Photographer leaves corporate job for natural beauty

Back when Ian Shive was part of the publicity machine at Sony’s Columbia Pictures, he would leave work early on Friday and drive to Yosemite National Park. He’d stay there — taking pictures — until early Monday morning, when he would head back to the corporate world.

These days, Shive doesn’t have to split his focus. For the past several years he has worked as a full-time photographer, primarily of landscapes and nature. His images, collected at national parks, including many from Yosemite, have been released in the book "The National Parks: Our American Landscape" ($39.95, Earth Aware).

Shive knows he’s not the first person to photograph national parks. He’s been with as many as 100 professional photographers while at Yosemite. It was his plan to provide images of places most people never see when they visit the parks.

"I have found that if you go about a mile or two away you are no longer surrounded by the hundreds of people who are visiting the park," Shive says in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

In the caption for a photo of the much photographed Half Dome in Yosemite, Shive writes: "The greatest challenge for me is to step outside the postcards and brochures and all the images we’ve come to appreciate the place for, and think of a new way to express the feelings I get from being there."

Although he went to school at Montana State University, located 90 miles from Yellowstone National Park, it wasn’t until recently he finally took a picture of Old Faithful. Once the book deal went through, Shive had to make a 20-day trip of the parks in the western United States to get a few more familiar images. Every image in the book was collected in the past two years.

Although his father was a photographer, Shive never planned on a career behind a camera. He worked for more than eight years as part of the publicity team for more than 60 movies, including “Spider-Man,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Pursuit of Happyness.”

What started out as a hobby became a potential career when he started selling his work to such publications as Time Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, National Geographic and Popular Science. Now he is a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers, whose membership represents the highest standards in nature photography.

Often those standards have to do with whether it is better to capture nature using film or a digital camera. Digital pictures are easier to manipulate. Shive, who uses digital equipment, says he has never changed a photo and will make his raw files available to prove it.

"The National Parks: Our American Landscape" is available at most major bookstores and online.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at or (559) 441-6355.