Photos from the West, vast and varied

Take a look back at some of the images that made up the region in 2022.

As we look back on the photos that helped complete High Country News in 2022, two things stand out: The West houses plenty of remarkable landscapes and communities, and there are some impressive contrasts to be found here, along with a burgeoning sense of collaboration.

We see stunning imagery that challenges some of our long-held assumptions about the region and its residents — pictures that highlight the dedicated work that Westerners from widely varied backgrounds are doing to better their communities, as well as images that illuminate some of the biggest challenges faced by the West today.


The problem with year-end lists is that, in their determination to condense an entire year’s work into a snapshot of greatest hits, they inevitably leave out much that deserves to be included. For this reason, we don’t think of this collection of some of our favorite photographs as a list of the “best” photographs from 2022. Rather, we offer it as an invitation to return to these stories to be reminded of the breadth and depth of powerful, beautiful photography that brought our reporting to life in both the magazine and website in 2022.

As always, we’re grateful for the dedication, perception and finely honed skills of the photographers with whom we collaborated, and we look forward to visualizing the stories of the West together in 2023.

Note: Click on the photographer credit for each image to read the story (and see more photos) associated with the photo.


Julia Bernal (Sandia, Taos and Yuchi-Creek Nations of Oklahoma) in Sandoval County in the Middle Rio Grande Valley. “It’s like this concept of landback. Once you get the land back, what are you going to do with it after? It’s the same thing. If we get the water back, what are we gonna do with it after? How are we going to maintain water?” Bernal, the director of the Pueblo Action Alliance, believes that “landback” can’t happen without “water back.”

Stuart Thomas, manager of the Swinomish Shellfish Company, harvests oysters on Similk Beach during an October low tide.


Ramón Torres, president of the farmworkers' union Familias Unidas por la Justicia, at Tierra y Libertad, a 65-acre farmworker-owned cooperative in Everson, Washington.

A Pacific lamprey at the Oregon Zoo, part of the Tribal Pacific Lamprey Restoration Program.

Winter, Kivalina, Alaska.


Members of the Build/Shift Collective (from left): Anjeanette Brown, Derric Thompson, Ezell Watson, Taren Evans, Nikita Daryanani, Samantha Hernandez, Alma Pinto, Bretto Jackson and Jona Davis. Photographed in Portland, Oregon, in February.

Tribal Councilmember Annette Bryan on tribal land across the water from the terminal, which sits on the edge of the Puyallup Reservation .

Ruxandra Guidi and her daughter hiking in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson, Arizona, last year.


Clockwise from top left: Lydia Otero at work in Los Angeles, 1987; Calendar, 1989; Concert programs, 1980, 1988; Newspaper clipping, 1989. Photos of Long Beach Pride Parade in UNIDAD, 1989; Poster of Sandinista soldiers, c. 1986; Lydia on cover of UNIDAD, 1989; Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos awards ceremony program, 1988; Photo of Lesbianas Unidas, 1989.

Two young women in the backyard of Hunter’s Home, c. 1896-1906. Cobb's family home is the oldest private residence in Oklahoma. Collection number 20661.6.


Wildlife biologist Miguel Ordeñana in a part of LA's Griffith Park known to be frequented by the mountain lion P-22.

Untitled #1026 (Psychedelic Jessica), 2007, 60 by 80 inches.


View from the center of Yucca Flat, looking south, Areas 9, 7 and 3, Nevada Test Site, 1996. 37°3'10.83" N, 116°0'46.99" W
Glen Canyon Dam’s intake points for the water to power the plant’s eight turbines will be above the water line — the minimum power pool — if the lake level drops another 33 feet. If that happens, the plant will not be able to generate power, though it would need to be maintained in case the water level rises in the future.


An image of the Willamette River created using LiDAR data. “Human beings like to engineer rivers for various reasons. … But this really gives you the sense that the river doesn’t care. The river is going to go where it needs to go eventually, whether that be 100 years or 1,000 years from now — it’s going to find a way to move.”

A billboard designed by artist Votan Henriquez was installed in Edgewood, New Mexico, as part of
The moon shines through the smoke of the 2021 Caldor Fire as it burns in Eldorado National Forest near Pollock Pines, California. The fire burned more than 220,000 acres and destroyed more than 700 homes.

Jennifer Gomez, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells, in 2019, poses for a portrait inside her home, where she has lived for more than four decades. The Port of Los Angeles is just one block away. According to the Air Quality Management District, Wilmington’s cancer risk from air pollution ranks in the top 2% in the region, which includes most of Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino counties.

Rae Peppers, a Crow tribal member, walks with her horse, Sassafras, on her ranch outside of Lame Deer, Montana, on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Peppers lost 10 of her beloved draft horses in the Richard Springs Fire, which was started by a coal seam last August. Sassafras was not with the animals that were killed in the fire, part of a herd that had been carefully bred for generations by her husband’s family.

Graham Biyáál stands on a ladder to harvest pollen from 12-foot-high cornstalks on his parents’ farm on the Navajo Nation, outside of Shiprock, New Mexico.
Beth Wald/High Country News

Bryce Belanger, Jessica Oster and Cameron de Wet set up an autosampler to collect drip water in Titan Cave.
“The logistics of the march have been the most challenging for me,” said El Capitán. “Making sure we arrive at the set times in every town. It is a huge responsibility.”

Jagdish Saini is the co-owner of the Punjabi Tandoor restaurants.

Josie off Rose Creek Road.

A member of the Yakama Nation plucks a Pacific lamprey off the rocks at Willamette Falls, Oregon.

Lea Bossler stands for a portrait in Lolo National Forest, near her home in Missoula, Montana.

Allison Mills (Tlingit and Haida) uses a clinometer to estimate the height of a cedar tree, a skill the Alaskan Youth Stewards crew learned from foresters with the United States Forest Service and Sealaska, an Alaska Native Corporation. Indigenous carvers, builders and weavers worked with tribal governments and local land managers to outline the ideal attributes of trees for cultural use, including size, minimal trunk twist, location, concentration and distribution of branches, and more. Cultural-use harvests, which are selective and much smaller in scale than timber harvests, are part of a landmanagement shift focused on sustainability rather than short-term economic gain.
In southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, members of the Move Mountains Youth Project clear sunflowers from a field where they had been planted to shelter the main crop, bolita beans.


Kim Stringfellow at home in Joshua Tree, California.
Amargosa Valley Mural, Shoshone, California (2015).

Roberto “Bear” Guerra is HCN’s visuals editor. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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