Galen Rowell

ARTIST: Galen Rowell; August 23, 1940 – August 11, 2002; Oakland, California

Galen Rowell was an American photographer and photojournalist whose career was active in the ‘70s but whose life was cut short in a fatal plane crash. He is most noted for his nature and landscape photography that has been featured in National Geographic. Before his death in 2002, he received praise for conceiving a way to extend the dynamic range of film for high-contrast scenes.

Rowell was born in Oakland and raised in Berkeley, California. While most of his work showcases national parks and destinations around the world, he was based out of Oakland, remaining in the S.F. Bay Area until his unexpected death. Some of his most notable work was taken at Yosemite National Park where he refined his skills in nature and landscape photography.

Rowell attended Berkeley High School, graduating in 1958. He then went to UC Berkeley to study physics but dropped out to pursue his passion for mountain climbing.

Rowell did not pursue a career in photography until after he sold his automotive business in 1972. His early and later work in photography comprises many photos taken in California with its unique landscapes. He is known for his contributions to photography, humanitarian and environmental issues, and the publication of 18 books in his lifetime.

Rowell never received formal training in photography.

Rowell became a full-time photographer later in his life as an adult. Less than a year after becoming a full-time photographer, he received his first photojournalism assignment from National Geographic. His early mountain climbing photographs drew the attention of photography enthusiasts but it was his landscape photography that put him on the map with other famous landscape photographers including Ansel Adams.

Some of Rowell’s earliest inspirations were drawn from his mountain climbing experiences as a child in the High Sierras. He spent a lot of his childhood exploring the Sierras, giving him a unique perspective on its landscapes, natural lighting, contrast, and composition. Inspired by his close connection to nature and the amount of time spent there, his perspectives on nature catapulted him into international fame as a photographer, and these perspectives continued to fuel his career as a photographer.

Given his proximity to Yosemite Park and experiences mountain climbing as a child, Rowell captured many landscape photographs from a vantage point that many photographers are not able to capture. Beyond photography, Rowell completed his first rope climb at Yosemite at the age of 16 and has returned to the site numerous times up until his death. Some photography critics say that his best work came out of Yosemite.

As mentioned previously, Rowell was raised in Berkeley, California and attended Berkeley High School before considering a career in photography. While much of his photographic work was taken well past his teen years, his passion for exploration and adventure was at its height during this time. His passion for the outdoors during his teen years subsequently led to a career in photography.

~ by Vy D. Hunyh ~

External Links: 

Mountain Light Galen and Barbara Rowell –

Widewalls –

Britannica –

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