Famous nature photo-graphers are, by and large, an intrepid bunch and perhaps Galen Rowell could be said to be the most
intrepid of them all.
His achievements include first ascents of challenging mountain peaks around the world including the
Andes, Alaska, Pakistan's Karakoram Himalaya, Tibet, Nepal, China, Greenland, and many more, and more than 100 first ascents
of technical climbs in the Sierra Nevada.
Famous nature photographers aren't born, they are made, and they usually start their career fairly young.
Galen Rowell was no exception, and by the age of 10 he had already been into the wilderness on some of the famous Sierra
Club outings. By the age of 16 he made his first climb in Yosemite Valley.
He saw photography as a way of sharing his experiences and the wonders he saw with friends and family. By the age of
32 he was a full-time photographer, and one year later his work was on the cover of National Geographic. As well as National
Geographic, he worked for Life, Outdoor Photographer and other publications.
His love of adventure took him to places like Nepal, China, Patagonia and Canada plus major expeditions to Mount Everest, more than
35 journeys altogether. From these exotic trips to places most of us will never visit, Rowell produced 17 large-format
His wife Barbara, accompanied Rowell on most of his travels, and she also photographed her own adventures. Many of her images
were used by National Geographic and other magazines and books. She had her own Cessna 206 and was the pilot for most
of Rowell's aerial photographs as well as his business partner.
Shortly after returning from an expedition to the birthing grounds of the rare and endangered Tibetan antelope called the
chiru who live on the Chang Tang Plateau, Rowell and his wife Barbara were killed in a plane crash in Bishop,
California on the 11th of August, 2002. This tragic event robbed the world of one of the most bold and adventurous
photographers of our time.
Rowell won many awards in his life time, including the Sierra Club Ansel Adams' Award for "bringing breathtaking images
of high and wild places... to new and growing audiences" in 1984, and the North American Nature Photography Association's
Award for Lifetime Achievement in Nature Photography, awarded posthumously in 2003.
If you are interested in holding some of Rowell's own work in your hands, Galen Rowell: A Retrospective contains a
wonderful selection of 175 images representing a cross-section of all of Rowell's work, with images which have been reproduced to a very
The photographs cover a wide range of subjects including climbing, exotic cultures, endangered wildlife, rare natural
phenomena, and visionary landscapes.
His friends and associates have contributed essays and commentaries and
there is biographical introduction by Robert Roper and an essay by the photography critic Andy Grundberg.
To see more of Galen
Rowell: A Retrospective
just click the link.
There are also some wonderful photographs on Rowell's website, www.mountainlight.com, plus many excellent
articles written by Rowell himself.
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