2012-07-05 / Front Page
Renowned nature photographer invites others into the wild
Millstone native brings his conservation images and more to iPad app
Millstone native Ian Shive’s career as a conservation photographer takes him to some of the most stunning sites in the farthest reaches of the world. And now, anyone who is interested is free to join him.
The 34-year-old award-winning shutterbug’s work brings him no shortage of adventure, whether on location at one of America’s national parks, bearing witness to spiritual practices along the Ganges in India, delving into underwater habitats in Cuba, or any number of other thrilling journeys taken in Shive’s quest to capture the rich images that have brought him renown.
“It’s one of the most amazing jobs in the world,” the Los Angeles transplant said.
With the release of the Ian Shive Photography App for the iPad in April, the rest of the world has a chance to stand in Shive’s welltraveled shoes.
I wanted to share [my] stories in a real three-dimensional atmosphere,” he said of the app, which, aside from the expected photographs, offers videos and in-depth stories and background on his work and experiences.
“It’s more about sharing through the whole experience,” Shive said. “It’s a 360-degree view of my work.”
Also included in the app is his “Field Guide to Photographing the American Wilderness,” which shares his wealth of experience with the public.
“I always wanted to do a how-to book or field guide,” he said. “I like the idea of the old reference book or encyclopedia.”
One great feature of the app, according to Shive, is its lack of limitations imposed by things like page counts or space restrictions. He said the plan is to continually update the field guide as well as the other content on the app.
I think even people who are non-photographers are really going to enjoy it,” he said, adding that the response thus far has been fantastic. “I tried to write it from a really emotional, personal approach.”
To that end, the stories he writes to accompany the images not only include technical information, but also the background stories of the landscapes and their people.
He pointed out that conservation photography is often largely focused on the land itself.
“The land is great, but the land is not complete without the human element,” he said. “Those people sometimes have rich histories.” Now, aside from sometimes being the first person to lay eyes — and lens — on ecologically sensitive areas spanning the planet, Shive is delving into the delicate balance between people and their ecosystems.
Just as he deeply explores the natural habitats that serve as sites for his photographs, Shive is anything but superficial with his human subjects.
“I go out and have a beer with them or have dinner with them or go with them on horseback,” he said. “It’s my job to try to do them justice in that way.”
One look at Shive’s body of work, or even just his résumé, shows that going that extra mile has been worth it.
The most recent of his numerous awards was the Sierra Club’s 2011 Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography. His photographs have appeared in a multitude of widely read publications, including National Geographic, Time, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and US News & World Report, among many others. His work has gained him the honor of being called the top chronicler of the country’s national parks, as well as international recognition, not only for his photography but also for his conservation efforts.
Despite all of this, Shive remains just as down to earth as he was as a teen in Millstone, when he made regular forays into the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area.
Like most creative types, he is his own worst critic, and although he has enjoyed remarkable success, he is unconvinced of his career’s longevity.
“Every assignment I go out on, I’m panicked that it’s the last one I’m going to do,” he said.
Not likely, to say the least.
Along with regular assignments from the Nature Conservancy and Sierra Club, as well as the well-received app launch, the success of Shive’s 2009 book “The National Parks: Our American Landscape” is sure to keep his feet firmly planted as a front-runner in his field.
The book, which garnered positive reviews and has sold well, gave birth to yet another of Shive’s successful brainchildren — the Wilderness Diplomacy initiative.
“It was an accident how it started,” he explained.
Back in 2010, a friend was visiting Cuba and wanted a gift to give to officials she met with there, but she wanted to make sure that it was not somehow politically charged.
She decided to bring Shive’s book, and the response was inspiring.
“People had no idea that our country looked like this,” he said. “They started asking questions, and the questions became conversations, and the conversations became understanding.”
Since then, thousands of copies of the book have accompanied Shive and others on diplomatic journeys to far-off countries, including Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates, among others.
“That’s mind-blowing, to be honest,” he said. “I think it’s also a testament to how far one person can make something go.”
Many doctors treating patients internationally have become part of the program, and the book has been given by a number of high-ranking officials, including Gen. David Petraeus.
“It’s made its rounds in high-level ranks, which has been interesting,” he said.
While Shive pointed out that he is not so naïve to believe the program will change the world, he said it certainly opens up channels of communication with other countries.
It’s no wonder the program took off as it did, considering Shive’s extensive history of using his work to make the world a better place.
Along with donating a portion of his book’s proceeds to the National Parks Conservation Association, he gives lectures and otherwise works to spread awareness about the national parks and endangered ecosystems throughout the world.
This aspect of his work has led him to meet with members of U.S. the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“You’re more than just documenting something, you become a part of the story,” he said.
Another part of his story was the 2011 launch of Tandem Stills + Motion, an agency that now represents more than 400 photographers, whose award-winning images have been featured in numerous wellknown publications.
“We’ve very quickly become a leading environmental images provider to the world,” he said, adding, “It really gives me a chance to give back to the younger photographers.”
It also has given Shive a chance to stay put in L.A. a little more than usual. During his first year on the road several years back, he spent 300 days on the road. Although his current 150 days of the year spent traveling hardly make him a homebody, it is a bit of a respite for the globetrotter.
Still, it’s not as if Shive ever tires of his work, which by all measures seems to be meeting its goal.
“I’ve always liked to go in the direction of inspiring people,” he said. “If they put their shoes on and go for a hike … will they become more invested?”
Just as he gleaned inspiration from heading into the wild as a 13-year-old boy when his family moved from Edison to the farmlands of Millstone, he hopes to offer others the same experience.
“I spent a lot of time just hiking through the woods,” he said. “That was absolutely the beginning of it all, because it was so impactful on me.”
And now, the nature lover is impacting so many others.