Galen Rowell

Thursday, March 16th 2023

Galen Rowell (1940-2002) was an American photographer, writer, and mountaineer who is considered one of the most influential landscape photographers of the 20th century. He is best known for his striking images of the natural world, particularly mountains and wilderness areas, which he captured during his many expeditions and adventures around the globe. He was born in Oakland, California, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Rowell's work was significant because it helped to inspire a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists, who were drawn to his awe-inspiring images of the natural world. His photographs were also notable for their technical excellence and his innovative use of color and composition.

One of Rowell's most notable works is his book "Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape," which was published in 1986. The book is a collection of his most striking landscape images, accompanied by essays that explore his philosophy of photography and his love of the natural world. The book is considered a classic of the landscape photography genre and has inspired countless photographers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Another notable work by Rowell is his book "Poles Apart: Parallel Visions of the Arctic and Antarctic," which was published in 1995. The book is a collection of images and essays that explore the polar regions of the Earth, from the frozen tundra of the Arctic to the icy expanses of Antarctica. The book is notable for its stunning images of the polar landscape, as well as its insights into the unique challenges and rewards of photographing in these extreme environments.

Overall, Galen Rowell's work is significant because it captures the awe-inspiring beauty and power of the natural world, while also raising awareness about the need to protect and preserve these fragile environments. His technical mastery and innovative use of color and composition have inspired countless photographers and helped to establish landscape photography as a respected art form.


Rowell became interested in photography at an early age and started taking pictures with a Brownie camera when he was just ten years old. He later studied photography at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to work as a photographer for various newspapers and magazines.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Rowell became increasingly interested in mountaineering and wilderness exploration. He made several expeditions to remote areas of the world, including the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Karakoram Mountains. His mountaineering experiences inspired him to take up landscape photography, and he soon became known for his stunning images of the natural world.

Rowell's work was notable for its technical excellence and his innovative use of color and composition. He often used a technique called "balanced lighting," in which he used a combination of artificial and natural light sources to create images that were both dramatic and realistic.

In addition to his photography, Rowell was also an accomplished writer and wrote several books about his experiences as a mountaineer and photographer. His books include "Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape," "Poles Apart: Parallel Visions of the Arctic and Antarctic," and "Inner Game of Outdoor Photography."

Galen Rowell and his wife Barbara died in a plane crash near Bishop, California, in 2002.