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Customer Review

52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Galen Rowell's Legacy Captured Beautifully in a Knockout Tribute Book, November 8, 2006
This review is from: Galen Rowell: A Retrospective (Hardcover)
I had the privilege of taking a photography class from the renowned Galen Rowell a few years before his tragic death in 2002. I remember very well how he told of his painstaking effort in racing across a plateau to capture the end of a rainbow as it looked like it was landing on the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. His images have inspired me to take my travel photography more seriously, even if his techniques went well over my head. Fortunately, the Sierra Club has seen fit to produce this handsome tribute, which contains about 175 of his most impressive photos, many never before published. I own a couple of his photo collections already, but the cumulative effect of this book is mesmerizing.

Even though he was heralded as the natural successor to Ansel Adams because of the vivid landscapes he often captured through his lens, Rowell was actually at his best when he showed the striking juxtaposition of a human element in his nature pictures, for example, showing rock climber Ron Kauk precariously clinging to the underside of a precipice on a Marin beach. What comes across quite clearly is a man who fulfilled his life philosophies every day, a passionate melding of artist, adventurer and environmentalist, who made a pint of anticipating his opportunities while living in the moment. To reinforce this, the editors have incorporated several testimonials from Rowell's colleagues and admirers such as Tom Brokaw, mountaineer Conrad Anker and photographer Frans Lanting, who lends particular insight into Rowell's singular motivation in transcending the reality of what he saw.

Lanting's comments lend context to Rowell's frequent use of the split neutral density filter, which intensified the color saturation in many of his most famous photos, some to a point where the image can look almost artificially enhanced. Case in point, take a look at how deeply orange the skies are in some of his sunrise photos. At the same time, the startling images he captured in Patagonia and the Karakoram Himalayas remain unparalleled, and there is hardly a more serendipitous moment than when he captured the wispy cloud formation over the split rock in the Eastern Sierras. Rowell's vision remains his own, and he leaves a legacy of photographs that resonate deeply in this book. This is a must-have for his admirers.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 27, 2010, 9:52:10 PM PDT
Richard C. says:
This comment is very late, and I have this book, I just wanted to mention that "The Split Neutral Density Filter" is actually not a saturation enhancing filter per se. It is clear on one half and neutrally gray by a certain number of stops, and has a slow or fast "ramp" from clear to the dark side which is what makes thew filter a "soft shift" (slow ramp) or "hard shift" (fast ramp) filter.
The filter is used simply to darken a bright sky down to a reflectance close to the darker parts of the image so that most if not all of the image can be captured.
If you exposed for the sky it would get that fantastic saturated orange color, and the foreground would be black or nearly so.
With a two stop filter you are shooting the sky at f-16 and the foreground at f-8. A three stop filter opens the foreground up to f-5.6. That is a whole bunch of extra light!
I love split ND filters, and I admit I learned about them from reading Mr Rowell's articles.
Thank you Mr. Rowell, and Thank you Mrs. Rowell,
You are both sorely missed!

In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2010, 10:54:41 PM PDT
Ed Uyeshima says:
Thanks for the clarification, Richard.

In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2010, 12:48:21 AM PDT
Richard C. says:
You are very welcome...
I am only passing along what I learned from the practice of Mr. Rowell's Teachings.
However, I think this is any master's ultimate intent.
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Ed Uyeshima

Location: San Francisco, CA USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 19,963