Photography, Spam, Social Media and My Letter to Ken Burns Films Regarding The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

March 17th, 2017 by David Leland Hyde 2 comments »

Behind the Scenes in Photography, Spam, Email, Social Media, Mistakes, Misunderstandings, Films, The National Parks, World Class Quality, Wins, Losses and Reconciliation: A Film Review of Sorts and A Business Lesson Learned

How Philip Hyde Handled Correspondence

Redwood Giants, Sunlight on Trunks of Coast Redwoods at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California, 1962 by Philip Hyde. Published in the book The Last Redwoods that spearheaded the campaign to establish Redwood National Park. (Click on Image to See Large.)

When I was a boy, my mother Ardis rushed at all times of day and evening to answer the phone that was both the home and business line. She would call for Dad through the house announcing each caller, or run into the studio or outside to find him. She helped with his correspondence and kept in touch with our local friends. She managed our social life. She replied to all letters that were not requests for photographs. Dad had a policy of replying to all correspondence, a practice he adopted from one of his mentors, Ansel Adams.

Now that I carry on his photography business, I continue the same approach to correspondence. More than 90 percent of serious inquires come through email, but between the inbox, texts, phone, voicemail, Twitter and Facebook, communications can be a full-time job. On top of all these channels, well-meaning friends, even sometimes well-informed friends recommend looking into this or that. It all can be overwhelming at times. Replying to everything means I sometimes inadvertently waste time answering spam or at least have to take extra time determining borderline cases. My spam filters do a lot of the work, but a certain amount of stuff that crosses my desk every day is off mission, off-topic or is distracting in some way. Regularly I get strange inquiries that show people would rather write me first than start with their own Internet search to find the most relevant source to contact.

How to Judge Away an Opportunity

When I first started helping Dad in 2002 and took over Philip Hyde Photography in 2005, the year before he passed on, I was new and even a bit naïve as to what incoming information was worth paying attention to and what was not. Until you are in photography for a while, you don’t know the players, or even how a photographer successfully gets his message and photographs out to the world. I still discover new channels all the time. I also am inundated with the same old ones that don’t work for me trying to get my attention. In a short amount of time you begin to develop a healthy skepticism, even cynicism, about every idea, every inquiry that comes along. After this short time when you have become freshly cynical, you still have not heard of all of the good, legitimate opportunities that might possibly make your entire career. Even after you have been around for a long time, you may have heard of most of them, but not all, because new legitimate ones emerge all the time.

And so it was that I passed up one of the best and most important opportunities that I might have ever found. There is an important moral to this story that emerges by the end of this blog post article. It may sound silly to some people and natural to others, but there was a time when I had not heard of PBS filmmaker Ken Burns. Regardless how famous he may be, I did not know who he was. My editor, who I generally trust as a well-connected and knowledgeable man, gave me Ken Burns’ phone number and said I needed to call him regarding a new National Parks project he was working on. Not knowing the scope, audience or respect that Ken Burns Films usually garner, one day I picked the number out of a tall stack of calls I needed to make. With a dismissive attitude I dialed the phone.

My First Call to Ken Burns Films

A lady named Susanna Steisel answered the phone, but I subsequently forgot or mixed up her name with someone else and did not realize that she was the same lady I wrote to and conversed with later. Mixed in with some small talk, I explained who I was. I said that my father was one of the primary photographers for the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that originally popularized the large coffee table photography book and were known as battle books for making national parks. I explained that Dad’s work participated in more campaigns than any other photographer of his time, that he was one of just a few West Coast photographers who have ever had a solo Smithsonian exhibition, his in particular covering the national parks and monuments. Ms. Steisel told me about all the well-known people they already had in the film. Many of them related to the 1800s or early 1900s, or were more current interviews of National Park Service personnel.

“It sounds like this project is mainly focused on the earliest days of the founding of the parks, not the later days in the mid 1900s, around the 1950s, 60s and 70s, is that right?” I stopped her in the middle of her explanation and asked. Taken slightly aback, she agreed. We talked just a little more, I wished her well on the project and then got off the phone. I checked off that task and moved on with other calls.

What One Fool Loses Another Wise Man Will Find

Later, after I learned more about Ken Burns Films and what an opportunity I lost by not listening more and jumping in with a snap judgment, I was angry with myself and angry with Ken Burns Films. I felt especially bad after I met QT Luong, a contemporary landscape photographer who Ken Burns featured in one segment of the film series. QT Luong’s claim to fame was that he was the only photographer known to have photographed all 59 national parks. QT Luong’s photographs are exquisite and serve the purpose of showing the beauty of the parks with a contemporary aesthetic, much the way Dad’s photographs had for their time during Mid-Century Modernism. QT Luong also writes an excellent photoblog and it was through blogging that we became friends. Look for my review of QT Luong’s late 2016 book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, a book that I helped edit. When I got to know QT Luong a little, he confided in me that significant income came from involvement in the 2009 film series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. However, he said recently that inquiries resulting from the film were fewer than he expected. Back in 2010, he wrote about this and other aspects of his involvement in a blog post, “QT Luong in Ken Burns National Park Series,” which might have cleared it up except that I didn’t see the post until after I wrote this article.

I like to think of myself as a good person, but hearing of the income that QT Luong earned  did not bring out the best in me. It sounded more substantial to me back then, but he explained recently it was not as large as I imagined. Either way, I became jealous of his success on Dad’s behalf, though I never told him. I even got mad at QT Luong, though I did not express it to him because he certainly did not deserve it. I also got angry with Ken Burns and even angrier with the poor lady I talked to in his office, whose name I did not remember. I blamed her even though I had cut her short and dismissed the project as not quite relevant for Dad’s photographs. Why wasn’t she more forceful in telling me the importance of the film? The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. This is the other side of snap judgements. When you make a snap judgement, by definition you don’t have much information. As a result you go off on all sorts of mental tangents, scenarios and imaginings that vilify those you made the judgement about, only increase your own animosity and are not factual, merely illusion. At the end of February 2014, when Susanna Steisel wrote me through the Philip Hyde Photography website contact form about a follow-up national parks book project they were researching, I did not realize she was the same lady to whom I had spoken several years before. I replied to her in early March:

Hi Susanna,

Did you get my voicemails? I returned your calls, but have heard nothing back from you.

Ken Burns is a very talented filmmaker and I hear he did a great job on his National Parks film. However, there is one aspect of his work that I am very disappointed in, well, not in him specifically, but in a lady on his staff in his office who made it seem like the Ken Burns documentary on the National Parks was only about the earliest founding days and not about the era when the most parks were formed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Due to a miscommunication and misunderstanding my father’s work did not make the film, while other photographers both contemporary to Dad and those who came after, were in it. This reflects badly on Ken Burns and his film. Why? Because my father helped make more national parks than any other photographer and is widely known as having been the backbone “go-to” photographer for more of the Sierra Club led national park campaigns than anyone else. My father was the first photographer sent on assignment for an environmental cause in 1951 to maintain the integrity of the national park system by helping to keep dams out of Dinosaur National Monument. Dad’s book, Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, also was part of the core of the campaign to save the Grand Canyon. Dad had a solo show that opened at the Smithsonian in 1956 and was nationally toured to major museums during 1956-1959 called, “America’s National Parks and Monuments.” Dad’s national park related resume is one of the strongest. I hope at some point to have a friendly creative talk with Ken Burns about how Dad’s much deserved recognition, heretofore supplanted by other photographers, could come to fruition. It is high time Dad receive the recognition he deserved. When I say ‘supplanted by other photographers,’ I’m not referring to Ansel Adams, who belongs in any National Parks film. Ansel was a mentor, teaching associate, promoter and friend to Dad. I’m referring to other photographers covered in the film who happened to have photographed National Parks after Ansel Adams for their own benefit. Dad dedicated over 60 years of his life to exploring and defending wilderness. His story needs to be told “writ large” by someone like Ken Burns with real filmmaking talent.

Please let me know if and how I can help you.

David

How To Treat Irate Customers: Business 101

To this message, Ms. Steisel to her credit replied with “sincere apologies.” She mentioned that she had run across Dad’s photographs and “thought they were as beautiful as any I have seen of the parks… If we can talk perhaps I can make up for past transgressions. I don’t know how these photos got missed.” She asked for a number where I could be reached to talk about it. She had already begun to melt my heart, but I was still disappointed by the opportunity lost, knowing that the film would stand as it was for all time without Dad’s photographs in it.

