He's a Summerlin resident who travels the globe to photograph nature. Peter Lik's galleries hold print after print, each one proof of his uncanny genius behind the camera.
He recently opened his 13th gallery at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South. More than 600 people turned out Feb. 25 to view his two new releases: "Picturesque," which shows a stand of Aspen trees in all their autumn brilliance, and "River of Zen," which shows a cascading brook with red leaves dominating one corner.
Jon Williamson and his girlfriend, Jean Chan, own seven Peter Lik pieces.
"It's beautiful photography ... Every piece that comes out is better than the last one," he said.
John and Dina Erdag of Pahrump own two Lik pieces. Both are photos of the desert.
"One of them has a pictograph. It's out of Grand Canyon, and it's just magnificent," John Erdag said. "We saw it and thought it was so unusual ... You don't expect it right in the middle of the Grand Canyon of all places, to see this thing that's thousands of years old."
His wife added that they own the work of impressionists such as Chagall, as well.
"We appreciate the technique and the style of the old pieces, but his (Lik's) are just so fresh," she said.
Lik is self-taught, having started taking photographs at age 8 when his parents gave him a Kodak Brownie camera. Lik credits his success to a chance meeting with Allen Prier, a noted photographer.
"I was shooting with a 35-millimeter transparency. It was the olden days, 10 years ago," said Lik, "and I was getting my photos processed when he came in. He had a panoramic format. It encompasses so much more than 35-millimeter format. We got talking and became mates."
Speaking with Prier convinced him to move to a large format, as well. He became adept at the new challenge.
Lik said he "always felt constricted because (with) the format of the 35-millimeter photographs, you're just taking little boxes. But this is like two or three times the size."
He became so adept that last year marked two milestones in his career. Lik sold his photograph "One," taken on the banks of the Androscoggin River in New Hampshire, for $1 million. Another photo, "Ghost," went on exhibition as part of the Nature's Best Photography exhibit in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
As many of his shots are of Mother Nature in her undisturbed best, Lik often has to trek the wilds to find that perfect shot. But then, he said he likes camping and being out in nature. He has shot live volcanoes and thunderstorms. What's the best part?
"It's just the adrenaline, I guess," he said.
Then he changed course and corrected himself.
"Actually, the best part is that you don't know what's around the corner. You don't know what's going to happen with the weather," he said.
The weather necessitates that a photographer have patience. No matter how beautiful the subject, if the light's not right, he said, there's no reason to shoot it.
"It's all about being there at the right moment," he said. "When the light's no good, then your shots aren't good. So you have to wait for that magical one or two seconds. When you get the shot, it's phenomenal."
He takes as many as 30 photos in those few seconds. Later, back in his southwest Las Vegas studio, he isolates the one frame that's best.
"You take lots of shots because you don't know if the sunset's going to get worse or better, so you're constantly shooting," he said. "You always have to cover yourself."
Amazingly, the $1 million photo of the reflection in the Androscoggin River came from a single moment -- just one shot -- taken at the opportune split second of time. Then, just like that, the moment was gone.
Lik said the most fun he's had was photographing a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was an experience he likened to "seeing Mother Nature born in front of me."
The volcano was unpredictable, exploding all over the place, he said. His eyes lit up at recalling the shoot.
Once he's shot a locale, Lik seldom returns to it. An exception is the Grand Canyon. The seasons bring out different aspects of the canyon, he said, and the weather and cloud patterns can be dramatic elements. He said there are so many possibilities that he can always find something new to photograph there. He's been back to shoot it many times.
How difficult is it for him to be out in nature and not grab his camera?
"I can't do it," he said. "It's an extension of my body."
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 387-2949.