Book Review
Border to Border on US Route 89
James Cowlin

US-89-Photography-Guide-CoverWhen I first glanced at the title of James Cowlin’s latest ebook, I’m pretty sure I expected it to contain advice on exposure and filters and other photographic folderol. But a more thoughtful reading of the carefully constructed title yielded a different impression. Just as the title says, Border to Border on US Route 89; A photographer’s guide to America’s most scenic highway is not a guide to photography. It’s a guide to a highway.

It was written by a very accomplished photographer and other photographers, even some as good as Cowlin himself, can benefit from it. But, at its heart, the book is simply a guide to Cowlin’s beloved US 89 written — and illustrated — from a photographer’s point of view.

The book is organized around thirty photos taken in the spring of 2010 as the Cowlins (Jim and wife Barbara) traveled the highway from Mexico to Canada. Each beautiful photograph is accompanied by a few lines of text which typically tell something about the subject as well as something about the photo. But that something about the photo is not F stops and focal lengths. It’s generally just Jim explaining what he saw and tried to capture.

The photos appear, each on its own page, in south to north sequence. Cowlin sees three geographic regions along the route and a couple of pages of description precede the photos from each region. These pages provide a little background, give some idea of what might be seen there, from the 58 kinds of reptiles and amphibians in southern Arizona to the glaciers at the Canadian border, and identify some favorite photo ops.

The book does not contain detailed instructions for driving the route or for duplicating the wonderful pictures. It does contain an excellent overview of the road that Cowlin calls “America’s most scenic Highway”. He lets slip the real purpose of the book in the forward when he says “I do hope that this guide will inspire you to take a road trip on US Route 89.” The book definitely contains a lot of inspiration.

James Cowlin is the founder of US Route 89 Appreciation Society. Border to Border on US Route 89; A photographer’s guide to America’s most scenic highway can be purchased here. A Road Trip Map Book is available here.


Deciding that book reviews were a good fit for this blog instantly put me way behind. If I posted them on Sundays when there was nothing more pressing it might take me months just to squeeze out the half-dozen or so already on the list. To keep that from happening, I’m going to post book reviews on Wednesdays for the next few weeks and leave Sundays for whatever.