Find a Trail

Test Page by Jenny

Tell us about your earliest connection to wild places.

I grew up in a very rural part of New Jersey, the Garden State, with farms, fields, and wildlife-management areas nearby. As far back as I can remember, my parents took me to parks. They were always appreciative of nature, but not hard-core hikers and campers; we never camped.

Coast, by Ian Shive

Coast by Ian Shive.

How did you get interested in photography?

My dad’s a photographer, mainly in architecture and rock and roll. He gave me my first camera when I went to college. A pivotal moment for me came when I moved to Montana for a film program. I went to Yellowstone and it was different from anything I’d ever seen. I wanted to show my friends in New Jersey the way the way light comes through the mountains, so it started as a way of sharing that. But I realized that my photos were horrible! So I started to teach myself photography, and I think it was subconscious, but I wanted it to be an accurate representation of what I was feeling, not just seeing.

That was late 1996. It was always in the background of my life, never front and center, not the way it is today. I worked for a studio for ten years. The last six years it has moved from hobby to obsession, with the last four years being really intense.

How do explore the places you shoot?

I might experience them as a mountaineer, like when I climbed Mt. McKinley, but I enjoy them the best as a backpacker. I like hitting the trail, going deep into the woods far from the typical places people see. That’s the way a great majority of the [national parks] book was photographed. My goal is that in sharing these places in the book, it inspires people to go out there.

You photograph both vast landscapes and intensely close-up subjects. What is your approach to each type?

I don’t just look out – I look down, and I pay attention to small details. For me a landscape is about balance and symmetry. I pay attention to the horizon line. There’s just something about it that strikes me, and I can’t say exactly what it is…the combination of light and experience and symmetry. I pay attention to all four corners and work my way in from there. I make sure nothing is blocking the right-hand corner of the frame. Many a photograph is ruined by not looking in the far corners, paying attention only to the middle of the frame. It’s also about telling stories – you might see something geologically significant in the center, with a river nearby, and a storm coming, something happening on the beach. I try to convey a very full sense of the place. It’s just a matter of paying attention.

For close-ups, I dig deep into the scene and change perspective. So many times I’ve seen people photographing wildlife or plants, and they’re shooting down with the camera. But eye level could be a beautiful photograph! Changing the angle of perspective gives you a new view of something you’ve already seen before.  Get closer to the shot! Go deeper into the frame. Don’t be afraid to omit things. I think of it as the reverse of painting – I subtract things. I include only the elements required for what I want to get across.

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