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Milky Arch

The Milky Way shines on a clear night behind Owachomo Bridge—a natural sandstone arch in Utah.

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Morning Mist

Backlit against a painted sky, Yellowstone’s Great Fountain Geyser shoots above the terraced reflective pools around its vent.

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Comanche John

“Comanche John” dresses in full dress at the Red Earth Festival.

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Seismic Data

Developed as a minimally invasive method of oil and gas exploration, seismic imaging colorfully reveals a 3-D cross section of earth.

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Flow

Construction of the Hoover Dam Bypass aims to improve traffic flow across the Colorado River, but little can be done to improve the flow of the river itself and markedly low water levels of Lake Mead.

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Milky Arch

The Milky Way shines on a clear night behind Owachomo Bridge—a natural sandstone arch in Utah.

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Morning Mist

Backlit against a painted sky, Yellowstone’s Great Fountain Geyser shoots above the terraced reflective pools around its vent.

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Comanche John

“Comanche John” dresses in full dress at the Red Earth Festival.

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Seismic Data

Developed as a minimally invasive method of oil and gas exploration, seismic imaging colorfully reveals a 3-D cross section of earth.

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Flow

Construction of the Hoover Dam Bypass aims to improve traffic flow across the Colorado River, but little can be done to improve the flow of the river itself and markedly low water levels of Lake Mead.

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Scattered Elk

A herd of once-endangered Roosevelt elk—the physically largest elk subspecies in North America—scatters across a meadow in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

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Canyon Rainbow

Sun-drenched hikers on Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail head toward a rainbow created by a late-afternoon storm. Precipitous weather patterns contribute mightily to the canyon’s prismatic drama.

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Spring Works

In a scene repeated hundreds of times a day during the spring works, a four-cowboy crew head, brand, dehorn, and inoculate a yearling calf.

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Adobe at Sunset

Sunset’s gleam limns one of the many adobe buildings in the Taos Pueblo in bright light and shadows.

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Death Valley

Rushes of water, not settlers, have defined dramatic badlands such as those found at Death Valley’s Zabriskie Point.

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Cool Cattle

As frost gilds the cottonwoods, the White River offers a cool respire to hundreds of cattle and their drivers.

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Aspen Colony

Sunlight peeks between the straight white trunks and turning leaves of 404 members of an aspen colony in the San Isabel National Forest.

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Coexistence

Iconic images of the West—cowboys and Indians, horses, and biplans—all appear to coexist peacefully in this Autochrome from the Crow Reservation. In reality, it was a time of harsh adjustment for Native Americans, years before the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act gave them some fundamental rights.

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Plateau in the Plains

Jutting 2,400 feet above the infinite plains, Square Butte appears to rise as the sun sets over the boundless pink horizon.

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Car campers

Early car campers turn Death Valley into an alfresco dining experience.

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Rhythmic hoodoos

Carved by wind, water, and ice, and bathed in afternoon sun, the totemic hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park radiate nature’s timeless rhythms.

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Round-Up

Rodeo Hall of Famer Bonnie McCarroll’s fall in her debut at the Pendleton Round-Up presaged her fatal accident there in 1929.

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Roaming Buffalo

An enduring symbol of the American West, the mighty bison roams freely through another national icon–Yellowstone National Park’s Lion Geyser.

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Monument Valley

Eons of sandstone erosion open a two-foot-high window onto such Monument Valley monoliths as Stagecoach, Bear, Rabbit, Castle Rock, Mitten and Merrick.

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Wild West Show

A vintage Autochrome romanticizes what the magazine called the “fast-disappearing type” of cowboy whom encroaching settlement would soon relegate “to the Wild West Show”.

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Thundering Mustangs

Wild mustangs, largely descended from horses ridden by Spanish conquistadors, thunder across the endless plains near Reno.

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Stormy Desert

Storms come and go so quickly across the wide western expanses near Organ Pipe National Monument and the Ajo Mountains.

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Natural Arch

An early color photograph of Rainbow Bridge National Monument captures the geological glory of the 290-foot-high, 275-foot-wide natural arch.

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Earthly Eden

Shots like this one of Vernal Falls and the Merced River have consecrated Yosemite National Park as an earthly Eden.

