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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Beyond The Range Of Light


From her home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Elizabeth Carmel is focused on capturing dramatic vistas in transition

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From her home in Truckee, California, Elizabeth Carmel explores the length and breadth of the Sierra Nevada, but she doesn’t confine herself to that landscape alone. From the Baja Peninsula to the Caribbean to Denali in Alaska, Carmel is constantly capturing new images. The click of the shutter button is only the beginning of her process of making a photograph. In Photoshop, she takes the keepers from a photo expedition and begins to work them into art.
Sunset, Bonsai Rock, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Based in Northern California, Elizabeth Carmel is one of the top nature photographers working today. Her successes come from a combination of sheer artistic talent and a persistent push to look for new ways to get her images seen. In 2006, before the age of Blurb and other small-run printers, Carmel self-published a book, Brilliant Waters: Portraits of Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and the High Sierra. In 2009, she followed that effort with her second book, The Changing Range of Light: Portraits of the Sierra Nevada.


Autumn Sunset, Zion National Park, Utah
The title The Changing Range of Light refers to the name John Muir coined for the Sierra Nevada, and it speaks to Carmel’s lifelong love affair with the region that she calls home and where she does most of her work. While many nature photographers plan trips to the far corners of the globe to capture exotic landscapes, Carmel represents the philosophy that you shoot what you know. A quick glance through the books, as well as the galleries on her website, shows a photographer who has decided that her corner of the world offers more opportunities than she or anyone can fully explore. That’s not to say that Carmel never ventures from the town of Truckee, but it’s clear that the Sierra Nevada is where she thrives and where her creative spirit is stirred into action.

In The Changing Range of Light, Carmel shows that knowing the landscape isn’t just about being able to navigate through it. Thanks to a background in environmental science, she has crafted a collection of images that shows a climate in flux, along with text from leading environmental scientists explaining the changes that are occurring now and will be coming in the future. The portrait of the Sierra Nevada that we see emerge in the book isn’t so much a landscape that’s being destroyed, but one that will undergo irrevocable change. It becomes clear that Carmel’s brand of environmentalism stands in contrast to the barrage of negativity that prevails in some quarters of the media and to the naysaying climate-change denials that prevail in others.


Rainbow Waterfall, Yosemite National Park, California
That’s not to say that Carmel denies that climate change is happening on a huge scale nor does she suggest that it’s beneficial. Rather, she places an emphasis on change. Carmel seeks to create uplifting images that will engender a sense of hope for the natural world. She presents what’s here now and she offers scientific insight on what’s happening to these landscapes. For good or for ill, climate change is an undeniable reality. The Changing Range of Light addresses the issue head-on with images that clearly show the evidence of change and with expert commentary that will give readers the reality of the situation.

As she works in a location, Carmel seeks to make an image that will give the eventual viewer a new way to think about the scene. She says, “I believe that experiencing the Earth’s beauty has the power to help nourish and unify us, both on a personal and global level. Through my photography, I strive to translate these positive experiences into fine-art prints.

My goal is to contribute uplifting imagery to the world in a time when we’re bombarded with so many negative and sensationalistic images. I hope my photographs help nurture a sense of hope and affection for the natural world. I believe that great fine-art photographs are a gateway to a larger perspective about ourselves and the universe we inhabit.”

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