A Second Chance for Big Dreams
A computer engineer by trade, Ed Cooley made his living programming logistics software. For 25 years he and his wife Faith owned and operated "Strategy Systems, Inc." a technology company that has automated more than 600 trucking companies across the US, Canada and Mexico.
As the years progressed, Ed spent more and more time photographing the great outdoors. His favorite past time is exploring wilderness areas alone with plenty of time to soak in the scenery without the distractions of his business concerns.
One chilly afternoon in late October, Ed was hiking the Richland Creek Wilderness. The area is located in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas with rugged geography, crystal clear streams and intimate waterfalls. Wilderness areas are a nature photographer's paradise. They have no marked trails, no restricted areas and most importantly, no people! It is not uncommon to spend days hiking the area without seeing another soul. This day, Ed stood on the edge of a cliff overlooking a scene of incredible beauty called the "Twin Falls of the Devil's Fork" where two streams have almost identical waterfalls plunging into the same basin. The scene was breathtaking and due to a rainy autumn the falls were thundering. While contemplating the best location for his photograph, the cliff he was standing on collapsed dropping him 25-30 feet into the base of the waterfalls. Ed came to rest partially submerged in the cold water pinned under a tree that also fell from the top of the cliff. Severely injured with a shattered leg and his pelvic broken in two, Ed was totally alone: in the middle of nowhere.
Fortunately for him, his wife had given him a locator beacon and as promised, he kept it in the front pocket of his hiking pants. Realizing his dire condition, Ed pressed the 911 button on his locator and set it above his head on the bank of the stream. After seven hours and well into the dark of night Ed was sure he would not survive the cold until morning. Suddenly a rescue party arrived yelling his name. They removed the tree, lifted him out of the water and began treating Ed for hypothermia. It took another 12 hours to carry him out of the canyon where he was airlifted to a hospital 50 miles away, cold and broken but alive!
After many surgeries and the prospect of months in rehab Ed faced a decision: "Now what?"
In retrospect, the decision was easy; Ed creates wonderful photographs because he has to. Art had chosen him and he realized he could not be happy doing anything else. Ed now pursues his passion full time and full tilt. Traveling 200+ days a year he is constantly exploring new locations in pursuit of that perfect shot.