Interview with Dave Showalter

Dave Showalter is an accomplished nature, wildlife, and conservation photographer. His dedication and relentless efforts shine through on his must-read blog Western Wild, which is full of inspiring photos and informative text. I recently asked Dave a few questions about his photography and his conservation efforts.

Aerial view of gas development on Riley Ridge, southern Wyoming Range
Aerial view of gas development on Riley Ridge, southern Wyoming Range – Imagine this scene with 136 wells, storage, roads… Photo by Dave Showalter.

You’ve worked on a wide range of conservation fronts, most recently involving the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Can you explain in a nutshell what this project is about? How and why did you become involved with this particular conservation effort?

I was contacted by Barbara Cozzens, NW Director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition about their campaign to protect wild areas along the Absaroka-Beartooth Front. Barb understands the value of advocacy-driven photography and we agreed to develop a project with the support of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). It’s called a “Tripods In The Mud” (TIM) where the three legs of the tripod signify the partnership of the conservation group, the photographer, and ILCP. The Absaroka Front TIM is a big step for any conservation group, and GYC deserves a lot of credit for thinking outside the box and partnering with ILCP. It speaks to their commitment to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). We planned three photo expeditions in August, September, and November and I covered an enormous amount of territory in Cody Country.

The A-B Front forms the eastern boundary of Yellowstone, is often called “Yellowstone’s Wild Side” and includes a bewildering amount of truly wild country, the Shoshone, Clark’s Fork and Greybull Rivers, and important migratory and winter habitat for a lot of Yellowstone wildlife. The recreation and sportsmen opportunities, and associated revenue are enormous. It’s easily the wildest and most important landscape in the West, and it’s all threatened by oil and gas drilling, fracking. Our job is to illustrate why this land is so important to the GYE, steer energy development to more appropriate “brown field” areas, and get the A-B Front protected by convincing land managers and local politicians that it’s the right thing to do long-term. The timing is critical too, with both the Shoshone National Forest and the BLM drafting their 20-year land management plans right now.

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Griessental Sunset Panorama

Griessental, sunset, Switzerland, alpenglow, panorama

Griessental Sunset Panorama : Prints Available

Sunset light illuminates the snow-filled valley of Griessental, February 2011.

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Here’s a photo from my archives, from February last winter in Switzerland. You can see more photos from this hike here.

Back home in “the Switzerland of America” this winter, I haven’t been getting out into the mountains as much as I’d like due to the sketchy avalanche conditions. On the bright side, I’ve been taking the opportunity to work on some projects that have been on the back burner for years. Among other things, I’m learning Adobe InDesign book publishing software and am excited to start creating some photo books. I might even have time to finally put together a screensaver app for sale on my website. So, stay tuned… I’ve got some good stuff in the pipe!

Ski Argentina

Argentina: A Skier’s Journey EP3 [Season 2] from Jordan Manley Photography on Vimeo.

I’m digging this Argentina ski/travel video by Jordan Manley; I recognize quite a few places and sights from our recent adventures in the Andes: the Santiago subway, the trucks along the highway at Penitentes, hot springs, roadside shrines, Fernet, asado, empanadas, volcanoes, and of course, wind!

The wintery snow scenes remind me of the winter I spent with mis amigos in Las Leñas, Argentina way back in 2002. Good times! See my photos from Las Leñas here.

Memories of Peru

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru, Yerupaja, Jirishanca, reflection, sunrise, Laguna Carhuacocha

Carhuacocha Sunrise : Prints Available

Brilliant sunrise alpenglow on the tallest peaks of the Cordillera Huayhuash (Yerupaja, Yerupaja Chico, and Jirishanca),  reflected in Laguna Carhuacocha - June.

Here are a few photos “from the vault”, from my trip to Peru a year ago. Both were taken along our trek around the Cordillera Huayhuash. One of my favorite shots from the trek was from this same spot but at sunset. Because I liked that one better, with its softer, calmer light and clouds, I never posted this version from sunrise. But this one definitely has some pop, eh?