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Pageant Winner

American Indian Beauty Pageant winner Acosia Red Elk waits for a parade at the teepee village, a part fo the Pendleton Round-Up rodeo since its 1910 inception.

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Life of the Cowboy

Some professionals evolve, but little has changed in the gritty life of the cowboy. The method of turning a bull into a steer remains a gory, hands-on occupation.

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Before & After

Eighteen years after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, visitors to the Johnston Ridge Observatory compare the current view of the cone with an earlier photo.

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Chiseling History

Emancipating Lincoln from the granite of Mount Rushmore suggests we share the same petrolyphic impulses as ancient civilizations.

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Soaring Planes

Biplanes soar in formation above Yosemite’s Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall.

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Glacier Scale

Led by Cunningham, a chief guide at Mount Rainier National Park, a group scales the Nisqually Glacier, one of the largest on Mount Rainier’s southern face.

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Morning at the Diner

Navajo officials—Howard H. Sorrell, district councilman; Jonathan Peterson, tribal policeman; and S. S. Jordan, U.S. Indian Service—belly up at Window Rock Lodge.

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Daredevil

A daredevil jumps a rock-wall chasm in the Grand Canyon, where the entrepreneurial Kolb brothers set up shop on the North Rim taking images of tourists and selling the photos as souvenirs.

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Hunting Break

Fluorescently clad hunters in the High Plains near Eureka take a break as a recently killed rooster pheasant cools in the truck bed.

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Stranded

One man’s loss portends another’s gain, as helpers offer a paid ride to stranded motorists in the Rio Grande riverbed near the Big Bend.

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Wilderness Hunts

Back at the cabin at the end of a day in the Choteau backcountry, hunters and a dog admire their multi-pointed trophies.

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Rocket launch

In the desert outside Roswell, Navajos and other spectators gather around a Ford to watch from a distance the launch of Robery H. Goddard’s P-series rocket.

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Bristlecone

One of the oldest known living trees on earth—the bristlecone pine—has weathered 4,000 years in the White Mountains of the Great Basin.

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Bear Jam

Despite official warnings since 1970 against approaching, crowding, and feeding “habituated” roadside bears, “bear jams” remain a regular occurrence in Yellowstone.

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Grand Staircase

The human footprint, manifested in white jet contrails and brown buildings, intrudes on the colorfully striated Grand Staircase at Escalante National Monument.

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Monthly Dusting

The monthly feather-dusting of the taxidermic bighorn sheep display at the Cabela’s store in Sidney seems to fascinate one of the animals.

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Sunning Spot

For this spiny swift, the red rock outcroppings of the Navajo Nation provide the perfect spring sunning spot.

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Cavern Spelunking

To photograph the Carlsbad Caverns’ Lechuguilla Cave, the deepest cave in the U.S., the photography team climbed, crawled, swam, and spelunked 1,600 feet beneath the earth’s surface.

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Cathedral Spires

Ticket agents and visitors assemble beneath the Cathedral Spires at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The public has enjoyed the park for free since 1909.

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Cain’s Tickets

A ticket seller at Cain’s Ballroom smiles as wide as Bob Wills, the famed bandleader whose Texas Playboys helped make Cain’s a legend.

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Galloping Grizzly

Capable of outsprinting a horse, one of Yellowstone National Park’s hundreds of grizzly bears breaks into a full gallop.

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Racing Bikers

The land is the loser as racing motorcycles shred through the Mojave Desert near Barstow on their way to Las Vegas.

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Country Dog

As his grandson laughs, a rancher’s hold on his snarling dog’s leg prevents it from attacking the photographer.

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Western Stoicism

The hard-earned stoicism of Western character is etched into the visages of both father and son in the small ranching town of Datil.

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Snowy Cliffs

The numinous clearing of storm clouds near Point Hansbrough in the Grand Canyon reveals cliffs frosted with snow.

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U.S. Oil

Festooned with a giant U.S. flag, British Petroleum’s Carson refinery rises above the streets and trees as an eerily iridescent monument to American oil production.

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Mourning

In the encroaching shadow of the Four Corners refinery, mourners leave one of the 60 graves at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Bloomfield.

