Tourists USA / by Shaun Armstrong

Observing and photographing the visitors to popular attractions in the USA.

I’ve talked in a previous post about my inability to attend an art gallery or museum without being drawn into photographing my fellow visitors. They are always interesting and, more often than not, dressed with more panache that I can manage. Not always the same with tourists outside in hot weather.

Carrying my observing-the-observers burden on a road-trip to Western USA yet again the folk around drew my attention despite the grandeur and iconic settings…

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Sunset in Monument Valley. Folk positioning themselves ready for the unfolding rich splendour. These massive, but also small in context, buttes warm up into all sorts of rich reds, oranges and browns as the sun sets. Helped by some aesthetic clouds it is a wonder to behold.

I just loved the way everyone was having their own moment, even from behind, and there’s a natural balance in positioning that draws you in I think.

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Viewpoint Golden Gate bridge, San Fransisco. Hundreds of people pile into this car park / visitors rest / viewpoint to get an identikit we-went-here shot. And fair enough if you’re passing through, rather than having walked from Fishermans Wharf (well worth the effort) it’s safer than the bridge itself.

It’s actually not that great a view, photographically, but amazing how people don’t invest a little time walking to get a better photo or just a better view . The cheery people on the left will no doubt be delighted when they see their image of them, a foggy bit of the bridge and three strange ladies in their shot.

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Holy heck it was hot. The Neon Museum or Boneyard, Las Vegas Nevada. Tucked away at the north end of the city sits a collection of bits and bobs of signage from over the years and it’s splendid. The stories of the old casinos, days of the Rat Pack and how lights and design evolved is captivating. I had the pleasure of a large, extended family of Mexicans on my tour and even they clamoured to get into the shade at any opportunity…

I was in abstract photo heaven here, see some of my images in the Neon Boneyard gallery.

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Horseshoe Bend, Paige AZ. A walk of about 1/2 mile across an area of sandy pathway/wilderness brings you from a small car park to what is probably one of the best and most spectacular views; even better than the Grand Canyon in my opinion as you can see from the ridge to the bottom. Not that you can see it in this shot…

When I first did this walk in 1997 we were there with about six other people and didn’t see that many more in the small dusty “car park” where we parked with one or two other vehicles. Back then it was “off the grid”. Now (2017) the car park is massive, busy and there were perhaps a few hundred people filing / shuffling to and from the ridge edge (in 100 degree heat).

And when I say edge I mean edge; the drop from this rocky outcrop is straight down hundreds of metres. That’s a one way trip. You can’t photograph that in any meaningful way, nor the view really, but everyone tries to. I believe the plan is now to manage people and put up rails. It’s a shame, as you will feel you are looking at a view rather than being part of it as it used to be…

Hollywood Boulevard Walk Of Fame. Just your usual street characters and only one looking at a screen…

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Death Valley, California.

Not dissimilar to Monument Valley : the car park, the wall, the view, the shot. These wild spaces are so beautiful and worthy of off-piste exploration and contemplation but when that’s not possible at least the viewpoints provide extra layers of interest to the street photographer.

See more of my Tourists USA images, including some colourful characters met on the way in my Tourists USA gallery.