Plumas County Museum: First Venue for Agriculture West and Midwest

January 24th, 2019 by David Leland Hyde 2 comments »

The Plumas County Museum: Exhibiting Talented Artists and Serving Plumas County for 60 Years

David Leland Hyde’s First Museum Show, “Agriculture West and Midwest: Visual Stories of a Fading Traditional Way of Life From 17 States,” Raised Thousands of Dollars for the Plumas County Museum Association. The Museum Staff Chose Hyde’s Large 2017 Fine Art Print, “Horse Barn, Tall Grass, Genesee Valley Ranch” for Their Permanent Collection.

Horse Barn, Tall Grass, Genesee Valley Ranch, Spring, Northern Sierra, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. Part of the Agriculture West and Midwest Museum Show and the Plumas County Museum permanent collection. (Click to See Image Large.)

This feature blog post I originally intended for the purpose of promoting my art exhibition at the Plumas County Museum of over 110 archival photographic prints, all of which I printed and over 60 of which I personally matted and framed. However, I am now posting this as a thank you to the museum and it’s staff for all of their hard work and support of my project and to promote them going forward independent of my show as it moves on to new venues.

Some people believe museums are unnecessary. Many shun art museums in particular. Our current Oval Office Occupier abolished public support for the arts not realizing that his most successful business towers owe much prestige and high value to the neighborhood, the home of Manhattan’s premier museums. The National Endowment for the Arts website materials in 2017 stated that less than 10 percent of Americans have ever set foot in an art gallery or art museum. Why? Is it partly because schools teach the appreciation of art less and less? Are people turned off by perceived snobbery?

Is it because we are not taught in school that art adds to:

  • Community Culture
  • Business Profits
  • Neighborhood Property Values

The art of nature specifically:

  • Decreases Stress and Anxiety
  • Increases Mental Clarity
  • Improves Productivity
  • Improves Overall Health
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Lowers Risk of Cancer

Museums are important institutions in any location, but a county museum that assists and supports other area museums and preserves and catalogs the artifacts, memoirs, court records, events, history, knowledge and whatever else mattered to the people and way of life in a county is an indispensable storehouse of treasures kept in trust for all of us to enjoy and help perpetuate.

The Plumas County Museum began as an idea instigated by restaurateur Bob Moon and bankers William Skaggs and Ward Ingersoll on behalf of Stella Fay Miller, a descendant from Plumas County pioneers who left a bequest that arranged for the purchase of the land and the construction of a museum. These three community leaders gathered together a Plumas County Museum Committee that later became the Board of Trustees for the museum. Philip Hyde, a Trustee and committee member hired the architect for the museum building, Osborne and Stewart from San Francisco. Both Hyde and Ansel Adams had done architectural photography for the related prestigious firms Spencer and Lee, and Stewart, Osborne and Lee. Bill Barlow submitted the lowest bid and became the contractor for the project in early 1968, completing the building in just over a year for a dedication ceremony on June 7, 1969.

Philip Hyde donated giant 32×40 and 40×50 darkroom black and white silver prints to the museum to hang around the inside of the Mezzanine. These silver prints were part of a series called, “The Four Seasons in Plumas County.” Dad wrote about the series that the photographs “Were selected not so much to show specific places in the county, as to represent in a more general way the landscape of the county—the setting of which has changed in details, but has remained overall impression substantially as it was when the first pioneers found their way into the mountains and valleys of the upper Feather River country. These large photographs are still on view today and can be seen from either upstairs or downstairs.

Throughout the 1970s, the museum sold Philip Hyde prints. Dad’s well-known photograph “Spanish Creek,” of which original Dye Transfer prints today sell for $6,000 to 8,000 and more, in 1970 were priced at $22.50 at the Plumas County Museum. Bob Moon wrote a letter to Dad in July 1970 explaining that sales had been brisker than expected and that the prints needed to be restocked. Incidentally, Bob Moon also helped Dad get on TV for the first time during the early days of the museum. The Sacramento Public Television Station filmed a half-hour special at our home near Taylorsville. Plumas County promoted Dad’s work and this in turn brought in sales at the museum that contributed to the operating funds.

In a 1974 fundraising letter Norma J. Carr, then Secretary-Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, reported that in the first five years “the multi-purpose Plumas County Museum and Chamber of Commerce Building hosted over 300 different historical, cultural, educational and informational exhibits and functions viewed by over 80,000 visitors. With a paid staff of two persons and a great deal of volunteer help, the Plumas County Museum has already gained statewide attention and notoriety.” Today, the museum has diversified even further.

“We are an all-encompassing facility for the whole county,” Lawson said. “This is the Plumas County Museum not the Quincy Museum.” He explained that the entire region, the whole Feather River Watershed and its history are important to the museum:

Whether you use anything in the museum on a regular basis or not, the memoirs and papers of the pioneers are here, but we are not here just for people to check out information, we also hold tangible objects passed down through generations from the pioneer families. People gave us the objects and records, for us to take care of and know they will be here for future generations. A lot of these are things we may never see again. Maybe a lot of people had the item years ago, but they have been thrown away, given away, burned up or lost in floods. We have everything from textiles: clothing, shoes, hats, household items, kitchen utensils, furniture, industrial tools, cameras, photography components and darkroom equipment. We have a little bit of everything that represents what life was in Plumas County over the last 170 years for Euro-American culture, plus items that represent the life ways of the Indigenous Maidu.

Lawson said the various museums around the county each serve an important purpose as well.

We can’t do it all here. I don’t feel we are in competition with the other museums around the county at all. I’ve worked with a lot of them to help them hone their accessioning and curatorial skills: so we aren’t throwing things in a corner or letting them get damaged. I help them pick out computer systems and help them get going. We are lucky to have that brochure that shows we have 11 museums now in the county. It could be promoted more than it is, but the county doesn’t spend money on things that bring money in like museums and the chambers of commerce. A lot of people move here because of us, or after seeing our information.

He also filled me in on the history of the Plumas County Museum before it moved into the current building.

The museum has been part of County Courthouse planning since the courthouse opened in 1921. The room where the recorder’s office is now, that was called the memorial room. A lot of the cases in the County Museum now, were in that room. We were one of 19 departments. The county-funded everything: the electricity, heat and so on. After we moved to Jackson Street, they formed a non-profit group to accept donations, so they are giving us less of the general fund now. Things are better than they were for a while, but not ideal because I still have the same extended workload, I’m behind from having no help for a couple of years. I used to have three people and I’m still trying to do the work of three people. With part-time people, you don’t have as much continuity as with full-time folks. I have to spend more time running around making sure they are getting everything done.

Besides cataloging and developing a database and system for looking up everything, the museum undertakes many other endeavors. Having local people and children enjoy the museum Lawson said was one of the most satifying aspects of his job.

We have other projects like maintaining the historic buildings we care for like the Hall-Lowry House and the Old Taylorsville School. If you saw the faces of fourth-graders when they come here for their living history program where they have hands-on heritage skills: making candles, washing clothes on a washboard, making butter, cooking biscuits on a wood stove, and how excited they are about it. It makes it feel like it is worth it to do this. When I see them again 20 years later, they say that was one thing they remembered about the museum and how much fun they had. They then bring in their kids. When you get a little older you start thinking about your roots and the people before you. A lot of people who live here came from somewhere else and don’t have as much of a tie to the history here, but they still want to know, ‘Who had the house before me?’ or ‘Who lived in this valley before.’ We have that information to share.

Today, besides the museum’s many exhibits, it also offers a wide variety of services and programs including:

  • School Tours
  • Bus tours throughout the county featuring historical and cultural highlights
  • Historical and cultural presentations
  • Exhibit design and implementation
  • Local artist shows and receptions
  • 1878 Variel Home tours and restoration work
  • Maintenance of the 1860 Goodwin Law Office
  • Archival Library research and resources
  • Artifact accessioning and conservation
  • Civic and community presentations
  • 4th Grade Living History program
  • Women’s History Luncheon program
  • Spanish Peak Lumber Co. Railroad project
  • Tourism information and referral services
  • 1888 Peppard Cabin tours
  • 1857 Pioneer School tours

In 2017, museum director Scott Lawson led a group tour of Historic Sierra Valley Ranches. The tour visited the Dotta Ranch, Goss Ranch, Smith Ranch, Folchi Ranch, Beckwourth Masonic Hall and other points of interest. The museum also recently put together a grant application and received funding from the Wahl Foundation to help restore the Historic 1864 Taylorsville School, which Plumas County bought from the Native Sons of the Golden West in 2000. Furniture maker Richard Davis of Quincy rebuilt and restored the windows, among other repairs in 2018. The Plumas County Museum today remains a vital and active part of historic preservation and maintaining archives all over the county.

