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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wilderness Warrior

Joseph Rossbach breaks from the crowded overlooks and usual vantage points to capture original and compelling landscapes

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Joseph Rossbach pushes himself to extremes in order to capture amazing images that often can be hidden in plain sight. OPENING SPREAD: Rossbach uses a unique color scheme with sandstone layers in lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona.

For nature photographer Joe Rossbach, photographing the familiar in a familiar way is never good enough. It has to be different for him. Consider a 2009 photo trek to capture autumn colors in West Virginia. While most photographers, including myself, were content shooting the well-known Elakala Falls at Blackwater Falls State Park at a safe, comfortable overlook across the canyon from the falls, Rossbach took a more challenging approach. Hiking and sliding down the steep, slippery slopes of the canyon to reach the tumbling cascades where it joins the Blackwater River, Rossbach worked his way into position. Massive boulders strewn along the way required him to either climb over or shimmy around. He got the image that no one from across the canyon ever saw. And unlike the comfortable, yet crowded overlook, Rossbach, surrounded by a forest of gold-drenched sugar maples, had the place all to himself for the entire day.

A prolonged exposure of a star trail over a rock hoodoo formation in Blue Canyon, located in the Hopi Indian Reservation of Colorado Plateau, Arizona. The image is titled “Kieje Hatal,” which means “night chant” in Navajo.
The Self-Taught, Self-Motivated Photographer
As one of the emerging talents in nature photography, Rossbach exhibits a heartfelt determination to capture unique compositions and images that go far beyond the familiar. His passion for nature photography results in images that would take many in this profession years to achieve.

Self-taught as a photographer, Rossbach relied on photography books and magazines to further develop his skills. “Photographers such as David Muench, Art Wolfe and Freeman Patterson were my inspirations,” says Rossbach. “From the first roll of film I processed, photography became my passion—or as my wife describes it, an obsession— and a logical step for my future career in nature photography.”

A fascination with nature preceded Rossbach’s love for photography. “I learned from my experiences,” he says. “Growing up in rural Maryland afforded me lots of opportunities to play in the woods and roam the beaches. Going on camping trips in the mountains with my grandparents also set in motion my interest in the outdoors. After taking a photography course in high school, I decided I would merge my photography with my interest in nature.”

But it didn’t happen overnight. After graduating from high school, Rossbach worked as a sports photographer, doing commercial work on the side during his free time. When the situation allowed, he went straight into the field to photograph the natural world.

“When I had some time off—and that would sometimes be huge blocks of time—I headed off to photograph nature as much as I could,” Rossbach recalls. “I traveled throughout the country photographing wherever I could to build up my portfolio. That was more than 15 years ago. Nature inspired me, so as I learned more about photography and became more skilled, I kept coming back with images that truly expressed the joy I felt and the beauty I witnessed out there.”


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