It was 1998. Who would have thought that one man’s idea of creating a small website as a venue to share his writing about photography would turn into one of the most respected and largest sites on the internet for the photography enthusiast? A lot of success in Life has to do with being in the right place at the right time. Michael Reichmann had a knack for being right there.
The timing could not have been better. In 1998 Michael was at a crossroads in his Life. He had just completed the sale of his telecommunication business and was looking for something new to explore. Something that would allow him to return to his first passion; photography. His enduring curiosity kept him learning about new things that captured his interest, especially when they related to photography, astronomy, emerging technology & science.
In his photographic work, he strived for perfection. Michael mastered view cameras and shooting the “fine art” landscape. When we first met, we were both young and lived in the same duplex. He was on the upper floor, I was below. I could hear him clomping around above my head in his cowboy boots, running water late at night, disturbing my sleep. Eventually I understood he was working in his make-shift darkroom developing film and printing black and white photos. The image of that allows you know how long ago that was! Then we got to know each other, got married and the rest is history.
When he wasn’t working in some area of the tele-com industry, he was a keen traveler and would set out on adventures for the explicit reason of capturing images at iconic locations around the world. He would return and share his experience through his articles written about these trips for small publications such as Photo Techniques Magazine. The articles gained a wide readership and many acquaintances and friends asked him for copies & reprints. To make his articles more available, he searched for a better way of sharing them. It wan’t long before Michael’s long-time friend Chris Sanderson suggested Michael put them up as ‘pages’ on the “World Wide Web”.
As was typical for Michael, he researched a number of books on the web and taught himself how to create a website. It wasn’t long before he saw the potential of the internet and was ready to launch a new website. I remember when we were sitting around our living room one evening trying to figure out a name for the website. After a few glasses of wine and numerous names, it was finally settled. Michael liked shooting landscapes and the best time of day to shoot these landscapes was at sunrise and sunset. During these special times of day the landscape has its own unique luminescence. This was not lost on Michael, who rarely missed a rising or setting sun. The Luminous Landscape or “LuLa”, as it has affectionally come to be known, then emerged.
For the next sixteen years, Michael built the Luminous-Landscape to be one of the most popular photography websites on the internet. It was always a work in progress, as he added new features, guest contributors, and the very popular Luminous-Landscape Users Forum.
After the site was created it continued to gain great popularity. Continued “brainstorming” lead Chris and Michael to an idea of starting a TV series about photography. This was the new era of digital special-interest cable channels and there was a huge demand for new content.
However, the potential demands of ‘wall-papering’ a schedule with twenty-six shows and meeting the demands of advertisers became rather unattractive to both of these DIY techies. So they decided to do it themselves and started the Luminous Landscape Video Journal. The ‘LLVJ’ was released for several years as a quarterly DVD. With the advent of Adobe’s Lightroom, they also created tutorials on DVD with Jeff Schewe. The first one was actually free to subscribers. Eventually, all DVDs migrated to online delivery and today Luminous Landscape releases videos and updates as they become available.
Luminous-Landscape transformed Michael into a very recognizable photo celebrity. We were often stopped on the street or at the airport by people who recognized his face from the very popular video journals. Michael was especially known on the site for his candour and his camera reviews. He’d always tell it like it was. This gained him a lot of respect – even amongst the camera manufacturers that he sometimes panned. No matter what, you could count on Michael having a well-voiced opinion. And he shared it openly. But he didn’t just have opinions, he was also a generous teacher. He shared his knowledge and experiences openly. After a photo trip taken with Thomas Knoll, the co-author of Photoshop, Michael’s most famous article “ ETTR – Expose To The Right” received many tens of thousands of views.
In the early 2000’s, Michael and Chris started running workshops to some amazing locations. These were enormously popular and often were “sold out” within a day of being announced on the site. This was before most people had even heard of photo workshops. Today the Luminous-Landscape still offers numerous workshops each year to unique photographic destinations.
A few years before Michael’s passing he was diagnosed with cancer. While he didn’t make this public knowledge to his readers, his best friends knew. Michael fought many battles and won most of them. His spirit and “can-do” attitude inspired him do more—knowing that one day he might lose the battle. As part of his “legacy project” he published the Retrospective of his work and formed the Luminous-Endowment fund to give deserving photographers a chance to realize their photographic projects. The Luminous-Endowment remains the best way to honour Michael’s memory and his intention to “pay it forward.”
During these years Chris Sanderson also remained Michael’s dear friend and business partner in all things related to “LuLa”. As a result of their strong connection, Chris has many stories about Michael and his many idiosyncrasies. Michael was a funny guy. He had a great sense of humour and loved his friends dearly. Those closest to him got the rare treat of knowing Michael’s personality the best. We all laugh at Michael as he was known for embracing something new, getting the most out of it and then moving straight onto the next interest. There was never a hesitation about moving on! When out shooting with Michael, many of his friends dreaded it when Michael was driving. He was famous for chasing the light. “If it’s not here, it must be there!” That was quickly followed by suddenly stopping in the middle of the road, jumping out of the car and taking a quick capture. His friends would follow, but were often too late. Many remember many times when he would get back in the car quickly yelling at everyone, “There’s no shot here! Moving on!”
Michael was a legend. He was one those lucky individuals who was in the right place at the right time. And, even though he gained fame for what he did for photographers, he never let it go to his head. He shared openly through the web site and his own personal photography. He answered emails and helped any photographer with questions whenever he could. He leaves his legacy in good hands with his son, Josh Reichmann.
Michael is sorely missed by his family, friends and the global photographic community. But through the vast body of his work and the Luminous Endowment Fund he leaves a strong legacy. The Endowment will continue to grow and help up-and-coming photographers develop and realize their dreams. We know Michael’s spirit is still with us. As many photographers have said, “When you stand at a location and are suddenly presented with amazing light, a rainbow or one of the many spontaneous moments afforded by Mother Nature, imagine Michael is smiling down on you.” In this way, I know he will not be forgotten.
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