Details:

Plumas County Museum

500 Jackson Street (Behind the County Courthouse)

Quincy, California

Contact Info:

Scott Lawson, Director and Curator

Paul Russell, Assistant Director

530-283-6320

pcmuseum@psln.com

Trustees:

Ken Bernard                       530-283-3965                Graeagle

Charlie Brown                     283-3416                        Quincy

Don Clark                            836-2586                       Graeagle/Mohawk Valley

Pat Cook                             836-4029                        Graeagle (President)

Pete Dryer                          283-2130                         Twain

Bob Edwards                     283-1728                         Quincy

Jerry Holland                     283-5328                         American Valley

Sandra Lee                         927-7442                        Quincy

Gaye Porter                        283-0777                        Quincy

Jerry Thomas                     283-4231                        Quincy/American Valley

Diane Uchytil                     283-3305                         American Valley

Best Photographs of 2018

January 5th, 2019 by David Leland Hyde 18 comments »

The Work of Pioneer Conservation Photographer Philip Hyde Continues Through His Son, David Leland Hyde and His Favorite Images for 2018

Some Americans may not recognize my father, Philip Hyde’s name, but most have seen his iconic landscapes from the 1940s through the 1990s, which helped make many of our national parks, appeared in a solo show at the Smithsonian and with Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Martin Litton, David Brower, and others through Sierra Club Books, popularized the coffee table photography book and played a central role in the birth of the Modern Environmental Movement.

This year I was fortunate to hang my own conservation photographs in my first museum show at the Plumas County Museum in Quincy, California, which Dad co-founded in the late 1960s. The exhibition was called, “Agriculture West and Midwest: Visual Stories of a Fading Traditional Way of Life From 17 States With Special Emphasis on Plumas and Sierra Counties.” Below, please find some of the images from the show, as well as other photographs made this year. I have selected my favorite 18 photographs of the year in accord with the 12th Annual Blog Project by Jim M. Goldstein.

In addition to landscapes, my conservation photography focuses on agriculture for a number of reasons:

  1. People like images of old barns, farms and ranches
  2. Agriculture is a hot and controversial subject currently because industrial agriculture is putting simpler methods and smaller farms out of business across the country, leaving American rural areas and small-towns destitute and abandoned.
  3. Industrial agriculture is also controversial because it is the primary producer of climate change triggering greenhouse gases worldwide, while small, sustainable agriculture is the most effective way to regenerate soil and reverse the damage done to public health and ecosystems by industrial agriculture.
  4. One industrial agriculture myth is that it is the only way to feed the world, whereas small, sustainable agriculture already successfully feeds over 70 percent of the world, while industrial methods only feed 30 percent.
  5. Besides striving to bring to light the differences between industrial agriculture and smaller, more sustainable ways, I also have been photographing our disappearing agricultural history.
  6. The highest purpose of an artist is to be a bellwether of the times.
  7. The art of agriculture has a rich tradition going back to the Dustbowl and Great Depression and including Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Philip Hyde, Edward Weston, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, Morley Baer, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, Grant Wood, George Stubbs, Peter Paul Rubens, Claude Lorrain, Andrea Sacchi, Théodore Rousseau, Hendrik Meyer and many other luminaries.

While my landscapes have also been used in land conservation campaigns and on behalf of various environmental causes, my primary focus currently is on artfully depicting cultural restoration, declining historical resources, as well as sustainable farming and ranching. At the same time, early in 2018, I decided to cut back on making images and focus much more on getting my work out to the world. Therefore, the photographs you see below come from a much more limited selection of frames made during the year overall, compared to previous years.  I am building out my website and adding more images all the time: HydeFineArt.com

Barn on North Valley Road, Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Old Barns, Grizzly Peak, Genesee, Genesee Valley Ranch, Winter, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Horses Standing in Snow, Old Mormon Barn, Saddlehorn Ranch, Winter, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Wagyu Cattle Near and Far, Genesee Road, Palmaz Hangar, Genesee Valley Ranch, Winter, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Horse Barn Detail, Genesee, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde.

Stumps, Forest and Reflections, Shore of Snag Lake, Fall, Lakes Basin Recreation Area, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Looking Down Indian Creek at Mt. Hough, Winter, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Indian Creek, Wheeler Peak, Early Winter, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Leaning Tree Detail, Upper Sardine Lake, Lakes Basin Recreation Area, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Sunset, Maddalena Barn, Sierraville, Sierra Valley, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Broken Gate Shadows, Willow, North Barn, Lemmon Canyon Ranch near Sierraville, Sierra Valley, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Snowmelt Lake, Cows and Large Western Barn in Shade, Thompson Valley near Quincy, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

North Wall, Renovated Genesee Store, Night, Genesee, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Ranch Manager Connecting With Wagyu Cows, Winter, Genesee Valley Ranch, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. Color Version From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Roping and Branding, Openshaw Ranch, Mt. Hough, Indian Valley near Taylorsville, Plumas County, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Fence Posts and Collapsed Filippini Barn, Sierra Valley, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Rider and Horse, Galloping West, Long Valley Ranch Near Cromberg, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Wagyu Cattle, Genesee Road, Grizzly Ridge, Genesee Valley Ranch, Winter, Sierra Nevada, California by David Leland Hyde. Color Version From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Blog Project Posts From Years Past:

Best Photographs of 2017

Favorite Photographs of 2016

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

Best Photographs of 2014

Best Photographs of 2013

My 12 “Greatest Hits” of 2012

Best Photos of 2011

My Favorite Photos of 2010

 

My Mother’s Christmas

December 22nd, 2018 by David Leland Hyde 11 comments »

Feliz Navidad! Mele Kalikimaka!

My Mother’s Christmas

A Poem by David Leland Hyde
Written March 12, 2005

"Happy Holidays," Electric Snow Couple, Milford, Utah by David Leland Hyde 2009.

“Happy Holidays,” Electric Snow Couple,” Milford, Utah by David Leland Hyde 2009. (Click on Image to See Larger.)

On the ground in East Quincy, I found a palm-sized Christmas stocking labeled Mom.
I picked it up and began to spin back through my days.
I fell like piles of sand through an hourglass.
I heard the music of “Silver Bells, It’s Christmas time in the city,”
My mother sang and played the piano.
It was Christmas time in the country.
Her voice a melody of tinkling glass.
The turkey in the oven,
Pumpkin pie spice floated from the kitchen.
Sparkling eyes,
Eyes so wise, knowing why.

Her mother, my grandma, grew up on a ranch,
One of four sisters with all that work.
The stuffing, a recipe handed down.
My mother never slowed down,
“Work, we must work, work, work.”
Only on Christmas breaking the spell with Carols.
Always with me through the night:
Her singing, “It’s Christmas time in the city.”
At midnight, I sneak out to see if Santa has come yet.
In the morning I play with a stuffed tiger around the tree.
My dad sets up for a picture of the three of us.

The stocking has a snowflake on the toe that looks like a star.
It brings me my mother, guiding me.
When she was alive I took her for granted.
She smoothed my way and held life together.
Now she is a benevolent force floating in the stars.
Holding a larger home.
“Silver Bells, Silver Bells, It’s Christmas time in the city.”

Do you have any special childhood memories of Christmas or another holiday you celebrate?

(Originally posted December 24th, 2015.)

Happy Thanksgiving From Hyde Fine Art and Philip Hyde Photography…

November 22nd, 2018 by David Leland Hyde No comments »

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Fall Indian Rhubarb in Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Double click on image to see larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am grateful for warm wood stoves on cool Fall days.

I am grateful for a good, reliable roof,

For a strong, well-made house that my father designed and built.

I am grateful for and to all of my friends,

Those far away and those who have sat at my table, shared a meal and raised a glass with me.

I am grateful for rain, snow, lakes, rivers and the whole water cycle on Earth that sustains life.

I am grateful for the wilderness around me, home to my animal and plant friends.

Thank God we live in a country with a Constitution and where the spirit of the law keeps us free.

I am grateful for the internet, as much as I like and dislike it, it gives power to the people,

It helps us communicate, show photographs, organize and keep our rights and freedoms.

