Elizabeth Carmel's expressive landscapes are a combination of subtle details and majestic scenes
By Jim Clark
Developing A Creative Eye
Carmel credits her ability to extract powerful compositions to her constant studying of images by other photographers. She’s also critical of her own work. "When I see something, I usually know if it’s a real winner when I’m taking the shot."
Her ultimate goal is to capture something magical that can’t be expressed in words. "I work hard to find unique views," Carmel says. "I’ve trained my eyes to find visual cues that expose a new angle, a new perspective."
The drive to find a new angle resulted in the theme of Brilliant Waters. "I was looking for a common thread among the images and found a body of my work that focused on water," says Carmel. "I thought this would be a unique angle for the book."
Carmel uses every available second of the day to photograph. "I’ll take hundreds of images on a typical shoot, but only keep three to five images at most. I strive to simplify a scene as much as possible. Shooting at the edges of the day, early morning and late afternoon, is key to getting the right dramatic lighting and color for my compositions. This is especially true for photographing in the Sierras."
For Carmel, there’s more than just capturing images and selling them as prints. An important part of her life and career as a photographer is to use her photography to bring awareness to others about the environment. Both she and her husband donate their photography to promote local and regional conservation efforts. "When I had a book-signing party to launch the release of my book, I donated half the proceeds to the Truckee Donner Land Trust," explains Carmel. "We raised $6,000 for the Trust in two hours." She has also donated photography to other organizations, such as the Trust for Public Lands in San Francisco.
Following The Dream
Conservationist and writer Mardi Murie once said that the only acceptable way women could enter the wilderness was with a man. Many years later, nature writer Ann Zwinger responded by saying the concept of a woman hiking alone in the wilderness is no longer so unsettling. Carmel’s perspective on this issue falls in line with Zwinger’s. "I agree that it’s becoming more acceptable. It isn’t unusual at all to see a woman hiking alone in the Sierras."
For Carmel, she senses more change is occurring for the better. "I’ve encountered very few problems in this career solely because of my gender," says Carmel. "At least in the United States, I think society has moved beyond a lot of sexist stereotypes with my generation, and I think it’s looking even better for my daughter’s generation in that regard."
Acknowledges Carmel, "While photography ignites my passion, I’m blessed to have a very loving family. This alone is the basis for all I’ve accomplished as a photographer." She especially credits her daughter, Abbey. "My daughter is a little muse who showed up one day and changed my outlook forever."
Carmel is also ever mindful of playing a role in motivating others to follow their dreams. But with the field so crowded these days, how can one break in to it? Carmel offers up a piece of advice: "I’d tell anyone interested in a photography career to first establish a niche in their local area. Spend time developing a unique style to your photography."
For Carmel, landscape photography transcends just capturing a photograph. "This career is more a lifestyle than a job. A large part of the experience is witnessing the beauty of the natural world. The more people immerse themselves in that experience and appreciate the importance of wild places, the better this world will be." Not a bad piece of advice from a true mountain woman.
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