Ed Cooper Photography


(click on pictures to see captions)


I started out in Syracuse, New York. My early years were rather uneventful, except to me. I did have a brief fling with photography between 12 and 14 years, when I had an old Argoflex 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 twin lens reflex camera, and an enlarger. I remember the fascination of looking through the viewfinder of the camera, and enjoying making prints in the darkroom with a cheap enlarger that I had. Just about this time, teen angst made its entrance big time and I forgot all about photography.

At 16, an event occurred which changed the direction of my life. Just a few days before my older sister (by nine years) was about to leave for a trip out west, she asked if I wanted to come along. Since it was summer and I was mostly bored, I said yes. Next scene: I was standing on the shore of Jenny Lake below the Teton Mountains of Wyoming. I looked up at Teewinot (which I thought was the Grand Teton, a common mistake for many first time visitors) and wondered how a mountain could possibly be so steep! And further, how could anyone ever climb it?



Further discoveries of the western landscape occurred in several other national parks, but the culmination of the western mountain experience happened when my sister hired a guide to take us to the summit of Mt. Rainier (14,411'), which he successfully did. Even this early I took pictures in an attempt to convey to others the feelings I experienced. From this point on, it was a matter of returning to the western landscape year after year. The next summer I visited my newlywed sister in Alaska. The following summer I worked for the forest service in Oregon after my first year of college, etc. Starting with the mountains I grew more and more aware of other natural scenery: oceans, deserts, forests, plains, and finally minutiae like dewdrops on leaves.

Eventually (in 1973) 1 was even able to return to New York State and spend some time capturing the natural beauty of that state. My photography was later used as the major photography for a book on the state of New York. Rather than learning the techniques of photography first, I learned the moods of nature and THEN mastered the techniques necessary to capture those moods. I never did take a photography course of any sort, but I don't necessarily recommend that to anyone else. There are still gaps in my knowledge, but I am constantly learning.



In any career, there is backing and filling, and often many steps are required before you reach your final goal of working in the field you would like. And so it was with me. I went to college and graduated as a metallurgical engineer from the University of Washington. Instead of getting a job, I went on to become a "mountain bum," climbing and photographing in many mountain areas of the west. Climbing adventures took me to the summit of Mt. McKinley in Alaska (at 20,320' the highest peak in North America) and up the 3000' vertical face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, and many other places. A number of photos and stories on climbing I had written I sold to various magazines. I even did a cigarette commercial on TV for Camel cigarettes.

Residuals of this commercial kept me afloat for over a year (during which time I gave up smoking for good; I could tell it was bad for me before all the hoopla about cancer, etc.), but my photography skill still was not sufficient to make a living from, and I once again found myself back East starting a career as a stockbroker. (I still have some sample business cards with my business address of 1 Wall Street; I looked out my office window down onto Trinity Church).

From here I transferred to the San Francisco office of my firm in late 1966, but I found myself in the summer of love of 1967. I dropped out of my job to experience it. I did like many things about the financial industry (which stay with me to this day), but as a whole it was too confining to work in. It was in this time period that I met the woman I would marry in 1968--Debby Page. Once the summer of love passed, I began to devote myself passionately to photography. I'd saved enough to last me a year or more. This time I stayed in it for good.

At first I did a lot of work in B&W, and reached the point where I could look at any B&W negative, and achieve its full potential when printing it in the darkroom. Being that the reproduction fees for B&W were so low, I began to explore the creative side of color, in the form of 4x5 transparencies, which editors preferred for publication.

During the recession of 1981-1982 I recognized a need for more income (stock photographers' incomes were dropping everywhere at that time) and my wife and I developed a post card business in the Sonoma-Napa wine country. We had looked at some of the local post cards and our feeling was "we can do better than that." While it was a good business and brought in good income, we had to deal with chain store receiving areas and philistine shop owners. We stayed with it for 12 years and finally "retired" in 1995, selling the post card and souvenir item part of our business.

In the years since I started in photography, I have built up a library of some 60,000-70,000 original 4x5 transparencies as well as many 35mm and B&W. Debby and I have two children: a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren. I still enjoy going out shooting. #6 More recently, I have gone completely digital.

In December 2003, the movie In The Shadow of the Chief - The Baldwin and Cooper Story was released. It is the story of the climb of the Grand Wall of the Stawamus Chief near Squamish, British Columbia, in May and June of 1961, by Jim Baldwin and myself. It includes archive television footage shot by the CBC in 1961, as well as contemporary footage, shot in 2002 and 2003 recreating the climb. It was one of the most unusual climbs in mountaineering history, as it became a climb sponsored by the town.

The film, by first-time filmmakers Ivan Hughes and Angela Heck, premiered at the Whistler Mountain Film Festival in December 2003, where it received the Peoples Choice for Best Film at the festival and sold out two screenings. The Vancouver International Film Festival awarded the film their Best Film Overall-Festival Grand Prize.

Most recently I have been delving into the digital photography world, converting many classic silver halide based images into digital files and prints using a high end scanner and a pigment based digital printer. Many of the images, originally shot in 4x5, now exist as digital files up to 300 megabytes or more, and the prints made from these digital files are virtually indistinguishable from wet darkroom prints.


  1. On top of Lynx Mt. , 10400', in the Canadian Rockies. My first 4x5 camera, an old Speed Graphic, is on the tripod. July 1962.BACK
  2. Climbing on the Angel Crack on Castle Rock in Tumwater Canyon,
    Washington State; 1960.BACK
  3. Working in the field with a view camera in Glacier National Park, Montana, 1981. Photo by Debby Cooper.BACK
  4. On top of the Middle Teton; Grand Teton in Background. 1966. Taken with a self-timer. Used as cover on Backpacker Magazine.BACK
  5. Shooting from a safari platform on top of the camper, with a view camera set-up, 1981. Photo by Debby Cooper. (Currently I have a safari platform on a 1995 Alaskan Camper.)BACK
  6. An important family event:I escort our daughter Beth down the aisle at her marriage to Brian Dunnery at our home on The Knoll in Sonoma, California, on Sept. 13, 1997. Photo by Gerry French.BACK