I am grateful that people here and everywhere are willing to fight for our way of life.

Thank Heavens we are willing to fight to have economic equality, clean water and air.

I am grateful that in this country so far, I do not have to fight all the time,

I am fortunate to have peace of mind, quiet and a place away from the worst troubles of the world.

(Originally posted November 23rd, 2017)

Renowned Photographers Son Carries on Historic Legacy With the Art of Small Agriculture

August 2nd, 2018 by David Leland Hyde 10 comments »

For Immediate Release

August 2, 2018

Contact Info:

Scott Lawson or Paul Russell
530-283-6320
pcmuseum [at] psln [dot] com

David Leland Hyde
info [at] hydefineart [dot] com

Renowned Photographer’s Son Carries on Historic Legacy With the Art of Small Agriculture

Dogs, Farm Hand, Horse, Overlees Farm Near Franklin, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Even if some Americans today do not recognize his name, most are familiar with Philip Hyde’s iconic 1960s and 1970s natural landscapes that appeared in a solo show at the Smithsonian, spearheaded conservation campaigns to establish many US national parks and helped popularize the large coffee table photography book. With Bob Moon, Philip Hyde also co-founded the Plumas County Museum, which now fittingly will host the first show of David Leland Hyde’s exhibition, “Agriculture West and Midwest: Visual Stories of a Fading Way of Life from 17 States with Special Emphasis on Sierra County and Plumas County,” from September 7 through December 29, 2018.

David Leland Hyde set out to make historically significant, yet aesthetic and artful photographs to preserve the memory of barns, farms and ranches that are vanishing all over the country. He also has brought out some of the differences between industrial agriculture and more sustainable or traditional methods. The art of agriculture is also a rich tradition itself, particularly going back to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Hyde said one of his father’s teachers from photography school, Dorothea Lange, has had a profound influence on his work and on the genre. Ansel Adams, who founded the photography program at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, Minor White, the lead instructor and other renowned guest lecturers such as Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham photographed agriculture. Also another Adams protégé, Morley Baer photographed barns in California particularly well, as did Carr Clifton, a neighbor and protégé of Philip Hyde.

Philip Hyde himself photographed cauliflower field’s and other agrarian subjects in a number of Bay Area Counties as early as the mid 1940s. By 1948, Philip Hyde photographed barns and ranches for the first time in Plumas County. He also gave his only son a Pentax manual only film camera and taught him the basics of how to use it when David was just 10 years old. For decades the younger Hyde made no more than a few hundred images. However, after 2009 when he bought a Nikon digital camera, David Leland Hyde has made over 80,000 images, more than one third of which depict agricultural subjects. He produces archival prints in limited editions of only 100 from single capture master files. He uses Photoshop mainly for the same adjustments film photographers like his father used in the darkroom.

D. H. Day Barn From North, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

“I strive to observe mundane scenes, everyday objects and simple beauty in an unusual and more present, mindful way,” Hyde said. “I look not just for light contrast, but psychological. I look for redemption in ruin, rebirth with decay, tolerance next to hate, yin within yang.” In 2015, he traveled over 10,000 miles around the US Heartland photographing for three months in a 1984 Ford van his dad converted when new from a cargo van to a specialized field photography camper. In the Midwest a reporter told him the state of Minnesota alone loses more than 300 barns a year. Meanwhile, in the West it has become common to use chutes to hold calves still for branding. However, David photographed local ranchers this year in Indian Valley who still do it the old way, roping and rustling the calves by hand.

Restoration has stabilized the base of the Olsen Barn in Chester, preventing potential collapse under heavy snow or wind. However, many old farm structures no longer get much use to justify the high costs of maintaining them. Hyde hopes his project can bring awareness and funding for historical restoration efforts. Additional shows of his agricultural work and a book are also in the works.

“We are excited to have a fund-raising exhibition here,” said Scott Lawson, Plumas County Museum Director. “It is noteworthy that David’s work will be displayed on the Mezzanine Gallery near his father’s 40×50 darkroom prints which have graced our walls since 1969.” David Leland Hyde plans to donate to the museum half of all proceeds from the sale of his fine art prints and other collectibles. Please enjoy the show and support the museum. The first 50 people to arrive at the opening will receive a keepsake gift.

Details:

Opening Reception: First Friday, September 7, 5 to 7 pm

Artist’s Talk: 6 pm, September 7

Exhibition: September 7 through December 29, 2018

Plumas County Museum
500 Jackson Street
Quincy, California
530-283-6320
pcmuseum [at] psln [dot] com

 

More Photographs From the Show:

Open Gate and Big Red Barn on Chandler Road near Quincy, California, 2013 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Amish Teenage Brothers and Horse Cart Near Holton, Michigan by David Leland Hyde (Click on image to see large.)

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near Chester, California, Sierra, 2015 David Leland Hyde. This photograph has been actively used by Feather River Land Trust in the Olsen Barn Campaign. (Click on image to see large.)

Horse Barn, Tall Grass, Genesee Valley, Spring, Northern Sierra, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Ranch on North Side of Sierra Valley, Plumas County, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Horses on the Run, Central Wyoming, 2016 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Farm Workers, Strawberry Fields Near Oceano and Guadalupe, California, 2014 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Spanish Peak and Dyrr Barn, American Valley, Quincy, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Broken Gate Shadows, Willow, North Barn, Lemmon Canyon Ranch Near Sierraville, Sierra Valley, California, 2018 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Amish Horse & Buggy, Menno-Yoder ‘Brown Swiss Dairy’ 12-Sided Concrete Barn, Shipshewana, Indiana, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Keith Round Barn Under Tornado Skies, North Platte, Nebraska, Black and White, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Old Farm Machines, Outlaw Trail Ranch Near Escalante, Utah, 2014 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Fritz & Andy Roping, MH Branding, Openshaw Ranch, Mt. Hough, Indian Valley, California, 2018 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way I

July 16th, 2018 by David Leland Hyde 5 comments »

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way, Part One

Ways Environmentalists Sabotage Their Own Protection of the Planet

Spring Snow, Grizzly Ridge, Heart K Ranch Pond, Upper Genesee Valley, Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Environmentalists and environmental organizations often sabotage their own causes in many ways. Even while serving a vital role in protecting natural places, decreasing the use of carbon-rich products and increasing the awareness of alternatives, environmentalists also at times adversely affect nature as much as anyone else. The following is just a short list. I am not saying by any means that all environmentalists take these actions all the time. A few do and all of us do sometimes. I know about many of these by making mistakes myself, to the detriment of the planet. I have also made a life-long study of influence and persuasion, as well as what has been effective and ineffective in the modern environmental movement. Perhaps people reading this, whether they are conservationists or environmentalists, care about nature but do not consider themselves environmentalists, or the type who typically oppose environmentalists, can think of points to add to the following list:

  1. Environmentalists often assume the worst about the people involved in a given situation, who may not be maliciously destructive of nature, but may inadvertently be having an adverse effect.
  2. Environmentalists come into scenarios operating only out of their own mindset, rather than seeing others’ views, or going to where the people are who are involved.
  3. They believe all wealthy people are evil and judge people by net worth.
  4. They judge people by good intentions and words, rather than actions.
  5. Rather than trying to understand other’s backgrounds in a situation and being tolerant of others’ knowledge or lack of knowledge of ecology and natural systems, they put people down who do things differently.
  6. They forget that we are all learning how to be more Earth-friendly.
  7. The minute they purchase a hybrid vehicle or other green technology, they immediately start confronting and putting down those who are still using older, less efficient or less effective products or methods.
  8. They believe high tech is automatically bad for the environment.
  9. They start interactions attacking and confronting, with an “us versus them” mindset, rather than listening and gathering information about people’s motivations and goals before addressing them.
  10. They assume that an enemy of a friend is always an enemy.
  11. They assume that a friend of an enemy is always an enemy.
  12. They assume that a friend who disagrees with their viewpoint then becomes an enemy.
  13. They assume all Capitalists, all Republicans, all religious people, or all of the people from any given group are the enemy of preserving nature.
  14. They use fear as their primary tool to move people. They paint doom and gloom scenarios, cite perilous natural events, natural disasters and distressing statistics to scare people into decreasing their environmental impact. Educating the public about pending catastrophe or warning of dire circumstances is important and necessary to keep people informed, but over and over tests and studies have shown that used as the primary persuasion method, fear can be paralyzing and discouraging, or easily ignored while people and corporations continue destructive business as usual.
  15. They attack environmentally destructive organizations and corporations from the outside, rather than infiltrating, educating and changing them from the inside.
  16. A few of them chose to remain ignorant of the law, believe it does not apply to them, but generally believe that through mere force of thinking they are right, they can bend the law or obtain exceptions.
  17. They believe that justice and what they think is right prevails in court, rather than existing laws.
  18. They believe that hiring good lawyers means they will win, even if they are wrong or in violation of the law.
  19. Some of them believe that all good lawyers are infallible, always tell the truth, never oversell, do not mislead, and will not lead them astray.
  20. They believe that environmental issues are policy problems, rather than problems in thinking and consciousness.
  21. They think that if they disagree with a legal definition, all they have to do is dredge up a definition by a source that is more in line with their own idea of the definition and the legal definition will no longer apply.

