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The National Parks by Ian Shive
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's review
Apr 27, 2010

it was amazing
Read in April, 2010

One can easily believe that nothing would please photographer Ian Shive more than to hear those four words. Four words that will cement his place in history as one of the best park photographers of all time. And we here at Blog on Books are going to give them to him. Ready? (wait for it…)
“Not since Ansel Adams…”

It’s true. Not since Ansel Adams has one photographer published a work that truly captures the magnitude and majesty that are America’s National Parks. In ‘Our National Parks: Our American Landscape’ (published in association with the National Parks Conservation Association) Shive captures in all their glory, the rich and varied landscapes that make these hallowed lands America’s true national treasure.

The difference, of course, is that Adams (like William Henry Jackson before him) made history, climbing atop his rickety vehicle in the 1930’s using larger than life photographic equipment to bring his black and white images of the great outdoors to a nation of millions who may have never seen such monumental splendor. (In addition to using his work on the John Muir trail to help convince Congress to designate places like the California sequoias as National Parks to begin with.) But in his own way, with Canon in hand, Shive has captured images that despite (or because) of their dramatically infused colors, bring a sense of beauty and awe that is seldom experienced by even the best photographers in this 204 page tribute to our National Park system.

From what began as a series of assignments for National Parks magazine, Shive has compiled images that might otherwise be lost to the fleeting moments of time through his masterful use of light and tone. Photographs that capture the imbued majesty of not just rock formations or cloud patterns or post dusk lighting over the wide ranging plains of Wyoming or Utah, but the minute details of wildlife and fauna from Yellowstone to the Channel Islands off the California coast.

Having been to nearly every National Park in the Western U.S., I can vouch for the fact that many of the most striking images are artfully presented here; the wide swaths of the Canyonlands, the grandeur of Utah’s Delicate Arch, the sheer magnitude of places like Montana’s Glacier and Alaska’s Denali National Parks. And while not a complete compendium of the entire park system (nothing on the fantastic Volcano Parks of Hawaii nor much outside the west and south save Maine), this coffee table edition lends itself well to the fantastic landscapes (many of which are presented in two-page, double truck format) and features photos that will capture the imagination for years to come.
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