News from Marc Adamus


The Shimshal

Shimshal is a legendary place in northernost Pakistan. The Shimshalis are the people who live here. Of all the people I have worked with around the globe, a Shimshali named Muqeem Baig stood out immediately. His kind heart and mild manner conceal an extraordinary athlete born of fortitude and hardship in one of the most geographically isolated places in the world. I came to learn that a few of Muqeem's ancestors settled in the Shimshal Valley hundreds of years ago and proceeded to increase their numbers through generations until their decendents numbered a couple thousand. They are genetically different than all others in the world and their incredible strength and super human endurance might be comparable to something like the Sherpa of Nepal, though lesser in numbers. In Shimshal they were isolated for hundreds of years, requiring walks of more than 3 days involving near vertical canyons, rivers and summits higher than 17,000ft to reach any other settlements. They speak the language of Wahki, which is similar to Urdu. 

The first road from Shimshal to the outside world, was completed in 2003, and this took 18 years using hand tools to carve away at dozens of miles of sheer cliffs hundreds of vertical feet above the canyons below. We had a chance to drive this road multiple times and it was the most breathtaking drive of my life. The villagers do not have cars, however, and many have never seen the land beyond. The valley is vast and supportive though, at about 11,000ft altitude, for those who have learned how to tend it. Until recently it was understood that the average life expectancy of a Shimshali was upwards of 90, despite a near complete lack of modern medicine. Their diet is rich in dried fruits and nuts and oils produced locally and while they raise Yaks and Sheep, they rarely eat meat. New more processed foods making their way into town, especially since the completion of the road have introduced intolerance and disease and are frowned upon by the elders. 

In the early 1990s the government contacted the Shimshalis to see if they needed anything or wanted to trade. It was at this time the village got its first tractor, via military helicopter, which is still in good repair and running today.Most here still adhere to the old ways, but to preserve their culture and offer the outside world something of themselves, many have recently been involved in mountaineering and trekking. Muqeem's father was among the first to ever summit K2. Pakistan's most elite trekkers and climbers have come from the Shimshal. 

Recently one of Muqeem's cousins became sick while in a field tending to a herd 2 days walk from town. He was carried on foot by his friends to town and when they reached town his condition had not improved. Since summer floods and rockfall, which are common, had made the road too dangerous the locals then proceeded to carry him on foot nearly 50 miles to the Hunza valley over 4 days. Unfortunately he died a short time later and it was suspected to have been a stroke. But if that doesn't show the strength of these people what does...

The town is surrounded by vast rolling meadows in an arid landscape and peaks of well over 22,000 feet rise on nearly all sides. Glaciers rumble above and great rivers rush below. Electricity is available only when a tiny hydro plant is operational thanks to adequate water flow in the stream, and even then is intermittent. There is no heat in our guest quarters, part of an old school building funded by a German donor many decades ago that was later turned over to the locals. Authorities had checked our passports on the way into the road leading to he valley but we were later told those police were illiterate anyway. School would be optional (and expensive) at best here however the police, for their part, had a beautiful little garden and a couple sheep at the checkpoint which amounted to their residence, on an especially arid bench near a river.

We soon met a gentleman on the road who was walking and asked him how he was doing. He said he had attempted to take a motorcycle to town but his bike had broken down some 15 miles ago in the canyon so he was proceeding to walk so that he would be able to take an exam for a course he had been taking there.

The road to Shimshal valley is very rough dirt and even with road access it is an all-day journey with no civilization of any kind along the way and canyons with walls ten thousand feet high on both sides so deep the sun never hits bottom in places. Roads are built upon a platform of stacked meticulously hand stacked rocks the like of which I have never seen elsewhere, as if proper stacking techniques will allow rocks the adhere perfectly to any surface. Bridges are hand made wooden suspension hung with metal cables attached to brick that sway greatly while passing over them and allow one vehicle at a time. One has to wait for the bridge to stop moving before putting wheels down on the other side.  

Houses in town are of mud brick and roofs of wood and packed soil and plants in the old style, and a newer style is defined by locally made cinderblock and concrete from the glacial silt in the riverbanks. In neighborhoods around town it is very clean with little trash owing to local sourcing of most items and no need for disposable packaging and a deep respect for the land and environment surrounding. All cooking and heat in the village is done with wood from trees that were planted here by locals over generations and are meticulously cared for. The trees are a great part of their life produce apricot, walnut, apple and cherries, just to name a few. Potatoes and tomatoes are grown in abundance alongside essential grains such as wheat, for which the harvest is a town-wide qctivity that takes every available rooftop for drying. Much fruit is dried to last the winter and many preserves are made from it. There are in addition local honeys, salts, oils and a vinegar with apricot. The ancient local cuisine found here does not use things like curries or spices indicative of much Pakistani food. Rarely anywhere I have seen such proud, dedicated and beautiful people. 