Other Ways Environmentalists Fail

As an example of just one major issue, environmentalists and the major environmental groups, have largely failed to convince individuals, companies and governments both large and small to take enough significant, consistent action to thwart the increasing pace of climate change. We have also failed to instigate sweeping changes that could protect water supplies into the future and have also been ineffective in slowing down the mass extinction of species that has been escalating for the last 100 years. Most environmentalists have refused to make any major changes personally that would lead to a smaller carbon footprint. People say they are afraid to go back to caveman days.” However, Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything said we would only need to go back to the living standards of the 1970s to avert the worst effects of climate change. Yet we perpetuate the illusion that we can continue to live much as we always have and not change any of our wasteful or bad habits, but rather avoid our own destruction merely by changing energy sources. Meanwhile, most of us keep blaming the problem on other people, the government and any other scapegoats we can find.

For example, I know people who condemn their wealthy neighbors for using a helicopter for transportation, while they themselves do a tremendous and far above average amount of driving per year just so that they can live far out on the edge of a wilderness surrounded by vast forests and an almost pristine valley, while also working in the nearest major city to earn a higher income.

One major mistake these seven neighbors, who call themselves the Genesee Friends, made in Genesee Valley in relation to the helicopter, besides espousing many fallacies and made up arguments with little to no factual basis, they failed to obtain the support of the majority of people in the area before launching an activist campaign. By far the majority of neighbors stand with the helicopter owners and their sustainable ranching, historical restoration and philanthropy benefitting local organizations.  The Genesee Friends also mistakenly claimed to represent all of us in the entire Genesee area, while also attacking anyone who disagrees with them.

Even more troubling, like the worst of environmentalists, this small minority of people give activism itself a bad name. When my father, pioneer photographer Philip Hyde and his associates: Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, David Brower, Howard Zahniser, Olas and Margaret Murie, Martin Litton and many others set out to make the many national parks they did in the 1960s and 1970s, when they embarked on a major campaign, they made sure they had the support from the majority of the public, or a definite plan to obtain it. Not only were the national park projects more popular than the projects to exploit the resources in the places in question, but the popularity of the parks has only increased over time. Meanwhile, the few so-called activists in Genesee only render themselves less and less popular all the time. More on this in future blog posts and in my article linked to below.

Agricultural Adventures in the USA Heartland and an Unusual Experience

Over the last two years I went through an unusual experience that has changed my perspective on who protects the environment and who impacts it adversely. Leading up to this experience and affecting how I perceived it tremendously, in 2015, I traveled to the Midwest to photograph what is left of traditional small farming. I went to the heart of the country to take its pulse and capture it as it is because I discovered that industrial agriculture has taken over. Old historic barns, equipment and methods are going fast. With the rise of industrial agriculture, our factory farms have drained our aquifers, lakes and rivers down to dangerous levels, turned many small farming settlements that thrived for 100-150 years into ghost towns and transformed our farms from one family operations into colossal corporate giants sustained by heavy doses of deadly chemical spraying and cancer-causing genetically modified crops.

When I came home from the Midwest, the unusual experience of having one of the one percent most wealthy families move into my neighborhood changed my life forever yet again. In the print newspaper and online version of my article, “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch,” I explain in more detail how I came to support this well to do family and stand behind their sustainable agricultural practices, organic farming and restoration of the old barns and other buildings of our local Genesee Valley Ranch, rather than siding with a small minority faction of my neighbors who have tried and failed to obstruct, ostracize and turn public opinion against the Palmaz Family. Fortunately for our county and for the welfare of Genesee Valley, the family’s kindness, good character and generous philanthropy in our community won over most of my neighbors and the majority of people in surrounding towns. I wrote the article originally for the weekly “Where I Stand” column on the opinion page of the local newspapers printed by Feather Publishing including the Feather River Bulletin, Lassen County Times, Chester Progressive, Portola Reporter, Indian Valley Record, Westwood Pinepress and the internet Plumas News version of all six papers.

Laying Everything on the Line, Being Attacked by Environmentalists and Trolls and What Exactly Is Entailed in Defending Natural Places Like Genesee Valley?

Also important to this subject, attached to my online Plumas News article about Genesee Valley Ranch, are  100+ pertinent, wise, and also contentious and trolling comments, along with my responses and further discussion to help people understand some of the finer points of the related issues. Check it out. When you get to the article internet page, sometimes randomly from there may be a short marketing survey by which Plumas News helps pay their bills. Take a look: “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch.”

Stay tuned for the unusual personal story and sequence of events that led to me writing the above opinion piece, as well as outspokenly supporting and contracting to photograph for the Genesee Store and Genesee Valley Ranch. For more general background and the Genesee Friends side of the story see the Los Angeles Times article, “In a Rural Northern California Valley, a Development Battle Asks: Is a Helicopter a Tractor?” The main worry expressed by Elisa Adler in her statements for this article is that masses of wealthy people will move to Genesee Valley and “gridlock the skies” with helicopters. Out of the private land still possibly for sale in the entire watershed though, excluding of course the Heart K Ranch and Genesee Valley Ranch, I am curious how much of that land is zoned for agriculture? The land that is not zoned for ag, will be harder to make into sites for helipads, now with Plumas County’s new ruling. Read my article above to understand more about this. With less chance of gridlocked skies over Genesee, the only real gridlock may be in Ms. Adler’s argument. Besides, since thousands of wealthy people have not moved here yet, it is doubtful they will, perhaps possible, but probably improbable. I do not know the exact acreage of the watershed or private land in it, but from having grown up here, my guess is that most of the private land besides the two big ranches is not zoned for agriculture. The ruin of Adler’s entire life by the helicopter, as she has claimed, is perhaps more due to how she is looking at it and purposely straining her ears to hear it, than the actual noise level or potential as a gateway to further development. I suggest reading both articles above and judging for yourself…

Philip Hyde’s Planning, Travel Research and Open File Bins 1

May 30th, 2018 by David Leland Hyde 4 comments »

Philip Hyde’s Future Trip Planning Files and Other File Bins Full of Fascinating Papers

Philip Hyde’s Wishing Wall, Pre-Internet Bookmark System, In-Depth Studies and Travel Planning

Portrait of Philip Hyde by Anne Jeffery, circa 1978.

My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, planned extensively before going into the field. To this day in his studio, stands a wall of open file bins, each bin full of maps, letters, notes, brochures and other materials about locations all over North America, Hawaii, and some in Europe. While out photographing, he also discovered a long list of photogenic wilderness spots. In addition, he developed a long list of “wish list” places that he never visited. Later blog posts will elaborate on how he studied maps and read travel guides and history books on the places he intended to photograph. When in the field he navigated often by intuition, in part empowered by knowing what to look for before he arrived, but remaining alert to new surprises. He was spontaneous, but most interested in making a study in depth, to fully capture the essence of a place.

He prepared extensively for his travels and his maps reflected this. He had maps of all types, from basic highway maps, to maps that showed the types of vegetation, soil maps, trail maps, archeological maps that outlined old ruins from all ages. Still in his studio today is a large double door cabinet full of topographic maps. He usually ordered topographic maps of any place where he would spend more than a few weeks.

Maps and Legends

He studied the maps and the land forms they showed which facilitated his in-depth study of the local geology. Geology interested him greatly and he felt it key to good landscape photography. Understanding the types of rock and formations you will encounter, helps you know what patterns to seek out and where in a region to look for interesting land forms. Dad often revisited locations he had photographed before. He made notes in the field for possible future visits, when he discovered an area of interest he had not allowed plenty of time to explore. However, he usually planned his trips with time to spare so that he could deviate from his itinerary and heed the beckoning of a new place inviting him to explore further.

