Thursday, August 11, 2022

Remembering Galen Rowell

Impact And Inspiration

My life changed on a Saturday afternoon in the late 1990s. While visiting the Carnegie Museum Of Natural History in Pittsburgh, I noticed a sign announcing a photography exhibition. I recognized the name of the photographer, Galen Rowell. I had read articles about him, but I had never seen prints of his work in person. It was an experience that I'll never forget.

I had never seen photographs like this before. The compositions were wonderful, but it was the color, the detail, and the creamy smoothness of the prints that struck me most powerfully.

I remember feeling puzzled, even bewildered. What I was seeing seemed beyond the capability of what a camera could produce. It was as though I had witnessed a magic trick that made me question things that I thought the I understood.

a photo of a new york city sunset from central park daniel south photograph

I came away from the exhibition with a strange fascination. I didn't just want to understand how he captured photos that looked like this, I wanted to be able to product images with a similar look. It became an obsession, albeit one with a positive purpose. My fascination kicked off a decades long journey of discovery.


Galen Rowell was a skilled climber and mountaineer who traveled the world photographing remote places for National Geographic. He climbed Everest and El Capitan. He photographed Nepal and Machu Picchu.

I didn't spend much time in wilderness areas. I lived in a heavily populated area and commuted into a large city for work every day.

Nevertheless, I believed that if I could study and learn Mr. Rowell's style of photography, with its brilliant colors, dramatic skies, and awe-inspiring light, I could adapt that style for use in urban areas. Sunsets happen everywhere; we don't have to venture into the wilderness to see one.

Sadly, Galen Rowell and his wife died in a plane crash on August 11, 2002, twenty years ago today. I am now the age that Galen was when he passed away.

I never had the chance to meet Galen Rowell or attend one of his workshops (which were always sold out!) but his creative vision, his artistry, and his masterful craftsmanship have inspired me since the day I first saw his prints.

Fujifilm GFX 100S
Lens:        GF 45mm f/2.8

Light happens. Be ready. Shoot hard.
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