on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Inside the High Sierra

Interview with Claude Fiddler

Claude Fiddler

Claude Fiddler

I started making pictures in 1979 on a winter ski of the John Muir Trail. The trail traverses a 211-mile-long route along California’s Sierra Nevada. The trip set my life course. I had been skiing and rock climbing on high school and university semester breaks but after the Muir Trial trip I made my way into a life in the mountains.

In 1983 I started using a large format camera, and for 30 years I only used the 4x5 with one lens. The one exception was in 1983 on a trip to climb the West Ridge of Mount Everest. In 2008 I bought into a digital camera and lens. I currently use a medium format digital camera.

I am most interested in the mountain environment. Living in the High Sierra Nevada I’ve been able to have a long-standing and deep relationship with the Range of Light. I’ve also been travelling to the Arctic Brooks Range of Alaska since 2004. A truly remarkable landscape. For me, to make my best photographs, I need to be intensely involved with a place. Multiple long trips over multiple years are what works for me.


Charlotte Parkin

Charlotte Parkin

Head of Marketing & Sub Editor for On Landscape. Dabble in digital photography, open water swimmer, cooking buff & yogi.

Claude Fiddler was interviewed on one of Matt Payne's f-stop podcasts and we thought it would be great to include him in On Landscape, especially regarding his book "Inside the High Sierra". Claude has is a photographer for whom the experience of being in the wilderness is paramount in order for him to create photographic works that resonate.

Mount Russell, Constitution Peak, Mount Whitney, And Mount Hale, Sierra Nevada, Ca Web

Mount Russell, Constitution Peak, Mount Whitney, and Mount Hale, Sierra Nevada,

Tell me about the photographers or artists that inspire you most.

Van Gogh for the colour in his paintings, his use of perspective, the geometries he creates and the movement of the geometries through the frame. Joel Meyerowitz for the use of one lens, the 250mm wide-field Ektar on the 8x10 Deardorff field camera. His seeing of light, scale, and the precision of elements placed in the frame. His variety of subject matter. Meyerowitz's book Cape Light was a revelation for me. Richard Misrach’s book Desert Cantos affected me in much the same as Cape Light. Steve Solinsky for his seeing the ordinary as extraordinary. Joseph Holmes for his landscape compositions and his perfection of craft from exposure to print. John Wawrzonek for his vision of New England.

What books stimulated your interest in photography and who drove you forward, directly or indirectly, as you developed?

Besides Cape Light and Desert Cantos, The Daybooks of Edward Weston and Weston’s seeing that could be directly attributed to Edward Weston influenced and amazed me at first. I was driven to find my voice. Something I could call my own.

Tell me about why you love landscape photography? A little background on what your first artistic passions were.

I love recording my amazement with the mountain landscape. I also, love/hate the challenge of making a perfect composition. I hate the technical aspects of photography but love it when I solve "the problem". My first artistic passion was recording my early experiences climbing and backpacking in the Sierra Nevada. I loved the alchemy of taking a picture, and then developing the film, making a print and recreating the experience. Absolutely nothing artistic. Purely mechanical snapshots. But that was the start. After seeing photos in climbing magazines, I recognised that a photo could resonate with an audience. It could communicate something. I became keenly aware of this looking at Ansel Adams photos. As being in the mountains took on more importance in my life, Adams’ photos communicated the emotions of being in the mountains. I wanted to make pictures that did the same.

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