Blog: Great Light, Great Photographs

Gary Crabbe
19 June 2009

Interview by Gary Geschwind
Photos by Gary Crabbe


What is your field of photography?
Scenic landscapes and travel photography for the editorial and commercial marketplace, along with the sale of image as prints for private or corporate art décor.

When did you first become interested in photography?
Gary Crabbe grew up going camping with his parents. This exposed him to the outdoors and the timelessness of nature. He became interested in photography as a senior in college when he took a black and white photography course as a filler to complete his requirements for graduation. One of his first cameras was a Minolta 35mm, shooting B&W with ASA 3200 speed film. He made prints overnight in a bathroom converted to a makeshift darkroom.

After college, he got a job working with the renowned Galen Rowell, managing his image library and stock photo sales. Inspired by Galen’s images and helping him with numerous photo workshops, Crabbe eventually started working with color film.  He developed his own special moments of the mountains, where he enjoyed camping and hiking.

What lesson(s) did you not learn in school?
In Crabbe’s opinion, the biggest failing of Art school is not teaching young artists how to run a business. Young photographers don’t understanding how to value their work and time. Many price their work too low, for fear of losing the job. Gary prices his work based on a creative services fee, plus a use fee. He keeps the copyrights and gives a license for use. The usage depends on what, where, and how often the client wants to use the photographs. His projects are usually specific to the customer’s needs, with even more calculations made for his national clients.

Has your photographic work been influenced by the work of other photographers? How?
Landscape photographers, notably David and Marc Muench, Carr Clifton, Tom Till, and Art Wolfe, have influenced my work. Other photographers he admires are Chris Noble, Nick Nichols, Roger Ressmeyer, Norbert Wu, and Frans Lanting. I learned an appreciation for their dedication to the craft, and their ability to consistently bring back powerful and evocative images of nature.

What was the biggest break in your career?
With almost no photography experience, getting his first job with a world-class photographer and an opportunity to running his stock photo agency. In essence, he got an extremely lucky break at the beginning of his career.  Crabbe has worked with some of the top people in the industry. It taught him the value of professionalism, to always appear and be professional.

What would you say is your most important accomplishment in the photographic industry?
Getting commissions to produce five books published in 7 years. Crabbe is currently starting work on his sixth book.

What was your most interesting or memorable shoot? Why?
One of his early assignments was for Forbes Magazine. They were running a story on the change of concessionaires in Yosemite National Park. The context of the story was to document the ugly contradictions inside Yosemite Valley, i.e. the most beautiful places in America, with broken handicapped access ramps, potholes in parking lots, overflowing garbage cans, and over crowded tourist.

Do you have any parting wisdom to share with young photographers?
As a landscape photographer, shoot early and shoot late. Learn to see the light not the subject. Match the subject to the light. A boring subject in great light will always make a better photo than, a great subject in boring light.

Don’t dwell on duplicating photographs you’ve seen by others. “Trophy Hunting” will only get you so far. Seek out your own personal vision, style, and emotional connection to the subject. Show us something new, something you liked and cared about.

The photograph must tell a story. Crabbe believes the scene tells the photographer what image to take. It’s an emotional connection.