A year across the West through the eyes of our photographers

The best photos of 2018.


In the margins of a flurrying news cycle this midterm election year, our writers and photographers stepped into communities around the West to offer nuanced perspectives of life in the region. View the tech boom through the car and RV windows of Tesla employees, and see gentrification through the winding route of a postal service worker. To explore larger themes of change, take a look past the headlines at some of our best photos of the year.


Dan Turrentine cuts across a porch during his delivery route in Armory Park on Dec. 14. “I try to take as many shortcuts as possible,” he says. As downtown Tucson urbanizes, nearby postal routes get busier.
J. Daniel Hud

What does a gentrifying city look like? Talk to the man who delivers the mail.

As downtown Tucson becomes more dense, a longtime letter carrier bears the increased deliveries of new residents. This intimate piece gets a close perspective on what “downtown revitalization” looks like to one man that has been tracing neighborhood routes for over a decade.


The team warms up in the bus during halftime in the Whalers’ game against the Houston Hawks.
Ash Adams

A football team on the edge of the world

Through photos, Ash Adams shows a group of boys participating in an American tradition. Nearly 500 miles from their nearest opponent in the northernmost inhabited city in the U.S., football doesn’t look as it does in the Lower 48. Follow the team to the state title.


An alkali fly, under water inside of its protective air bubble.
Floris van Breugel

Scuba flies

This piece, originally published by bioGraphic, features stunning underwater photos of flies that can dive 8 meters into harsh alkaline water and remain submerged for up to 15 minutes. For centuries their strategy was foggy until biologist and engineer Floris van Breugel set out to discover how they survive and thrive underwater.


Stacy Bourdukofsky in her bedroom in Saint Paul, Alaska. She is a survivor of domestic violence from a previous marriage and now works as a victim advocate. She also raises 10 children with her new husband and says she's found happiness with that relationship.
Ash Adams

How a community-based program aids sexual assault victims

For survivors in St. Paul, Alaska, a forensic exam used to be a three and a half hour flight away, making it nearly impossible to gather evidence of assault. Now volunteers are making justice more attainable in remote parts of Indian Country.


Bridgett Davis is one of the new women entrepreneurs who has taken advantage of the wider acceptance and legalization of marijuana and started her own business selling marijuana products.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra

Black women rewrite weed’s legacy in Los Angeles

Only about 1 percent of weed businesses around the country are in the hands of African-Americans and people of color. Follow the hustle of entrepreneurs breaking norms and taking advantage of the new market opened up in California.


In the early 1900s, the western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) was a common sight in the lower LA River Basin, where it nested during the summer among dense cottonwood and willow groves. But by the 1950s, its habitat was gone. Today, the cuckoo is a state and federally listed threatened species, and studies are underway to determine if habitat restoration could encourage the bird’s return.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra

An inventory of loss on the Los Angeles River

In protecting residents from flooding, the river has been essentially channelized into nothing. Photographer Roberto (Bear) Guerra photographs species that have been lost and explores the hope they might still have for revitalization.


A July 4th wildfire in Basalt, Colorado, is fought on the ground and in the air. A plane, visible from the photographer’s porch, drops fire retardant slurry to control the blaze.
Peter McBride

In a time of division and hate, wildfire unites a community

An opinion contributor and a photographer find their own community relying on the protection of disaster responders. In the era of “me,” Auden Schendler finds the positives in any moment that selfishness and political opinions are cast aside.


A farmworker removes protective netting from a row of peach trees before harvesting the fruit.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra

Farmworkers face illness and death in the fields

“The reality is that the machinery of growers is taken better care of than the lives of farmworkers.” In a state with progressive labor policies, HCN Contributing Editor Ruxandra Guidi and photographer Roberto (Bear) Guerra expose the dangerous reality that a warming climate brings to those working in the heat all day.


Lewis Arthur, the founder of Veterans on Patrol, an organization that provides shelter and resources to homeless veterans in Tucson, Arizona, stands outside a camp which he started in early June 2018 in an effort to fight what he believes is the trafficking of migrant women and children for sex in the Tucson area.
Andrew Cullen for High Country News

Conspiracy theories inspire vigilante justice in Tucson

Tay Wiles and Andrew Cullen gain access to the Sonoran Desert base camp of an online conspiracy. Though debunked by multiple news outlets, Lewis Arthur draws a hodge-podge group from around the globe to hunt alleged migrant sex-traffickers. This piece explores the complicated motivations behind a far-right character rejected even by Bundyites.


This young woman lives with her father, Dave Ramsey, in a camper in the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony church parking lot. Ramsey works as the night security guard for the church. After working for Tesla as a driver, he decided to go back to a job that didn’t move him around so much, so he could spend more time with his daughter.
Nina Riggio

See what a tech production surge means for Tesla workers

A new manufacturing center has more employees than the population of the county it is housed in. Photographer Nina Riggio documents those drawn to the new job opportunities that are finding alternative living situations.

Mary Ruth Meyook, her mother Nellie Arey of Aklavik and Carol Oyagak of Kaktovik play cards at Shingle Point fish camp in Canada.
Brian Adams

One Inuit family’s life, straddling national borders

Accompany wilderness guide Bruce Inglangasak’s 350-mile journey home with photographer Brian Adams. Through details of Inglangasak’s family and friends, Adams offers an intimate portrait of life spanning countries.


State Sen. Don Coram walks through his hemp field in Western Colorado.
Luna Anna Archey/High Country News

What the 2018 farm bill means for the West

From federal changes in hemp growing and SNAP work requirements, to funding for a fire station in a rural county, Editorial Fellow Jessica Kutz breaks down what’s in the bill. Also see her coverage and more photographs from Luna Anna Archey of farmers growing hemp on Colorado’s conservative Western slope.

Can’t get enough photography? Check out our photo galleriesEmail High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

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