Meet Author and Photographer James Kaiser

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

We've reviewed hundreds of travel guidebooks, and shared thousands of photographs from around the world here on Wandering Educators. I feel lucky to experience the world through the eyes of so many global explorers.

And sometimes, I am completely astounded at what comes in the mail. Something special. Recently, we received four beautiful guidebooks, written by James Kaiser. He's an extraordinary (award-winning) writer and photographer, and truly shares his love of place with readers. His books include Acadia: The Complete Guide; Joshua Tree: The Complete Guide; Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide (winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Full-Color Travel Guide and the Independent Publisher Award for Best Travel Guide); and Yosemite: The Complete Guide. James has also created a site featuring an unusual natural phenomenon, the Yosemite Firefall.


Joshua Tree Sunset, James Kaiser

Joshua Tree Sunset


What I didn't expect, upon delving into these well-written guidebooks, was to be completely entranced. James covers natural history, geologic history, the history and culture of an area, hikes, adventures, maps, wildlife, and more. James' guidebooks are truly Ultimate Guides to an area. What they accomplish is to get you interested, and then help you plan your trip. James excels at sharing the essence of a place with his readers - distilling the best of an area and getting you excited to be there.

Hands down, these are the best travel guidebooks I've ever read.


Acadia Isle and Mount Desert Island, Maine - James Kaiser

Acadia Isle and Mount Desert Island, Maine



We've snagged James for author interviews (and our book reviews for each of his books) coming up in the next month. But first, I wanted to talk with James about writing, photography, researching his books, and more. Here's what he had to say...



WE: What draws you to a place?

JK: I'm a sucker for places with amazing natural beauty. That's what originally drew me to America's national parks. They're home to some of the most amazing scenery on the planet.



WE: What led you into writing guidebooks? How long does each take? How do you choose where?

JK: My career as a guidebook writer happened by accident. I was born and raised near Acadia National Park in Maine, and after graduating from college I went back home for one last summer before getting a "real" job. One day I wandered into a local bookstore, and I realized there were no good guidebooks to Acadia. So I decided to write my own. The book was a hit, and I've been writing guidebooks ever since.


Grand Canyon Rafting - James Kaiser

Grand Canyon Rafting 




WE: What goes into the research for your books? What is most important for you to share?

JK: I divide my research into two parts: on the ground and on the couch. When I'm on the ground I'm exploring, wandering, talking to locals, and taking lots of notes. When I'm on the couch I'm devouring books, magazines, websites — anything related to the place I'm writing about. In fact, I probably overconsume information. But that's how you find the amazing little details that make places so special. 



WE: What are your most important pieces of photography gear? What goes into a good photo, for you?

JK: Lenses are my most important pieces of photography equipment. I have about eight lenses, and I never set out with less than three. To me, a good photo is a combination of luck and preparation. You never know when an amazing scene will present itself, so you have to be prepared. My father always told me, "Success is when opportunity meets preparation." That really sums up photography for me.


Yosemite Falls, James Kaiser

Yosemite Falls




WE: How has nature changed, in your lifetime? How can travelers help to conserve where they visit?

JK: Geologically, nature hasn't changed that much in the past 33 years. A few rock falls here and there, but nothing serious. Geologic time moves so slow it's hard for humans to fathom. Of course, man-made changes have been much more dramatic. There's no doubt that we, as a species, have created some serious problems. But we've also created some remarkable solutions. That's one of things I love to write about. Whether it's the remarkable comeback of the California condor in Grand Canyon or implementing sustainable fishing practices in the Gulf of Maine, there's some really inspiring stuff going on these days. I love to include information like that in my guidebooks.


Grand Canyon, Cape Royal, James Kaiser

Grand Canyon, Cape Royal




WE: Where are your favorite places to visit and photograph?

JK: Acadia National Park is my favorite place to visit. But I'm biased because I grew up outside the park!


Sunset at Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Bass Harbor, Maine. James Kaiser

Sunset at Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Bass Harbor, Maine




WE: Thanks so much, James. I am looking forward to sharing your incredible guidebooks with our readers over the next 4 weeks.  Readers, check back!


For information, to see more photos, and to check out James' guidebooks, please see:



Our Book Reviews and Author Interviews with James Kaiser:

Joshua Tree: The Complete Guide

Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide

Acadia: The Complete Guide

Yosemite: The Complete Guide


Feature photo: Joshua Tree 


All photos courtesy and copyright James Kaiser