on November 24, 2003
Galen Rowell was a world-class mountaineer and photographer. He passed away with his wife in an airplane crash on August 11, 2002.
He was a master of color landscapes and had the knack of catching unique combinations of light in the memorable photos that can be seen in his Mountain Light Gallery. Interestingly, he eschewed the large format cameras used by Ansel Adams and used exclusively 35mm cameras from Nikon (thus thoroughly debunking the orthodoxy that 35mm cannot be used for serious landscape photography).
In this book, Rowell lays out his relation to mountains, his artistic vision and his photographic techniques, in an engaging and lively style alternating between theoretical text and more illustrative intermezzos with detailed descriptions of the story behind each image (reminiscent of Ansel Adams' Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. Like Ansel Adams, he was a member of the Sierra Club, but ecological preoccupations are woven subtly in the text. He shows a photo taken near a 4900 year old bristlecone pine that was felled by a botanist who couldn't be troubled to special-order a core sampling borer from Switzerland.
The photos in the book are gorgeous, but this is no mere coffee-table book (it is too affordable to be one, for starters). All in all, I believe this book is a must-read for anyone interested in landscape photography, even if you are not into the strenuous physical style he favored.
on September 13, 2003
The most negative review here is by someone who liked the pictures but hated what the reviewer saw as a demonstration of Rowell's ego in the text. I liked the text and enjoyed the detailed stories that went along with each picture. The text does involve Rowell talking about what he thought at the time he took the pictures, but I didn't view it as an unwarranted ego trip, the pictures are beautiful and Rowell need not be apologetic about having taken them.
Having said that, the book will do next to nothing for most amateur photographers as far as teaching them skills, a lot of the photographs in circumstances unlikely to be encountered by the weekend photographer. I guess the major take away is: find a good composition and wait for dusk, or dawn.
on April 10, 2001
Galen Rowell's "Mountain Light" teaches beginning, intermediate and even advanced landscape photographers more about "seeing" than any other landscape photography book I have read. Unlike many other great photographers who cannot explain their craft with great clarity (including the incomparable Henri Cartier-Bresson who simply says it is "geometry"), Rowell is articulate and explains what he is doing technically, but more important artistically. Rowell has often been compared to the American landscape portrait artist Thomas Cole--but Thomas Cole on his best day could never have produced the quality of art that Galen Rowell gives to us every day. A lot of books can teach you technique; Rowell shows technique as a part of art. The art drives the technique and not the other way around. Everyone can learn something useful from this book. A tour de force.
on January 6, 2001
This book is a masterpiece. Galen Rowell adores the natural world and it shows. The collection of images is the most inspiring I have ever seen. It could only have been made by someone who spends a lot of time in the wild and loves that world. The narratives explain the thinking behind each image, from the artistic, geographic and technical perspectives that went into making it. For anyone interested in photograghing nature, this book is a must!
on December 26, 2000
IF you love the mountains and the feeling they give you as you take in their grandeur...or if you love photographing these majestic places, this book will likely become one of your favorites. As a landscape photographer, I've poured over literally thousands of landscape photos - in books, slides and magazines - but the work of Galen Rowell stands alone in the realm of mountain landscapes. As Arthus-Bertrand has mastered photography from above (aerial) and Doubilet from below (undersea), Rowell has mastered the mountains.
If you pay attention to his photos and read what Rowell has to say about the making of each, you will begin to "see the light" - quite literally. No one captures the ethereal like Galen Rowell. He has the rare ability to sense and then photograph those fleeting moments that most (even many photographers) only daydream about. His photos will not only impress your eyes but they will tug at your soul. If ever a collection of photographs defined the majesty and mystery of mountians, this is it.
on December 13, 2000
This is a book of landscape photography which works both as a coffee table presentation of some of renowned photographer Galen Rowell's most famous images, and as an informal teach-by-example guide to photography. The images range from familiar scenes of Yosemite and the Rockies, through to shots of the mountains of Pakistan and elsewhere taken during the author's career as a climber. Each is accompanied by text describing the story of how the image came to be taken, and what the photographer was thinking at the time (in some cases, apparently, "this one will sell well"!).
My sole gripe is that although the reproductions of the images are excellent, the rest of the layout is only so-so. But this is a minor complaint about a truly inspiring book. Together with John Shaw's more conventional "how-to" books, this would make an ideal gift for the aspiring landscape photographer.
on July 31, 2000
I've read probably 20 books on photographic instruction, leafed through at least a hundred more, spent countless hours on web articles, sites, talking to people, and at least as much time taking pictures, but this is first time I can truly say that something changed my perspective of the craft. After reading each chapter I would shoot a roll of film with more confidence and better artistic and technical results.
What is most striking to me is how generous Galen is with information. He explains how things work, not by telling you what to do, but by relating what HE did, which helped me draw my own conclusions and understand the material more thoroughly. For example, most photographers know that polarizers increase color saturation, cut down on glare, etc. but Galen goes the extra step of integrating the explanation with his style of photography and use of light. My appreciation for the utility of polarizers increased tenfold. He does a similar job of demystifing many other aspects of photography.
I really can't say enough about Galen Rowell's messages, whether they are technical, artistic, or even philosophical. Everything made sense. After reading between the lines I realized it's not just for photography instruction, but a way to approach life itself. Read his thoughts about "Luck" and you will know what I mean.
Thank you Galen!
on February 2, 2000
Just finished reading every remarkable word of this excellent book. Most of these photographs cannot be taken by normal mortals. They are unique, beautiful and inspiring. But on top of this Galen has researched this material in depth, providing lots of historical and cultural detail plus a personal glimpse of the life and action going on around these enLIGHTening photographs. Are there any jobs like this still open? If you are into photography, mountains and rare air, get this book.
on October 23, 1998
Like Galen Rowell, I am a professional photographer specialising in landscape and mountain subjects. Also like him, I am what is sometimes called 'self-taught'- which, of course, means we never took college courses in photography, but have learned from many people, both in person and from books. (Has there been a genuinely self-taught photographer since Fox Talbot?) In my case, one of the most- perhaps the most- significant books has been 'Mountain Light'. There are other photographers who are as good as Galen Rowell, but very few who can write so clearly and illuminatingly about the creative and technical processes involved. Ansel Adams, of course, is the towering exception, but he was principally concerned with black and white large format photography. Galen Rowell speaks directly to those who work in colour and with smaller cameras. Adams is essential reading, but so is Galen Rowell.
on August 11, 1997
If you're a photographer, you owe it to yourself to read this book. The images are beautiful, but the text! That ties together the images. The matter of fact description of amazing feats that Galen Rowell had to go through to get those pictures just takes your breath away