About the Artist
I think of wilderness landscape photography as the pursuit of visual “peak experiences.” I’m borrowing a term here from humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, who studied human potential ‒ the heights to which humans can aspire, not the depths to which they can sink. According to Maslow, peak experiences can give “a sense of the sacred, glimpsed in and through the particular instance of the momentary, the secular, the worldly.” Whoa! That sounds awfully pretentious. But when I think back on the most beautiful scenes I've ever witnessed, they start to approach what Maslow was talking about. Visual peak experiences are moments of extraordinary natural beauty, often ephemeral, that I seek to capture in such a way that a viewer of the photograph can share my sense of wonder and joy. Granted, my photographs rarely, if ever, achieve such lofty heights. Perhaps they never truly will. But it is the pursuit of visual peak experiences, and the arduous, ecstatic struggle to capture them on my sensor, that keeps landscape photography endlessly fascinating.
For me, these marvelous moments occur most often in wild places, particularly in the mountains. More than forty years later, I still remember a peak experience that occurred during a camping trip with my parents in the desert mountains of southern California. I was 12 then, yearning for independence and hungry for child-size adventure. Alone, I walked away from our campsite to a saddle in a ridge overlooking an endless desert valley and the mountain ranges beyond. It was a journey that an adult would have measured in mundane yards and minutes; I measured it in emotional light-years. For a timeless interlude I meditated on the ridge, soaking in the silence and the unfathomable sweep of land. I remember feeling utterly isolated in a desolate world, and yet I recall no desire to flee back down the path to camp. Something about the sheer unrepentant emptiness of the land, its total indifference to human vanity, compelled my awestruck attention and has demanded my return to the mountains again and again.
F.W. Bourdillon, a British mountaineer who attempted Everest nearly a century ago, captured my feelings then and now when he explained the secret motivation of mountain-lovers as “a feeling so deep and so pure and so personal as to be almost sacred ‒ too intimate for ordinary mention.” Mountains, he went on to say, “... move us in some way which nothing else does ... and we feel that a world that can give such rapture must be a good world, a life capable of such feeling must be worth the living.”
In my early teen years I hiked the mountain valleys and scrambled up the easy peaks in California's Sierra Nevada. Then, at 15, I took up technical rock-climbing. When I moved to Boulder, Colorado, to go to college in 1975, I added ice-climbing to my quiver of mountain skills and began tackling difficult routes from Alaska to Argentina. In my mid-30s, after 20 years of intense mountaineering, my interest in climbing high peaks began to wane, while my interest in photographing them blossomed. Landscape photography, I found, could be just as much of an adventure as mountaineering. True, the challenges were different, but the pulse-pounding excitement and the need to perform gracefully under pressure were still there. Once I had struggled out of bed at 1 a.m. to climb a long, demanding route on a high peak before the afternoon thunderstorms struck; now I rose at the same ungodly hour to race the rising sun to a photogenic vantage point. My motto for these shoots is simple: “Sleep is for photographers who don’t drink enough coffee.”
I'm now well into my fourth decade of full-time freelance writing and photography, and have much to be thankful for: the support of my wonderful wife Cora, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Colorado; the love of our two daughters, Emily, born in 1994, and Audrey, born in 1996; and the career advice my father, a down-to-earth civil engineer, gave me long ago. He said, "Find the job that makes you want to get up on Monday morning and go to work." I'm grateful I found that job, which I prefer to think of as a calling. I hope you find it as rewarding to view my images as I found it rewarding to make them.
"What you see in my prints is what I saw through the lens."
I believe that authenticity still matters. Or, to put it more precisely, I believe a landscape photograph can only have lasting impact if it is an authentic record of a truly memorable event. Authenticity is at the core of my artistic philosophy.
Today consumers with even a passing knowledge of digital photography know how easily photographs can be manipulated. Sunset colors a little disappointing? Just shove the saturation slider to the max and voila! ‒ a perfect sunset. A few power lines or jet contrails marring the beauty of your scene? A few mouse clicks and poof! ‒ they're gone. Although I understand the temptation ‒ it's hard to accept failure ‒ I feel I would be selling my viewers short if I were to succumb.
I think we value landscape photographs primarily because they allow us to vicariously experience the wonder and joy that the photographer felt when he or she was standing there. Recently some psychologists have begun exploring the neural underpinnings of this experience. Their research has shown evidence for the existence of “mirror neurons.” According to this theory, which is still controversial, the old cliché, “I feel your pain,” is literally true. The same neural circuits that are activated when we ourselves experience pain are activated when we witness another person in pain. If this theory is confirmed by further research, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to guess that the circuits that fire when we ourselves see a beautiful sunrise are the same as those that fire when we see a well-crafted photograph of that sunrise. If, on the other hand, the photograph has been constructed in some way rather than captured, and we realize that the photographer never felt the emotion that the image seems to be conveying, we feel manipulated and betrayed.
