Elizabeth Carmel's expressive landscapes are a combination of subtle details and majestic scenes
By Jim Clark
A summer day starts early in the high Sierras for photographer Elizabeth Carmel. Arriving at the trailhead in total darkness, she straps on her backpack, and for the next hour, with only a headlamp illuminating the path, she treks up a meandering mountain trail.
As dawn’s shadows fade into daybreak, Carmel turns off her headlamp and continues hiking for another half hour. Once at her destination, she becomes steadfast and focused, intently photographing wildflowers, mountain scenery and macro subjects. With the summer sun reaching its zenith, she packs her gear and heads back to the trailhead.
Carmel is no ordinary backpacking photographer. She’s one of only a handful of professional female landscape photographers who uses medium format, and digital medium format at that. Recipient of a 2006 Hasselblad Master Photographer Award, her images now grace an exhibit at the Hasselblad corporate collection in Sweden.
Her photographs are on display at galleries in California and Washington and at the Nevada Museum of Art. Robert Redford writes of Carmel’s images in his foreword of her first book, Brilliant Waters, "So what would you do if you came upon a sight seen before only to see it as if for the first time? This was the effect Carmel’s work had on me; capturing the power of what exists while elevating the experience through the poetic use of photography."
From Sea Level To High Elevation
Carmel got to the mountains the long way—from the mountainless South. "I had a pretty typical childhood in a nice neighborhood in a university town in Alabama," reflects Carmel. "But I found this environment stifling in my teenage years, and I applied to a university in California."
At the University of California in Berkeley, Carmel studied sustainable development practices, especially as to how they affect small mountain towns. "This led me to jobs in some wonderful areas in the Sierra foothills," says Carmel.