All of this required a great deal of time and energy compiling and distilling to an itinerary on a notebook page or two, with notes tied to a map that he drew routes on with various colors of pens. He was elated when highlighter pens came out in many colors. He could then see much better where he was going on the maps than in the days when he used various colors of solid markers.

In his studio, to this day, a whole wall of open file bins hold much of the contents as they were when he lost his eyesight in 1999-2000. They contain maps and planning information he had been gathering for various trips he intended to make some day, and some for trips he did make, though in most cases these were moved to other files. The wall of file bins made out of ¾ “ plywood that he cut and built by hand, just as the rest of the studio, has its top just below a window with a sill just over six feet off the floor. The open file bins run eight feet along the wall and start three feet off the floor, just above cabinets with swinging doors for storing office supplies. Each bin is 15 inches wide and there are six rows of bins. The shelves cut out of 3/8” particle board can be moved and rearranged to create ½” bins, 1” bins, 2” bins, 3” bins or even larger. Most of them are set at 1 1/2”. The bins are all labeled. The farthest left column of bins contains miscellaneous often used files that are not trip planning files. These start at the top left corner and are named.

Left Column of File Bins–Miscellaneous Files:

  • To San Francisco Next Trip
  • Professional Color Lab
  • Miscellaneous Processing Price Lists
  • Robert Reiter Cibachrome
  • Note Card Printing – Serbin – Singer
  • Copyright Data
  • ASMP Guides
  • PH Price Lists
  • Camera Repair
  • Chromeworks Lab
  • A&I Processing
  • Light Impressions
  • Calumet Chicago
  • Supplies – Bill Olson
  • Camera Catalogs
  • Miscellaneous Equipment

Second Column of File Bins–Planning Maps, Info, Etc.:

  • Environment/Conservation
  • Planning – Schedules by Year
  • Alaska – British Columbia – Alberta
  • Idaho – Montana – North and South Dakota
  • California – Nevada
  • Oregon – Washington
  • Utah – Arizona
  • Colorado Region – New Mexico
  • Texas Region – Misc. Others
  • Tharco Containers
  • Chemical Suppliers

Third (Center) Column of File Bins–Planning Future Trips–Major Interests–Primary Correspondence:

  • Current Workshops, General Correspondence, Other Workshops
  • Mexico Maps, Planning, Schmidt’s Papers on Chihuahua, Sierra Madre
  • Sierra Project
  • Coast Range Project
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Four Corners – Canyonlands – Arches – Grand Canyon
  • Baja Trips
  • East Coast Fall Trip
  • Hawaii Project
  • Correspondence, etc, Work Pending
  • Correspondence for Work Sent Out – Working: Prints, Transparencies Out
  • Forms for office use/FAX

The contents of the fourth and fifth columns of file bins were all moved into vertical cabinet files elsewhere in Dad’s studio.

Notes to Self, Letters, Cards and Other Correspondence Before and After Travels

As you can imagine, these various file bins are rich with interesting materials to thumb through…

For example: crumpled in the back of the Mexico File Bin, I pulled out a letter with a card paper-clipped to it. I straightened the letter written in Dad’s longhand handwriting. The card paper-clipped to the letter says in Dad’s writing at the top, “Met @ Guelaguetza, Oaxaca.” Guelaguetza is not a place. It is the 3,000 year-old Zapotec Food of the Gods Festival held in early October in the middle of the rainy season in Oaxaca. In the festival, the indigenous people offer corn, water, tomatoes, chiles, squash and beans to the gods and celebrate with music and dance.

The rest of the card reads like this:

Mexican Government Tourism Office
Secretaria De Tourismo De Mexico
Rolando A. Garcia
Marketing Representative
Texas-Louisiana-Oaklahoma
2707 North Loop West, Suite 450
Houston, Texas   77008
[Phone Numbers]

The letter is a carbon copy in Dad’s handwriting addressed to Rolando A. Garcia and dated Feb. 6, 1990:

Dear Rolando, Polly and Carlos,
Just back from three wonderful weeks in Mexico. Here is a copy of my latest book “Drylands.” Maybe you will note that some of our favorite places are in Mexico! [See Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert Sections.]
We loved meeting you and hope our paths cross again as happily as the first time.
Viva Mexico!
Ardis and Philip Hyde

I will share much more great material, or “content” as they call it now, from Dad’s file bins in future posts…

(Continued in the blog post, “Philip Hyde’s Planning, Travel Research and Open File Bins 2.”)

Book Review – Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks

April 27th, 2018 by David Leland Hyde 4 comments »

Book Review

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by Q. T. Luong

The Ethics of Protecting and Promoting Our National Parks

Cover of Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by Q. T. Luong. (Click to view large.)

Americans invented National Parks and in return, National Parks and other wild lands of the new continent shaped Americans. Yet the influence of cities and automobiles has eclipsed that of the national parks in all ways except through our collective imagination and grandest vision of all that makes up an ideal civilization. We must be careful to perpetuate these fragile image ties to our wilderness past, or forever lose our identity as part of nature. Maintaining this vision will also ensure our national parks remain wilderness untrammeled. Otherwise, we lose the piece of our core selves closest to our heart.

The age-old debate still rages over whether to invite more people out to enjoy nature and thus develop a larger fan base, or keep quiet and try to stop people from increasing the wear, tear, vandalism and man-made infrastructure necessary to simultaneously maintain access and protect our national treasures.

“For every place there will always be people that want to exploit it,” my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde said. “And, there will always be people—hopefully—that want to save it and keep it as it is. Even with the risk of inviting the crowds into paradise, better to publish your photographs and rally the troops. What’s in the frame of the photograph matters artistically, to be sure, but what’s outside the frame can destroy it.” Later in life, in the early years of the millennium, after hearing how overrun and trampled certain locations had become, Dad said he still wondered whether his books benefitted or harmed nature.

The Advantages of Large Format Film and of a Well-Written Text

Grand Teton from Schwabacher Landing, Midday, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see large.)

If this best in class large format book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, with text and photography by Quang-Tuan Luong were a film, it would win multiple Academy Awards as one of the best efforts ever for recruiting new national park fans and encouraging old fans to renew themselves through new visits. My impression is that Mr. Luong accomplished such a masterpiece through sheer will, discipline and diligence.

When you open Treasured Lands for the first time you revel in the sublime realism and beauty that can only be achieved by large format film or a $40,000 digital camera rendered through the subtle, well-balanced color palette of a well reproduced photography book. To be fair, Tuan Luong informed me that the photographs in the book were not all made with a large format camera. Nonetheless, they all exhibit large format acumen by the photographer and they all have an unmistakeable large format aesthetic, portraying the full spectrum of nature, rather than nature dressed up only on her best day.

To accompany this colossal collection of effective and moving illustrations, Q. T. Luong wrote a text that flows and delivers just as well as the images. His punchy prose keeps your interest. It is loaded with facts, but not everyday facts, novel, captivating facts, figures and surprising observations that give you the feeling of having smartly and efficiently obtained the essence of each place. Just starting at page one and turning a few pages to the contents showing all the parks, I felt like I had already embarked on an adventure. I was learning, absorbing and celebrating our national heritage. I held in my hands all the parks in one monster volume.

Art, Propaganda and Photograph Location Disclosure

Cannonball and Badlands at Night, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

But is it art? Critics and others might ask. I would say the book itself is a work of art, the photographs are mainly documentary but contain artistic elements, some of them more than others. Some art critics might say the book is propaganda. They might perceive it as a kind of glorified guide book because Luong provides specific directions to each of his compositions in each park. Some art connoisseurs, gallerists and museum curators consider any art that is not solely for the sake of art itself is propaganda. This traces back to critics John Szarkowski and Nancy Newhall, as instigated by Ansel Adams and Beaumont Newhall around the time they co-founded the first museum photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ansel Adams in workshops and his student and teaching associate Philip Hyde in a number of places, both in writing and in interviews spoke against giving directions to image locations. Both photography mentors felt the practice inhibited student resourcefulness and creativity, as well as hobbling the development of individual vision. I usually tend to agree with Dad and Ansel and believe these details are a flaw in Treasured Lands.