My next message a month later had a more amicable tone:

…Thank you for your conciliatory remarks. I hold nothing against Ken Burns or his organization, though I was shocked to find out that the film was the quintessential film on the national parks and somehow the research did not discover Dad to be a key creative player. Anyone doing a project on the National Parks, is completely remiss to not cover the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, David Brower, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde… Dad’s work not only suffered by not being in Ken’s film, but Ken’s film suffered by its omission…

Covering mainly Ansel Adams in such a film, is of course necessary, but is only the low-hanging fruit. Also, merely plucking contemporary photographers out of the air to be the token photographers in the film, without researching who actually deserved credit for making the national parks, is a disservice. In all other aspects, I hear the film is a moving tribute and one of the best ever made on the subject. As a highly talented and top notch filmmaker, I would hope that Ken Burns might be interested in righting these omissions and errors by considering doing a film on my father. Someone will sooner or later and it will have a wide audience. I have already had other filmmakers express interest, but I want a major player like Ken Burns to do it… call me any time.

The Power of a Gift and of a Sincere Review

When she called, we had a good, friendly conversation. She said Ken Burns was backlogged for years on film projects, but that his brother also made PBS films and perhaps I might talk to him. In a later conversation in 2015, it came out that I had The National Parks: America’s Best Idea saved in my Amazon favorites, but had still never seen it. I had never seen any Ken Burns films. After learning this she offered to send me The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and a number of others. From the list she gave me I picked out The Dust Bowl and Thomas Jefferson. Once I received the package of DVD’s from Ken Burns Films, I opened it right away and started watching The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Early on it moved me to tears. I cannot overstate how impressed I was with the cinematography, the level of research, the quality of the story telling, the strength of the interviews and many other aspects of the film. It was one of the best non-fiction movies I had ever seen. I watched the whole first episode that evening. The next morning I sat down to write a thank you:

Hi Susanna,

Please share this with Ken if you at all can. Certainly you’ve heard countless rave reviews of the National Parks film, though with my background, I hope mine will still carry some weight. I am also a big fan of documentaries and have watched far more of them than the “average bear.” This one I have to say is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I agree with those who say that Ken and your team have a gift for storytelling. I loved all the detail and powerful intimate stories you all found and presented so well. I like the idea of telling “the bottom up stories,” rather than the top down ones, though there was plenty of that too with all the presidents. My father’s work and story would have been perfect for your approach because, as is widely known, he was the people’s photographer, the approachable guy, the hard-worker whose accomplishments to recognition ratio was one of the lowest. Ansel was the ambassador and entertainer of movie stars and politicians, while Dad had his boots on the ground in so many of the campaigns, sharing photographs with local leaders and going to many places way ahead of anyone else’s interest curve.

Speaking of which, in your film you mention a man going to Dinosaur in 1952 and making snapshots that influenced David Brower to get interested in saving the place. Actually, Martin Litton started writing about Dinosaur in the LA Times in 1951. Brower and Richard Leonard sent Dad to Dinosaur the same year. Dad’s photographs from four trips 1951-1955 and Litton’s were what made the book, This Is Dinosaur, though of course attaching Wallace Stegner’s name at the time is what put it on the map. With the bottom-up approach, it would have been perfect to tell the story of Litton and Hyde, more than Stegner, the Pulitzer Prize winner, especially since they did most of the work on the campaign. You can’t ever tell all the stories. I mention this not to say you got the story wrong, but as an example because there were other places where Dad’s involvement would have been interesting to your audience and added much more depth.

The whole time I was watching the film, I was incredibly moved and also kicking myself, for not having listened longer when we first talked on the phone. I remember the conversation and it was actually more my fault than yours that you did not find out more about Dad. Though obviously my whole life I was around Dad and the family part of his story, I was fairly new to telling his professional story. Also, we talked not long after Dad had passed on and I was still reeling. I was not sure how or what I was going to do with any of it.

Seems like the film contained a great deal about John Muir, but not as much about the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, National Audubon, etc. Some of those names unfortunately have a stigma to some people, so I suppose I can see why they were not emphasized. I like how most of the stories were personal anyway, rather than about organizations. Yet, that coin has two sides. Reality is that nearly all the parks were all out battles just to bring into existence. Your film covered a smattering of that, but relatively little compared to how much of it occurred. In this sense, as pure journalism, it might not be considered as accurate by some, but the flip side of that is that your team told a story that was universal and could be related to by all. It was uniting, rather than divisive, which is exactly what the parks themselves were after they were formed. Getting them formed, however, created huge controversy, divisions and disagreements that continue to this day. You de-emphasized this, which I can see in the final analysis was for good reason.

Ultimately the film is a smashing success. I was nearly in tears at some points from the sheer beauty of the scenery and cinematography. The narrative too, had good pacing in that it snapped right along and engaged me deeply. I loved hearing from so many of the rangers.

Thank you again so much for sharing it with me.

David

Sounding the Human Note: Learn This Lesson Well

Susanna’s response:

David,
How completely touched I am by your letter. I will pass it on to both Ken and Dayton Duncan.
It is a really fine line between telling the actual whole story in detail and making a film that will be accessible to a wide-ranging audience. We really do try to do our best.
I lost both my parents early in life, and I have to say that I am envious of how proud you are of your father, and how much you know about his life, and appreciate his life. It is a gift that not many of us have.
Looking back, I wish we could have done better by him. I really do. Maybe I didn’t quite know what I was doing either.
Take good care and stay in touch if you want.
With great respect,
Susanna

I wrote her back and told her I appreciated her heartfelt response. I said that I was also touched by the gift of the films. I wrote, “A good lesson I have learned, I sure hope, is to listen more and not jump to conclusions. You all are doing wonderful, important work.” Ken Burns himself also wrote me to thank me for writing, to share how moved he was by my message and to say he was grateful to hear my story.

In this day of media sound bites, over-filled inboxes and the constant barrage of social media news feeds, I, like many of my peers in this civilization, have learned to skim through everything very quickly. I see people from all walks of life making snap judgements all the time that are way off the mark and lead to all kinds of problems. Someone misjudges someone else when they meet and an opportunity is lost. Someone makes comments on a Facebook post that are insulting or irrelevant merely because they didn’t take the time to read the conversation before they added to it. Now that my misunderstanding with Ken Burns Films is cleared up and a connection has developed, it may lead to something professionally interesting, but even if it doesn’t, the significance of the positive goodwill and mutual respect should not be underestimated. This experience and the loss to my father’s work and his legacy have taught me that I must slow down and review each contact or suggestion carefully. In particular I must beware not to take any conversation or meeting for granted because my next big career break might be lurking somewhere in the pile of messages, spam and irrelevance.

Be Sociable, Share!

Golden Decade Shows at Laguna Art Museum and Minnesota Street Project

February 22nd, 2017 by David Leland Hyde No comments »

Current Golden Decade Exhibits and Book Events

Smith Andersen North Gallery

Laguna Art Museum

Minnesota Street Project

San Francisco Art Institute

Bankhead Theater Gallery

The Golden Decade, San Francisco, Ansel Adams, Minor White and the California School of Fine Arts History

Piers, Waterfront, San Francisco, California, 1948 by Philip Hyde. An original vintage contact silver print of this photograph was the first to sell at the first Golden Decade Show in 2010 at Smith Andersen North, attended by over 500 people. (Click on image to see large.)

Art historians, critics, gallerists, curators and museum staff have taken to calling the 10 years after World War II, 1945-1955, The Golden Decade of photography on the West Coast and elsewhere around the nation. Not only did the arts bustle and surge with energy and popularity in San Francisco and elsewhere on the West Coast during this period, but a new department of photography founded by Ansel Adams would in time have world-wide influence as it helped to transform photography into art.

The photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, renamed the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961, was the first College level art program to teach creative photography as a full-time profession. At the recommendation of Beaumont Newhall, who had earlier co-founded with Ansel Adams the first museum photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Ansel Adams hired and transplanted Minor White from Princeton to San Francisco to lead instruction at the new photography program at CSFA. Read the never before published Philip Hyde notes on a number of Minor White’s lectures including the famous one on Space Analysis, the notes from the Space Analysis Lecture start a short portion of a series of blog posts based on Philip Hyde’s notes.

