About Us

Shawn Olesen Leslie Olesen

Shawn is an adventurer and seeks challenge in his work, travels and life. He developed an exciting career as a general contractor and built in remote and logistically difficult areas from the mountains of Ecuador to the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea. He always had a camera along to document the places, faces and wildlife of these areas and now photography is his full time vocation.

He was on the move early in life. His first adventures as a young man of eighteen found him riding the rails hobo-style across Canada and traveling across the U.S. from New Jersey to make his home in Seattle. In 1969 he hitchhiked his way from Seattle through Central America with a goal of reaching the town of San Antonio de Ibarra, Ecuador, famous for its wood carving masters. Along the way, he purchased his first professional camera, a Canon F1, in Panama City. He soon signed up with the Peace Corp and from there built schools throughout Ecuador for two years and soaked in the local culture and Spanish language.

Upon his return to Seattle he was sent by NOAA to build and teach construction in one of the most remote locations in the world, the Pribilof Islands, famous for their northern fur seals and huge bird colonies. Early in the 80's Shawn with his partner Tom Sullivan created Glacier Steel Buildings and for many years built commercial buildings across Alaska, in Dutch Harbor, which is situated 800 miles West of Anchorage, the northern interior and the southeastern cities of Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. These work locations provided him with rich opportunities to live and work with native Alaskans and deepened his interest in Alaskan wilderness and wildlife.

As a photographer he has been fortunate to have had two visits to the McNeil River Bear Sanctuary, Katmai, Alaska where he observed and photographed the Alaskan brown bear fishing for salmon. He was lucky enough to be drawn in the annual lottery this year for a third visit starting on August 22nd—stay tuned! He has also photographed the brown bears on separate trips in Katmai, Hallo Bay, and Geographic Harbor, Alaska.

In 1999 he took his first visit to Africa and has been a frequent visitor ever since. His photographic work from Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Rwanda is well documented throughout the website.

His home state of Washington also provides many opportunities for photography. This year he has photographed elk in Sequim, the sunrise at Mt. Rainer, the wheat fields of the Palouse, and the wilderness north of Spokane. You’ll find the results represented in the Places Gallery. He has also made two trips to Alaska, one for a dance ceremony of Alaskan native tribes and another to look for bears and whales around Ketchikan.

He has a trip to Africa planned for November and will be finding opportunities in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. He’ll blog about visiting these countries so that you can get a good sense of what a trip for yourself might be like, or, to reminisce about a trip you've already had.

In January 2011 he plans to visit and photograph the country and people of Laos. Beyond that, he hopes to make a plan for a trip to Bhutan perhaps in March, 2011.

Shawn uses Canon equipment and premium lenses. Especially, for wildlife trips, he brings a 500 mm lens that allow the wonderful close up images that you’ll see. He’ll write more about his equipment choices in future blogs.

Shawn creates images from situations and locations that are interesting and amusing to him. He loves connecting with people around the world and often does so without speaking their language. As you will see he has an easy nature and is able to put people at ease as well.

Shawn's Awards:

Nature's Best Photography Magazine
(which has an Exhibition Partnership with Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History) Semi finalist in two categories: “Mama Bear with Baby Bears” and “Banana Lady.”

Kwando Safaris, Maun Botswana
(Photography is judged by staff from Kwando Safaris and Africa Geographic Magazine) 2009 Overall Winner in the Kwando Safaris Photography Contest--"Flying Cheetahs" and also in the New Life Category for "Curiosity"

Nature Photographers of the Pacific NW
2010 Nature Photographers of the Pacific NW--2nd Place Wildlife Digitals--"Lion Shaking it Off"
2009 Nature Photographers of the Pacific NW—Award of Merit Wildlife Digitals--“Curiosity”
2009 Nature Photographers of the Pacific NW—1st Place Wildlife Prints-- “Impala Boys”
2009 Nature Photographers of the Pacific NW—2nd Place Wildlife Digitals—“Mama Bear and Baby Bears”