting back and forth all around me. They turned out to be a fun subject to photograph. Occasionally, they would land on the bare, slender branches of trees lining the ponds’ edges and sit there completely still. This gave me time to experiment with different compositions. Opening the aperture of my telephoto lens to its widest setting isolated the dragonfly and branch and also rendered the pond in the background as a nice mix of soft colors. The evening light illuminated the dragonfly’s translucent wings, giving them a warm glow.
I captured this photo using a Nikon D600 camera and a Nikon 300mm f/4 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter.