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The National Parks: Our American Landscape

Photographer Ian Shive reveals a side of the parks you've never seen


Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

The National Parks: Our American Landscape is available in bookstores everywhere, and online.

© Ian Shive Photography

2011 Update: Ian's book has been released in paperback! Read about what's news in the paperback versions and what Ian has been up to.

It's a good time for national parks. For the past two months public awareness has increased thanks to events like National Parks Weeks or the release of the Ken Burns documentary, National Parks: America's Best Idea. And now there is something else to celebrate.

In August 2009, The National Parks: Our American Landscape was released - a collection of over 200 stunning images depicting America's national parks. It has been gaining praise in the media and Ian Shive, the books photographer, welcomes the attention with gratitude.

When you first meet Shive, he seems like a laid back kind of guy; one who likes rock climbing and travel. But when you start up a conversation with him, you learn so much more. Not only does the 31-year old enjoy our typical outdoor activities, he is also a certified scuba diver, award-winning environmental and conservation oriented-photographer, author, and film producer. And with the release of The National Parks: Our American Landscape, Shive can add successful photographer to his list of accomplishments.

Alright, so what makes this book different from the hundreds that explore our country's national parks? For starters, it is completely versatile. When you think of Arches National Park, chances are you picture Delicate Arch – the most iconic photographic image of the park. And when you picture the Grand Canyon, you probably picture its vastness from an overlook at the very top. But Shive decided to take a different approach with his photography.

“I think a lot of national park books, and even books in general, write them with an audience in mind,” Shive said. “But I actually put this collection together to say this was my experience in the parks. I am not trying to represent the whole. I want to represent my personal experience.”

It's this point of view that makes The National Parks: Our American Landscape truly unique. The book allows readers to peak into someone's very personal journey throughout our amazing lands. It's as if you get to sit down over coffee and flip through Shive's vacation photos – except these shots are bold pieces of professional art.

Ian Shive

Photographer Ian Shive

© Ian Shive Photography

“You know, I love looking at other people's vacation photos!” Shive noted. “When you think about the sheer number of people who go to all these different places, they discover things that I wouldn't have seen even if I was there for a year.”

Shive's book reminds us what's so great about national parks – the fact that no matter how many times you visit one place, you will never see it all. Each visit brings an opportunity to see something completely different – a new animal, a secret lake, a hidden cavern. Parks allow all people - young and old, lucky and unlucky - the same opportunity to explore the natural beauty of America.

“There is no privilege. Sometimes you see amazing things, sometimes its just a nice drive.”

Shive's simplistic attitude brings a fresh, new approach to the genre of travel photography books. In fact, photography wasn't always a part of Shive's career path. He previously worked in marketing for Sony's Columbia Pictures for over eight years on films such as the Spider-Man franchise, Memoirs of a Geisha, and over 60 other major motion pictures. And while he enjoyed his job, photography was always an important part of his life.

Growing up in New Jersey, Shive watched his father succeed as an architectural photographer. By the time Shive set out for college in Montana, he spent “more time in the parks than in class.” And though he never thought to make a career out of photography, the idea gained optimism after a visit to Steamtown National Historic Site in Pennsylvania.

“I got out there and it literally reminded me of being on the Titanic but in trains,” Shive recalled. “There were parts of trains from the 1930s in complete disrepair and I crawled into every single one and shot them. It was so solitary and had a lot of impact.” Shive was so moved by the experience he submitted his photos to the National Parks Conservation Association – who in turn not only loved the photos, but published them in National Parks magazine. And so began the photography career of Ian Shive.

Two years ago, he permanently quit his job at Sony and focused on his photography. And for the past three years, Shive has traveled the country collecting his photos and personal memories of America's national parks. His photos have appeared in countless publications such as National Geographic, Time Magazine, and U.S. News & World Report. And his journey and hard work has now paid off with the publication of his first book - The National Parks: Our American Landscape.

Sequoia National Park, California

A giant sequoia tree against the backdrop of a starry night sky.

© Ian Shive Photography

The book is a mix of history and a personal journey enticing readers to keep turning the pages. Taking photos that emotionally struck him, Shive's collection showcases the subtle beauty of America's lands. Even the arrangement is the book creates a sophisticated sensitivity to each image – the book is arranged by color and theme rather than geographic location. With each page a particular moment in time is captured, building a journal of Shive's individual experiences at the nation's parks. His personal journey even includes an homage to his beginning with photos from Steamtown National Historic Site.

With so many books and publications that share photos of national parks, it is an ongoing challenge for a photographer to find new and creative ways to portray these timeless landscapes. In The National Parks: Our American Landscape, Shive does just that. He continues to work as a professional photographer based in Los Angeles, CA, and hopes to continue to travel the world capturing its beauty one image at a time. His work can be viewed and purchased at his website and The National Parks: Our American Landscape, can also be purchased online. It will make the perfect gift for any nature lover!

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