Review: "The Changing Range of Light"

By Thea Dodds,

“The Changing Range of Light: Portraits of the Sierra Nevada” combines art and science in a book of landscape photography, employing imagery to inspire action. It features gorgeous landscapes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range by Elizabeth Carmel, and text vignettes outlining the effect of global climate change in the Sierras by Robert Coats, PhD. and Geoffrey Schladow, PhD.


Carmel is an acclaimed landscape photographer based in Trukee, Calif. This volume is a follow-up to her book, “Brilliant Waters,” also featuring photographs from the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Contributing author Robert Coats has a B.S. and M.S. in Forestry and a PhD. in Wildland Resource Science from the University of California at Berkeley. Contributing author Geoffrey Schladow holds a B. Eng. and PhD. in civil engineering from the University of Western Australia, and a M. Eng. in hydraulic engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.

The release of this 136 page, full color book was well timed with the December convening of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the largest conference of its kind in history. Carmel is courageous for publishing a book that combines grassroots education with contemporary landscape photography. She risks taking the reader away from her art with the addition of scientific commentary that is heavy both in content and technical in its language. It is striking how well the images lead the reader to the text, and the text takes the reader back to the images with additional information and appreciation. The climate change vignettes are interrupted by poetry at well-timed intervals to give the reader a needed breath of lighter content.

The photographs are clearly those of a master landscape photographer. The imagery is beautiful, crisp, and pristine. Carmel primarily uses a Hasselblad H3D 39-megapixel medium-format digital camera. The images are technically perfect and artfully composed. Her work is alive with spectacular light, budding flowers, flowing rivers and breathtaking mountain vistas. Carmel's commitment to this land is evident in the four years and countless sunrises she invested in this narrative. Many of the locations photographed required multiple-day trips to access. Carmel is clearly driven to capture and preserve the beauty of this area.

The text is less accessible then the imagery. The language is technical and not written with the lay-person in mind. The beauty of the text being in vignettes is that even when it was complicated, it was concise. The “Changing Range of Light” provides an informative narrative woven through imagery that inspires protection of those same natural wonders.

The book concludes with an epilogue titled Solutions. It is nice to complement the beauty and despair in this book with a call to action. In the epilogue, the writers speak of “low hanging fruit” measures to reduce carbon. Unfortunately the low-hanging fruit of recycled, tree-free, Forest Steward Certified (FSC) paper or domestic printing was overlooked. The book was printed on gloss art paper in South Korea. The book looks beautiful but its binding is not in line with the values of the work.

“The Changing Range Of Light” is distributed by Mountain Press Publishing Company and is currently available from all major book retailers for $49.95. Signed copies can be ordered from The Carmel Gallery and from Hawks Peak Publishing. For more information please visit Hawks Peak Publishing.


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