Minor White in turn invited to guest lecture some of the most influential photographers at the time including Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, Lisette Model, Nancy and Beaumont Newhall, Homer Page, Alma Lavenson and Bill Quandt. The early classes at the school also took field trips down to Carmel to visit the studio of Edward Weston, now considered by many the father of modern photography. Students also photographed with Edward Weston in the field at nearby Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Ansel Adams taught a number of classes beginning in 1945. By 1946, Ansel Adams offered the first full-time Summer Session. Philip Hyde first attended the school and Minor White first assisted in this class. By the Fall of 1946, Minor White took over teaching and by the Fall of 1947 Philip Hyde began the full-time program, which ran three years through 1950. Read more on “The Early Days of Ansel Adams’ Photography Program.” Eavesdrop on a conversation with “Philip Hyde and Benjamen Chinn talking about Ansel Adams’ Photography Department.” Discover why “The California School of Fine Arts Makes Art History.”

In subsequent years, students from the Golden Decade period put on a number of retrospective exhibitions, most of them located at the school, renamed the San Francisco Art Institute.

Contemporary Interest and Events

Interest in the photography of both students and teachers from the Golden Decade era stepped up significantly when Stephanie Comer, Deborah Klochko and Jeff Gunderson began interviewing and researching their 2006 book, “The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Art.” During the lead up to their book release, in December 2005, four months before Philip Hyde passed on, David Leland Hyde took his father to a reunion lunch in San Francisco organized by Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball. At the reunion lunch classmates who had not seen each other in many years, sometimes as long as 50 years or more, exchanged stories, signed each other’s prints, helped identify people in photographs, and talked of the years since photography school and the unforgettable times during photography school.

Victoria Whyte Ball is the daughter of Don Whyte, one of Philip Hyde’s classmates. After the reunion lunch, Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball began to help Bill Heick, Ira Latour and Cameron Macauley edit and complete their long-planned and only partly written book called “The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Art 1945-1955.” The Golden Decade would be another retrospective volume, already many years in the making, though told more from the students’ perspective. All three of the original authors lived to see a self-published version of this book come out in 2010 in conjunction with a gallery show at Smith Andersen North in San Anselmo, Marin County, California. Over 500 people attended the Golden Decade show opening and a Philip Hyde vintage print of “Piers, Waterfront, San Francisco” was the first to sell. The show was extended for an extra month to include a new closing reception and book signing.

From 2010 to 2015, there were more Golden Decade Group Exhibits and a number of shows by the individual photographers at Smith Andersen North and elsewhere. At Mumm Winery in Napa, California, the holders of a large permanent collection of original Ansel Adams prints, Mumm Napa put on a Golden Decade show in February 2014. Stefan Kirkeby, gallery owner of Smith Andersen North, who had taken a special interest in representing and helping Golden Decade photographers, put on exhibitions of photographic prints by Golden Decade artists Benjamen Chinn, Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones, Leonard Zielaskiewicz, Charles Wong, Paul Caponigro, Philip Hyde and John Upton. The widely acclaimed and attended Smith Andersen North show This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde and the American Wilderness, put together by Stefan Kirkeby and David Leland Hyde, enjoyed a turnout larger than any other show at the gallery besides the 2010 Golden Decade show.

Redesigned New Golden Decade Book Published by Steidl

During this five-year period, Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball searched for a publisher for the Golden Decade. Finally in 2015, the internationally respected premier photography book publisher Gerhard Steidl of Göttingen, Germany, decided to publish a redesigned version of the Golden Decade book. Steidl published the book in April and shipped it to the US in May of 2016.

Book signings kicked off in the US at the famous Strand bookstore in New York City on Saturday, October 29. The Strand, one of the world’s most prominent English language bookstores, was established in 1927 and claims to contain 18 miles of books. From then on Steidl has kept Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball busy doing book signing events. Other Golden Decade photographers who are still alive, with us and have also attended and signed books at some signings include John Upton, Gerald Ratto, David Johnson, Stan Zrnich, Charles Wong, Stephen Goldstein and Zoe Lowenthal.

Following the book signing at the Strand in New York, the next major Golden Decade event was an opening and book signing at Smith Andersen North for Golden Decade photographer Gerald Ratto. Gerald Ratto’s photography exhibit was on view from November 12 thru December 23, 2016. Many Golden Decade fans bought books and had them signed at this gallery opening.

Golden Decade Gallery and Museum Shows

In case anyone missed this show and signing, an official Golden Decade Exhibition sponsored by Smith Andersen North and Casemore Kirkeby, housed at the Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco, opened February 4 and will run until February 28, 2017. At the opening for this Minnesota Street Project show, Stefan Kirkeby, owner of Smith Andersen North and co-owner of Casemore Kirkeby, made introductory remarks and introduced Jeff Gunderson, San Francisco Art Institute Librarian and Archivist and contributor to The Moment of Seeing. After Jeff Gunderson spoke, Jack Fulton, photographer and retired SFAI professor, talked further about the history of the photography program.

Also opening this month, on February 19, a Golden Decade museum show will run through May 29, 2017 at the Laguna Art Museum. Founded in 1918, the Laguna Art Museum is the premier museum of California Art created by California artists.

On March 1, 2017 back at the photography program campus at the San Francisco Art Institute, there will be another Golden Decade book signing and presentation. Specifics on the two shows currently up and ongoing and the upcoming signing at SFAI are listed below.

The Golden Decade Exhibit
February 4 thru 28, 2017
Smith Andersen North—Casemore Kirkeby
Minnesota Street Project
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, California 94107
415-851-9808

The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-1955
February 19 thru May 29, 2017
Laguna Art Museum
307 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, California 92651
949-494-8971

The Golden Decade Book Signing and Panel Discussion
A Conversation with Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball, Jeff Gunderson, Stefan Kirkeby and Golden Decade Photographers John Upton, Stephen Goldstine, David Johnson, Charles Wong, Gerald Ratto and Stan Zrnich.
6 pm, March 1, 2017
San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, California 94133
415-771-7020

The Golden Decade Art Exhibition at the Bankhead Theater Gallery
March 4 thru March 10, 2017
Book signing March 10 at 6:30-8:30 pm
Bankhead Theater
Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center
2400 First Street
Livermore, CA 94551
925-373-6800

Be Sociable, Share!

Favorite Photographs of 2016

January 2nd, 2017 by David Leland Hyde 27 comments »

David Leland Hyde’s Personal Favorite Photographs of 2016

Jim Goldstein at JMG Galleries Blog first started this group photoblog project in 2007. The blog project has run every year since. I have participated each year since 2010. The concept is simple: each photography blogger who wants to take part, near the end of each year, puts together his or her “best” or “favorite” photographs from that year. Once each respective photoblogger posts a blog post of his best photographs of the year, he then fills out a small form on Jim Goldstein’s blog. After a certain date, Jim then makes another blog post containing a list of all of the “best of the year” blog posts along with a link to each of them.

During the year 2016, while I concentrated on writing and other projects, I made fewer exposures than in any other year since 2009 when I switched to digital. I made about 10 percent or less of the number of images I made in 2015. Not only did I photograph less often, I made far fewer images each time I went out. Still, I discovered that not only did the overall quality go up, I made a much higher ratio of portfolio worthy or near portfolio worthy images than ever before when I was less selective. My hard drives and extra disk spaces are thanking me. It is satisfying and confidence building to know you do no have to make hoards of images to “get the shot,” or to make meaningful photographs, whichever of the two you prefer.

The below photographs 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 work without them. Particularly when photographing people, in the field I work intuitively, more often quite slowly with faster lurches when necessary. My nature images come from a deeper, tranquil place, both outside and within, but even with landscape photography, I like a less-perfected, rougher and quicker approach to post-processing. I do bracket for exposure, but rarely end up using the resulting files in combination. I often find a single image within the bracket works just as well in much less time, or I end up using a different photograph.

I replace the traditional film darkroom methods of dodging and burning, that is, lightening and darkening certain areas, by using Photoshop for post-processing. I control contrast, shadow and highlight intensity with Photoshop levels, curves and a hopefully tasteful limited application of vibrance and saturation. In this way, I use the tools of the digital darkroom for similar purposes as film photographers use traditional post-processing. However, I generally have much more control over all areas of the image and the resulting archival chromogenic and digital prints than even the old large format masters like my father, conservation photography pioneer Philip Hyde. For more information about each image and to see them even larger visit my new website: Hyde Fine Art at http://www.hydefineart.com/ . Not all of these “Sweet 16 for 2016” photographs are up on the site yet, but they all will be soon.

Mt. Lassen From California Highway 89, Winter by David Leland Hyde. I have always wanted to make a photograph from this spot, but this was the first time I could get up there after a fresh snow and under the right conditions for a decent image. I was on my way to a meeting and stopping to make a few exposures made me late, but it was a “now or never” situation.

Fall on Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California by David Leland Hyde. I love roaming Spanish Creek and Indian Creek with or without camera in the autumn of the year. Fall in Plumas County in the headwaters of the Feather River is like no other place on Earth. Certainly there are no other “California rivers” quite like Spanish and Indian. As much as I love it, my life is usually in high gear coming out of the summer and I often miss the peak Indian Rhubarb moment, which lasts just a few days and varies as much as a week or two on arrival each year. This year I caught it a little past the peak, but the bright colors were still going strong and worked well with the dogwoods, willows and alders that were already turning. This year more than others, everything seemed to peak at different times, so this idyllic blue sky day on tranquil Spanish Creek represented the happiest medium possible. If there was ever a place to get lost in time and drift away to another world, this was it and will hopefully long be it. It has changed little since the days of the California Gold Rush.

Empowered at the Waterfall on Ward Creek, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde. One of my best friends I grew up with and two of his boys and a friend of theirs went on a secret hike near my home. I say “secret” because it is on gated, fenced private property that nobody else can enter, unless you know the owner. We hiked past a spooky old falling down mine we used to visit as kids to the waterfall on Ward Creek, a tributary of Indian Creek. I photographed the group standing in front of the waterfall, the waterfall by itself and the boys in various poses and clowning around. At one point Landon stepped up onto that rock in the center and made a pose facing the camera, then turned and faced the waterfall. Though the falls were so loud in the narrow gorge that none of us could hear each other, Landon clearly had a feeling come over him as he faced the falls. His pose here was the spontaneous result.

Yoga-Like Poses, Bonneville Salt Flats, Great Salt Lake, Utah by David Leland Hyde. Towing a U-Haul trailer loaded to the gills with fire safes and stuff from Colorado to Northern California, I stopped for a much needed rest from the road at this rest stop on Interstate 80. At first I had my camera on my tripod photographing the salt flats and the distant mountains. However, I soon got more interested in the people who kept walking out on the jagged rough salt and making all sorts of stretching and other strange motions. This group was off to the far side, but started doing exercises like pilates or yoga. I panned back and forth making a series of images of the various tourists against the white lake bottom background.

Wild Mustangs, Hazy Morning, Tall Grass, Central Wyoming Open Range II by David Leland Hyde. Somewhere in Central Wyoming this herd of wild horses grazed peacefully along the freeway. I stopped and walked back toward them with camera off my tripod and ready for action photographs. At first they were skittish and ran a little ways away, but slowly and seemingly curious, they came back toward me as I waited in silence. I made my best attempt at horse whispering to get them to walk toward me. After a little time went by, they were playful in front of the camera and acted as though they were familiar with being photographed. I was able to make some exposures of them walking, standing, grazing and on the run. Thank you Wyoming and my new four-legged friends. This was a special gift because throughout my summer 2015 17-state, 10,000 mile trip to the Midwest photographing farms, I came back with only a few photographs of horses. Though these Wyoming wild mustangs’ coats were a little scrappy and their tails had burrs, they were big and lean and more muscular than most domestic animals.

Storm Surf, Point Pinos, Pacific Grove, Monterey County, California Beaches by David Leland Hyde. With only an afternoon left in Monterey, a local large format photographer recommended I check out Point Pinos. The surf turned out to be larger than usual, which made for a number of interesting frames.

Fall Alders, Indian Creek and Grizzly Peak From the Taylorsville Bridge by David Leland Hyde. One afternoon coming home from Quincy and having photographed fall color on Spanish and Indian Creek most of the afternoon, as I crossed the Taylorsville Bridge, I saw what could be a keeper image. This is probably one of the most, if not the most photographed place in Indian Valley. My father made a number of large format photographs here in different seasons, going back as far as the early 1950s. If I was going to stop, it had to be good. I still would like to get a lot of snow on the mountain with fall color sometime, but the timing here turned out well with the interesting light and shadow in the middle distance and the lines and shapes that echo from the foreground beaver dam, beach and reflection to the distance.

Fields of Flowers With California Poppies, Mokelumne River Near Jackson, California, Sierra Nevada Foothills by David Leland Hyde. Though my father was crazy for photographing wildflowers, I have not been big on it so far, though flower photography is growing on me. This year a photographer friend in Jackson who helped me scan some of Dad’s collection, also showed me the wildflower mother lode near town. People say this type of photograph makes good wallpaper or large wall decor. Maybe this could even work for a matted and framed fine art photography presentation as well…

Olsen Barn and Meadow, Evening Sierra Mist, Winter, Lake Almanor, Chester, California by David Leland Hyde. This photograph has special meaning to me because I am a member of the Stewardship-Management Group for this Feather River Land Trust property. I made this photograph as a plume of smoke or Sierra mist came in low across the meadow just after a cloudy sunset several hours after a meeting of our committee at the barn. I made several images over the space of about 10 minutes and suddenly the mist or smoke was gone.

Wall Murals, Detour Sign, Carpet Warehouse, Oakland, California by David Leland Hyde. One morning driving out of Alameda I saw this wall mural on a carpet store and had to stop because of the vivid colors. I made quite a few exposures of details and from different angles, but this one stood out most. I wonder if a certain photographer friend who lives in Alameda has photographed this store…?

Fund Raising, Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood, San Francisco, California by David Leland Hyde. I love street photography. Here I just roamed up and down the Haight and surrounding streets at night with camera hand-held, photographing whatever I liked. This young hippie couple had obviously just eaten. He was reading the Bible and she was rocking the electric guitar… and I do mean rocking. She started out very slow with acoustic-like finger picking and gradually built up energy until she was standing up and blasting the neighborhood with her bell-clear voice and grungy bar chords. What a great smile too. All the time I was connecting with her and making a lot of photographs, her companion hardly moved, but just kept his head down reading away.

Hippie With Coffee and Phone, Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood, San Francisco, California by David Leland Hyde. This man had a warm smile and agreed right away to let me make his photograph. What a scene with the cafe windows, colors, coffee, red chairs, his backpack and the gray, spot stained sidewalk. I wish I had talked to him more. He seemed as though he had great tales to tell, like a Hobbit, Elf or some other traveler from distant lands.

Sunset Clouds, Carmel Mission a.k.a. Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California by David Leland Hyde. This trip I arrived at the Carmel Mission less than half an hour before closing. By the time I got in, made a donation and started photographing I had 15 minutes to catch what I could of the Basilica interior and grounds of the Mission. I thought to myself that I could chose to get stressed out, cry, moan, complain, swear a lot, leave without trying or think of it as an exercise. Ok, 15 minutes, go… I was off. I made quick decisions, photographed the key subjects and most important angles. Surprisingly enough, all of my images were strong with few throwaway frames between. All in all a good exercise. Try it sometime. It is important to note that this approach is the exact opposite of what I typically use or recommend. However, mixing it up now and then, shaking up the routine, breaking all rules, including your own, builds not only photographic skills, but character and a sense of humor as well.

Sunset, Barn Skeleton and Playground Equipment, San Mateo County Coast, California by David Leland Hyde. I saw this rundown barn silhouetted against the setting sun, but there was no place to stop or turn around. I had to jog back over half a mile while the sunset was in motion. Still, all turned out ok. I even made it further down the coast to San Gregorio for more photographs before daylight faded all the way to night. Anyone who believes online jpegs do photographs justice compared to prints is probably looking through the wrong end of the kaleidoscope of history, or at the very least the distorted viewpoint of a throwaway device. Possibly they are being fooled by new screen technology on a computer with a perpetually outdated updating agenda.

Twilight, San Gregorio State Beach and Lagoon, San Gregorio, California by David Leland Hyde. I arrived at San Gregorio Beach with little more light than an orange glow on the horizon. I kept going for longer and longer exposures as I photographed the beach and lagoon from different angles into complete darkness. The people on the beach were the biggest challenge and asset to the images. I tried to catch them while standing still, but some exposures show them in motion on the whole spectrum from slightly blurry to transparent ghost figures.

“You Are Beautiful,” Central Wyoming by David Leland Hyde. Somewhere in Central Wyoming off Interstate 80 there is a lonely service exit with some road building materials and a good wide gravel area to park for a nap when tired on a long drive. I slept for a few hours from around 4:00 am to daybreak. I photographed the sunrise over a corrugated shed and saw this scene behind my van just before getting back on the road. It reminded me of the beautiful cinematography and hand-held imagery of a plastic bag blowing in the wind in the film American Beauty. To me this scene contains warmth in coolness, humanity in loneliness and beauty in the mundane. It is a reminder to find beauty in yourself and in even the most plain or “ugly” of places. Ugly is only in the eye of the judge. It is not “real” in any sense, except that given to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Project Posts From Years Past:

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

Be Sociable, Share!

Happy Holidays!

December 23rd, 2016 by David Leland Hyde 34 comments »

Thank You To All Those Who Read And Participated Here This Year… and Over the Last Five Years…

Boulder Courthouse Decked Out For The Holidays, Boulder, Colorado, December 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

May the road rise to meet you, but not too fast.

May your turkey be large and satisfying.

May your dressing not be too fattening.

May you enjoy a full-body search at the airport.

May your friends and family gather ’round.

May you tip a glass together, but not too much.

May you finish your last minute shopping in time.

May you receive gifts you would rather keep than return.

May you remember and do something for someone less fortunate.

May Santa not get stuck in your chimney.

May your cat not get tangled in the Christmas tree or the Hanakkah candles.

May you revel in gadgets and cheap trinkets of all kinds.

May you also rise above materialism and find happiness in more meaningful things.

May you remember the true meaning of Christmas or whatever you celebrate.

May you be blessed in the New Year.

Originally posted 12-23-10. Also on 12-22-11.

Be Sociable, Share!

Announcing New David Leland Hyde Website – Hyde Fine Art

December 1st, 2016 by David Leland Hyde 6 comments »

Pleased to Present a New Home for My Own Photography…

Hyde Fine Art

Economic, environmental and social evolution through fine art photography of the urban, rural and natural landscape…

http://www.hydefineart.com/

Please visit and give me your opinion… are there any typos or aspects you don’t like?

Indian Creek Below Indian Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2009, by David Leland Hyde, Nikon D90. Prints of this photograph have outsold all other David Leland Hyde prints and Philip Hyde prints since 2009.

Dad gave me my first camera at age 10. At that time in the mid 1970s, my father conservation photographer Philip Hyde’s career, western outdoor recreation and the modern environmental movement were reaching new heights. Dad’s book Slickrock with Edward Abbey was also selling well, especially in California, the Southwest Desert and the Colorado Plateau states. Visit David Leland Hyde CV for more about what I was doing during this era.

My camera was a simple Pentax K1000 35 mm film camera. It was all-manual with no automatic settings. Dad gave me a good foundation for learning photography by teaching me basic camera operations and how to understand the relationships between aperture, shutter speed and film speed. I liked making photographs well enough. I made quite a few images on a number of different trips, but while growing up, to me photography was always Dad’s specialty. He had it covered and I had other interests. As a result, I went whole decades without ever making a photograph. I used my camera in high school a few times, but for school sports I needed a camera that could shoot on partial or full auto at many frames a second.

On a photographic trip with Mom and Dad, I made some good photographs in Yellowstone National Park, on the way home to California from my boarding school graduation from Principia Upper School near St. Louis, Missouri. On that trip, Dad and I photographed a number of national parks together.

In college at the University of New Mexico I tried to photograph the Albuquerque music scene and published a few decent images, but most turned out blurry or dark. One time I went to Arkansas for Spring Break and all of my photographs came out too dark because I used the wrong ASA shutter speed setting.

More than another decade later, after Dad passed on, I spent a great deal of time looking through his collection and talking to photography experts about what to do with his lifetime of work. While immersed in talking about images and selecting images with some of the best editors in the industry, my eye began to develop like never before. I started seeing photographs everywhere I looked outside of the studio: on drives, on walks, in unexpected places and in obvious places. I did some asking around about digital cameras and got a bit of guidance. One day in 2009, I just walked into Costco and bought a Nikon D90 kit with two lenses, a camera bag and an SD card. One photographer told me that it would make a good pro-consumer package to get me started. To see some of my early images and how I chose photographs for early versions of my portfolio, see David Leland Hyde’s Portfolio One Revisions and New Photographs.

My enthusiasm and diligence for making images grew in leaps and bounds. I have now made over 70,000 images since 2009. In the process learned quite a bit about Photoshop, but have just scratched the surface of what is possible with software, by choice keeping my workflow as simple as possible. I have made and plan to make more experimental work, but by far the majority of my images, certainly all but a few of my landscapes are single image capture, with only a few blends ever, no HDR, minimal masks, and only very small objects removed or altered in detailed retouching.

I use Photoshop for much the same purposes and to a similar extent that film photographers have traditionally used the darkroom. I do some dodging and burning, a.k.a., lightening and darkening. I increase saturation and vibrance in small doses and make minor layer and curve adjustments, much the way Dad used to balance the color when he handmade color dye transfer and Cibachrome prints. For more on how I work with images and the capture counts for each year, visit Best Photographs of 2014 and Favorite Photographs of 2015.

For an early version of my Artist Statement go to David Leland Hyde Archival Prints Pre-Launch. I plan to revise and update this statement some in the near future. Stay tuned for my blog project post in the next few weeks of my Favorite Images of 2016. In the meantime, please visit http://www.hydefineart.com/ and let me know what you think of it. Please let me know if there are any navigation problems, typos or anything else you don’t like. Enjoy browsing the various portfolios and watch for the new additions I am adding every week. Currently the site has just a few dozen images on it, but I plan to post at least 10,000 or more images in the coming months and years.

Be Sociable, Share!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22nd, 2016 by David Leland Hyde 15 comments »

Blessings To This Land

Ahwahnee Dining Room, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, January 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Photoshop used only to resize and decrease the tilt to the right, which was greater in the raw capture. The cloudy “effects” at the sides of the photograph are due to having come inside suddenly after hiking to Mirror Lake and back from the Ahwahnee Hotel in below freezing weather and snow. The lens fogged and even iced up as soon as I came indoors. I made this photograph after the center of the lens defogged. Is it a straight photograph or is it pictorialist?

(From the Holiday Archives…)

Thanks Giving

Blessings To This Land…
I am grateful for the wind,
For the tide that brings us foods from all over the world,
For warm fires and memories,
For friends.

Blessings to this home…
I am grateful for smiles and laughter,
For stories,
For this strong, good house,
For the woods.

Blessings to this life…
I am grateful for this calling,
For this challenge,
For this chance to serve,
Despite my flaws.

Blessings to the people…
I am grateful that even the greatest storm,
Will pass,
The night is long and full of fear,
But the sunrise always comes.

Blessings to the great circle…
Life carries on,
Nature is our teacher,
The tree bends in the breeze,
The squirrel gathers stores for the winter.

And we are blessed,
We may run very fast,
And lean far out over the cliff,
Yet catch only ourselves,
In the end.

Originally posted 11-25-2010

Be Sociable, Share!

Enduring Images: Interview of Jack Dykinga for Outdoor Photographer Magazine

September 15th, 2016 by David Leland Hyde 4 comments »

Enduring Images: An Interview with Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist, Celebrated Nature Photographer and 2017 NANPA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Jack Dykinga by David Leland Hyde

Including Previously Unpublished Interview Sections and Materials

Cover of Outdoor Photographer September Special Issue - Photography with a Purpose

Cover of Outdoor Photographer September 2016 Special Issue – Photography with a Purpose. (Click Image to see larger.)

Jack Dykinga won the Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism while documenting the turmoil of 1960s Chicago. In 1970 he read a Backpacker magazine interview of my father, conservation photographer Philip Hyde. The article by environmental photographer Gary Braasch inspired Dykinga to move West and begin photographing landscapes. He eventually met and became friends with Dad, who mentored him in the ways of conservation photography. They even photographed together on a number of trips, some with a few other photography friends around the Southwest U.S., as well as on mainland Mexico and Baja California.

Jack Dykinga over the years also became a pillar of Western nature photography, working with the acclaimed International League of Conservation Photographers, National Geographic, Arizona Highways and other renowned organizations. The North American Nature Photography Association plans to honor Dykinga with a Lifetime Achievement award this year, much as they did Philip Hyde and David Brower back in 1996.

My interview with Mr. Dykinga touched on how he made the transition from a Midwest urban setting to photographing the wide-open wilderness spaces of the West. It also revealed the sensibilities he discovered were necessary to photograph nature and wildlife for conservation purposes. Our discussion ranged from his experience at various well-known magazines to the refinement of his approach over the years with input from Dad. Dykinga gave insights into a number of conservation projects and the making of a number of his successful books for various causes, including the upcoming new release of A Photographer’s Life: A Journey from Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer, in which Dykinga wrote an entire chapter about Dad.

