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Photographer Beth Wald presented Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure

Photo (c) Beth WaldSAN FRANCISCO–Outdoor photographer Beth Wald was awarded the 2006 Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure by the Rowell Legacy Committee at a ceremony featuring keynote speaker Tom Brokaw in San Francisco on Tuesday, November 28.

The Rowell Award honors that adventurer whose artistic passion illuminates the wild places of the world, and whose accomplishments significantly benefit both the environment and the people who inhabit these lands and regions. The Rowell Award celebrates the accomplishments of famed adventurers and photographers Galen and Barbara Rowell, who died in a plane crash in 2002.

In her photography, Wald combines a thirst for adventure and exploration with a passion for the natural environment and fascination with the world's diverse cultures. She belongs to that rarified club of photographers who can shuffle lenses, change film and take beautiful pictures in extreme conditions that have most people struggling merely to put one foot in front of the other. "I am drawn to harsh, wild places where life is both fragile and tenuous." says Wald, "where one's sense of being alive is heightened by extremes of landscape and weather."

Her visual exploration of environment and culture has taken her around the globe, from the Arctic to the tip of South America, from Pakistan to Cuba, and from the icy Himalayan peaks to the stifling heat of East Africa's Great Rift Valley. Wald's most recent journeys have taken her into remote regions of Afghanistan and Tajikistan to photograph unique mountain tribes and their relation with wildlife and environment, in order to call attention to the dire threats to both ancient culture and fragile ecosystems.

In this and in much of Wald's work, her passion is to try to make a difference for the people and places that inspire her. She has donated her time to photograph numerous projects for a wide variety of organizations, including Lighthawk, the Sierra Club, the Conservation Land Trust, Conservacion Patagonica, ANAI, Doctors Without Borders, and others, covering a wide variety of environmental and cultural issues from logging, mining and desertification, to indigenous rights, endangered cultures, and industrial versus locally based agriculture. Through articles, books, and the many talks and lectures she gives, her photography has helped draw attention to clear-cutting in the Western US and in Southern Chile, to the disappearing cultures of the Tarahumara Indians of the Sierra Madre of Mexico to the gauchos of Patagonia to the plight of the people and environment of Afghanistan ravaged by decades of war and drought. She is currently in Afghanistan teaching a course on environmental photojournalism to Afghan journalists.

Wald's work has appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic, Smithsonian, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Sports Illustrated, NG Traveler, Travel and Leisure, Life, The New York Times, Men's Journal and Islands. Her commercial work includes extensive assignments for adventure sportswear companies such as Patagonia, EMS and The North Face. She has collaborated on numerous books, and is currently working on a book project that documents the unique lives of the last of Argentina's true gauchos.

Wald said she plans to use the $15,000 award to create a new generation of "Galens and Barbaras" in Afghanistan through photojournalism classes.

Todd Skinner, a famed rock climber who died in October in a fall from Yosemite's Leaning Tower, nominated Wald for the honor. A special tribute was paid to Skinner during the presentation.

Tom Brokaw, the former NBC Nightly News anchor, delivered the keynote speech, "Deleting the Virtual Life" at the standing-room only event. Actor and environmental activist Robert Redford was also in attendance. Both Brokaw and Redford had formed friendships with the Rowells based on their mutual love for adventure and respect for nature.

A scare signed print of Galen Rowell's classic 1973 photograph, Valley of the Ten Peaks, Banff, Canadian Rockies, was made available by Mountain Light Gallery during the VIP reception portion of the evening, and sold for $12,500. The proceeds from the sale will be donated by Mountain Light Gallery to support the Rowell Award.

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