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Friday, October 30, 2009

America's Natural Treasures

A new book pays tribute to the national parks

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A giant sequoia against the backdrop of a starry night sky, Sequoia National Park, California.
A conservation photographer from the start, he plans to donate proceeds from the book to the NPCA, as a chronic lack of funding is just one of many challenges facing the parks. While the estimated $8 billion to $9 billion backlog in needed maintenance is of great concern, dealing with the potentially devastating effects of climate change is even more pressing. Some experts predict Joshua Tree National Park could lose its Joshua trees. Glacier National Park could be without glaciers by 2030 or sooner. Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone may lose their pines. Low-lying parks, such as Dry Tortugas off of Key West, Fla., and Ellis Island in the New York-New Jersey Harbor, could disappear underwater sometime this century, as sea levels are expected to rise by up to four feet.

“There’s no better place, visually, to see global warming than in the parks,” says Shive, who’s an emerging member of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Earlier this year, he was one of several photographers who went on the iLCP’s Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE) to the U.S.-Mexico border to document how the wall being built is harming wildlife, ecosystems and local communities.

Top 10 Most Visited Parks

Big Bend National Park, Texas

The National Park Service is headed for a record-breaking number of visitors this year if attendance numbers hold up. Through the first nine months of this year, nearly 232 million people have already visited national park sites. This translates to a 5% increase over the same time frame last year. If visitation stays strong through the rest of the year, the parks could see more than 288 million visitors for 2009, topping the previous records of more than 287 million visitors in 1987 and 1999.
  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee, North Carolina) — 6.4 million*
  2. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona) — 3.2 million
  3. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho) — 2.7 million
  4. Yosemite National Park (California) — 2.7 million
  5. Olympic National Park (Washington) — 2.4 million
  6. Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) — 2 million
  7. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado) — 2 million
  8. Zion National Park (Utah) — 2 million
  9. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)— 1.8 million
  10. Glacier National Park (Montana) — 1.6 million
Nature and conservation is something about which the New Jersey native has been passionate since childhood; that passion intensified when he decided to attend Montana State University. During his years there, he began exploring Yellowstone with a camera in tow and laying the foundation for a career in photojournalism. However, he would spend eight years at Sony’s Columbia Pictures developing marketing campaigns for more than 60 movies, including the Spider-Man franchise, before becoming a full-time photographer.

Since then, his work has appeared in many publications, including National Geographic, Time, U.S. News & World Report, Outside, Popular Science and The Los Angeles Times.

“I definitely lived a dual life for a while. On a Friday night, I would hop on a plane and go to Montana or Smoky Mountains National Park to take pictures,” he recalls. “Then I’d fly back and walk a red-carpet press line after just having watched a buffalo herd crossing. Two totally different worlds.”

Now Shive’s world is about enduring the extreme temperatures of the desert or the frozen Alaska landscape while dealing with 40 pounds of gear. Images for the book were shot digitally with Canon EOS 5D cameras, a variety of lenses, extension tubes, strobes, filters and other extras. A videographer accompanied Shive along the way, recording HD footage that was originally intended to be a short video showing behind-the-scenes action. They ended up with about 40 hours of footage that was turned into a four-part series, Wild Exposure, which airs on Current TV.

A wild tarantula in the Chihuahuan Desert, Big Bend National Park, Texas.
After spending so much time in the national parks, it’s tough for Shive to pick a favorite, but he does have one.

“Channel Islands National Park. It’s close to home, so I can wake up and photograph the sunrise and get great early-morning-light landscape and coastal views,” he explains. “Then I can jump in the water and spend three or four hours down there. Then I can go for a hike in the evening. I can do something all day.

The National Parks: Our American Landscape is available at all major bookstores and www.amazon.com. See more of Ian Shive’s work at www.waterandsky.com.


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