A third-generation native of California, Nels picked up his first camera at the age of 16 when he discovered an abandoned twin-lens reflex in the closet that had once belonged to his grandfather. It had film in it with a few frames remaining, so he clicked off a couple of shots of his brothers and sent in the roll to be developed. When it came back the package contained the blurry photos of his brothers from that week– stacked with holiday pictures shot by his grandpa of him and his brothers 8 years previously. The camera had secretly created a juxtaposition of moments that spanned half his lifetime, and it was like he’d been bashed over the head with a magic wand.
Nels earned a BA in Communication Arts at Loyola Marymount University. While still an undergraduate, he began photographing local LA bands in his spare time, which led to shooting his first album for a major label while still in school. Album packages followed for artists such as The Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Brown, RATT, and Def Leppard.
In the 90′s Nels began to focus on creating images for posters for film and television, continually developing his work by combining extensive research with meticulous lighting and staging techniques. He takes inspiration for his use of light from mid-20th century Hollywood photographers such as George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull, and Ruth Harriet Louise; also Renaissance painters, especially Durer and Bosch; and the work of graphic novel / comics artists including Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane and Joe Quesada.
Some of his clients include: Clients: Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, HBO Networks, MGM, Miramax Films, New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox Films, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros Pictures, Atlantic Records, Capitol Records EMI Records, Elektra Records, Island Records, Universal Music, Warner Music.