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Below Sea Level

Sunken palm trees in the Salton Sea suggest the catasrophic environmental decay of a “sea” formed 227 feet below sea level by agricultural runoff. With little rainfall, no outlets, and 25 percent more salt in the Pacific Ocean, the state’s largest lake could soon be dead.

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Nuclear Analysis

Following the research tradition that led to the atomic and hydrogen bombs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory use color 3-D simulations to analyze nuclear energy and explosions.

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Bat Cave

Before dawn, three of the world’s premier chiropterologists (bat experts) float in a hot air balloon 40 feet above a Uvalde cave from which a cloud of bats would explode.

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E.T.

An alien mannequin basks in glowing green light at the UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, where a purpoted 1947 spaceship crash continues to fuel speculation.

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Turbine Grind

Grand Coulee Dam workers shut off water flow to grind out the cavitation that occurs when enormous turbines spin billions of gallons of Columbia River water into electricity.

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Afternoon Nap

Swaddled in a cradleboard similar to one his ancestors used, tiny James Winterhawk Seymour naps beneath a traditional beaded dreamcatcher during a powwow on the Yakama Reservation.

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Pow-Wow

Stepping away from the annual Chippewa Cree Tribe Pow-Wow, Rocky Boy’s Reservation resident Rena Denn proudly leads visitors from other tribes on a tour of the Bear Paw Mountain foothills.

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Moon Landscape

A setting moon creates an appropriately otherwordly backdrop for the lunar-like landscape near Donohue Pass on the northern reaches of the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area.

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Fire Patrol

After wildfires destroyed three million acres of Idaho and Montana timberland in 1910, fire patrol vehicles such as this one in the Sierra National Forest became commonplace.

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Building Bridges

Viewed from Yerba Buena Island, between San Francisco and oakland, partial illumination of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge suggests the progress of its pending completion the following year.

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Bay Docks

The buoy bells are almost audible in this award-winning amateur photograph of a dockworker silhouetted against the fog-shrouded, soon-to-be-completed San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

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Coastal Chisels

Nature’s chisels—wind and water—groove the coastal maritime chaparral in Big Sur’s Garrapata State Park.

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Transport

Catering to trains, cars, and pedestrians, the two-mile Galveston Causeway opened in 1912, connecting the island to the mainland.

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Burning Man

Modern civilization’s need for ritual self-expression take form in Black Rock City, the temporary desert community of 45,000 that partakes in the weeklong Burning Man Festival.

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Forest to Lumber

Clear-cutting on federal land, such as Salmon-Challis National Forest, endangers not just trees but entire ecosystems. The aerial view dramatizes the contrast between lumber and forest.

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Western Blaze

Forest fires present greater danger than ever in the West. This blaze near Warm Lake claimed a half-million acres of subalpine forest.

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Geothermal Steam

Beneath a dappled sky, geothermal steam rises mystically from the multihued travertine formations of Minerva Terrace at Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs.

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Snow-covered Peaks

The snow-covered peaks of Glacier National Park’s Lewis Range emerge from behind the clouds above pristine St. Mary Lake and wee Wild Goose Island.

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Developed Desert

Phoenix’s verdant exurbs push the boundaries of the desert and nature’s ability to sustain mankind’s unquenchable thirst for water and environment control.

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Center-pivot Irrigation

More efficient than the flood irrigation it replaced, center-pivot irrigation crafts the geometry of an alfalfa field in the San Luis Valley, one of many arid areas where agriculture can now prosper.

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Golden Gate

Seen through the clouds above Marin County’s pristine Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Golden Gate Bridge and city of San Francisco pulse with metropolitan energy.

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Dust among the Trees

Joshua trees stand tall and translucent as the wind picks up and dust starts to fly in the Lee Flat area of Death Valley.

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Hillside Shadow

Dramatic cloud shadow, texture, color, and weather illuminate the verdant hillsides and geological vastness of the Grand Canyon.

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Melted Glaciers

Climate chance has reduced by 80 percent the number of Glacier National Park’s namesakes. Bare rock and meltwater pools mark the edge of the largest one, Harrison Glacier.

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Shaft of Light

A shaft of light bisects the distinctive Navajo Sandstone shapes of Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon near Page formed by millennia of flash flooding.

