article by Mike Kemp
Ed Cooley was returning from a week long arctic cruise where he was photographing polar bears when he heard the news: he had been named a Professional Photographer Association’s Diamond Photographer.
“At first I could not believe it and did a few double takes,” he said recently following a tour of the Northeast to photograph fall foliage. “I was three merits away from my master which added to the suspense.”
“I had two merits in the bag from district and was on pins and needles waiting to see if I qualified. My best selling image of the year was a scene of the Dark Hedges from North Ireland, which had not scored well in state or district. I just felt it was not properly understood by the judges so I stuck with it and took the risk.”
Having all four of his competition images accepted into the Professional Photographers of America’s Loan Collection during the International Photographic Competition made Cooley one of 19 photographers granted this honor.
The images were taken from all across the globe. “Enchanted” features a tree-lined street in northern Ireland, “Solitude” is a beautiful landscape from Tuscany, “Riveting” is a detail of a rusting abandoned grain hopper in Buffalo, NY, and “Majestic McKinley” is a breathtaking photo of a clearing storm over Mt. McKinley.
Cooley’s photographic career took a much different path than most. For 25 years, he and his wife Faith operated Strategy Systems, a technology firm that provided logistics software to over 600 trucking companies across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
His love of photography began as a hobby to relieve work stresses, he said. “As with most hobbyists, I progressed in capability and equipment and really enjoyed the experience of being outdoors looking for scenes to photograph.”
On a photography outing in October 2009, Cooley’s life took a radical change. While exploring the Richland Creek Wilderness area, he came upon the Twin Falls of the Devil’s Fork and began to establish his shot. In the process of doing that, the cliff he was standing on gave way, and he fell nearly 30 feet, landing at the base of the waterfall.
He ended up in the basin of the falls with a small tree on top of him, pinning him in the cold waters up to his waist. However, a gift from his wife was instrumental in saving his life.
“Fortunately, I had a satellite beacon and after eight hours help arrived and dragged me out to the hospital,” Cooley said. It would take rescuers another 12 hours to get him out of the water and out of the canyon before a 50-mile trip to a hospital where he began his recovery.
'During recovery I couldn't be stuck in the office and passed operation of my computer software company to my right hand and started photography full time,” he said. “A month after my surgeries and physical therapy I returned to work to resume my software development work and hated every minute. After a couple of weeks I knew that part of my life was over and have not coded a line since. Engaging in my photography career was therapy and lifted my spirits.”
Although many members of the PPA specialize in portraiture, Cooley’s work concentrates on natural subject matter, with a heavy emphasis on landscapes and architecture. He sells his art to private collectors through his online gallery, as well as his storefront located in Rogers.
And while Cooley travels far and wide to pursue his subject matter, he insists that the locale isn’t his primary motivation.
“It's not so much the subject matter I pursue as the technical qualities of light and composition that motivates me,” he explained. “Since I sell fine art prints of my work, I have to be realistic about subject matter that is marketable.”
To view more of Cooley’s work, visit his website at www.edcooleygallery.com. His physical gallery is located at 115 South Second Street in Rogers, and is open 2-6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.