Ian Ely on his latest release…


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My goal has never been to simply record a scene through my lens, but to encapsulate that intangible feeling of strength and vulnerability that only nature can evoke. I’ve been hiking the hills here for many years in search of a location that would afford me the image to definitively capture its essence. On this day the wind was high and, as the sun started its descent, I began to doubt the conditions would allow me to get the detail I required. The brushstrokes of the famous California gold painted the sky, the shadows crept across the undulating hills and, still, I had no idea what my shot was going to be. But for some reason, I felt compelled to run …

I had no idea what I was running toward, I just knew to trust in the instincts I’ve developed as a landscape photographer. And, when I came over a crest and saw this scene, I knew those instincts had paid off. This ancient oak would be several hundred years old and I knew immediately it was the hero of the shot. It seemed to whisper, “I’ve been waiting for you.” Unassuming, but definitely master of its domain, it looks like a father standing guard over its family of smaller trees. I fired off as many frames as I could as the sun dipped below the horizon then stood, for a long time afterwards, as the privilege of the moment sunk in.

There’s a depth, warmth and timelessness to this image that comes not just from the almost monochromatic golden hue, but also the natural composition of a landscape dotted with trees bent to the will of the wind over centuries. There was no sign of human disturbance and I felt an incredible sense of calm after I captured this, as if the show had been for me and me alone. That’s what I want the viewer to experience: the stillness, the serenity and the surrender to the power and beauty of nature to be enjoyed for its own sake.

I named the image Padre Roble, which means Father Oak, in Spanish, as an homage to the settlers who first arrived in this area after aborigines.