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Byline: Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

P h o t o g r a p h y

Another year, another calendar.

Which makes this an appropriate time to meet Marc Adamus, a 27-year-old Corvallis outdoorsman whose backpacking and camping trips result in spectacular scenes for calendars, coffee table books, magazines and wall art.

Bold, dramatic landscape photographs are Adamus' stock in trade.

"Patience and persistence" - not to mention an eye for shape and light and a passion for immersing himself in the landscape - are the keys to his art.

"My photography comes from a life-long passion for wilderness adventure," said Adamus, who spent "over 200 days out in the field this last year."

That included a 65-day photo safari in the Rocky Mountains, during which Adamus "spent just one night in a motel ... so it's definitely a labor of love."

Adamus' love of the outdoors -acquired from his father, Paul, a wetlands biologist and avid birdwatcher - preceded his love of photography.

His interest in photography began with a camera he received as a Christmas gift when he was about 15 years old. But he didn't become "seriously" involved in photography until he made the switch from film to digital cameras about three years ago.

In that short time, the self-taught photographer - `I've never taken any formal classes or training," he says - has produced an extensive portfolio of impressive photos. And he's seen them published worldwide in calendars, books and magazines - as well as being viewed extensively on the World Wide Web.

Adamus is one of a dozen photographers featured at the popular Web site, where 60 of his best photos are posted.

One of them, of Crater Lake in winter, has been clicked on by nearly a half-million viewers. The same photo, taken during a five-day snowshoe trip around the rim of the volcano, earned "special mention" at the 2006 Banff Mountain Photography Competition.

Earlier this year, a photo Adamus took of waves crashing against rocks on the Oregon Coast won the Art Wolfe Award for landscape photography at the Environmental Photography Invitational in Seattle. His work has been selected for publication in seven different magazines, including Outdoor Photographer and, in an upcoming issue, Popular Photography. And he has photographs in several 2007 calendars, including the Time Catcher and Discover America calendars.

While his work becomes more widely exposed with each passing year, Adamus is "a little-known gem of Oregon," said Alan Contreras of Eugene, who purchased rights to use Adamus photos as book covers.

"I have looked at a lot of outdoor photos over the years, and I think his work is world-class," Contreras said. "People are starting to call him `Ansel Adamus.' '

That reference, of course, is a play on the name Ansel Adams, arguably America's pre-eminent landscape photographer.

"Ansel Adams definitely was an inspiration for me, as he was for most landscape photographers," Adamus said. "It would be almost impossible to not realize some inspiration from Ansel's work."

Ansel Adams' greatest genius may have been in the darkroom, where he used various photo print-making techniques to squeeze maximum visual impact out of his negatives.

Adamus said his use of Photo Shop computer software is "a very similar process" that helps bring out the "dynamic range" of colors in his digital photographs, giving them the look of oil paintings.

Adamus said he does not digitally alter the content or composition of his photographs in any way.

"When adjustments are made, it is always limited to fine tuning of color, exposure and tones. ... In the film days, it would be the equivalent of choosing different film and filter combinations," he said. "That's basically what I'm doing in Photo Shop - fine tuning color contrasts."

Adamus provides an illustration of the "fine-tuning" process on his Web site, Click on the "Image Creation Process" link to see an original RAW format photo as captured "in camera," as well as intermediate and final "corrected" versions.

His Internet home page, which he said draws an average of 8,000 visitors a month, also contains links to several "slide shows" featuring images in several categories, including "mountain and winter landscapes" and "deserts of the southwest.

Custom prints of any of his photographs can be ordered by e-mailing Adamus at: Prices start at $95 for a print 12-by-18 inches.

While his work is featured in books and calendars, Adamus said he has no immediate plans to do a "solo" book or calendar project featuring only his photos "because of my time constraints."

Simply being in the right place when the light is right, one of the keys to his work, consumes much of his time. Last year, Adamus put more than 60,000 miles on the Subaru he often sleeps in, plus uncounted miles on hiking boots and skis in search of right places.

"Photography is such a game of patience," Adamus said. "You're almost never going to go to an area the first time and capture the defining images. You have to get to know the area, you have to learn the light and the seasons ...

"And you've got to get beyond just the basic automatic functions of your camera if you want to capture a landscape to its full potential. You have to learn to tell your camera what you want it to do, not just what it wants you to do."

Adamus uses a 13 megapixel Canon 5D camera for most of his work, and often travels deep into the backcountry with only a single camera body, three lenses, a tripod, a bag of filters and his camping gear.

"When I go out with other photographers, they cannot believe how little camera gear I have," he said, adding that he has grown to emulate the "fast and light" style of Galen Rowe, author of "Mountain Light" and one of his favorite photographers.

Mountains in winter are Adamus' favorite subject, so he spends a lot of time on skis and snowshoes, often traveling alone.

"It just such a natural landscape," he said. "Fresh snow just transcends the landscape like nothing else, and you can find such solitude, such peacefulness in the mountain landscape."

But the life of a landscape photographer is not all sunrises and sunsets. At one point this year, Adamus was stuck in camp in Banff for 14 days.

"I didn't get out and take hardly a single worthwhile picture," he said. "That can be frustrating at times."

In spite of Oregon's temperamental weather, Adamus likes working here because he has "quick access to a variety of different landscapes," from the coast to the mountains to the Alvord Desert.

When he gets a great shot, Adamus sees more than just a pretty picture.

"There's definitely a strong message for preservation in my landscapes," he said. "I use my images for the preservation of landscapes as much as I can." Toward that end, he contributes images to the Nature Conservancy.
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Title Annotation:Recreation; Corvallis outdoorsman Marc Adamus is making an impact as a nature photographer
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 26, 2006
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