It has been great to go with Muqeem twice for trips now and would be honored to consider him a friend.  I look forward to more trips with him to come, and many thanks to him for introducing me to many cousins and family members throughout our travels.  

January 15, 2023

AI and art. My thoughts.

People ask me often enough these days, what are my feelings about AI. Well, how far down that rabbit hole do you want to go? Ultimately, I think humanity will decide that the entire point of it's existence probably shouldn't be to provide sustenance for the machines that replace it. But who knows. Maybe we are living an an AI created simulation right now. Maybe our species is just the just the bridge to a super intelligence. Matrix anyone?  

But let's back up for a second. What about photography art, video art, these kinds of visual records specifically? There's something I know a thing or two about. One main point I'd like to make is the fact that however artistic these pursuits may be, much of their value to society has always been that they are in part just that, visual records. If someone goes on a once in a lifetime adventure to a spectacular place, for example, they aren't all going to be inclined to ask AI to generate a random image of that place and have that be all they take to remember it by. These sorts of fantastical digital renderings will soon be ubiquitous, but they are most importantly, not our story.  

Buying a painting or rendering of a place we love doesn't satisfy the same purpose as recording what we actually saw, felt and experienced at a moment spent there. The ability to look back on that moment and present it in our own unique artistic way is part of the human soul, since the days of cave paintings. It isn't something that will simply be replaced by a machine.  

Maybe some of my fellow landscape photographers got lost somewhere along the way and their art became more about an image at any cost, not the place or experience. Perhaps it becomes like a game, or competition for them to make something. As AI continues to develop, that specific competition may well be over. There may soon be a time where any image, or even video, that you see could be AI, or it could be created by a human through personal experience, and it is my hope that line is not inextricably blurred, however inevitable that may seem. To have an AI program write an essay for your homework assignment or muse philosophically about the place of art in life, and have that writing be indistinguishable from that of a human, is not only possible, it's here now. In the near future AI could be able to lobby politicians, write policy and generate entire feature-length films just because it got a few prompts to do so. This was not written by AI, just for the record. Our entire world has the potential to be reshaped, but back to photography.  

For me, wilderness and exploring have been the foundations of my life. I have been leading tours around the world doing just that for well over 20 years. In wilderness, in experiences, is my solace. Many of my clients see my pictures and want to take similar themselves, but when I tell them you could just buy that image or tell a painter or AI program to reproduce something like that they scoff, of course, what am I, crazy? This is THEIR moment, they were there to press that shutter button the moment the whale jumped out of the water, and no matter how many other perfect whale jumping shots they saw, no other would suffice as theirs. In addition to the very personal and important aspect of telling one's own story, the art of reshaping and editing images is a very personal thing. Typing in commands and prompts and seeing what image gets generated might be fine for the background in an ad, but not as welcome when attempting to describe how a particular moment made you feel, especially if it's from a place or moment the AI isnt programmed to recognize. For example, the art of music was perhaps the first to be inundated with the simulated effects of AI, but people still want to compose, still want to play instruments, still want to create organically. To art is to human.  

To bet on AI simulations and fantasy replacing the human desire to create their own organic art is to bet on the demise of the entire human species. And I personally, hope we aren't there quite yet.

Perhaps the biggest part of not being there, in my opinion, is to develop ways to better discern or advertise which images are renderings, and which are organic. We have seen it already with GPT-Zero being developed to identify Chat-AI written text. Open AI lab itself is even developing such tools, recognizing how deceptive their product can be in the wrong hands. If history tells us anything, in the art world, many more ways of identifying AI are sure to rapidly be developed if for no other reason that the universal desire for human connection. We crave organic substance, rarity and authentication in our lives. A cubic zirconia may look exactly like a diamond but it never will be. A ubiquitous AI generation that took 2 minutes will never command the thousands of dollars that a hand painted masterpiece that took hundred of hours will, even if they look the same. Even a picture of a lion at the zoo will never be the same, in a collectors eyes, as a lion in African wild, let alone some commonplace digital rendering of a picture of a lion.  

Rarity, organic, authentic, hand crafted, name brand human. That's what commands respect in the art and collector's world, and although we have seen some AI "art" up for sale in it's infancy, we cannot expect it to maintain whatever momentary value it had to someone when the market is flooded. It's possible even, that as tools and methods of separation between AI and human made are developed, there may be a great renaissance underway, with renewed emphasis on human creations. I hope there is. I am firmly on the human team. I don't see any other way.  

