My Story Begins in the Mountains…

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

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Quite some years ago, I was camped by myself along the northern edge of Thousand Island Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness in California’s High Sierra. I had backpacked in and set up a basecamp for a full week to lose myself in the mountains, photography….and physics. Thats right; I had with me a book on the philosophy of physics education (I was a full-time physics and astronomy professor at the time), and I was looking forward to reading what it had to say. It was August and I was planning to watch and photograph the Perseid meteor shower. That week changed the course of my life.

All night long during the peak of the Perseids, you could hear whoops and hollers across the lake every time a shooting star streaked across the sky. They were from other backpackers who I didn’t realize where there. That sense of community literally brought tears to my eyes - that there were others, hidden in the darkness, who shared my amazement at the sight of those fragments from outer space catching on fire as the impacted the Earth’s atmosphere. That connection has stayed with me to this day - that there is a common bond amongst those of us who are fascinated by the natural world and our place within it.

On one of the last days at my camp, I watched a packer in the distance slowly lead a mule train down the path that would pass right next to my camp. For the very first time in my life that I can remember, I had That Feeling; the feeling that You Are About To Witness a Great Photograph. I scrambled to my feet, grabbed my camera and hastily adjusted the settings. Sure enough, he led his team right into the perfect spot, and, CLICK! You can see the result below.

We struck up a conversation and I learned he had just resupplied some campers who were higher up in the mountains. He asked about getting a copy of the photograph……..and at that moment, I realized in a flash of inspiration that I needed to start my own photography company. I went home, booted up my system and created Mike Shaw Photography.

The Moment It All Began…

Milky Way over Mt. Banner in California’s Ansel Adams Wilderness

Later, as I was editing my images, I saw a faint glimpse of a patchy something in the southern sky. Allowing myself some latitude in Lightroom, I adjusted the Develop settings….and out popped the Milky Way! That image was my first one of the Milky Way, the first to win an award, AND the first to be sold to a private individual as a gift for her brother.

That week in the High Sierra has never left my mind. While I learned a lot about teaching physics, I learned even more about photography - and began to realize how it would shape my life. What you see here are the results.