Galen Rowell

August 11, 2023

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Galen Rowell, a renowned landscape photographer of the 20th century. Born in Oakland, California in 1940, Rowell discovered his passion for nature and outdoor photography at a young age. Galen Rowell left the University of California, Berkeley, before completing his degree in physics and went on to pursue a successful career as a mountaineer, writer, and photographer.


Rowell's photography was known for his creative use of color and light, capturing the essence of remote and rugged wilderness landscapes. He was an expert in outdoor adventure photography, and his images conveyed the thrill and awe of exploring some of the world's most beautiful and remote locations. One of my personal favorites is the captivating image featured on the cover of his book "America The Beautiful," showcasing Triple Falls in Glacier National Park. While I have encountered numerous breathtaking images throughout the years, this particular photograph by Rowell evoked a sense of wanderlust that inspired me to embark on my own journeys to experience the natural beauty of the parks.??


One of Rowell's most famous images is "Rainbow over the Potala Palace," which he took during a trip to Tibet in 1979. The photograph shows the Potala Palace in Lhasa, a majestic structure that was once the winter palace of the Dalai Lama, with a rainbow arching across the sky above it. The image captures the beauty and grandeur of the palace in a unique and unforgettable way.


?Rowell worked with National Geographic for many years, documenting some of the world's most remote and beautiful places, including the Karakoram Range in Pakistan, the Arctic, and the Himalayas. His coverage of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in California helped to popularize the area as a wilderness destination.

Rowell was also a pioneer in lightweight and compact camera gear, which allowed him to travel to some of the world's most remote locations and capture stunning images of the landscapes he encountered. He was one of the first photographers to use the now ubiquitous 35mm film format, and he also embraced digital photography as it emerged in the 1990s.

In addition to his photography, Rowell was an accomplished mountaineer and adventurer. He was part of the first American team to summit the Great Trango Tower in Pakistan in 1977 and made significant climbs in the Sierra Nevada and other mountain ranges globally. His experience as a mountaineer and adventurer gave him a unique perspective on the landscapes he photographed, and his images often conveyed a sense of awe and reverence for the mountains and wilderness areas he explored.

Rowell's life was tragically cut short in 2002 when he and his wife were killed in a plane crash in California. Nevertheless, his legacy as a photographer and adventurer live on, inspiring people worldwide to explore and appreciate the natural wonders of our planet. His images continue to evoke a sense of wonder and awe, reminding us of the beauty and fragility of our world and the importance of preserving it for future generations.

I'm saddened to share the news of Galen's Gallery closing in Bishop, California. Galen Rowell's renowned gallery, nestled in the Eastern Sierra, celebrated his extraordinary photography and deep connection to nature. Its closure is a significant loss for the community, all touched by Rowell's remarkable work. His captivating images showcased the splendor and vulnerability of our planet. Let us cherish Galen Rowell's indelible legacy as a visionary photographer, inspiring awe and appreciation for the wonders of our world for generations to come.

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