FROM A CHILDHOOD fascination with the medium of photography to achieving the reputation of one of the most respected landscape photographers in the industry, Ian Ely has been in pursuit of Mother Nature his entire life. Sometimes he gets the shot, sometimes he falls short, but the one constant in this driven photographer's life is the motivation and spirit to keep moving forward.

Ely's passion for the outdoors developed during a childhood spent exploring his home state of California. It was nurtured on family road trips and wilderness camping excursions in the Midwest. But the true catalyst for what would become his calling was his experience as a young boy traversing the mountains of Colorado aboard a backcountry steam train. At the time, Ely was so struck by the powerful beauty of the wild, unfettered landscape it made an indelible and enduring impression on his young sensibilities.

At the age of 10, he was able to obtain his first camera by winning a magazine- selling contest. That win put into place the building blocks of what would evolve into a brilliant career. He also began collecting postcards from across the country, which fed his enthusiasm for the landscape image and became a defining source of his childhood aspiration to become a professional photographer.

Those images were his "happy place," he says, and despite sharing a bedroom with three boisterous brothers, the world he created around his little corner of a bunk bed sustained the dreams of the life he envisioned for himself. Ely still has that original boyhood postcard collection. And now, many years later, he has visited 90% of the locations, capturing his own depictions of the places that instilled in him such a lasting connection with nature.

Without the luxury of digital technology, the young Ely spent all his chore money on film for his camera. At that time, every click of the shutter cost him. It was this early training that taught him the discipline to develop both his technique and his attention to detail.

After high school, Ely worked for a time with his father in the construction business. Although he always knew a life constrained by rules and time clocks was not for him, his experience in the industry proved valuable when it came to building his first gallery.

Fueled by his parents' mantra that the best way to do something is just to do it, and that "can't" is an unacceptable word, Ely eschewed a college education and jumped feet first into his photography career with no formal training. To this day he is completely self-taught and has never even read a book on photography. His entire repertoire of skills is based on talent, practice and hard work. In 2015, Ely's magnificent image of Grewingk Glacier in Alaska, entitled "Crystal Passage," placed first in the International Photography Awards, a fitting testament to his unwavering commitment to the development of his craft.

For the majority of his early career, Ely spent much of his time traveling the country to promote his work at art shows, attending back-to-back events and rarely allowing himself more than three or four weekends off a year. Combined with the time spent shooting on location, he became accustomed to long periods away from home. Indeed, to this day, he still considers his true home behind the lens of a camera, wherever that might take him, always in pursuit of the perfect image. That said, recording a scene�even one that captures Mother Nature at her most spectacular�is just part of what Ely tries to achieve with his photography.

"I want the viewer to feel the same connection I do, as if they were right there on the beach at sunrise or standing beneath a majestic waterfall," says Ely.

"I know it's a big ask, but it's both my challenge and my motivation. And it's absolutely what I live for."

Clearly, building his body of work has meant that his life is spent in constant motion. But he has also managed to develop the patience needed to wait for nature to reveal her true beauty. A kind of stillness is required, along with trust that the hours or days invested in a location will be rewarded�against a timetable not always dictated by the photographer. Together, those qualities�talent, vision, perseverance and hard work� served Ely well as he looked to take his photography to the next level. In 2016, he chose the upmarket seaside community of La Jolla, California, as the site of his first eponymous gallery. It was a massive financial and emotional undertaking to put down roots into bricks and mortar, especially given Ely's commitment to adhering to the highest standards of quality when he sets about making something�whether that's a single photograph or an entire building. For instance, his love of nature guided his choice of stonework, flooring and the environmentally friendly furnishings throughout the gallery. The exquisitely crafted frames Ely uses for his photographs are also made with nature's finest materials, including unique timbers sourced from Italy and sustainably harvested teak from Indonesia. And via his fine arts publishing business, called Ian Ely Publishing, he produces the high-quality books and calendars featuring his work.

All of this represents a true labor of love� and one that has resulted in enduring and overwhelming success.

Never a man content to coast on the strength of his own accomplishments, Ely's intention is to open 20 galleries over the next decade, located in strategic sites throughout the United States, in an effort to bring his photography to more people.

That's an extremely ambitious goal. But in typical Ely style, to those who think he "can't" his answer is, and always will be, "Just watch me."

In the end, all visionary artists tend to be driven by a handful of common goals�to create great art, to reach the people who will be moved by it and to build a legacy. But Ely chooses to sum up his life's work in a far more modest way. "We all have a job to do," he says. "And mine is to capture perfect moments."

�Ian Ely Corporation, Ian Ely Gallery. All Rights Reserved.


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