Rowell's with His Holiness

Galen and Barbara Rowell with the His Holiness the Dalai Lama

World-renowned wilderness photographer and writer Galen Rowell, and his wife and business partner Barbara Cushman Rowell, a photographer and writer in her own right, died early on the morning of August 11 in an airplane crash outside of Bishop, CA. Galen Rowell was a member of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) Board of Advisors.

According to Mountain Light Photography, the gallery started by Galen and Barbara, the Rowells, who were returning to their Bishop home from a circumnavigation of the Bering Sea, were passengers in a small privately owned plane that went down south of the Bishop Airport. The cause of the crash remains under investigation by NTSB and FAA officials.

The plane carried four people and there were no survivors. Tom Reid of Bishop piloted the plane. The fourth passenger was Carol McAfee, also of Bishop.

Galen is survived by two children from a previous marriage, Nicole Ryan and “Tony” Edward Anthony Rowell, and two grandsons, Forrest Avery Ryan and Colby Dustin Ryan.

Barbara is survived by her mother Lucile Cushman, brother Robert Cushman, and nieces Mariah and Grace Cushman.

In a message of condolence sent by ICT to the members of the Rowell family on August 12, ICT Director Bhuchung Tsering said, “Galen and Barbara were special friends of the Tibetan people. We at the International Campaign for Tibet are particularly grateful for the continued assistance that Galen Rowell rendered us in our work, including serving on our Board of Advisors.”

Born Aug. 23, 1940 in Berkeley, CA, to a college professor and a concert cellist, Galen was introduced to wilderness before he could walk. He began climbing mountains at the age of 10 and by age 60 he had completed more than 40 expeditions on all seven continents and to both poles. He has produced 18 books of photos and text that exemplify his special brand of participatory wilderness photography in which the photographer transcends being an observer with a camera to become an active participant in the image being photographed.

In 1984 he received the Ansel Adams Award for his contributions to the art of wilderness photography. Since 1986, he has written a popular monthly column for Outdoor Photographer Magazine and in 1992 he received a National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Grant to photograph Antarctica.

Barbara Rowell was the president of Mountain Light Photography, a photo agency, gallery and small press co-owned with Galen. Barbara piloted a Cessna T206 and had recently completed her first book Flying South: A Pilot’s Inner Journey, scheduled to be released in October of 2002. Her photographs have been published in National Geographic, Outside, Plane & Pilot, and in many books, calendars, and travel publications.

Barbara was born Jan. 29, 1948 in Hawaii to Lucile and Irving Cushman while her father was stationed in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. At the age of five, her family was transferred to Texas for a brief stay in Kingsville before settling in California. After moving to Aspen to design ski wear, she returned to California to complete her studies in Textiles and Business, and graduated in 1978 from the University of California at Davis with Highest Honors.

Barbara and Galen were married in 1981 and together built Mountain Light Photography into a successful gallery and stock photography business that recently relocated from the Bay Area to their new home of Bishop in the Eastern Sierra.

Barbara and Galen traveled to many exotic locations, including to a National Geographic assignment in Pakistan to cover the highest war in history where they were flown throughout the Himalaya as guests of President Zia. They have also been the guests of the Dalai Lama, and served as guides to Robert Redford on a trek through Nepal.

They touched many lives around the world, and they will be sorely missed.

Services for the couple are pending. Please check the Mountain Light Gallery website for more extensive biographies and further information as it becomes available: