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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sierra Light

In her latest book, Elizabeth Carmel explores how climate change is affecting the landscape that she calls home

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Giant sequoia, Yosemite National Park. A recent report found fewer large-diameter trees are growing in Yosemite than in years past because of climate change.

Other trends aren’t so debatable, like a recently released report by the U.S. Geological Survey that found fewer large-diameter trees are growing in Yosemite than in years past. Scientists say this is most likely because of the warmer climate and smaller snowpacks that are symptomatic of climate change. Throughout the Sierra, tree mortality rates are increasing. Scientists often attribute this to higher temperatures that increase moisture stress, which weakens trees.

Those are the kinds of statistics that paint a fairly grim picture of the Sierra’s future, which makes for a rather depressing tale. But open up Carmel’s book, and the pages are filled with vibrant colorful scenes of giant sequoia in Yosemite, meadows in the foothills filled with bright orange poppies, gentle flowing streams and the soft pink light of sunrise over Lake Tahoe. The beautiful landscapes paired with insightful narratives strike just the kind of balance that she was looking to achieve.

Most of the images were taken with the medium-format, 39-megapixel Hasselblad H3D, allowing her to capture the detail and color she requires for making prints that range from 16x20 inches to 6x10 feet. All the images in her books are available as limited-edition fine prints. Aside from her books, Carmel’s work has appeared in publications, including OP, People, Sierra and Sunset, many galleries and private collections throughout the U.S., and an exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art. In recognition of her fine-art photography and technical expertise, she was one of 12 photographers worldwide honored with the Hasselblad Master Photographer award in 2006.

The photographer says she plans to continue using her images in ways that benefit the environment. Carmel does a lot of work with the Truckee Donner Land Trust by donating photos they need of areas they’re trying to protect. During a book-launch party for Brilliant Waters, she donated half of all book sales to the group, raising $6,000 in two hours. She also works with The Trust for Public Land in San Francisco and provided images for a major fundraising effort to protect the Martis Valley area of Truckee.

“I see this as a lifetime issue that I’ll be aware of and try to address throughout my work,” Carmel says. “Each of us in our own little corner of the world has to work on issues that we feel are important.”

The Changing Range of Light: Portraits of the Sierra Nevada is available to order from bookstores and www.amazon.com. Signed copies can be ordered through Elizabeth Carmel’s gallery website at www.thecarmelgallery.com. See more of her work at www.elizabethcarmel.com.


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