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Santa Barbara County man travels the globe to document stories about nature

Nature photographer and documentary host/producer Ian Shive in the Aleutian Islands.
Nature photographer and documentary host/producer Ian Shive in the Aleutian Islands.

Ian Shive is an acclaimed nature photographer and the host of series and documentaries for the Discovery Channel. He'll speak in Santa Barbara Thursday.

He’s a globe-trotting nature photographer and documentary host from the Santa Ynez Valley.

Ian Shive uses his work to tell stories about little known, and sometimes rarely seen parts of the world. Shive was born on the East Coast and grew up around photography, so he says his interest came naturally.

"My father was a photographer, he started in classic rock and roll when I was a little kid," said Shive. "I grew up in a darkroom. I was enamored with the idea of putting a piece of paper into what looked like a bucket of water, and suddenly an image would appear."

But, he didn’t think about it as a career. Seeing it firsthand through the eyes of his family, he saw how hard it could be at times.

Shive moved to Los Angeles. He worked for a movie studio, and became a studio publicist, with a very successful career. But, Shive would spend much of his spare time photographing national parks.

American Bison in Yellowstone National Park.
Ian Shive
American Bison in Yellowstone National Park.

"Those last few years at the studio, I found I was getting pulled more and more into nature," said Shive. "I had photos that I had put up with a stock photo agency, and they started selling to places like National Geographic and Time magazine. I started getting checks for them. and this light bulb sort of went off."

He admits it was a big gamble, because his career was going well. "I made what I considered a very difficult decision. My job was going well after ten years at a studio," said Shive. "I quit, and I basically went on assignment for the next four years as a photographer."

Ian Shive

Shive did a very successful book called The National Parks: Our American Landscape. He was honored with the Ansel Adams Award for Nature Photography. That led to him producing and hosting a Discovery Channel series Nature in Focus.

The nature photographer hopes his photos, and his video project help make nature’s stories more accessible to others. He feels like his work can take people to see nature, and places they will never see otherwise.

Shive is speaking in Santa Barbara this Thursday night. It’s an event called America’s Wildest Places: Two Decades of Our National Parks and National Wildlife Refuge System.

The 5:30 p.m. event is at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. It’s presented by the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, and the US National Wildlife Refuge Association.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.