November 1, 2021

Thanks for the well wishes

Thanks to everyone for your well wishes and thoughts the last 4 months as I have recovered from a series of injuries.  What I am confident saying at this point is that my right shoulder will never be the same and the medical system in this country is comedically awful.  Fortunately though, I can now hold a camera again and I am also lucky that I don't need my right arm much to hike, wear a camera pack or work with my groups.  As long as I have hiking and holding a camera I should be OK, but will have to be very careful for the next year to restrengthen it as much as I can, even if there is limited range of motion.  I have had to be my own physical therapist for much of the time because apparently it is actually ILLEGAL for PT's to work across state lines, even in tele-health.  I have been rejected by every one that would be covered by my insurers (which would be a first) that I have tried so far on the basis that I am not physically in my "home" state, which of course I can't be due to my business, which is continuous travels.  That said, I have learned a lot and recovered 75% of my range of motion and have no intention of pushing it all that hard the next 6 months until I have regained more strength.  

Anyway, I just wanted to say no need to worry about me or how I am doing.  I appreciate your thoughts and will let you know if further updates are needed.  Most of all I am looking forward to getting back out there with groups and doing what I love.  I think 2022 and 2023 are going to be amazing!


One HELL of a last 3 months.

The last 3 months have been one of my my longest journeys so far.  I have faced more personal hardships I have any other time of my life.  Could it always be worse?  Of course. And I will never lose faith that there is a way forward. But every way I have tried since early June had left me right back in the same place, sitting on a couch at home unable to do much of anything for the first time in 20+ years.

I went to Pakistan and despite having some of the most experienced guides in the country we did not reach any of our intended destinations due to logistical and permitting issues and all my other trip participants succumbed to health-related ailments at altitude before I was left alone with only the lead guides. I was feeling great but suddenly I woke up one day with the worst shoulder pain I've ever had in my left shoulder and later which 5 days later manifested itself into even more painful Costochondritis.  I could barley even sit up without assistance at the worst.  Due to all the logistical issues and concerns for my trekking partners as well, we had to call off the remainder of the trip and return to the states where I was diagnosed with shoulder impingement syndrome and torn rotator cuff.

After canceling one of my favorite Alaska trips over this injury also, I was finally feeling much improved, training, and ready to go back out there for an exploratory expedition in a different part of AK.   Within 20 minutes of being helicoptered out to a ridiculously remote area for 10 days (at five-figure expense), I carelessly slipped on loose rock and suffered my worst injury in 25 years when I busted up my face, knees and shattered my OTHER shoulder socket via dislocation.

In horrible pain, I was helicoptered back to the ER hundreds of miles away where they eventually failed to reset it and had to put me under anesthesia just to relocate the shoulder.

After 2 days of feeling hurt but still able to hobble, I decided to go back out via Heli to rejoin my friends.  To most people reading this I am sure that sounds pretty dangerous, and it was.  Live and learn.  Within 2 hours of returning to camp I suffered another partial dislocation of the shoulder while doing almost nothing at all and spent 36 hours in the worst pain I can ever remember as the broken bone fragments and bones rubbed together in the joint from any position.

When weather cooperated I was finally taken back out again to the ER where they recommended immediate surgery, saying the injury wouldn't heal properly otherwise.

Being a self-employed business owner in the United States, I get pretty much the worst health care in the entire developed world.  Basically, I pay $558 a month for the privilege of waiting on hold for 2-3 hours any time I need to say anything to a nurse (forget doctors) and God forbid I need an actual physical appointment or something as complicated as a specialist. It could be months, and in addition, they told me they wouldn't even discuss my condition because I was out of my coverage area which, as much as I can tell is limited to a small percentage of medical offices in western Oregon and Washington.  So FYI, anyone out there with a Kaiser HMO, don't even bother calling if you are injured away from home. 

Being as though there was nothing more they could do for me in the ER, and I was in no condition to fly back, I spent nearly a week more on the phone with the local docs and insurance before they agreed to maybe cover part of it at the doctor's request because of the urgency, but the verdict is still out on that one. I may still be on the hook for the $70,000 in ER and surgical bills because I was traveling when this happened.  Update to follow.  And just if you were wondering what the fuck is going on here, as someone who is self-employed, I cannot get an insurance with the appropriate travel allowances. Global Rescue insurance covered the initial helicopter only.  DONT EVER GET HURT OR SICK IN THIS COUNTRY IF YOU CAN AVOID IT!  The leading cause of bankruptcy here?  You guessed it: Medical debt.  It doesn't get much worse that that.  