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Drought

Drought-induced levels of water in Lake Powell reveal the latticework of Glen Canyon for the first time since the Colorado River was dammed to create the reservoir in 1963.

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Bright Angel

With the sun pushing through, a gauze of snow and mist barely conceals the vibrantly colored formations along Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail.

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Irrigation Canal

Without irrigation canals delivering Colorado River water, the half-million acres of Imperial Valley croplands—which use more water than Los Angeles and Las Vegas combined—would revert to desert.

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Aquatic Life

Photographing the minnows of the muddy Powder River in a clear, thermal-glass aquarium creatively reveals the aquatic life that would suffer from natural gas drilling.

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Rolling Thunder

A pair of workers halts haying in the Sand Hills to watch with concern and awe as rolling thunderheads fill the afternoon sky.

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Western Growth

Unlike eastern growth, which is organic and responsive, western growth is intentional and proactive. East of Denver, highway interchanges are built to places that do not yet exist.

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Pictographs

Pictographs and petroglyphs evincing ancient life constitute Horseshoe Canyon’s Great Gallery in Canyonlands National Park.

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Laughing Hills

Wind-blown grass seed blankets Crouse Canyon, evoking naturalist John Wesley Powell’s 1895 vision: “Hills laugh with delight as burgeoning bloom is spread in the sunlight.”

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Smoke and Fire

Smoke and fire, backlit by the sun, resemble volcanic lava flows as a prescribed burn engulfs part of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve to remove old growth and sustain the prairie ecosystem.

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Campers in a Dust Storm

A long twilight exposure sets aglow hundreds of campers on Lake Powell’s Lone Rock Beach as they batten down against a dust storm created by high winds and a beach expanded by drought.

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Lake Bed

From the acres of Salton Sea lake bed desiccated by salt and agricultural runoff emerges an intricate pattern of layered lines and shadows—the visual equivalent of a musical fugue.

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Open Tracks

As they have since 1880, the narrow-gauge tracks of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad snake through sagebrush along the New Mexico-Colorado border toward the San Juan Mountains.

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Grand Prismatic Spring

In this aerial view, mats of brilliant orange algae and bacteria extend like lashes from the steam blue eye of Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the United States, at 250 by 300 feet.

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Branding Trio

Branding cattle on the open ranch requires a team of two ropers to still the animal and a third to straddle it and apply the hot iron.

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Salt through Evaporation

Forming a geometric pattern in San Francisco Bay, a system of levees spreads seawater through shallow ponds—some 800 acres in size—that produce salt through evaporation.

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Beecher’s Bibles

Boys wait outside Wabaunsee’s Beecher Bible and Rifle Church, named for the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, who helped smuggle rifles past proslavery forces in crates marked “Beecher’s Bibles”.

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Sonoran Cacti

A hand-tinted infrared image illuminates an echt Sonoran landscape of organ pie and saguaro cacti, blooming yellow brittlebush and other wildflowers.

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Border Wall

Flags jut like bayonets toward the border of Mexico in Naco. A private group built the nearly mile-long fence on a local rancher’s land, promising to seal the border if the government does not.

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Feed the Meter

Dressed in her best rodeo outfit, a cowgirl hitches her pony by dropping a nickel into an El Paso parking meter.

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King Bend

Called “Kind Bend” by locals, the U-shaped meander of the Colorado River known to the world as Horseshoe Bend flows 1,000 feet below the overlock.

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Rattlesnake Crossing

With cars approaching, a Great Basin rattlesnake winds its way across a rural stretch of U.S. Route 93 at twilight.

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Bar Scene

Buckaroo Stan Kendall sits in a stool in a local bar in Mountain City, Nevada as a stream of light enters the doorway.

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Ranching Unchanged

This tintype of a present-day Mennonite family suggests the hardscrabble nature of the ranching life had not changed in generations.

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Oil Well

A crew works to plug a played-out West Texas oil well. New extraction techniques could bring workers back to reopen it.

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Border Pastels

Dawn breaks over Big Bend Ranch State Park on the border of the U.S. and Mexico, bathing in warm pastels the corrugated cliffs of Chihuahua along the sinuous Rio Grande.

