Living off the Land, Hawaii

It’s been awhile since I wrote a personal blog entry. Admittedly, life has caught up. I’ve been promoting books and tv shows and trying to get land protected while squeezing in cross-country assignments for clients I enjoy working for and whose work I enjoy doing. In the midst of it all, the blog disappeared. But today, it stages a strong comeback. At least for me.

I’m on the Island of Hawaii (the big island) wrapping up a multi-state assignment. I padded the trip by a few days and managed to squeeze out a day in one of my favorite places in the country, the Waipio Valley. A lush, tropical valley on an otherwise barren, black lava-rock island, the Waipio is a sacred place, one of the top sacred places in all of the Hawaiian Islands. As an almost immediate selling point, almost everything you find in the valley is edible. You can’t imagine the scent that precedes the taste; pomelos, tangerines, avocados, star fruit, liliquoi, coffee, bananas and on and on. For each of those, there are a half dozen various species, each with their own unique flavor. What you can’t eat, falls to the floor and ferments, casting a scent reminiscent of a Napa wine cellar, though it often competes with the breeze of the nearby salty blue, Pacific Ocean.

All of that aside, the valley is an anomaly. It was once the place where King Kamehameha ruled over the Hawaiian Islands and is still considered an important place, culturally, with many of the jungle-laden cliffs adorned with more than just foliage and waterfalls but also the tombs of countless Hawaiian princesses. Against that backdrop is also the utter isolation and wild that comes with this far-removed place – only one road in and out and it is only passable with true 4×4 vehicles and even then, the numerous rivers you must cross just to get a mile or two may flood with little warning, stranding you on one side or the other.

Alas, once in, you may meet the crux of my story, Coconut Christopher. Once a Californian, Christopher decided – at an early age – to live a wild life in the Waipio. In 2002, he forgave the luxuries of modernity and went raw. Literally. A diet of only what he could harvest or seed in this lush valley. If picking his own food wasn’t enough, avoiding cooking it was detrimental to his philosophy. Today I met him for the first time, quite wild-eyed and full of charisma. He was intriguing, not just from his extensive knowledge of the flora around us, of which his gaze on a ripe fruit would cause a tangent in conversation, but also because this young man chose a life of  raw, wild living over one of technological-2011 prowess. At one point he recalled being cutting edge with one of the first motorola flip phones. Today he marvels at cross-pollination of species to bring out the vibrancy of flavor in a banana.

I didn’t have enough time to scratch the surface of this complicated jungle fixture but I was assured within moments that he’d be here for awhile and I might come back to catch up more. If he isn’t here, he’s probably on a multi-week sojourn to the farthest depths of the forest where he maintains his many “gardens” fruit, not-so-forbidden. In my only moment of possible photography, he offered me and my companions freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. Essentially, sugar water. Lacking cups in the rain forest, he quickly procured his saw and fashioned cups from fallen bamboo. Within moments, we were modernized, jungle-style.

I couldn’t think of something more liberating than his life.  Imagine knowing you could walk for 2-weeks without a cell-phone or even a single ounce of food in a backpack. Would you feel safe? Secure? Coconut Christopher did. He shows that with knowledge, comes power and that knowledge has become a rarity of who we are. Without knowing where we come from, namely the land, how can we ever hope to understand who we are? I hope one day, we can all walk together, not for weeks, but forever into the unknown with nothing.

Wild Life Starts Production


WILD LIFE: A New Generation of Wild
Leading young actors & award-winning nature photographer unite to bring the amazing experience of travel, nature, and the great outdoors to a new generation.

Los Angeles, CA: Actors James Lafferty (One Tree Hill), Stephen Colletti (One Tree Hill, Laguna Beach) and Stuart Lafferty (Death Sentence, One Tree Hill), will team up with Award- Winning Nature Photographer and Author Ian Shive, for a special unscripted pilot exploring some of the America’s wildest places.

A five-minute preview will be unveiled on GenerationWild.tv on Monday, April 18th. Behind-the- Scenes photos, journal entries from the field, and a 30-second sneak preview will go live on the site April 1, 2011.

The production is a not-for-profit initiative and will be produced by the Los Angeles based company Wild Collective, LLC.

About Wild Collective: Wild Collective is a Los Angeles-based production company. Past projects include creating dynamic content for the Dallas Cowboys, Apple Computers, PBS, Insight Editions and Current TV. For more information visit WildCollective.com

Click here to download a PDF of the press release

The National Parks: Our American Landscape Paperback Edition

Ian Shive is proud to announce a new version of his popular photography book, The National Parks: Our American Landscape, as a paperback edition, on shelves March 2011. This new edition will be available at a new easy to carry size and a more affordable price point, just $24.95, and feature over 40 new images from America’s National Parks and Ian’s continued journey since the original publication of the hardcover edition.

To purchase your copy in advance, click here and buy from Amazon at over 30% discount!

To read and download the full press release as a PDF, click here

The Republic of Palau, Micronesia

Below is my personal account of my current assignment. To read more about how the images were made and the technical specs behind them, please visit my post on the Outdoor Photographer magazine blog.

When viewed from the air, the islands of Palau rise out out of the Pacific Ocean like fuzzy green worlds surrounded by surreal blue waters and coral reefs, reminiscent of James Cameron’s Avatar. The experience here has been enlightening and like many of my assignments that take me to the far ends of the magnificent planet, my mind sometimes struggles to comprehend what it is I just saw. For nearly two weeks, I’ve been here in Micronesia on the edge of the Coral Triangle east of the Philippines shooting an assignment for The Nature Conservancy. Below are some of my images from this journey:


Flying overhead in the only helicopter available in Palau, I was able to really gain perspective and get a sense of scale – not only of the place I was in, but the importance of such a pristine ecosystem. I found the aerial flight incredibly moving.


I have long enjoyed complicated landscape photos, where the scene is incredibly busy but somehow organized and elegant in its design. In nature, this happens often and with perfection. This image of a pristine coral reef was photographed in some 30 feet of water, however at the top of the frame, you can see the trees of the rock islands. At first they appear like more coral, but soon you realize they are above the surface. Photos like this remind me that all worlds are connected.


Speeding through the islands on a high-powered, small craft was typically the most comfortable part of the day, as the wind cut through the humidity keeping me cool in the warm, dense air.


A geographical and evolutionary fluke, these jellyfish are trapped in a land-locked lake only a few hundred feet from the open ocean. Thousands of years ago, however, they became isolated in an environment from which they could thrive on the abundant plankton. Over time and with no predators, they evolved to become stingless jellyfish and now a popular place to go snorkeling with these mysterious and peaceful creatures.