Plane Crash Kills Photographers Galen, Barbara Rowell

By Chris Clarke

BISHOP, California, August 12, 2002 (ENS) - Renowned photographers Galen and Barbara Cushman Rowell died early Sunday morning in a crash of a twin engine turboprop plane south of the Bishop, California airport. Pilot Tom Reed and passenger Carol McAfee, both of Bishop, also died in the crash.

Galen Rowell, one of the world's most celebrated modern nature photographers, was best known for his portrayals of mountains. An avid mountain climber with hundreds of first ascents credited to him, he photographed extensively in the Sierra Nevada and in the mountains of Central Asia.

He wrote, edited, and contributed text and photos to dozens of books on subjects ranging from the high peaks of Tibet to the urban parks of the San Francisco Bay Area.


Galen & Barbara Rowell (Photo courtesy Mountain Light)
His work has appeared in such periodicals as National Geographic, Life, and Outside Magazine. In 1984, Rowell received the Ansel Adams Award for contributions to the art of wilderness photography.

Barbara Rowell, an accomplished photographer in her own right and the driving force behind the Rowells' photography business, was also an author and a passionate private pilot. Her book "Flying South," scheduled for release in October, describes a 25,000 mile, 57-leg journey through Latin America.

The Rowells, longtime habitues of the Owens Valley area, had moved their Mountain Light gallery from the Bay Area to Bishop in 2001. They were returning from a three week work related trip in the Bering Sea area.

Investigators say the plane was probably on its final approach to Bishop's airport at around 1:30 Sunday morning, and crashed several miles short of the runway.

Inyo County sheriff's deputies were notified by an person with a cell phone who witnessed the crash. The witness told police that he saw the plane approach the ground with one wing pointed toward the ground. The plane then disappeared from sight, and the witness heard the subsequent crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident. A preliminary report may be available as early as next week.


Summer dawn beneath Mt.Humphreys, California (Photo by Galen Rowell courtesy Mountain Light)
Born August 23, 1940 in Berkeley, California, to a college professor and a concert cellist, Galen was introduced to wilderness before he could walk. He began climbing mountains at the age of 10 and by age 60 he had completed more than 40 expeditions on all seven continents and to both poles.

He has produced 18 books of photos and text that exemplify his special brand of participatory wilderness photography in which the photographer transcends being an observer with a camera to become an active participant in the image being photographed.

Barbara and Galen traveled to many exotic locations, including to a National Geographic assignment in Pakistan to cover the highest war in history where they were flown throughout the Himalaya as guests of President Zia. They have also been the guests of the Dalai Lama, and served as guides to Robert Redford on a trek through Nepal.

Galen Rowell is survived by a son and a daughter, Barbara Cushman Rowell by a daughter and her mother.

{Chris Clarke is editor of Faultline, California's Environmental Magazine}