Insurance aside, the fact that our system is broken beyond compare was the least of my problems as my shoulder had been dislocated partially for about 8 days at that point and all I could do is lay motionless in a recliner the entire time, ordering Doordash from Fairbanks. The pain was incredible, and the swelling required constant attention.  I could not even get up to shower or take my own shirt off.

Finally, against all odds I was able to have the surgery performed in Fairbanks and afterwards they told me to not move the arm much for 4 weeks. They found severe ligament damage with more than a dozen bone chips and 3 major breaks. They had to perform reconstruction on the socket but were unable to remove all the fragments which had been moving around a lot. My wife came up to AK at this point to help me through things, thankfully. 

Fast forward more than a month later of sitting on a couch at home watching the muscles fade, I had been feeling very slowly, a little better. Physical therapy was something I was making every effort to start, but they hadn't yet cleared me. At this point I needed to do some minor travel and very easy driving and flying tours of fall colors in Alaska again, and knew I could handle it. Wrong.

I got up to Anchorage and started driving and all was fine, many hours later I'm right in the center of the best fall color I have ever seen anywhere and all of a sudden, the shoulder starts getting more painful. Keep in mind, I am having to shoot ONE HANDED with a pro SLR here, one of the hardest things I have attempted. I don't know what it was that did it, but I guess one of the bone fragments spiked me right in the joint or nerve or something as it was moving around and here we are, 5 weeks after the initial injury and 2 days before I'm supposed to meet a small group that had already had to reschedule their Yukon trip with me, I am in as much pain as I was when I first choppered out with the dislocation! I had been so careful too! Never had I spent a longer period doing absolutely nothing, and it didn't help a bit.  

Devastated and in agony the next morning, I called off the trip and the rest of my schedule for a month. Now I am sitting back in Oregon again after having to receive assistance just to get back through the airports I had casually strolled through 2 days earlier. No idea where it is going from here because you can't talk to doctors on weekends, but additional surgery is likely to be required to remove bone chips or perhaps even do more reconstruction. All I will be able to plan until at least 2022 is pretty easy trips and I may not be able to lift a camera properly until then either at this point.

This whole experience has been terrifying and yet almost comedic in its cruelty and timing, but that said, it could always be worse. At least it is me and not a beloved friend or family member. But it's definitely been a Murphy’s Law summer here, and I had to cancel my return trip to Pakistan that I had planned in the greatest of details for an entire group also!

Before this summer I had to cancel 2 trips out of more than 500 due to injury in my entire life guiding, nearly 25 years leading trips professionally. I have now had to cancel 7 trips in a row spanning 3 months, lost a third or more of my yearly income, have $70k in medical bills and have no assurances when I will be able to get back out. Hopefully soon. But man, when this happens to you all you can do is just put one foot I front of the other, grinding away. I spend my days looking at pictures, places, maps, talking with outfitters and other guides around the world. Just keeping the flame alive, hoping.  

Dreaming about trips is always my way of coping with not being on one. In my entire life I have never felt burned out, never lost any passion for this art or travel and grown so fond of teaching that it has replaced even shooting as my main passion in life. To be able to experience what you love through other's eyes and to be able to see their amazement at the places we visit is what keeps me going. Every time it is like seeing the world anew for me. I realize now what an important role this has played in my life and how much I miss it. Patience is not my strongest attribute, so I am sure everything like this happens for a reason. But I digress. Thanks for reading, and I cannot wait to rejoin you all again someday with a little more luck and positive energy.  Gotta keep on carrying on somehow.  

I have 400lbs of outdoor equipment that is stuck up in Alaska at a storage unit for when I finally get better.  


Dates added to images - please read

My career in photography has spanned a generation in the art.  After making my name as a full time film shooter, turning pro the same year I jumped to digital, and going on to help pioneer digital advances, style, and influence the ways that landscape photography has evolved, I have seen and done a lot in photography.  Always one to look forward in life, I rarely go back and 'update' or 'reprocess' my images digitally.  Much could seemingly be gained by going back now to rework old images with current advances, but I have chosen not to.  Instead, I am going to display my career's work here in its original form, unaltered except to update the files to the current gamut and range of our screens.  I am going to list next to the title in each image the original date that the file was processed so that you can have this perspective on how things have evolved, both for me and also I think for all of us as photographic artists in the last couple decades.   So have a look, from 2002 to present day, at this a collection which has always been cutting-edge for its time. 

1999-2005 – film

2005-2009 – digital with single exposures and filters

2009-2012 – early advanced digital

2012-2017 – advanced digital 


New website design is here!