Yerupaja, panorama, Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru, Jirishanca

Yerupaja Panorama : Prints Available

A panoramic view of the Cordillera Huayhuash around Yerupaja (6617m, 21,709 ft.), the second tallest mountain in Peru.   Jirishanca (6094m) is towards the left side.  June 2010.

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I took this panorama during one of the more spectacular bits of hiking during the 11-day trek. That day we came from over a pass off the right side of the photo, but instead of taking the standard trail down through the valley, we hiked along this high ridgeline, with a huge views of the mountain range the whole way. We ended up at a lake down in the valley on the left side of the photo, under impressive peak of Jirishanca.

My spontaneous three week trip to Peru last June ended up being a wonderful decision, not the least because I met my girlfriend Claudia on this trek! I would have never guessed before this that I’d soon be spending six months in the Alps to be with her. And she arrives to Colorado on Monday!!! So thank you, Peru!

Jirishanca, Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru, stream, lake

Clearing Storm

Clearing storm over the San Juan Mountains, Colorado
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Here’s yet another 4×5 photo from the archives, unearthed from the depths of a backup harddrive where it’s been collecting dust for 4 years. This was taken back in September 2006, during a backpacking trip in the San Juans with fellow photographers Momo Vuyisich and his friend Csaba. (See more photos from the trip here). We had arrived at the high elevation Columbine Lake in the afternoon in the midst of a rain/sleet/snow storm and sat around in our tents for a while. When we noticed that the storm was clearing we quickly hiked to a high ridgeline above the lake and beheld this amazing view of the storm clouds clearing off the peaks! This was the first shot I took, with a wide angle lens. Since the clouds were lifting so fast, I quickly switched to a longer lens, refocussed, and shot a second, tighter shot that has been a favorite ever since. This one here has more of the clouds, though, and looks really cool especially at full resolution.

I’ll never forget witnessing and photographing this fleeting spectacle from such a lofty vantage point. Nor will I forget Momo’s enthusiasm… he kept shouting “Woooohooooo!!!!! Woooohooooo!!!!!” Good times…

By the way, this orange mountain here is one of my all time favorite mountains on Earth… because of the amazing snowboarding lines it offers in the winter! I’ve ridden countless different lines on many different sides of it over the years. See, and read on below…

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Lonely Litmolla #2

Svolvær, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Here’s another 4×5 photo “from the vault.” This is Litlmolla island, near the town of Svolvær in the Lofoten Islands, just north of the Arctic Circle. Taken in August of last summer, during a six week trip through Norway.

#2, you ask? Here’s “#1.” When I first edited my photos after the trip, I chose to post #1 in my gallery, probably because I initially preferred the warmer light on the island and horizon. However, a year later as I look at the two again, this one here is clearly my favorite. I prefer its subtle tones and softer colors, and as a whole it has a lot more feeling to it. As an extra bonus, #2 was shot on large format film (#1 was from a much smaller resolution digital camera).

A photographer friend of mine Dave is traveling somewhere over there right now… I’m looking forward to seeing his photos after he gets back.

Teton Reflection

Teton Reflection, Wyoming

Here’s a photo I just dug up from the archives, taken back in August 2006 during a 4 day backpacking loop hike in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. This photo was shot with the large format 4×5 film camera, with a 135mm lens. Seeing this makes me want to get back to Wyoming again for a summer backpacking trip!

Smoky Wetterhorn

Wetterhorn Peak, Colorado

I just “found” this photo from back in July 2006, when some friends and I hiked a circumnavigational route around Wetterhorn Peak, a 14er in the Uncompahgre Wilderness of the San Juans in southwest Colorado. For a portion of this day, smoke from a nearby forest fire filled the high alpine basin, obscuring the view of Wetterhorn in a blue haze.