My interview ran over 26,000 words, but I kept only 2,800 for the Outdoor Photographer piece. Some of the remaining 23,200 words will go into my book, but a few sections I will share with readers here. In one section I asked Jack Dykinga about Eliot Porter and Robert Glenn Ketchum. I specifically cut this portion from the Outdoor Photographer version because I did not feel the magazine article was the place to grind the axe about how Eliot Porter has received credit for a number of Dad’s and other’s accomplishments. At the right time and place, in the appropriate venue, a more detailed version of this discussion will be pertinent. For now, Landscape Photography Blogger is more appropriate than Outdoor Photographer for starting to bring some of it to light. The Outdoor Photographer audience is interested in learning from all of these greats of nature photography, not necessarily hearing why one or another have been over or under-recognized. In my opinion Dykinga’s response, while favoring Dad, was well-considered, balanced and tactful. Let’s see what you think when you read it below… In another section, Dykinga shared his experiences and impressions while working with National Geographic and while obtaining more personal, land and place oriented photographs.

David Leland Hyde: John Rohrbach in Regarding the Land: Robert Glenn Ketchum and the Legacy of Eliot Porter, made the exaggerated claims that Eliot Porter invented color nature photography and “almost single handedly saved the Grand Canyon.” Rohrbach also wrote that Robert Glenn Ketchum was the primary photographer carrying on Eliot Porter’s legacy. It was common knowledge among those who were there and widely known thereafter that Dad led the charge spiritually and produced the most photographs for the Grand Canyon campaign. Dad’s photographs illustrated three large format Sierra Club Books and were the cornerstone of Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, the one book specifically produced to prevent two dams above and below the National Park in the Grand Canyon. Eliot Porter’s Glen Canyon book enjoyed wide readership during this time mainly because the campaign to prevent the Grand Canyon dams took on global proportions. The book Time and the River Flowing landed on the desk of every member of Congress and other Washington leaders, as well as quickly fulfilling significant international demand and distribution. As Time and the River Flowing went out all over the world, it effectively advanced the momentum of the global letter writing campaign that ultimately swayed American politicians and stopped the dams. Not all of Philip Hyde’s books in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series sold as well as Eliot Porter’s In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, but Island In Time: Pt. Reyes Peninsula came out the same year. Several other photographers including Litton, Brower, Adams and others were nearly as prominent as Hyde and Porter in bringing color to landscape photography. As far as any photographer taking over Eliot Porter’s legacy, late in Porter’s life when he was ill before a Truckee Meadows Workshop, the organizers called in Hyde to take over Porter’s teaching position, not Robert Glenn Ketchum or anyone else.

Jack Dykinga: Eliot Porter was a great photographer. I will say that right off the bat. Right almost in the second line of his autobiography, without even taking a breath, it says he was a medical doctor who gave that up to be a photographer. Your dad was a self-made person who wanted to be a photographer. He wasn’t a doctor that wanted to be a photographer. He didn’t have either the baggage or the promotional ability that Porter did. A guy like Robert Glenn Ketchum had Ketchum, Idaho named after his family. He lives in Bel Air and Hollywood and he’s done a lot of good conservation work, but the hardship that your father had to go through, made him stronger. Your dad was the kind of person who had to really work for everything he got. I don’t think he had time to blow his own horn. He was trying to make a living. If I had it to do over again, I sure wish I had a lot more money. I wouldn’t have to worry about the next check. But, I think that lack of money also gives you an edge, I don’t mean a winning edge, I mean there’s a certain edge to your life where you’re really having to push pretty hard to get things done and it helps you. Porter’s work had a totally different look, whereas your father’s strength was that he gave you the monumental look of the American West. Your father did a lot more trail hiking than Eliot did and really showed us the land without showing himself.

Hyde: In the early 1960s, the whole direction of the large format books shifted. At first there was the big black and white sensation, This Is The American Earth by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall, but then suddenly everybody was really excited about color.

Dykinga: Your father was more of a documenter of wild places. He would look at things as more of a narrative and a project. That’s more akin to what I do. A lot of my friends that I go camping with are what I call single image photographers. They go out and want to get the most powerful shot that day, where I’m more likely to be wrapped up in a concept. That’s because I’m the journalist. You get publishable shots every single day. They may not be the art you want to hang on your wall, but you may want to put them in a book to tell somebody a story. If you try to submit only those that whisper, you’ll never get published, but you can hang them on the wall and live with them and love them.

Hyde: With National Geographic are you doing more or less what Joel Sartore does?

Dykinga: I am a contract photographer. He is a contract photographer on their first list. I used to be on their first list. I have a deep connection with the magazine, but their overall view of landscape is erratic. We have different opinions.

Hyde: Their idea of landscape is always putting a person in the frame.

Dykinga: There you go. You hit it perfectly. The classic example would be the last issue on Yellowstone National Park with people, butchering animals, traps and cowboys. There’s not one sense of place in the whole article. Here we are in this dramatic, incredible landscape that just gets really short shrift with the tact they have taken. The current editor is a journalist. She was the editor of Time Magazine.

Hyde: Would you say that National Geographic goes after the culture more than the place or the wilderness?

Dykinga: You could say that. That’s sort of subjective. I was there when Chris Johns was editor and he loved my approach to landscapes. That went away when he went away. It changes all the time. I still work for them occasionally. A full feature is a 100 day contract and it’s pretty good money, except when you have things blow up, it maybe not as good as you thought.

Hyde: You were in Stephen Trimble’s book, Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography. I don’t know that he necessarily found all of the “Who’s who” of Grand Canyon photography, but he included many.

Dykinga: I spend less and less time in cliché locations. They may be visual touchstones for most people, but they’re not interesting to me because even more than the place the solitude is important to me.

Hyde: Like Ansel talked about with the experience?

Dykinga: Yes, a deeper connection. You can’t do that if you’re on a crowded boardwalk in Yellowstone with about 30 Chinese guys with selfie sticks like I just experienced. People now are interested in showing “me there,” more than “there.” I think there’s a profound shift with people being more anthropocentric.

Hyde: We have less and less connection to nature as decades go by and more and more words and noise surrounding ourselves when we do get out there.

Dykinga: I see it all the time where people really go on and on explaining their work. Your father’s message and his voice came through the image. If you go on and on about divinity and God and everything else, that’s maybe what you’re reading into it. A lot of us are just very happy when people see the place and make their own decisions based on their own divinity or lack thereof. That’s as good as you can go. It’s more of a Buddhist approach.

To read the best published portions of the above interview pick up the Outdoor Photographer September Special Issue still on newsstands now for a few more weeks, or available online in October.

Be Sociable, Share!

Book Review: Picturing America’s National Parks

September 1st, 2016 by David Leland Hyde 3 comments »

Book Review: Picturing America’s National Parks by George Eastman Museum Assistant Curator Jamie M. Allen

Cover of "Picturing America's National Parks" by Jamie M. Allen (2016).

Cover of “Picturing America’s National Parks” by Jamie M. Allen (2016). (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Landscape Photography Classics and Much More

To accompany the George Eastman Museum exhibition, Photography and America’s National Parks, the Eastman Museum and Aperture Foundation teamed up to publish assistant curator Jamie M. Allen’s new comprehensive book on the history of photography in our nation’s parks called Picturing America’s National Parks.

The George Eastman show, made up of the work of more than 50 photographers from all eras in the history of photography, includes landscape photography greats such as Ansel Adams, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Imogen Cunningham, John K. Hillers, Philip Hyde, William Henry Jackson, the Kolb Brothers, Eadweard J. Muybridge, Eliot Porter, Bradford Washburn, Carleton E. Watkins, Edward Weston and Minor White, as well as a good number of other renowned photographers who also happened to make exposures in the National Parks such as George Eastman, Andreas Feininger, Lee Friedlander, Johan Hagemeyer, Martin Parr, Stephen Shore, Garry Winogrand and others. The exhibition has also turned out to be one of the most popular and prominent museum shows of the year.

You See It “Everywhere”

As such, during the run of the exhibit from June 4 – October 2, 2016, Photography and America’s National Parks has enjoyed significant publicity, while the book, Picturing America’s National Parks, already has attracted even greater press exposure. The exhibition or the book or both were introduced or reviewed in Antiques Magazine, Outdoor Photographer magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Aperture, Real Clear Life, the Rochesteriat, the Nature Conservancy magazine, the Rochester City Newspaper, Smithsonian Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, Museum of Photographic Arts, Visit Rochester, The Atlantic, Tween Tribune, Artsy, Outside Magazine, AnOther magazine, Mother Jones magazine, USA Today, Yahoo News, Slate, Audubon magazine, Artbook, Travel & Leisure magazine, Pop Photo, and many others. The book can be found online to purchase, borrow or to read more reviews at Amazon.com, Aperture Foundation, Target.com, Bookshop.com, eBay, Google Play, Library Resource Finder, Sweet, Abelardo Morell, Schaumburg Library, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art bookshop, Worldcat, Fraser Muggeridge Studio, Loot, LibraryThing, Lenscratch, Photolucida, ALA Booklist, Beyond Words, PDN Online and many, many others too deep in Google search results to track down.