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Beat of the Drum

A ceremonially clad boy dancing at Oklahoma City’s annual multi-tribal Red Earth festival suggests the enduring drumbeat of North America’s indigenous cultures.

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Colony Baseball

A teenage member of the Suprise Creek Hutterire colony plays baseball with other boys and girls on a makeshift field. The game goes on until other demands – such as killing turkeys – halt it.

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Sioux Pow-Wow

Ed Blackthunder, a South Dakota Sioux, proudly dons his traditional dance outfit during the annual Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation Pow-Wow, one of many celebratoy gatherings of indigenous peoples across the West.

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End of the Workday

After 14 hours on the job, 19-year-old cowboy Cheth Wallin gazes reflectively westward from the bed of a pickup truck.

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Hand-woven Blankets

Two granddaughters in the tightly woven family of National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow Eppie Archuleta (left) wrap themselves in the elaborately handmade wool blankets her mother, Dona Aguenda Martinez (far right), taught her to weave.

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Leatherworker

The first leatherworker to become an NEA National Heritage Fellow, master saddle maker Duff Severe of Pendleton sits beside one of his signature creations — called “the Mercedes-Benz of the business” by one rodeo rider.

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Polished Pottery

Famous for her polished blackware, legendary Santa Clara Pueblo potter and NEA National Heritage Fellow Margaret Tafoya admires one of her redware pitchers. Although she died in 2001, many of her 13 children continue the family tradition.

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Rite of Passage

Despite attempts at acculturation, Native American rituals thrive. Dried cattail pollen, central to all Apache rites of passage, showers a White Mountain Apache during her ceremonial transition into womanhood.

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Cloud 9

The glowing, jelly-colored lights and dream-like bar name reflected in a Suburban’s window beckon drinkers in the cow town of Elko.

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Blurred Entrance

With Dallas a blur in the background, a driver helps an elegantly dressed model emerge from a limousine.

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Electrical Arcs

Characterized by ion-firing, incandescent electrical arcs, Sandia National Laboratories’ Particle Beam Fusion Accelerator II can pump out more than 50 times the total power of the U.S. utility grid.

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Artificial Star

Continuing mankind’s timeless quest to understand the cosmos, telescopes at Kirtland Air Force Base’s Starfire Optical Range beam a green copper-vapor laser and an orange sodium-wavelength laser into the atmosphere to create an artificial star.

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Copper Mine

A dusting of snow dramatizes an open-pit copper mine in the Oquirrh Mountains that runs nearly three miles wide, almost a mile deep, and has yielded close to 20 tons of copper.

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Spring Creek Schoolhouse

Hutterite preacher Paul Walter leads evening prayer in the one-room Spring Creek schoolhouse, where the congregation sits according to age and sex—youngest in front, females to the right.

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Training Boxer

Some punch cows; others punch people. In the shadow of a training boxer, a poster advertises a match. For Latino youth in East Los Angeles, the boxing ring holds the brass ring.

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Midday Rest

After rising at dawn to drive cattle to summer pastures, cowboys in the Bighorn Mountains take a midday rest before the chuck wagon arrives.

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Old Faithful

“Old Faithful” applies as much to Yellowstone’s National Park’s venerable cone geyser as it does to those awaiting its eruption.

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Silhouetted Clouds

Silhouetted at sunset against a radiant cumulus cloud, spectators take in the action at Nebraska’s Big Rodeo, held annually in Burwell since 1921.

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Lone Speedboat

A lone speedboat’s wake pattern echoes the curvilinear contours of Reflection Canyon, a side canyon of Lake Powell and the popular Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

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Lightning Strike

Lightning bolts plunge into the Grand Canyon near Sublime Point.

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El Capitan

The atmospheric majesty of Yosemite’s El Capitan monolith looms large in the popular imagination.

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Summer clouds

Late summer thunderheads build above Garnet Lake in a seeming tribute to the photographer from whom the Ansel Adams Wilderness area takes its name.

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Sandstorm

Backlight from the sun captures blowing silicate as a sandstorm rages through the mesquite and arrowweed of Death Valley.

