Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Transient As The Light
QT Luong is a French-born scientist, mountain climber and artist. He’s also a master of landscapes whose passion was ignited by the magnificent scenes of the Sierra Nevada.
Landscape photographer QT Luong has done something not even Ansel Adams accomplished. He has photographed all 58 of America's national parks. More importantly, though, Luong has spent time in them, explored them, really gotten to know each of the parks. And he did it all simply because it offered the best way to experience the wide variety of natural landscapes available in the United States.
"The diversity of the natural world," Luong says, "and its potential to draw parallels and contrasts has always inspired me. I thrive looking for new experiences."
Luong came to photography after a career as a research scientist working on artificial vision, a subfield of artificial intelligence. He taught computers how to see.
"The kind of mathematics I was working with," he explains, "had to do with geometry, the organization and perception of space, and the relationship between space and the two-dimensional image. So, in some sense, it was a different take on some of the same problems photographers face."
"One of the primary reasons I made the career change," he says, "was so that my job would require me to spend time in nature."
Raised in Paris, Luong has been an outdoorsman since climbing the Alps in his youth. He became an avid mountaineer, and eventually a guide, and he started using a camera simply to show others the beauty of what he experienced. He relocated to the United States as a young scientist, and specifically chose the University of California at Berkeley because, among the top research institutions, it was the closest to Yosemite National Park. He had been hearing a lot about that place.
Yosemite turned out to be even more amazing than Luong imagined. Not only was the mountaineer thrilled, the artist was inspired. He decided to learn large-format photography and quickly set out on what would become a 10-year quest to make a representative photograph of every park.
Ever the researcher, Luong grounded himself in the rich tradition of Western landscape photography by studying the work of those who went before. He was inspired by Adams, of course, but it was fellow scientist-turned-photographer Eliot Porter whose color work especially spoke to him. Fellow mountaineering photographer Galen Rowell and prolific national parks photographer David Muench also inspired him. It's easy to see how he became the product of these world-class influences.
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