Atlas Obscura would not be possible without the dedicated work of our community, who help us add more wondrous places to the site every day—and improve the ones we already have. A big part of this community is a dedicated group of intrepid photographers who venture to some of the most wondrous locations in the Atlas and give us the breathtaking images that bring our collection of places to life. We want to give a few of our most dedicated photographers a chance to share some of their favorite snapshots and the stories behind the images.
Sandi Hemmerlein, who goes by Avoiding Regret on Atlas Obscura joined the site in 2012 and worked as an Atlas Obscura Los Angeles Field Agent from 2013 to 2019. Since then, she has added hundreds of her shots to existing place entries.
“I grew up in Syracuse, New York, and led a pretty sheltered life until moving to New York City the day after I graduated from Colgate University,” Hemmerlein says. She was also featured in a 2013 profile on Atlas Obscura about her photography process. “I’ve been a writer my whole life—but I only took on photography even remotely seriously around 2006, when I began relying less on disposable film cameras and, for a time, experimented with a 35mm SLR and then digital cameras.”
That also happened to be around the same time she decided to explore the world: Morocco and Tunisia, and California’s desert parks, including Death Valley and Joshua Tree. “[Atlas Obscura’s 2009 debut] came along at just the right time—when I quit my office job and set off on a journey of self-discovery through world exploration,” she says. “It helped me feel less alone in the world because even though I didn’t personally know anyone with the same interests as me, here was this online community of like-minded kindred spirits, sharing their discoveries.”
Hemmerlein also realized that her ethos aligned perfectly with one of Atlas Obscura’s core values, “to take the path less traveled by, because there’s so much more out there than meets the eye. And 12 years later, I still consider myself a ‘superfan’ of Atlas Obscura,” who checks the site weekly for new places to discover—in particular to add her original photography to the site.
In addition to Atlas Obscura, Hemmerlein also shares photos on her personal blog, also called Avoiding Regret, and her Instagram to help bring the world to those who are unable to venture out and explore.
Here are a few of Hemmerlein’s favorite places to which she has contributed, and the stories behind them.