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Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

Cliff Dwellings

Dramatic Navajo cliff dwellings and petroglyphs speak to nearly 4,000 years of inhabitation in the Canyon de Chelly.

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Ash Cloud

Three hours after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, 60-mile-per-hour winds deliver a menacing dark cloud of volcanic ash to the tree-lined streets of Ephrata, 144 miles away.

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Chimney Rock

Iconic Chimney Rock, also known as Jackson Butte after pioneering photographer William Henry Jackson, stands alone as a horizontal lightning flash spills the threatening sky.

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Rural Mail

Always moving, a cowboy from T Cross Ranch near Dubois hauls an oversized mailbox across a rural dirt road.

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Big Sur wilderness

Moss coats a copse of aiders in one of Big Sur’s numerous lush, fern-covered, and unspoiled wilderness areas.

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Anasazi observatory

The ancient past meets the future, as stars appear to circle the earth above kiva Case Rinconada, an Anasazi observatory in Chaco Canyon.

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Elk in the Mist

Symbolically rising from primordial mist, a bull elk stands in the early morning smoke of the Yellowstone National Park fires.

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Shadow Peaks

Storm clouds gather as twilight falls across the craggy peaks and sagebrush foothills of the Gros Ventre Mountains.

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Sunrise Wranglers

Every morning on the 1.3-million-acre IL Ranch near Elko, buckaroo wranglers rope horses for the day’s cavvy.

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Juggling Water

Shown here carrying water from the river, Zuni daughters, the photographer recounted, “are the preferred heirs of family land. Houses are the absolute property of women.”

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Mormon Row

Echoing the shape of the snow-covered Grand Tetons, this Mormon Row barn in Jackson represents one of 27 homesteads settled by migrating Mormons in the 1890s.

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“Mark Twain”

Nicknamed “Mark Twain,” this 331-foot-tall sequoia lasted 1,341 years. It took loggers 8 days to saw its 90-foot-circumference trunk.

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Cliff Palace

Inhabited by the Anasazi from approximately 650 to 1300, Mesa Verde’s 150-room sandstone-and-wood Cliff Palace remained “undiscovered” until the 1880s.

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Prairie Survey

A Flint Hills rancher surveys the vast prairie preserve his family has worked for five generations.

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In the Heavens

Carved by ancients into mesas east of the Big Maria Mountains, the Blythe intaglios are so huge in outline as so shallow in indentation that they are only visible to those in the heavens.

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Mountain Goat

The large, semisoft hooves of this nanny mountain goat afford the traction to escape predators and to scale Glacier National Park’s sheer rock walls in search of a salt lick.

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Monoliths

Reflecting the immense scale of the Western tableau, a dust cloud hundreds of feet tall rolls past the monoliths of Monument Valley.

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Fierce Weather

With the Uinta Mountains in the distance, the vastness of the West manifests itself as heavy rains sweep across the Colorado Plateau in Arches National Park.

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470 sq. mi.

“God’s gift to the United States Air Force,” the 470 square miles of Edwards Air Force Base provide the ideal conditions to test aircraft and spacecraft to explore the next frontier.

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Confluent Rivers

Cape Solitude, on the eastern edge of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, provides a multihued vision of the sandstone and the confluent rivers carving it—the travertine-blue Little Colorado and sulfur-green Colorado.

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Walking Ledge

The aptly named “Thank God Ledge” supports a hiker walking this 40-foot-long sliver of granite on Yosemite’s Half Dome.

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Decay

Symbolic of the High Plains migration, the earth consumes two skeletons—one of an animal and one of a home—as both decay in an Epping wheat field.

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Colors of Nature

Nature’s palette expresses itself as moss, ferns, rocks, and hardwoods harmonize in Big Sur’s Point Lobos State Natural Preserve.

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Power of Water

Agricultural plots run to the edge of Snake River Canyon, suggesting the power of water on the earth’s fissures and fertility.

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Land Run

On September 16, more than 100,000 settlers, including the photographer’s boss, William S. Prettyman, participated in the largest-ever government-sponsored land run—6,361,000 acres.

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Ranch Struggles

Beneath a sweat-stained hat and a 48-star flag, Henry Gray frets losing the federally owned rangeland on which he ran cattle for 50 years.

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