The power of photography can be summed up by one incident in 1872. Way back in the day of Lewis and Clark, when photography was just a baby, a bunch of explorers surveyed the land around the Yellowstone River. In that bunch was a photographer named William Henry Jackson, whose photographs inspired President Ulysses S. Grant to sign a law creating Yellowstone National Park, the very first of its kind. It was a big deal, considering that not one member of Congress had ever seen Yellowstone. Since then, hundreds of parks have been created.
Today, conservation photographer Ian Shive is like a contemporary Jackson — but with a much better camera.
Below the surface in Biscayne National Park, Fla.
All photos by Ian Shive
Rio Grande River separating the U.S. and Mexico, Big Bend National Park, Texas
Mount Foraker, Denali National Park, Alaska
The Marine Sanctuary, Channel Islands National Park, Calif.
Dunes after a storm, White Sands National Monument, N.M.
A scorpion under a black light, Big Bend National Park, Texas
Giant Saguaro, Saguaro National Park, Ariz.
Garabaldi, Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary, Channel Islands National Park, Calif.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nev.
Santa Cruz Island fox, Challen Islands National Park, Calif.
Road through tall grass prairie, Everglades National Park, Fla.
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His photos appear in a new book, The National Parks: Our American Landscape. "The book is a culmination of four years of image gathering across the entire country," Shive wrote in an e-mail. Shive, a National Parks magazine photographer and member of the International League of Conservation Photographers, took several trips across America, including a 7,500-mile, 20-day journey in which he hit 17 national parks.
PBS actually has a similar project, the Ken Burns PBS series The National Parks. But when it comes to photography's role in conservation, Shive writes that the "power of a single image can never be replaced ... One image has the power to tell a story, spark imagination and educate people within a few seconds ... versus sitting down and watching a 30-minute documentary."
Like Jackson, Shive's mission is to inspire the creation of new parks, as well as the protection of what we already have. His hope, he wrote, is that "the book simply inspires people to connect with the outdoors and our parks." When asked which single place, of all the photographs in his book, readers should visit, Shive offered a response that would have pleased Jackson: "Yellowstone National Park, because it has the ability to let a person step back in time and see the United States in a way that has been completely lost to development and expansion." View more photos by Shive on his Web site.