Photography and Art

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Galen Rowell

One of the most delightful discoveries of my recent workshop to the Eastern Sierras was Galen Rowell. I'm pretty sure that I'd heard of Galen before, but I'd not seen a lot of his work. For part of our workshop, we stayed in the town of Bishop California (Population 3,600), home of the Mountain Light Gallery, dedicated to displaying the works of Galen Rowell.

Galen was an adventurer and mountaineer who combined his love of the outdoors with photography. Photography was not an end, but a means of recording his life as he journeyed to the ends of the world looking for wilderness.

His images are not for the faint of heart! They tend to record brilliant sunrises and sunsets, big mountain vistas and wild animals in their natural terrain. Color abounds. Rowell used Nikon 35mm cameras that he carried with him everywhere and made good use of Fuji Velvia slide film to record the world in live and living color.

Rowell was extensively published in National Geographic as well as more specialized outdoor and climbing magazines. This allowed him the freedom of travelling the world looking for projects to photograph. However, his first love was the Eastern Sierras and that's where he came to live, in and around the hamlet of Bishop.

Tragically, he and his wife Barbara (a photographer in her own right) perished in 2002 in an airplane crash. Rowell was 62 at the time and fortunately had amassed a vast collection of images from around the world.

The Mountain Light Gallery displays about 50 of Rowell's best images. In keeping with his big, bold subjects, the prints in the gallery are blown up to huge proportions and are printed on high quality paper. Our workshop participants commented often on how these images, despite their humble 35mm origins, manage to withstand being enlarged to monumental proportions. Yes, you can see grain and the edges are far from sharp, but when viewed from an appropriate distance (like from your chair to your fireplace mantel), the images look just wonderful.

Coincidentally, when I was in Las Vegas just before the photo workshop, I stopped into a book store to find something to read in my spare moments (spare moments that didn't materialize until the flight home as it turned out) and purchased a book by Galen Rowell who was a prolific author as well as photographer and adventurer. The book, called Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, is a great read and provides an insight into how Galen approached his photography and why he succeeded in getting the shot while others failed.

If you ever find yourself down in the Eastern Sierras, make sure you stop in at the Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop. It will certainly open your eyes as to what's possible with humble 35mm equipment if you have talent and the motivation to be where the action is.

No comments:

Post a Comment