Nestled amidst the lush expanses of the Snoqualmie Valley resides photographer Ken Shipley, whose pictures are a vivid celebration of the Pacific Northwest’s untamed beauty.
Shipley’s love for photography started when he was young, growing up in San Diego in a makeshift darkroom engineered by his father. This space swiftly became Ken’s creative haven, starting a passion that would later be nurtured through his active roles in high school and college, earning a degree in journalism at SDSU.
Ken’s early professional journey into the world of local news post-college was marked by an unrewarding struggle for financial viability, ultimately compelling him to pursue more stable career avenues. However, his love for photography remained, and he later embraced the art form again, this time in the swiftly evolving digital era.
Says Ken, “When I first started with digital, I was a little arrogant. I thought, I know how to work a camera. Light is still light; glass is still glass; how different can it be? I was humbled pretty quickly and spent a lot of time alone during the pandemic trying to figure out the nuances of making a good raw file. A good negative was the key to a good image in the past. The raw file serves that same purpose today.”
Today, Ken’s engagement with photography is marked by an altruistic, almost philosophical aversion to commercialization. “I don’t really sell my work. I’m almost militantly against it. In my first go-round, having to make photography pay took all the fun out of it. At this point, it’s entirely a labor of love. Catch and release, like my old fly-fishing hobby.”
Shipley is also reluctant to give his work away. He feels like he’s taking money out of the hands of working artists. His work is freely shared, finding its home across social media platforms. His Instagram feed has become a digital gallery, offering a window into the landscapes and poignant moments that define the valley he calls home. Still, Ken says, “If there are community groups out here in the valley who need some photo work done, look me up. I’m all about community.” His contact information can be found at shipley-nw.com.
The choice for Ken and his family to lay down roots in the quaint town of North Bend was as much a stroke of fate as it was a financial decision. Says Ken of their move, “It was a total accident. My wife and I were living in Seattle, and we both got jobs on the east side. We went looking in Bellevue. Too expensive. Issaquah. Too expensive. We wandered into North Bend — my wife grew up in Auburn and went to 6th-grade camp at Camp Waskowitz, and she thought the bus had driven to South Dakota — and found a place in Cedar Village. A few years later, we settled in Old Si View. That picture (in our gallery) I included of Mt. Si was shot from our mailbox.” (Featured Image)
Drawn in by the affordability that eluded them in larger cities, they discovered a community rich in charm and familiarity. Once the Shipleys got settled, there was no thought of leaving. When they retired, they considered other places but said there was no place better than this. Says Ken, “We are North Benders.”
Ken takes most of his shots in the valley, but one of his favorite things is to pick a direction, drive for a couple of hours and see what’s there that day. He can get from the ocean to the plains with mountains, rivers, valleys, cities, towns, and all the gorgeousness in between. Ken has lived in the PNW for 35 years, and every day, he’s seen something that makes him gasp a little bit at the beauty. He says it makes picture-taking easy.
As retirement dovetailed with the solitude of the pandemic, Shipley found solace in his photography. His mission transcended personal enjoyment: it became about documenting and contributing to the valley community—a gesture of giving back to the place that had given him so much.
[Visit the gallery page to see examples of Ken’s work]