A much-needed update to my website's design was completed today, and all images have been updated for viewing in higher resolution.  Hope you enjoy!


My work coming soon to galleries around the world!

As of July of this year, I am pleased to announce the signing and completion of a new contract to have many of my best images displayed at the largest photo-dedicated gallery in the world, Yellow Korner.  The images will be available for purchase at over 150 galleries across the globe in cities like Tokyo, New York, London, Paris and many more.  All images will be limited editions and come in sizes ranging from 30cm to nearly 200cm across.  Additionally, I will periodically be flying to some of these locations for signings.  Big news, because even though I have worked from time to time with smaller galleries, I have never had the freedom to put my work in front of such an enormous audience of fine art enthusiasts before and am thrilled to do so.  The prep work and distribution of the images to galleries should be completed by the end of this year, so stay tuned for more on this!  

10/14/2013 A new article

It Will Come to You is an article I wrote to put some of my thoughts on image making, my life and my wilderness journeys together. I chose to share the article on WHYTAKE.NET, which is surely the greatest collection of creative nature photography I have found in one place online, and also the only place you can find my Complete Portfolio on one page.


Thoughts on the wilderness and business marketing

Why I don't blog is a blog article I wrote in response to requests for more information about my recent trips and travels. It also got me thinking about a number of other things.



In the last three months I have been up and down North America and will be sharing a large release of new work around the first of the year. This new selection of images will include some from my Aurora and Glacier trips already seen online but it will also include over 20 new images! It should be viewable here by January 1!


A look at my life in pursuit of photographs

A look at my life and my recent travels is published in the January issue of Nature Photographers Magazine online. It's a long read, but if you ever wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes during the making of these images, check it out. Nature Photographers Magazine


NEW RELEASE: 12/15/2010

The 'New Work' gallery returns on 12/15, featuring many works from throughout this year and my recent Fall travels to the Canadian Arctic, Glacier, British Columbia, Olympic Coast and Desert Southwest!


New stuff and fall travels...

Today I have been able to do some long-overdue work on this site and have rearranged/added images in all the galleries. In the next day or two, I am also going to be announcing my the 2011 wall calendar that will be for sale here on my site through my NY distributor. Lastly, I am departing for extended travels mid-September and will not be returning until late in November. Part of my trip will be spent working for weeks in the backcountry on a new image (or set of images) that will cover totally new ground for me. The next release of new work should be sometime this December. See you then!


A look at the photographers who inspire me to create.

Visit the Mountain Trail Photo Blog for this look at the photographers who have inspired me throughout my career and why. Mountain Trail Photo Blog



My largest-ever release of new images! More details to come!


National Geographic Publications

Marc is pleased to announce a continuing relationship with the publications of National Geographic in 2009 and 2010. More of Marc's images will appear in both 2010 NG. calendar publications, as well as NG's National Parks collection of books and DVD's.


Marc Adamus teams up with Mountain Trail Photo!

Mountain Trail Photo represents the collective imagery of ten of the nations most talented landscape photographers to celebrate the wonders of our precious natural areas. The Mountain Trail team offers a very large variety of publications, workshops and much more designed to inspire, teach and share the beauty of photographing nature. I look forward to be working with Mountain Trail for years to come as a contributor to various book projects and workshops, and will hopefully be announcing exclusive book titles as well. Please visit Mountain Trail Photo today for all your nature photography needs!



After spending nearly 70 days in the field this past Autumn, I've finally returned. I finished processing all the new images this week and added them to my portfolios here. You'll see them right at the top of most of the galleries, especially Mountain and Winter landscapes. Enjoy!


Heading North

I'll be shooting the northern Rockies this fall season, returning in late October. Look for new images and site updates when I return. See ya!


This week!

I'll be attempting a 7-day backpacking and climbing trip through a wild and remote region of the North Cascades Range this week. After being dropped off by boat at Beaver Creek, I'll continue 25 miles onto Eiley Ridge where I will stay for several nights to photograph and attempt a solo of Mount Challenger, among other peaks. Hope there's some new August snow up there, as the forecast calls for storms - my favorite! Maybe this will be my first ever productive photo trip to the North Cascades? In any event, it should be a great time.



We are launching the new on August 11, in rememberance of the life of inspirational photographer and mountaineer Galen Rowell. I hope you enjoy your visit!


It's the busy season!

The transition from late Summer on into early Winter is my favorite time of year to shoot. I love the contrasts and changes present this time of year. I have many trips planned in the upcoming months which will take me away from home most of the time. For this reason, responses to inquiries and orders may take a bit longer than usual, so I appreciate your patience!