Professional photographer Joey Lax-Salinas, BA’03, has traveled to nearly all 50 states—and he has the photos to prove it. In this story, you’ll see a series of stunning images, and you’ll also hear the stories behind the photos, including that one time Lax-Salinas hung out the side of a helicopter to capture the perfect aerial shot.
Golden Gate Bridge
There are several places that, to me, are quintessential California scenes. The Hollywood sign. The Santa Monica Pier. But nothing is as “California” as the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve only been to San Francisco one time in my life, and as a child of the ’80s and ’90s, I always hoped I would go there and run into the Tanner family from Full House—a favorite TV show of mine as a kid. While there were no Tanners in sight that day in San Francisco, I was able to capture this photo of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Cherry blossom season
For more than a decade, I tried to make my way to Washington, D.C., for the annual cherry blossom bloom, but year after year, something would keep me home. Work. Bad weather. Frost ruined the blossoms. Had a baby. COVID. You name it, something stopped me. That is, until this year. In March 2022, I flew out to Washington, D.C., for a quick, 30-hour trip. I cabbed myself directly to the Tidal Basin and began taking photos. The next day, I visited the Lincoln Memorial at sunrise. It was everything I had hoped it would be—and more. The weather was perfect and the colors in the sky were vibrant.
To date, I’ve been to 43 states, and Florida takes the trophy as the home of “strange” things. I’m not sure if it’s the salt water in the air that gives people such eccentric ideas, but I certainly did a double take when I saw the Airstream Ranch. I was driving from Orlando to Tampa, and saw this on the roadside. I stopped to capture one of the strangest pieces of art I’ve ever seen—eight Airstream trailers impaled into the ground. In 2017, the Airstream Ranch was demolished, ironically, to make room for an RV dealership.
Growing up in the northwest corner of Indiana, Chicago has always been just around the corner. As a cityscape photographer, the Windy City is an architectural paradise. This particular image was taken on a photo walk through the city with photographer Trey Ratcliff in August 2015. While I had been to Grant Park many times before, it was the first time I had been at the Buckingham Fountain just after sunset while facing the city skyline.
Crown Point Courthouse
Crown Point, Ind.
During my time as a student at IU, I was often asked where I was from. I began to realize that the perception of Northwest Indiana is that it’s a smoky landscape full of steel mills. It was for that reason that I launched my Indiana project, which started by capturing photos of every city in Northwest Indiana. After a couple years of photographing more than 60 communities in “The Region,” I branched out to photograph the rest of Indiana—capturing more than 400 cities and towns in every county across the state. It took more than a decade to capture every county courthouse and historic downtown district.
Aerial view of Traverse City
Traverse City, Mich.
Northern Michigan has become a special place for me. In 2012, my then-girlfriend (now wife) and I drove the Lake Michigan Circle Tour—which is roughly 1,100 miles long—to explore the lake towns. Our first overnight stay was in Traverse City, which we quickly fell in love with. Months later, we got engaged on Mackinac Island, and then married in the village of Lake Leelanau. Over the years, I’ve taken many photos of Traverse City. I’ve even gone as far as renting a helicopter to get unique aerial perspectives. This photo shows Traverse City from 8,000 feet in the air. There was no door on the helicopter that day. We were slightly tilted, and I was buckled in with nothing more than a seatbelt. It was awesome.
Mill Ruins Park
Minneapolis used to be the flour capital of the nation. The downtown district had several large flour mills that would process the flour, then send it down the Mississippi River. The business was booming until one of the businesses exploded—literally. Fine powder flour is extremely flammable when it’s airborne. The mill was left in ruins and sat undisturbed until it was safely braced and turned into a museum. Now, the mill ruins are a large tourist attraction in downtown Minneapolis.
I took this photo in 2015 from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. After 14 total hours of driving and a one-night hotel stay, I remember thinking that this quick and intensive trip better pay off. Seven years later, my Nashville photos from that trip are among my most popular items in my Etsy store.
I was 25 years old before I traveled to St. Louis. I returned two years later and shot this image. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be there photographing the Gateway Arch on such a calm and still day, which was needed to capture clarity in the water reflection.