Recent Publications – The Wilderness Society

In mid-2010, I was contracted by The Wilderness Society (TWS) to photograph for their San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign (discussed in my Aug 2010 blog post). It was a stimulating and challenging assignment which gave me the opportunity to discover ever more intimately the San Gabriel Mountains that have formed the mountainous backdrop of my lifetime here in the metropolis of Los Angeles. My work on this campaign provided the opportunity to have my photographs used as fuel for protecting this important human and biological resource. I recently received copies of the beautiful multi-page San Gabriel Mountains Forever brochure (printed with soy inks on recycled and ancient-forest-friendly paper); it’s a pleasure and honor to see it filled with my photographs (cover images and interior). My photographs from this campaign have since appeared in Los Angeles-area newspapers, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever website, and other TWS publications. I give great thanks to Annette Kondo at TWS for choosing my work to help preserve and protect the beautiful and rugged San Gabriel Mountains. See the rest of my campaign photographs on my Flickr site.

A few months back, The Wilderness Society released their 2010 Annual Report. It’s a great pleasure to have one of my photographs from the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign published full-page in this Annual Report!

Thank you Annette and The Wilderness Society!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

San Gabriel Mountains Forever

San Gabriel Wilderness

Rising steeply from the nearly level plain of the Los Angeles Basin, the rugged San Gabriel Mountains provide numerous recreational opportunities and wilderness solitude for more than 17 million Los Angelenos. This rugged mountain range, which John Muir described as “more rigidly inaccessible in the ordinary meaning of the word than any other I have attempted to penetrate” (The Mountains of California, 1894), has been my recreational backyard during my entire life. I’ve stood on the summits of all its major peaks (10, 064′ Mt. San Antonio [Mt. Baldy] more than 50 times in all seasons), explored its steep and deep canyons, and have relished in the silence of its deep Wilderness. Despite its close proximity to downtown Los Angeles, its three Wilderness areas (San Gabriel, Sheep Mountain, and Cucamonga) are largely untrailed, unvisited, and offer incredible opportunities for solitude and silence like few other metropolitan mountain ranges can. “The

West Fork San Gabriel River

Angeles National Forest is an irreplaceable natural resource that gives Los Angeles County 70% of its open space, provides 35% of the region’s drinking water, and contributes clean air to a polluted region. The forest serves as critical habitat for many endangered and sensitive plant and animal species including the Nelson’s Bighorn sheep, California condor, mountain lion, spotted owl and the mountain yellow-legged frog.”

I jumped at the opportunity when The Wilderness Society recently contacted me about photographing for this campaign (my

Yucca and Wildflowers

first assignment with them was in 2007). San Gabriel Mountains Forever is a partnership of local business owners, residents, faith and community leaders, recreation groups, health and social service organizations, and conservation groups who have come together to protect wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in the San Gabriel Mountains. Most importantly, this campaign seeks to expand the three existing Wilderness areas (San Gabriel, Sheep Mountain, and Cucamonga) and hopes to gain Federal Wild and Scenic River designation for the San Gabriel River (east, west and north forks), San Antonio Creek, and the Middle Fork of Lytle Creek.

Middle Fork, Lytle Creek

Regardless of what I think of their images, I have always been most inspired by landscape and nature photographers whose work has been used to help protect and preserve threatened and imperiled landscapes (a few names come to mind: Ansel Adams; Eliot Porter; Philip Hyde; Galen Rowell; Robert Glenn Ketchum [American Photo magazine wrote recently that RGK “may well be the most influential photographer you’ve never heard of.”]. As a fine art photographer, the primary vehicle for my work is the fine art print. I’m moved by the fact that my photographs adorn the walls of many homes and offices, yet the legacy I’d like to leave looks a lot like that of Adams, Porter, et al.

A family enjoys the North Fork of the San Gabriel River

The Wilderness Society provided me with a shoot list that would keep me busy. They’d asked only for about fifteen photographs total (I provided them with thirty-four in the end), but the locations are quite distant from one another and required that I put in a number of miles on foot, bicycle, and by car. I also needed to provide a few photographs of a family recreating on one of the creeks slated for Wild and Scenic River designation (see photo at left). Because I’ve been adventuring in the San Gabriel’s most of my life, I knew that this would be a fun yet challenging assignment. The rigid inaccessibility that slowed down John Muir would also slow me down. The San Gabriel’s are a striking range, yet the range doesn’t easily lend itself to idyllic and beautiful campaign photographs that would easily sway public opinion. I would have to work hard to create ‘iconic’ photographs in a range that has little to none. The lack of trails and vistas where I needed them to be would work me even harder.

Morning light and atmospheric haze over the Sheep Mountain Wilderness

Some of my campaign photographs have already been published in several local newspapers and used in campaign materials, including on the SGMF website. A few of my favorite photographs from this campaign are seen throughout this article. While these are less iconic images of the San Gabriel Mountains,

Morning light and atmospheric haze over Cattle Canyon and proposed additions to the Sheep Mountain Wilderness

they are images that for me best illustrate the ethereal light and mood and rugged character of the range.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP? Please tell Congress that you support protection of the San Gabriel Mountains! You can take easy action right on the SGMF website (they even have a sample letter with talking points that you can use). I THANK YOU in advance for helping to preserve the San Gabriel Mountains forever!

I offer my sincere THANKS to The Wilderness Society and the coalition! It’s a real honor and privilege to have my photographs used for such an important cause in my own backyard.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Balance of Power

I made this photograph about one week ago while shooting on assignment for The San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign (more on this later). Late afternoon, stormy skies (I was snowed on earlier at a higher elevation), and beautiful light illuminate “Our Lord’s Candle” (Yucca whipplei; also known as “Spanish Bayonet”) and a large electrical power pylon. One delivers energy necessary to the Metropolis, the other delivers beauty and grace necessary to my well-being and sanity. I couldn’t resist the juxtaposition of the two, but only one of the subjects delivers the positive energy that I seek!

Yucca whipplei has always been one of my favorite plants (it flowers once then dies), and it’s beauty and poise is undeniable. Due to exceptional winter precipitation, Southern California is currently bursting with blooming Candles. Photographers can currently find thousands of them along Highway 138 and Highway 2 near Wrightwood.

The San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign: this campaign is presently working on twin goals to 1) Expand wilderness and wild and scenic river designations in the San Gabriel Mountains and 2) Establish a new San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area (NRA). The spectacular San Gabriel Mountains are the iconic landmark of the Angeles National Forest. It is Southern California’s most accessible and popular “backyard” for millions who visit its clear and cold rivers, and its tranquil and panoramic vistas. The Angeles National Forest is also an irreplaceable natural resource that gives Los Angeles County more than 70% of its open space and provides our region with drinking water and clean air.

Once I complete my shooting for this campaign, I will share images and thoughts here on my blog. Please stay tuned.

Read more about this campaign in a May 16 L.A. Times article.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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