However, times have changed and photography in many cases is self-taught or no longer taught with the same rigor. Many photographers today find location specifics an asset and have praised Treasured Lands most of all for this reason. Either way, still today the best guidebooks offer suggestions and ideas, but do not give exact specifics. Nonetheless, even for purists like me, Luong somehow gets away with providing specific directions because the sheer scope of his undertaking and achievement force us to take him seriously as more than a mere tour guide. To go with the directions, I would have liked to see an outdoor ethics statement, or the Leave No Trace Principles. However, between the photographs and text, Luong portrays and describes these natural places with such reverence and admiration that his readers will hopefully take on at least some of his tone and outlook, which will hopefully cause them to treat our amazing national treasures with respect.

With new adventures on every page turn, my resistance to location disclosure fell away almost immediately under the sheer power of what I was seeing and reading. Unfortunately, I did find the maps a bit hard to read due to their tiny type font. However, I enjoyed reading how to reach a smattering of the photo locations. Meanwhile for the most part I became caught up in reading other content, which while obviously extensive and geologically rich, came accessibly served up in one to two page bytes. These are rewarding and satisfying because each section acts in part like a mini-tour of the park it covers. The text is well thought out, well-organized, captivating, diverse and packed with actionable instructions and tips to make your travels more enjoyable and photographically productive.

The Many Reasons Treasured Lands Is Not Propaganda

Haleakala Crater from White Hill, Midday, Haleakala National Park, Hawaii by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Regardless, I have other reasons not to dismiss Treasured Lands as mere propaganda. At face value, rather than feeling commercially viable at all, Treasured Lands feels so heavy in weight, so chock full of striking imagery and so bulging with smart information that once you have it in your hands you feel that you have made a great deal to have it for under $100. The publisher’s retail is $65 for an autographed copy from TreasuredLandsBooks.com. Currently you can even get it for as little as $44.19 with free shipping from Amazon.

Large two-page evening panoramas sprinkled across the pages bring the parks depicted into vivid awareness while taking us partially into abstraction with the extreme light and shadows of dusk. Sweeping vistas throughout the book give a sense of place and overwhelm us with the vastness and remoteness of wilderness. Luong visited many of the parks multiple times, which translates to years of hard work, days and nights of grinding travel in all conveyances and over all manner of terrain, which also translates into daunting logistics and planning.

By no means did Q. T. Luong make the expected photographs of each or even many of the national parks. In Lassen Volcanic National Park, as one example of many, he skipped the most popular views, especially of the mountain, but with the exquisite detail and texture of large format film he captured frames that showed the character of the park just as well without being cliché. In discussions with other photographers, I found most of them said that the book has a good balance between more innovative images and what some might call “the obvious shots” that are all but required to identify certain landmarks in some parks. Besides, in the visual arts people are drawn to at least a nuance, if not a good amount of familiarity, as Atlantic editor Derek Thompson points out in his book, Hit Makers. Hits are made from images that look new, but also remind us of other images before in some way.

Some of the Best Illustrative Landscape Photographs Ever Made

Cove of Arches and Cove Arch at night. Arches National Park, Utah by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Speaking of hits, in some of the national parks, Luong managed to make what I consider some of the best photographs ever made of certain areas. This was true in a number of unexpected places such as in Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite, where Luong shows us the only photograph I have ever seen that lives up to the early 1900s Bureau of Reclamation vision of what the reservoir would look like, as sold to the American public. Pinnacles National Park is challenging to photograph. Perhaps his many visits enabled Luong to do something extra special there by knowing the most striking compositions and capitalizing on the best possible light. In the Sierra, he photographed snow caked on Giant Sequoia trunks, but did it better than it has been done before, with more majesty and more mood. I love Luong’s photograph of Alabama Hills. It is more about the Sierra Crest and the terrain, than any gimmicky cliché pseudo-arch foreground window framing the distant peaks. Luong omits the Merced River altogether in Yosemite, except in the higher elevation roaring cascades below Vernal Falls.

The differences between documentary and art photography are blurring anyway, but Luong is perhaps one of those who push the two definitions inward toward each other. His photographs for Treasured Lands overall are documentary, but even the most representational and least creative works are artistically strong and well seen from a design perspective with luscious forms and beautiful lines. It is quite evident that Luong has studied the great works of photography and art and applied what he has observed. Documentary, almost standard issue images that essentially say, “Ok, here we are at Joshua Tree,” are the best working basis for a large book on all of the national parks. However, Luong keeps his book fresh by mixing in nighttime photographs, ridge silhouettes, a few wildly tilted horizons and other Pictorialist effects such as slow shutter speeds for silky water, movement blurs and wind blurs. Luong also puts in the extra effort and expense to provide variety in other ways by getting up in airplanes, scaling mountain peaks, climbing walls, swimming underwater, chartering various boats horses, burros and other unusual transportation. Meanwhile, he also mixes in enough expected imagery such as the lava dripping into the ocean in Hawaii, Tunnel View from Yosemite, the Teton Barn, Mt. Denali and Wonder Lake and the circular petroglyphs on Signal Hill near the Tucson Mountains in Saguaro National Park.

Realism, Hard Work, Diligence, Feedback, Revisions and Quality

Margerie Glacier from Tarr Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Another significant reason large format film was the ideal medium for this national parks project lies in how the high fidelity gives reflections, textures and details a much more interesting and realistic look. With large format, a nature photographer can go after and make ordinary objects extraordinary. The resulting photographs also work better when they contain flaws and extra grit, rather than having to be sterilized by over retouching in Photoshop. For example: I love that Luong left the house in his Zion photograph of Towers of the Virgin. Many digital photographers take it out of their images of this iconic location. The large format color is also so lush and true without any false-rendering of tones or over-saturation.

Part of what lifted up the text and images to far above average, was the amount of advice and feedback Quang-Tuan Luong asked for along the way. He was wise to get Gary Crabbe to help him edit the photographs and to get advice from many other experts at each stage in the production process. The first time Tuan and I met in San Jose, he asked me for ideas on how he could come out with yet another national parks book and make it different from any that had been done before. This was a smart question to ask about such a book and a good place to start in attracting my interest and participation. My first answer was that we do not need another book on the national parks. However, as I began to think about how Tuan opened himself up to input and ideas, I felt I had to offer more. Besides, when he asked me about making it a guidebook for photographers as well as a picture book for everyone else, I told him I did not like guidebooks. Some help I was. Yet he patiently and gently persisted in asking more questions and asking me to read some of his text. I agreed to do so, somewhat reluctantly. It took me a long time to offer much feedback, but as I began to, I saw that Tuan had put a great deal of thought and effort into the project, the text no less than the photography. As the book took shape and began to emerge from the realm of ideas, the quiet strength of what he was doing became evident. Let this be a word of caution to all aspiring creative people out there: never give up on what you love or on your big idea just because it has been done before. Do it better. Q. T. Luong certainly did and the world and the field are far richer for it. However, he did it not by force of will or ego, but through good listening. Remember that too, above all else. He also did it with kindness and generosity. My copy of Treasured Lands is the limited edition version that Tuan personally sent me. He numbered it by hand 77 of 150, signed it and wrote me a personal note. How cool is that?

A Tribute to the American Land, the Art of Place and Our National Heritage That Will Live On

Cypress trees Reflected in Cedar Creek from Canoe, Congaree National Park, South Carolina by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

It may be due to the large format camera, or perhaps Luong and his sensibilities, or all three, regardless an outstanding sense of place permeates every page of Treasured Lands. Many are close behind, but the national park depictions deserving the most recognition in establishing place in my opinion are Cuyahoga Valley, Death Valley, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier Bay, Great Sand Dunes, Guadalupe Mountains, Haleakala and Yellowstone. In Yellowstone, Luong includes Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs and a fairly unique framing of Yellowstone Falls, but also shows us many locations with which we are not familiar. In Death Valley, Luong gives us perhaps more of the usual images than in other places, but the additional images show us so much more as to render the place very well overall. Luong exhibits a certain flair for Alaska as his images in each of the parks there for the most part are both unexpected and extraordinary in the lexicon of all landscape photographs.

Q. T. Luong’s massive work consists of not so much a single unity of style, but of several style themes that run throughout the book. This cohesiveness is quite an accomplishment for a project that took so many years to complete. With all of the elements that went into making the book creating a synergy that lifts it above other work in the genre, it also transcends its minor shortcomings, or perceived structural flaws that we readers bring to it based on our own biases.