I recognize the difficulty of defining "manipulated." There's a large gray area in between absolutely straight photography and clearly surreal images. In a wide variety of ways, our visual system does not see the world the way our sensors do. But there is also a clear line beyond which everyone can agree, "That's not what you saw." Adding elements that weren't there and subtracting elements that were is certainly beyond that line.
In the digital age, even more than in the film era, the impact and meaning of an image is determined as much by the intentions and integrity of the photographer as it is by the content of the image. While this has always been true of photography, the advent of digital has brought the issue into much sharper focus. I want the viewer of my images to exclaim, "What a beautiful world we live in!" not think disparagingly, "Looks like that guy really knows Photoshop." That's why authenticity is the guiding principle behind my work. It allows me to tell my viewers, "What you see in my prints is what I saw through the lens."
Selected Publication Credits
Longs Peak Tales Group of historical-fiction short stories about Rocky Mountain National Park, published July, 1981. Originally published by Stonehenge Books, then published and distributed by Glenn Randall.
Vertigo Games Pictorial history of hard recent climbs in Colorado. W.R. Publications, Sioux City, Iowa, 1984.
Breaking Point Narrative of first alpine-style ascent of the south face of Mt. Hunter. Chockstone Press, Denver, Colorado, 1985.
Mt. McKinley Climber's Handbook Guide to climbing Mt. McKinley, Alaska. Genet Expeditions, Talkeetna, Alaska, February, 1985. Second edition published by Chockstone Press, 1993.
The Outward Bound Guide to Staying Warm in the Cold. Guide to staying warm in cold weather. The Lyons Press, New York, New York, 2001. First edition published as Cold Comfort, 1987.
Outward Bound Map and Compass Handbook, 3rd edition Guide to route-finding with map, compass, altimeter, and GPS receiver. The Lyons Press, New York, New York, 1998. First edition published in 1989. Third edition published by Globe Pequot in spring, 2012.
Outward Bound Backpacker's Handbook Guide to environmentally conscious backpacking. The Lyons Press, New York, New York, 2000. First published as The Modern Backpacker’s Handbook, 1994. Third edition published by Globe Pequot in spring, 2013.
Rocky Mountain National Park Impressions Book of photographs of Rocky Mountain National Park, with introduction and extended captions by Glenn Randall. Farcountry Press, Helena MT, June 2004.
Colorado Wild & Beautiful Book of Colorado landscape photographs with introduction and extended captions by Glenn Randall. Farcountry Press, Helena MT, May 2005.
Sunrise from the Summit: First Light on Colorado's Fourteeners Stunning collection of images shot at sunrise from the summit of all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, the Fourteeners. Farcountry Press, Helena MT, May 2015.
The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography In-depth guide to creating superb landscape photographs. Rocky Nook, Santa Barbara, CA, May 2015.
Magazine articles Over 220 have been published to date. Many were accompanied by my photographs. Some of these magazines have also used my photographs to accompany other authors' articles.
America West Airlines
Colorado Homes & Lifestyles
Cross Country Skier
Healthy Planet Products
Natl. Geographic Adventure
People on Parade
Rock & Ice
Rocky Mountain Magazine
Take Me Away
The Territory Ahead
Clients for individual photo sales Over 1,500 photos, including 77 covers, have been published to date.
Cloud Cap Press
Colorado Kayak Supply
Colorado Outward Bound
David C. Cook Publishing
Great Pacific Catalog
Healthy Planet Products
Hi-Tec Sports, USA
Los Angeles Times
Lowe Alpine Systems
Lowe Gray Steele & Hoffman
Mountain States Specialties
Natl. Geographic Adventure
New Readers Press
New York Times
North Star Press
Rocky Mountain Sports
Runner’s World Calendars
San Francisco Chronicle
Sierra Club Calendars
The Territory Ahead
University of Colorado
U.S. Information Agency
Experience as a workshop instructor
Santa Fe Photographic Workshops Five-day workshop on the art and science of landscape photography, January 2012 to present.
Rocky Mountain Conservancy Three or four weekend landscape photography workshops taught per year, August 2002 to 2015
Ah Haa! School for the Arts Weekend landscape photography workshop, February 2010, March 2011, September 2014.
Colorado Photography Festival One-day workshops (one or two per year), August 2010 to present.
Glenn Randall Photography Workshops Private workshops from 2012 to the present; group workshops organized and taught by Glenn Randall, October 2015 to present.