Photo (Above): Cloud rising out of the Owens Valley at sunrise, Eastern Sierra, California
Fifteen years ago last month, I received a phone call from my friend and former fellow co-worker (and now a very accomplished photographer) Jerry Dodrill informing me that our boss(es), Galen Rowell, and his wife Barbara, had been killed in a plane crash on a late night approach into the Bishop airport. The accident happened just miles from where they lived and had re-established their business and gallery, Mountain Light Photography after relocating from the Bay Area. In fact, just last month I wrote a post celebrating Galen’s legacy passing on some of my favorite photo tips that I learned from him over the course of nearly a decade of working for him. What I remember most about that phone call was the feeling of disbelief and the wind being sucked out of me.
Last night I had those same feelings return, albeit to a lesser extent, when Jerry tagged me in a post on Facebook letting folks know that the beautiful Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop would be closing its doors. The Gallery, which was truly Barbara’s child and her passion, served as an ideal place to showcase Galen’s amazing photography, and had become a landmark destination stop for so many photographers who traveled to the Eastern Sierra. After their tragic deaths, the family choose to continue to run the gallery as a great business that offered educational photo workshops, exhibits, print and stock sales, and was known for hosting many community events. I’m sure they must have struggled with this decision.
The thought of going to the Eastern Sierra without stopping in at Mountain Light seems almost alien to me. Although to be totally honest, and probably due in great part to the closeness I had with Barbara and Galen and the time spent working for them, my visits to the gallery were always tinged with a bit of sadness. A melancholy swept over me each time I saw the lives of two such extraordinary people reduced to trinkets in a bookcase. But alas, I knew in my heart that those few little items were nothing in comparison to the gallery itself and the pictures hanging on the wall. That was the true legacy and memory they carried forward. Yet each visit highlighted the growing gap of time that lay between what once was and what is now. Perhaps it’s inevitable that the time came to say goodbye to that physical legacy. One other sad aspect for me was that I always thought Mountain Light had a chance to be something more, to grow above and beyond its roots. But its legacy was nonetheless treasured and carried forward by the family, the community, and fellow photographers in a way that would make anyone proud, and the beauty that was constantly on display left visitors in awe for the special splendor of our natural world that Galen captured so magnificently.
The above photo is one that lives with me as a reminder to the spirit of Galen, Barbara, and Mountain Light. It was shot from roughly the same area as Galen’s famous Split Rock and Cloud image which graces the cover of his seminal book, Mountain Light. I see this image, and I feel their spirit. The memories of the Rowell’s and Mountain Light will live on in myself and the countless number of others whose work and lives they touched.
(While there’s no official announcement by the Mountain Light Gallery on its website or Facebook page other than a “Gallery Closing Print Sale” banner, the best information available is that the gallery will likely close sometime after the middle of October, 2017.)
If you like this post , I would greatly appreciate it if you’d consider sharing this with your friends using one of the Social Media sharing buttons located at the top or bottom of this post. You can also sign up to receive free updates by email when future posts are made to this blog.
Gary Crabbe is an award-winning commercial and editorial outdoor travel photographer and author based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He has seven published books on California to his credit, including “Photographing California; v1-North”, which won the prestigious 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal award as Best Regional title. His client and publication credits include the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME, The North Face, Subaru, L.L. Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Sunset Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Gary is also a photography instructor and consultant, offering both public and private photo workshops. He also works occasionally a professional freelance Photo Editor.