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Meet Mitch Dobrowner: 2012 Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Fan and an REI Member

Meet photographer Mitch Dobrowner, a native of Long Island, N.Y., now living in Southern California, whose striking black-and-white images of outdoor scenes have left many of us here at REI slack-jawed in wonder.

Since resuming a career in photography in 2005, Dobrowner’s work has collected more than a dozen major honors. Most recently he was presented the prestigious L’Iris d’Or award as Photographer of the Year at the 2012 Sony World Photography Awards in London last August.

We’re equally impressed that Mitch is an REI member who just geared up for an upcoming photography expedition to Iceland at the REI Northridge store. Way to be a member, Mitch. Keep your eye open for that REI dividend.

The Los Angeles Times offers a splendid gallery of his images (in a large format) accompanied by an interview. You can also gawk for hours at images displayed on his gorgeous website

Dobrowner kindly offered The REI Blog some of his thoughts behind images he ranks among his personal favorites.


Shiprock Storm, Navajo Nation, New Mexico © Mitch Dobrowner

Mitch on Shiprock Storm: I just remember planning the trip for a few months and eventually taking my family to Farmington, New Mexico, for 10 days. After being out there for 8 days, getting a lot of good images but not what I wanted or envisioned I woke up at 4 in the morning on the 9th day.

It was freezing, as it was the end of December. I got in my truck and started driving out to the location which was about 50 miles away. I was in the rain, and snow, and sleet, and in the dark, and I was like, ‘You’re an idiot. What are you doing?’ I had to drive 50 miles and it was like, ‘You’re not gonna get anything. You could be sleeping in a warm bed and relaxing. What are you doing?’

But when I finally got out to the location, there it was: a lowering cloud was covering the entire structure of Shiprock. I was like, “This is it.” I stood out there in ankle-deep mud and snow for 4 hours. And as the cloud lifted the light was perfect. It was the image I had envisioned in my mind months earlier when I started to plan the trip.

It showed me that if you’re dedicated, and also somewhat tenacious enough to move through the low points—or in your mind dismisses all the things that are somewhat negative about your abilities—you can accomplish things. And that feeling of wow, I really accomplished this…nobody knows what it took. For me, that’s what my art is about; it’s kind of what I live for.


Civilization, Los Angeles, California © Mitch Dobrowner

Mitch on Civilization: I always have to remind myself that what seems to be is not always as it really is; that the Earth is really a rock spinning through Space. If I could do a time-lapse of L.A. we’d see that everything we have is also just temporary. We’d see that the landscape itself wouldn’t change but what mankind builds would rise and fall.

We’re only temporary here. The land we think we own, we actually only borrow. Regarding Los Angeles, I love the city. I also love urban landscapes man has built. One of my first experiences in Los Angeles that I can remember was looking down at the San Fernando Valley from on top of the 405 Freeway.

I got "the chills" as I thought it was one of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen. The spirit of that sighting is all I’ve been trying to capture ever since with my Urban series of images.


Monsoon, Lordburg, New Mexico © Mitch Dobrowner

Mitch on Monsoon: August 14, 2010: I envisioned shooting the monsoons as a bridge between my landscape work in the American Southwest and the "Storm" project.

Knowing that the monsoons had a higher cloud base then the storms I had previously witnessed (lower based wall clouds), my goal was to capture the image of a storm that emulated an atomic explosion. I believed that would help represent the power, strength and force of what I had been witnessing.


Rope Out, Ragan, North Dakota © Mitch Dobrowner

Mitch on Rope Out: On the morning of July 16, 2011, we woke in Bismarck, North Dakota. We could tell that something was going to happen. The weather felt like walking through soup as temperatures rose into the mid-90s by late morning.

My mid-afternoon we were chasing a towering storm cell along Interstate 94. Stopping approximately a mile and a half from this rotating wall cloud we witnessed what was to become 1 of 4 tornadoes. The tornado in this image was on the ground for approximately 15 minutes. 

Posted on at 11:00 AM

Tagged: Mitch Dobrowner, Photography and art

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Ann B Staff Member

Mitch's photos are mindblowing. Thanks for writing about him, Terry. And an REI member, to boot!

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