The sheer volume of work, in and of itself is impressive, but the consistent quality and exemplary execution make Treasured Lands a truly monumental achievement. Even as the son of Philip Hyde, or perhaps especially as the son of Philip Hyde, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Treasured Lands is one of the greatest large format landscape photography books ever published. It will live on and influence photographers for years and perhaps even generations to come. These statements, considering what has been accomplished in the genre before, hopefully transcend anything else I could say, or have said above, whether critical or supportive.

Living the Good Life 6: Search for the Good Life

February 27th, 2018 by David Leland Hyde 3 comments »

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Six: Ideas From and Review of Chapter One—We Search for the Good Life

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences.“)

“Such is the superiority of rural occupations and pleasures, that commerce, large societies, or crowded cities, may be justly reckoned unnatural. Indeed the very purpose for which we engage in commerce is, that we may one day be enabled to retire to the country, where alone we picture to ourselves days of solid satisfaction and undisturbed happiness. It is evident that such sentiments are natural to the human mind.

~ John Loudon, A Treatise on Forming, Improving and Managing Country Residences, 1806

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Lower Lawn, Raspberries, Apple Orchard, Raised Beds, Midsummer, Rough Rock, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. After return from Midwest travels.

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I interviewed her for possible magazine articles about her locally popular organic gardening, preserving and food preparation. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living. They lived a low impact sustainable lifestyle long before “sustainable” became a word or a trend.

Because Mom passed on suddenly, I only ever made one tape recording of me interviewing her. I regret not having started sooner and filled a cabinet full of tapes of her. After that first recording session on a bleak January day, she gave me her personal copy of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. She first paused to hold the book to her heart, put it in my hands with weight and gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

This series of blog posts looks at how Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail in pursuit of flora, fauna and photographs, adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.”

Part Six: Searching for the Good Life—Based on Chapter One

After the Hydes experienced a series of setbacks and mishaps while attempting to make a life and a living in Carmel, they first moved to Casablanca, Morocco, where they worked for an American company that planned and built military bases. Stay tuned for more on Morocco in future blog posts. Working in Morocco with little overhead helped them get ahead financially and rebuilt their confidence as Dad had great success at work mentoring another photographer. Don’t miss the earlier blog post in this series, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.” Also for more about the Hydes’ early career, rising to meet life challenges with mentoring from Ansel Adams and touching briefly on their adventures in Morocco, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 5,” and “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 6.”

The blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel,” ends with Mom and Dad returning to the mountains and finally acquiring land where they could build a home. However, before this became possible, they did a great deal of soul searching, home location research, and made a study of various gardening approaches, building methods and house designs.

In Living the Good Life, Helen and Scott Nearing described how they lost their livelihood in the Great Depression and grew weary of the worsening conditions and limitations of city life. By the time the Back to the Land Movement gained momentum on the West Coast after World War II, the Hydes and their like-minded contemporaries wished to escape the city and “Live in the country, in a decent, simple, kindly way,” as the Nearings put it.

In an interview by the now defunct Darkroom Photography Magazine, more recently republished in the blog post, “Philip Hyde at Home in the Wilds,” Dad disavowed the idea that he and Mom lived “too far” from any cities or even large towns.

“I don’t think it’s isolation, I think it’s insulation,” Dad told the Darkroom Photography interviewer. “We’re insulated from a lot of urban influences that I’m not all that interested in. Don’t get me wrong… I like people… But I guess I like them in small quantities… What’s most important to me is to be able to look out the window and see the changes of the seasons, or the rain pouring down, or the stars at night…”

While livelihood stood out among other considerations in looking for the Good Life for the Nearings, Dad had a sense, even a kind of faith, that if he lived in the wilderness that he wished to defend with photography, prosperity would follow. Mom and Dad made their exodus from the San Francisco Bay Area during the boom just after The War, while the Nearings left New York City during the Great Depression twenty years earlier. The Nearings’ observations at the time apply just as much today, now eight decades later and certainly applied during the cold war when Mom and Dad were settling in the mountains.

If profit accumulation in the hands of the rich and powerful continued to push the economy toward ever more catastrophic depressions; if the alternative to depression, under the existing social system, was the elimination of the unmarketable surplus through the construction and uses of ever more deadly war equipment, it was only a question of time before those who depended upon the system for livelihood and security would find themselves out in the cold or among the missing. We disapproved of a social order activated by greed and functioning through exploitation, acquisition and accumulation.

The Nearings explored Europe, Asia and much of North America before deciding to remain in the Northeastern U.S. for the seasonal aesthetic beauty of big snow in the winter, budding greenery in the spring, heat and swimming in summer and the “burst of colors in the fall.” Physically they discovered that “the changing weather cycle is good for health and adds a zest to life.” As can be read about more in the blog post, “Living the Good Life 3: The Change of Seasons,” Mom, Dad and myself in my time, all have loved the change of seasons.

The Nearings had a threefold purpose they sought in the ideal life:

  1. “A life based on the values of simplicity, freedom from anxiety or tension, an opportunity to be useful and to live harmoniously.”
  2. To make a living in conditions that “enlarge joy in workmanship, give a sense of achievement… promote integrity and self-respect… assure a large measure of self-sufficiency… and make it easier to guarantee solvency…”
  3. “Leisure during a considerable portion of each day, month or year, which might be devoted to avocational pursuits free from the exacting demands of bread labor, to satisfying and fruitful association with one’s fellows, and to individual and group efforts directed toward social improvement.”

“I’m not really trying to play the money game,” Dad said. “Photography has provided a living, not a bad living at all, but when I left the city… I knew that I was leaving behind the opportunity to make lots of money. I think that when I first chose photography, I knew I was choosing the pleasures of creativity over the consolations of wealth. I define success for myself in terms of lifestyle. Success is freedom and opportunity to do what I want to do.”

For the Nearings the “road from New York City to the wilderness was short in miles but far-reaching in social consequences.”

We were leaping from the economic and social sophistication of a metropolis to a neighborhood in which few of the adults and none of the youngsters had ever visited a large city, in which every house was heated with wood and lighted with kerosene. In the first year of our stay we piled the children of several neighbor families in the back of our truck and took them to get their first glimpse of the ocean, to see their first train, to attend their first movie and treated them to their first ice cream soda.

The Nearings started as “summer folk,” who are disliked by the local population because they “do not intend to stay long or work much.” “Summer residents do no great harm if they occupy abandoned land, or marginal land unfit for agriculture. However, many of them let their pastures go back to woodlots, which is detrimental to the agriculture of the state when the land goes out of production. The more summer people the more demand for factory goods and specialties in stores shipped in from out of state. “Summer folk,” for the most part, obtain their dollars out of state and exchange them for canned goods in the local market rather than growing their own produce.

The social consequences of turning the countryside into a vacationland are far more sinister than the economic results. What is needed in any community are individuals, householders, villagers and townsmen living together and cooperating day in, day out, year after year, with a sufficient output of useful and beautiful products to pay for what they consume and a bit over. This is solvency in the best social sense. Solvency of this nature is difficult or impossible except in an all-year-round community.

Therefore, the Nearings soon became all-year-round residents of Vermont. The Hydes also started as summer residents in the mountains. Their first residence in Plumas County at Lake Almanor was at the Fox Farm, a small community where they knew the Kurtzes and the Kurtzes knew most of the others. The summer of 1948, when Dad worked in the Cheney Mill in Greenville, was Ardis and Philip’s first summer after their marriage in June 1947 and their first summer in the mountains. The next summer they also spent in the wilderness. Ansel Adams helped the Hydes obtain a job at the Parson’s Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. They were to live in the renowned McCauley Cabin for two months and act as caretakers of the Sierra Club owned Parson’s Lodge for the summer, talking to visitors about the Sierra Club’s work and making photographs. Dad sung the praises of mountain life:

Went out this afternoon in the late low angle light and made more negatives of rocks, trees and Cathedral Peak, a photogenic, but difficult scene. We’re really beginning to realize what we have here in Tuolumne Meadows. We have no clock or watch. We eat when our stomachs announce the time for it and go to bed when it seems like the thing to do. We get up when we’ve had enough sleep. We feel no strain toward getting something completed by a certain span of time—it just takes until it’s done. This is altogether a wonderful way to live. We’re busy now laying plans for making it a permanent way of life. Why strain for security in the city when you can live in the mountains each day to the utmost—never seeking for tomorrow because you’re busy living today? Living is a full-time job—why relegate it to the leisure hours left after a hard day at the office? Why slave for retirement at 65 when all you mean by retirement is freedom to live. You can live now, live today. These Tuolumne days seem to bring out ever more clearly the things hinted at in our Greenville days and these sojourns in the mountains bring us into increasing contact with those who have found ways to live in the wilderness.

