My passion is the wide-open spaces of the American landscape and its ever changing palette of light, shadow, color, shape, and form. It offers unparalleled challenges and generous rewards for the photographer that keeps their eyes and heart open to when all of these elements combine to create a decisive moment in time. I strive to reveal intimate details and awe inspiring vistas while working in the margins of light as the landscape comes to life.
My name is Adam Schallau, and I’m an artist working in the medium of photography creating fine art prints of the American landscape. I have a deep love and appreciation for the American West, a place I have called home for most of my adult life.
My love for the outdoors began at an early age. As a child I often went on summer trips, often with my grandmother and an aunt, and at other times with my grandfather driving across the country visiting many different places. These trips offered me an opportunity to experience the wide open spaces, towering mountain ranges, and deep canyons of the national parks and other public lands of the American West. It was these trips that instilled in me a sense of exploration, and a strong appreciation for our wild spaces.
It was about this same time that I began to explore the world of art. I dabbled in many different mediums and loved to work with oils on canvas, and creating pottery on the wheel. It wasn’t until I was 18 and moved to a high-altitude field research station in near Crested Butte, Colorado that I began to dabble in photography.
With a strong back and good knees, I served as a “reluctant sherpa” to another photographer often carrying large-format photography equipment high into the Colorado Mountains.
This was a few minutes before we opened the doors to a large exhibit of my work in Fort Worth, Texas. The exhibit was part of a community outreach project with the National Park Service.
Rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. This is in Upset Rapid, at river mile 150. Upset was named in 1923 after grand canyon photographer & boatman Emery Kolb flipped here in a small wooden boat. This was my first trip down the river, and it was as part of an 18-day art expedition lead by my good friend, David Edwards. Dave is a photojournalist and the senior Grand Canyon boatman, in addition to having one of the top 100 photos in National Geographic. I’ll forever be thankful for the guidance he provided on the expedition.
Finding my way to photography
After my time in Colorado I returned to Texas and began pursuing a career in aviation while working several retail jobs. While on my way to work one day, I was in my car at a red light when an out-of-control bus careened through the intersection, spun 180 degrees and collided with my vehicle and several others. I somehow managed to escape the accident without any major injuries, but did end up with back problems that resulted in periods in the years after the accident when I had days where it was almost impossible to get out of bed or off the couch.
After my accident, I realized that sitting in the cockpit of an aircraft for hours on end might not be the best thing for my back. I decided it was time to pursue a new career, but I had no idea what that career would be. About this time Sally and I began making trips out west to visit the national parks, and in 1999 we made our first trip to the Grand Canyon. We only spent only one night camping in the park, but we left feeling overwhelmed by the canyon and knowing that we would return someday.
I continued to study the art of photography and would shoot whenever I could. By 2001 I was beginning to discover just how much I loved creating photos and being outdoors and active was doing wonders for the problems with my back. With the love and support of our families, we packed up and moved to Taos, New Mexico to allow me to be closer to the locations I wanted to photograph.
Taos was an incredible place to pursue art as the town is an artist colony full of creative and interesting people. We lived one block from the historic St. Francis de Asis church, the church that Georgia O’Keeffe painted and Ansel Adams photographed. We were dirt-poor at the time, and couldn’t afford to travel much, but nearly every day after work I would walk to the church to study the light, texture, shape and form. If everything looked right, I would snap a frame or two. At the end of the month, I had just enough surplus funds in the bank to develop my film and study my work. It was a great way to learn photography.
The Grand Canyon
It was 9 years before we had the opportunity to return, but when we did in May 2008 we experienced the magic of a strong storm system and the affect it could have on the Grand Canyon. I spent 5 days photographing the canyon in incredible conditions, they type of light, weather, and atmosphere that I imagine would have made Albert Bierstadt or Thomas Moran smile. It was during this trip that I learned of the National Park Service’s Artist-in-Residence program, and upon returning home promptly applied for a coveted spot in the Grand Canyon Artist-in-Residence program.
In October of that year I received a letter informing me that I was to be one of only three people that had been accepted to be an Artist-in-Residence on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for the upcoming year. The Artist-in-Residence program allowed me the luxury of time, and being on-location. I had the time to concentrate on creative endeavors and the canyon was only a short walk away. I can’t say enough about what this program has meant to me, and I’m so very thankful for the staff and park rangers that shared their favorite locations with me.
Three years later packed up our belongings and relocated to Flagstaff, Arizona to be closer to the Grand Canyon. The move allowed me to focus my efforts on learning the park and forming an even tighter bond with my artistic home. I now spend on average over 70 days a year photographing the Grand Canyon, teaching photography workshops, and working on expanding my portfolio.
Sally and I in the Virgin River Narrows in Zion National Park. The air temperature was 45 degrees, and the water temperature was 43 degrees, necessitating the use of dry pants to prevent hypothermia.
Fun times. Here I am working with a group of kids that are part of the Parks in Focus program. I’ve been volunteering with them since 2010. I’m there to share my passion and knowledge with the kids, but truth be told they share more with me than I can give them.
The Work & Thanks
My photographs have been used by Apple, CNN, National Audubon Society, Grand Canyon Association, the National Park Service and many others. My work has appeared on the covers of magazines, calendars, music CDs, and in numerous publications, including Arizona Highways, Sunset Magazine, Backpacker Magazine, New Mexico Magazine, and Men’s Journal. In July 2014 I released my first book titled Chasing the Light – Grand Canyon, and by 2019 I will have a larger format book coming out to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Grand Canyon becoming a national park.
My work has been highly-recognized by Nature’s Best Photography – the Windland Smith Rice Awards, and it has received top-honors in the New Mexico Magazine and Arizona Highways photo contests. I am also a recipient of the Luminous Landscape Endowment. My fine art prints are in personal and corporate collections across the world, and they have been exhibited in numerous galleries, museums, and national parks.
Most important to me is that my work has been used in support of environmental and conservation awareness issues including the protection of the Valle Vidal in New Mexico. The most rewarding experiences I’ve had in the outdoors include time spent volunteering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as the Parks in Focus program.
Thank you for your interest in my work. I hope that you love it as much as I love creating and sharing it. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about me or the photos, or if you would just like to chat.