Fascinating, Well-Written and Leavened With Significant Detail

Like her pre-show introductory article in Antiques magazine, assistant Curator Jamie M. Allen’s main essay in the book is well written, smooth flowing and easy to read, yet packed with interesting history of both the national parks and early photography in them. The rest of the book displays the photographs with titles and an accompanying text for each of the featured photographers, interspersed with several paragraphs at a time on various historically relevant points such as the invention of the mass produced Kodak camera, the increase in availability of the automobile, the development of photomechanical and photolithographic postcards for sale at park concessions, 18-by-60-foot Colorama photo advertisements for the national parks, caretakers in the national parks and the National Park Service’s social media campaign #findyourpark.

Interspersed with the images from each major contributor at approximately every 16 pages, a timeline page provides the reader with significant dates in the history of photography and the history of the national parks. These timeline pages are loaded with fascinating tidbits that enrich the reading experience of the book. Despite many details included, the timelines present history in general, broad strokes. There are significant points of history, especially of the parks that are not detailed, but this would require a much larger, more difficult to read book.

A Popular Populist Approach

Ms. Jamie M. Allen approaches her subject from a populist perspective, which is somewhat unusual for a museum curator. More than one of the reviews of Picturing America’s National Parks said it was a comprehensive history of photography in the national parks. This is partly true, depending on the definitions of these terms. On a more close reading though, I would say that this volume is not necessarily the history of fine art photography or landscape photography in the national parks, but it could more accurately be described as the history of all photography in the national parks, or a history of cameras and images of any kind from any source made in the national parks.

This populist view of photography in the national parks puts significant emphasis on the various ways that photographs have helped to establish, preserve, depict and popularize the national parks. Allen observes that the history of the national parks is inextricably intertwined with the history of photography. After reading this inspiring book, I would go beyond saying that photography helped popularize the national parks to say that apparently the national parks helped popularize photography. In the development of the West, Allen points out that images produced on location at several of the most popular parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite became a hot commodity. A cottage industry in photograph sales developed with photographers establishing small shops where tourists could purchase various types of photographic reproductions of the scenery they had enjoyed during their visit and in some cases purchase photos of themselves in the scenery.

Intertwining Histories of National Parks and Photography

The development of postcards, the snapshot camera and many other aspects of photography that were popular rather than professional, were a large part of the story of the intertwining histories. In addition these aspects make a more interesting read than a mere compilation of the great photographers who have depicted the national parks. Because some of the professionals have been left out, the collection of photographs represented acts less as a survey of those famous for photographing the parks and more as a compilation of famous people and ordinary people who also made images in the national parks.

Both the exhibition and the book tie all of this history into current trends by bringing to light the masses of images and selfies made each day and shared hourly on social media. However, Allen and the Eastman Museum go beyond the mere mention of this phenomenon, to incorporating it as an activity at the exhibit. In the entryway to the show a photograph of the Grand Canyon containing a life-sized figure of George Eastman standing on the rim gives visitors to the show an opportunity to make a selfie with Mr. Eastman and the Grand Canyon in the background to take home, share on social media and discuss the exhibit with friends online. This feature and the encouragement of phone snapshots in the museum makes the visitor experience more fun while portraying the museum as cool and up to date in their delivery of history, not to mention making the show and the museum extremely popular, as well as the objects of considerable buzz.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Allen and her team are to be commended for their fanning of the media flames through her appearance on local TV and the comprehensive development of publicity across the country, but also in their exhaustive and colossal volume of research necessary for such a project. As excellent as done, their research was not necessarily perfect, or perhaps for sake of simplicity and accessibility they chose to leave some information out. For example: the timeline for the 1960s is missing the introduction of color to photography books. Though the timelines are a small part of the overall book presentation, this was a major breakthrough for the parks, for photography and for the fortunes of Kodak because it caused a huge spike in the popularity of color film. It also was part of what led to the popularization of the coffee table photography book, which changed the face of the photography industry and paved the way for more photographers to make a living in the medium.

In the timelines, there is also no mention of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, which during the 1960s, especially in the Western U.S., but also all over the world, greatly advanced the momentum of the movement to conserve more public lands and to further popularize the national parks themselves. The timeline entry for 1963 mentioned that David Brower and Eliot Porter published several books on the parks, but the mention of popular books by Philip Hyde in the Exhibit Format Series, who is represented in the Eastman Museum collection, also is omitted. David Brower called Philip Hyde his go-to photographer because he produced the images for many books that made or protected national parks just in the 1960s alone, such as The Last Redwoods (1963), Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon (1964), The Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland (1965), Not Man Apart (1965) Navajo Wildlands (1967), The Grand Colorado (1969) and even more volumes in the 1970s.

Philip Hyde’s book, Island In Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula (1962) was the first book to ever raise funds to purchase land to make a national park service unit, Point Reyes National Seashore. It was also published the same year as Eliot Porter’s In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, (also not mentioned in Picturing America’s National Parks) in 1962, giving both books the shared title of the first major book projects published in color.

Outstanding Image Choice and the Making of an Evergreen Title

I like Allen’s image choices for the sections on Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Minor White and many of the others because she used photographs we don’t often see from these well-known masters. Adams as usual gets a huge amount of credit for his work in the national parks, most of which is well-deserved. However, also as usual, Adams gets credit for some of the accomplishments of other photographers such as the help in conservation and formation of national parks, which Adams did do some and quite effectively, but not more than or even at the same level as photographers such as Philip Hyde and Eliot Porter, who essentially took over the Sierra Club Books from Ansel Adams after they transitioned to color. The description under Ansel Adams carried on at length about conservation and the national parks, whereas the Philip Hyde description mentioned it only briefly, especially in light of his much greater volume of work on wilderness and national park protection campaigns. When I asked Allen about the difference, she said that originally her text included much more about Philip Hyde’s work in preserving national parks, but that her editors cut some of it. Apparently editors need educating as well about the figures behind major conservation efforts.

To illustrate this point and to show an example of how the descriptions were presented, here is the entry for Ansel Adams:

Ansel Adams‘ (American, 1902-1984) lifelong passion for the national parks began in 1916 when, at the age of 14, he read James Mason Hutching’s 496-page book In the Heart of the Sierras (1886) and convinced his parents to take him on vacation to Yosemite Valley. Equipped with a No. 1 Brownie camera that his parents had given him, Adams took his first images of Yosemite that year. Soon after, he became involved with the Sierra Club, starting as the custodian for the club’s headquarters in Yosemite and later leading tours and participating in trips to the Yosemite High Country. He was eventually elected to the board of directors and lobbied for additional areas to be set aside as national parks and monuments. By the 1930s, Adams’ photographic work had become well known, and in 1941 he was invited to participate in a project to photograph all the national parks. Organized by the Secretary of Interior, the initiative was abruptly cancelled when the United States entered World War II. Adams continued the project independently, supported by a series of Guggenheim Fellowships. His images of the parks have come to represent the grandeur of the American landscape, conjuring a sense of pride for American viewers in both the land itself and the preservation of these spaces through the National Park Service. Adams’ photographs have also had broad international appeal, establishing the national parks as globally recognizable icons.

Compare that to the entry for Philip Hyde, which is also excellent, but not as thorough:

In 1946, Philip Hyde (American 1921-2006) became one of the first students to attend the newly formed photography program at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). Here he studied under Edward Weston, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, and many other influential photographers of the time. After graduating, Hyde served as the official photographer of the Sierra Club High Trip during the summer of 1950, thus beginning his long relationship with the organization. His involvement with the club blossomed into relationships with other groups, including the Wilderness Society and the National Audubon Society. Hyde’s photographic work was used to advocate for and realize the preservation of places such as the Grand Canyon. While he photographed the characteristic vantages of many national parks, his images also show atypical views, such as a sand dune at the Grand Canyon.

Regardless, even with some omissions, Picturing America’s National Parks is destined to be a staple of bookstores, libraries, schools and universities for many years to come. I like the accessibility of the approach, the innovative layout and the depth of information presented in an easy to digest format. I like the cover art, but don’t particularly like the no dust-jacket cover. However, this keeps the costs down also adding to accessibility. Besides, this type of jacketless cover will likely prove ideal when the book is used as a textbook. It certainly ought to be mandatory reading for anyone studying photography, the national parks or any related outdoor curriculum.