The Nearings 20 years earlier in Vermont were also looking for ways to live in the mountains full-time. They laid out their garden to produce a year around crop that more than fed their family. Another piece of the income puzzle turned out to be saving and buying properties in the neighborhood to operate as wood lots for firewood. Land was still very cheap at a handful or two of dollars an acre. The forests were good sources of income for many rural towns.

One piece of property the Nearings bought from Frank Hoard. He had licensed his land to Floyd Hurd and his wife and 11 children to harvest the maple syrup under a share agreement when the sap ran in the spring. The Nearings continued the same share agreement, ended up with half of the maple syrup harvest, and discovered that “maple syrup in Vermont is better than cash. It sells readily and does not depreciate.”

Here was something on which we had not counted. In a syrup season lasting from four to eight weeks, owning only the maple trees, the sugar house and some poor tools, and doing none of the work, we got enough syrup to pay our taxes and insurance, to provide us with all the syrup we could use through the year, plenty to give away to our friends and to sell. We realized that if we worked at sugaring ourselves, syrup would meet our basic cash requirements. We were surprised and delighted to learn that here might be the answer to our problem of making a living amid the boulders scattered over the green hills of Vermont… The possibility of sugaring for a living answered the second question: how to finance the good life. Our next job was to determine the way in which the good life was to be lived.

The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living The Good Life 9.” The next two blog posts, Parts 7 and 8 in the series, will cover the ins and outs of various plans and designs for Living the Good Life. Part 7 will further examine the similarities and differences in methods and lifestyles between the Hydes and Nearings.

(Read more, “Living the Good Life 7: Nearings’ vs. Hydes’ Design for Living.”)

Best Photographs of 2017

January 4th, 2018 by David Leland Hyde 22 comments »

David Leland Hyde’s Own Favorite Photographs of the Year

The end of 2017 blasted right by and I almost missed the 11th Annual Blog Project: Your Best Photographs of the Year hosted by Jim Goldstein at JMG Galleries Blog. However, having participated every year since 2010, I refuse to quit now. At least this year most of my best images are lined up in select folders, making them easier to gather. Soon Jim will be making his follow-up blog post with the list of all of the “best of the year” blog posts from all of the participating photoblogs. I believe one year there were over 300 blogs participating.

My photographs below are all single-exposure, no bracketing, no HDR, no blends. I am not against these processes per se, but I find I do my strongest, simplest work without them. Particularly when photographing people, in the field I work intuitively, often slowly, but with faster lurches when necessary. My nature images come from a deeper, tranquil place, though I am developing a rougher and quicker approach to post-processing and in time plan to present work with more grain and noise, especially in street, industrial and some abstract scenes.

I develop my work in the digital darkroom much the way traditional film photographers like my father, conservation photography pioneer Philip Hyde, did in the wet darkroom. I alter most images little, doing the usual dodging and burning, or lightening and darkening, plus controlling contrast, shadow, highlight intensity, vibrance and saturation as mildly and tastefully as possible with similar aesthetics to traditional darkroom methods. However, I generally have much more control over all areas of the image and the resulting archival color or black and white prints.

Grizzly Peak From Near Nelson Street Bridge, Northern Sierra, California.  I have been photographing this view for many years. With a digital camera in this spot it is a bit challenging to get both the whole field and mountain sharp. Though still not completely perfect, this is one of the more pleasing and most appealing in print form of the photographs I have made here. The black and white prints also look good.

Indian Head Across Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California. In early April, we had a beautiful snowfall of about 8-10 inches combined with spectacular clearing storm clouds. I spent most of the day photographing around Indian Valley, but this photograph near the end of the day when most of the clouds were gone I liked best.

Sunset, Ridge Lakes, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Cascade Range, California. After checking out the annual summer art show at the Visitor’s Center, I took this short, steep hike to catch Ridge Lakes after they had calmed for the evening, but lingered a bit too long and had to finish the end of my hike back to the Sulphur Works in the dark.

Eclipse Day Sundown and Catamarans on the Shore of Bucks Lake, Bucks Lake Wilderness, Northern Sierra, California. I have intended to photograph Bucks Lake for some time. The day of the eclipse, not long after the Minerva Fire, the light was unusual. I explored a number of areas around Quincy including downtown, Spanish Creek, Greenhorn Creek and finally up through Meadow Valley to the Bucks Lake Wilderness.

Aspens in Breeze, Thompson Lake, Bucks Lake Wilderness, Northern Sierra, California. Later in the evening on Eclipse Day, I stopped at Thompson Lake and made a few images before sunset and then stopped again later after sunset for this photograph and a few others in twilight.

Ranch on North Side of Sierra Valley, Northern Sierra, California. This photograph was another from a full day of great clouds from a clearing storm in Sierra Valley. I photographed a number of the ranches, found some unusual perspectives of the valley and wound up at sunset at the Beckwourth Barn complex.

Kettle Rock, Hosselkus Creek, Genesee Valley, Spring, Northern Sierra, California. Late in 2016, the Palmaz Family, new owners of the Genesee Valley Ranch, gave me an assignment to photograph the Genesee Store ‘Before’ and ‘After’ historical renovation. While working on this assignment and having the family acquire other images as prints, I began making many more images of Genesee Valley from angles and locations I had not yet tried. Fortunately, between these photographs and the many I have made going back to 2009, I was ready when the Palmaz Family began asking me for images to use in promoting the renovated Genesee Store, Genesee Valley Ranch, Brasas Beef Club and Genesee Valley in the Palmaz Vineyard in Napa, California. This is just one of many of my photographs the various Palmaz brands will use online, in social media, print advertising and for other promotional uses.

Fall, Indian Rhubarb in Spanish Creek, Northern Sierra, California. Finally this year I made quite a few Indian Rhubarb images worth keeping.

Evening Sun, Grizzly Ridge Across Genesee Valley, Northern Sierra, California. This was one of the photographs that the Palmaz Family liked both as an archival fine art digital print they hung in the winery and to license for use in promoting Palmaz brands.

Creamery, Tall Grass, Genesee Valley, Spring, Northern Sierra, California. One lazy summer day while wandering around in the pasture photographing cows with the mountains as backdrop, I discovered this view of the Creamery between the apple trees in late afternoon light. It will add a bit of a historic feel to my California Barns Portfolio.

Genesee Store, Front Entrance, Winter, Genesee, California. I processed this image into a number of versions that each make it look old in a different way. The designers made the new Genesee Store logo from this photograph.

‘Skute or Die’ Boxcar, Sky and Sage, Sierra Valley, Northern Sierra, California. On the same special clearing storm day in Sierra Valley, I found a string of old boxcars newly “painted” by graffiti artists.

Lady Looking and Boy With Camera, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California. After spending the night in San Francisco’s Marina District nextdoor, I arrived at the Palace of Fine Arts just after sunrise. An advertising film crew already set up in the middle of the main arch were chewing up pixels of two models together: an early 30s lady and a boy around eight years old. The director kept telling the boy to point and make photographs, or for the lady to point and the boy to make photographs, but the poses they made naturally were much better than “the look” the director was going for, whatever that was.

Jeep and View From Kettle Rock, Northern Sierra, California. My lifetime friend and next door neighbor took two of his sons and a few of their friends and me in his jeep up to the lookout on Kettle Rock. When we left the Jeep to hike the last several hundred feet, the Jeep with mountains all around it, looked like the ideal Jeep advertisement.

Steer Riding, Taylorsville Junior Rodeo, Taylorsville, California. Having grown up around the Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo, for years I have wanted to try photographing the rodeo. My chance came when I heard the Junior Rodeo was on at a time I could get away. I made a lot of photographs of the people around the rodeo, but getting good action photos proved more challenging. This is one that came out fairly well, though I wish I had been more in front of the steer. Notice the only thing not in motion in the whole frame is the rider’s boot. There will be other rodeos other years for practice.

Two Bareback Riders, Indian Creek, Taylorsville Junior Rodeo, Taylorsville, California. During the Taylorsville Junior Rodeo the smoke from nearby forest fires was thick, which made the light good for photographing the young people riding bareback in the river.

Cowboy Leading Horses, Indian Creek, Taylorsville Junior Rodeo, Taylorsville, California. The July forest fire light helped make this photograph and others as an assortment of rodeo participants and observers paraded in and out of the water to cool off their animals.