Some of the most dramatic landscapes in America are the hardest to actually experience—whether thanks to hordes of tourists or time limits, visiting a natural wonder can feel like a cattle call. That's why Reuben Wu, the Chicago-based photographer, chooses to go in the dead of night.
Wu is originally from the UK, though as a member of electro act Ladytron, he criss-crossed the United States multiple times. But, as he says over email, the speed of the tour meant they never actually got to stop and look around. "While I got a great tour of the cities where we played, I only saw a glimpse of the land in between," he explains. "I remember many instances where I spotted things from the road but couldn't stop due to our schedule."
So when their last tour died down, Wu planned to retrace his steps—this time, as a photographer. Working with Polaroid film, he navigated back to some of the most famous attractions in the West, from the Badlands to the Great Prismatic Spring. But this time around, he visited after these sites had closed or before they had opened, often using an app to calculate when the moonlight would be the brightest:
For me, the experience of these naturally beautiful places is dulled by the presence of crowds—and the only way to fully experience them is when everyone has gone home. Under these conditions, navigating and photographing can be difficult, dangerous and require some planning, so I use a dashboard GPS and my iPad mini to help me map my journey in the dark, and also my iPhone to work out when and where the moon will make an appearance (my only source of light).
He recently uploaded the results of his road trip—called, appropriately, Cross Country—and they manage to paint some of the most-photographed sites in the US in an entirely otherworldly light. And yes—the figures in the photos are him. Check them out below, or see the entire set on Behance.
The Grand Canyon.
The Indiana Dunes.
Dante's View, the viewing platform over Death Valley.
The Nevada desert.
The legendary Smith Mansion in Wapiti Valley, Wyoming.
The Devil's Tower in Wyoming's Black Hills.