Be Sociable, Share!

Master of Platinum: Interview of Dick Arentz for Outdoor Photographer Magazine

August 9th, 2016 by David Leland Hyde 1 comment »

Master of Platinum and Palladium: An Outdoor Photographer Magazine Interview with Fine-Art Photographer, Innovator and Printer Dick Arentz

Cover of August Issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine.

Cover of August Issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine.

The August 2016 Outdoor Photographer Special Issue of the magazine print version features David Leland Hyde’s interview of Dick Arentz, an acclaimed large format photographer, workshop co-leader with Philip Hyde and expert platinum and palladium printer. Now the article, Master of Platinum, is available online.

The Arizona Arts and Humanities Commission honored Arentz as one of the most significant artists in the state. He helped Phil Davis develop the companion volume to Ansel Adams’ Zone System called Beyond the Zone System. He also has been researching 19th century techniques, testing, leading workshops and defining Platinum and Palladium printing for 43 years. His book, Platinum and Palladium Printing, is known in online forums and industry magazines as the quintessential book on the subject.

For those who are not familiar with this complex and difficult photographic black and white printmaking process, Arentz gave me a simplified summary himself:

In Platinum printing, as in most non-silver processes, an intense ultraviolet light must be passed though the negative to expose the paper coating. Because this is a higher intensity of light than is possible to project from an enlarger, the process requires contact. Before the ground breaking digital work of Dan Burkholder, there were basically two choices for the making of a negative: in-camera, or photo-mechanical enlargement by projecting the image on multiple stages of duplicating film. Later on, it became possible to use a service bureau to have a negative made using their image-setting equipment. Now, of course, using Burkholder’s method, many times with refinements added by others, a suitable negative can be made using an ink-jet printer.

As for the coating on the paper, the platinum process is one of many that depend on the reduction of a metallic salt to a pure metal. Instead of silver, which is most commonly used, platinum and/or its sister metal palladium make a high quality reproduction. Those with bit of background in photographic history know that in the nineteenth century, silver compounds were coating on paper as well. At the turn of the century, when commercially prepared silver gelatin paper became available, commercial platinum/palladium paper followed. However, pre-prepared platinum/palladium paper went out of production after World War I, though a packaged palladium paper was briefly available in the 1990s.

Arentz is known for his subtle, yet vivid and luminescent black and white photography presented through platinum and palladium prints and fine art photography books. His books are profound personal statements of his unique vision. Besides Platinum and Palladium Printing, Second Edition (2004), Arentz has published Four Corners Country (1986) with introduction by Philip Hyde, The American Southwest (1987), Outside the Mainstream (1990), British Isles (2002) and Italy Through a Different Lens (2009).

For more about his development as a photographer and lead technician of his printing medium, and for his words of wisdom about projects, making subjects fresh and capturing unusual perspectives seek out the Black and White Special Issue of Outdoor Photographer in print and on newsstands and in bookstores now. It can often be found at Barnes & Noble and some Safeways. The August Black and White Special Issue is also loaded with many other excellent articles on black and white photography. An online version of the article is now available at Master of Platinum. If you want the print version, pick up your copy soon because special issues sometimes sell out early.

Be Sociable, Share!

Heartland 4 – Nebraska – Little Ruins on the Prairie

July 19th, 2016 by David Leland Hyde 9 comments »

A Drive Through The Heartland 4

Nebraska – Little Ruins on the Prairie

Midwestern Stories of Rust, Decay, Blight and Collapse

Keith Round Barn Under Tornado Sky, North Platte, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Keith Round Barn Under Tornado Sky, North Platte, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

(Continued from the blog post, “Heartland 3 – Starke Round Barn, Red Cloud, Nebraska.“)

European settlers continued to pour into New England, Southern and newer states in the young American republic in the 1800s. German and Scandinavian farmers from Pennsylvania preceded most other original colonial states in the move to the first frontier, which we now know as the Midwest. They bumped west in wagons, by horse and later by train in search of good farming land.

Good farmland they found in the Midwest, with plenty of rain and the ideal climate for a plentiful yield, despite cold unproductive winters. The soil was also rich West of the Mississippi, but when the woodland and grassy fields gave way to dry grass and sage prairie West of the 100th Meridian in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas and Eastern Colorado, the rain ran out. The rain ran out in fact, but not in wishful thinking. Land boosters successfully sold potential new homesteaders on the confabulation that rain follows the plow. Miraculously, it did for almost half a century, a period later discovered to have been abnormally wet.

Interior, Burned House, Franklin, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Interior, Burned House, Franklin, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

This century the water chickens have come home to roost. Water is growing scarcer and scarcer in the most westerly portions of the Midwest. Changes in farming technology have also taken a toll on the small farmer. With the rise of big, centralized agriculture, small rural farming towns are losing population all over the country. This affects even more communities in the Midwest because of the proportionally larger number of towns supported by farming.

We have all seen in the national media about urban blight in Detroit, Chicago and other Rust Belt cities, but decay is rampant in urban areas nationwide, as well as in rural areas and small towns in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Indiana and Nebraska. Those last two states: Indiana and Nebraska suffered most in the Midwest. Both states are full of boarded up small towns, abandoned farms and even whole villages that no longer exist, as in no buildings and little sign of occupation on the land. This trend has been under way for 30 or even 50 years, but has been most acute in the last 10.

Defunct Texaco Service Station, Riverton, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Defunct Texaco Service Station, Riverton, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

In the town of North Platte, Nebraska I first noticed the trend most. According to the National Register of Historic Places and several other guidebooks, at least four round barns supposedly exist in the city of North Platte. Interstate 80 runs through the newer part of North Platte, the Union Pacific Railroad runs through the older part of town and the entire city is situated between the South Platte and North Platte Rivers near the confluence. Despite its location on the traffic lanes from several eras, in the west-central part of Nebraska and the west-central part of the U.S., North Platte has at least partially fallen on hard times. Though new buildings are still popping up downtown, older homes and stores farther out are sinking into disrepair and falling down.

Abandoned Buildings and Pepsi Vending Machine, Inavale, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Abandoned Buildings and Pepsi Vending Machine, Inavale, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

Out of the four round barns in the city of 25,000 population, only one still stood when I was there in 2015: The Keith Round Barn. It was overgrown with dark windows blocked or boarded up from inside and a roof with sections open to the sky. I could not approach the barn or get within 50 yards of it because it stood in back of a farmhouse in the process of being rebuilt, with a cable that blocked the only open space passage to the barn.

Occasional tornadoes and the regular blasting wind, extreme winters and broiling-humid summers wreak great havoc on houses and farm structures, especially on roofs in the Midwest. Many other towns had receded much more than North Platte. The smaller towns in the south-central part of Nebraska such as Macon, Franklin, Riverton, Inavale and others were either partially or almost completely abandoned. In Franklin I stopped to photograph a home that had burned several years before, but remained standing in its burned out state.

Abandoned Farm Near Fairbury, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Abandoned Farm Near Fairbury, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

The towns of Riverton and Inavale were particularly hard hit by changes in farm sizes, methods and fortunes that have contributed to bleak periods in the local economy. Farther east on US Highway 136, not far from Fairbury, I found an entire farm abandoned. The barn hung by two walls as the other two walls were about to fall, the windmill spun in the wind drawing no water, the outbuildings were gloomy, dark and rotting into the ground, the main farm house with the roof nearly collapsed had one wing crushed to the ground and everything had been overgrown with hemp, kudzu, tall grass and willows. The only living beings still around were grazing cows and one bull that I had a standoff with I will share later. Even Beatrice, Nebraska, which for the most part was well painted and in good repair, when I was there included many boarded up homes and businesses.

Northwest Perspective, Western Barn With Sheds, Abandoned Barn Near Fairbury, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Northwest Perspective, Western Barn With Sheds, Abandoned Barn Near Fairbury, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

Any country is only as strong as its heart. If this view of the Heartland is any indication, our society is in deep trouble. Yet, I also found much reason for hope in the Heartland. Detroit and other rustbelt cities are rebounding, each at a different pace. Detroit is not only rebuilding its auto industry, it is also diversifying industries. Artists have taken to inhabiting and painting up inexpensive neighborhoods and currently the Motor City pulses with an art renaissance. More on Detroit in future blog posts in this series and in my nonfiction book-length narrative with working title, “A Drive Through The Heartland.”

(Continued in the next blog post, “Heartland 5 – Elijah Filey – Barn Builder, Mason and Founder of Filey, Nebraska.”)

Be Sociable, Share!