Archive for ‘Other P. H. Writings’ category

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3

August 26th, 2014

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Three

Continued from the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2.”

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capital Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in "Drylands: The Deserts of North America" by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in "Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah" with Edward Abbey.

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in “Drylands: The Deserts of North America” by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” with Edward Abbey.

Drylands: The Deserts of North America with photographs and text by Philip Hyde, developed out of nearly 60 years of exploring and defending western North American wilderness, with special emphasis on the five deserts of the continent. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Mountain Light by Galen Rowell and other foundational landscape photography titles, recently donated its archive to Stanford University, where Drylands and its production can be viewed. Drylands is now out of print, but can be found at various online booksellers including Amazon under Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde.

The previous blog article in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2,” tells the story of the making of the book. The first blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1,” contained the beginning of the first chapter of the text of Drylands itself. We continue now where that blog post left off…

 

Passing through vast expanses of land that appear to be nearly bereft of any living thing, I wonder at the sight of a small plant braving the harsh environment. Its difficult circumstances do not evoke sympathy; I wonder that the plant grows in spite of difficulties, that it conserves what little moisture it gets and responds to the slightest moisture by blooming exuberantly.

Still another delight feeds the photographer within: the light. Desert light is crystalline and brilliant, making deep shadows and sparkling highlights. This is at least partly a result of the scarcity of moisture in the air—and, until recently, the scarcity of humans and their activities. When there were fewer people, the light everywhere must have had the clear quality that is still to be seen in some of the more remote quarters of the North American deserts.

As a mountain lover, I especially appreciate a characteristic that our deserts share with most of the country from the Rockies west: the deserts of North America are uncommonly mountainous. The two snowiest mountain chains in the country, the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades border the northernmost deserts on the windward sides. Scattered throughout all of the deserts are a large number of lesser mountain ranges that cast their own rain shadows on the adjacent areas. Some of these lesser ranges are high enough and wet enough to support forests on their upper slopes. Rising high above the parched plains and valleys below, they may be snow capped in winter, like the higher ones to the west. The White Mountains, Toiyabe, Snake, Ruby, and other ranges in Nevada, along with the high plateaus of Utah and Arizona and the Sierra Madre in Mexico, create their own microclimates: islands of plenty surrounded by desert.

Nowhere in the world is there as much diversity of desert weather as there is in western North America. In western Oregon, California, and Nevada precipitation occurs mostly in winter, in summer only rarely. In the eastern and southern parts of the Mexican deserts, summer is the rainy season. Where rainfall records are available for desert locations, they show radical irregularity. Downpours may occur at random intervals and locations, sometimes exceeding the year’s average in a few minutes or hours. In some places droughts can last several years, with no rainfall at all. The North American deserts are second to none for intensity of summer heat, but the dryness of the air makes the heat more bearable. Death Valley can be as hot on a summer day as any place on earth, while at higher elevations a sweater may be necessary when the sun sets and the air cools.

The great diversity of the vast desert landscape of North America suggests natural divisions that coincide with most scientific classifications. But the actual boundaries of these divisions are not so easy to draw within those of the larger desert region. In most cases, one desert shades into another, so boundaries must be somewhat arbitrary and indefinite, as are all attempts by humans to circumscribe nature. As I write this I think of Sir Francis Bacon saying: “Nature is a labyrinth in which the very haste you move with may make you lose your way.”

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 4.”

Which is your favorite desert?

Letters From The Ansel Adams Color Photography Workshop

August 14th, 2013

Philip Hyde Letters Home To Ardis And David From Yosemite Valley

Wednesday, May 29, 1974, 8 am

Yosemite Lodge, Yosemite National Park, California

Cottonwoods, Merced River, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. This is the original 2 1/4 Hasselblad framing. Philip Hyde often cropped his 2 1/4 photographs to 4X5 dimensions and composed accordingly.

Cottonwoods, Merced River, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. This is the original 2 1/4 Hasselblad framing. Philip Hyde often cropped his 2 1/4 photographs to 4X5 dimensions and composed accordingly. Click on the image to see it larger with the 4X5 cropping.

Dear A & D,

Cooool this morning! – Very hot Sunday and Monday, but more like May on Tuesday. I’m really enjoying this workshop. Lots of talk – some interesting people and especially enjoying my “colleagues” and getting acquainted. Doing plenty of talking myself – a “loosed tongue.” Learning something.

Workshop seems pretty well organized. I’m having trouble sleeping – being “over-stimulated” I guess. Went to bed around 11 pm. Woke up at 5:30 this morning  and not tired. This is really good for me!!! ;) Not just the shorter sleep, but stimulation, talk, interchange, etc.

Yosemite Falls brimming – I can hear its thunder from my room at night – a  pleasant kind of noise, not distracting… I think now I might stay a day or two here as I won’t be making many pix while workshop is on. But more of that later.

Hope all is well with you two.
Love,
Dad

 

Sunday, June 2, 1974, 6:30 am

Yosemite Lodge

Dear Mommio and Davio ;)

Well, here I am again! To bed last night after a critique until 1:30 am. Awoke at 6 am and couldn’t sleep any more, so here I am waiting for Steve Crouch to come by the room so we can have breakfast together. It’s Sunday morning and after breakfast I’ll check out and go over to the Gallery for a farewell session with everybody. It’s been a very full week and at this point I’m a little tired but still exhilarated. I’ve enjoyed the exchange with people immensely and think it’s been very good for me. The group has been a very heterogeneous collection of people and that’s been stimulating. There were also some whose talent stands out and that is a miracle to me to observe.

In sort and in all it’s been an experience I was ready for and needed and I feel like I have done something with it. For once I haven’t been frantic to make photographs but seemed to be aware on many levels of consciousness what I was really here for. Perhaps – or maybe I should say – surely my photography will benefit far more by this than if I had merely made pictures on this occasion.

Gotta go – love to you two.

Me  ;)

 

Tuesday, June 4, 1974, 8:15 pm

Campground, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park

Dear Sweetie and Son,

It’s 8:15 pm and I’ve just finished the dishes after dinner. It was good talking with you two tonight. I’m enjoying my stay in this beautiful place that has meant so much to the Hyde family. It never palls on me and always seems that there’s more that I haven’t seen before. This morning Jim Speer and I walked up from the campground along the river to Happy Isles. As always I found lots to photograph and I really enjoyed having Jim along too.

This week has been a monumental talk fest and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! Though there were all levels of accomplishment and ability, everyone was serious and interested in photography. I feel that I got completely out of my usual – I should say, former self-consciousness. I relaxed and enjoyed the people and the interchange. Jim told me he thought I am an extrovert! Funny how the barriers come down when you forget self and stop worrying about what other people are thinking about you. I could do this in our sessions, even when I was talking about my work, career, experiences, etc. Many people commented on the good mix of personalities among the four staff and I think, too, that it made for a more interesting interchange for the students – though, unfortunately we didn’t really have a lot of chance to talk with each other, except sometimes at meals and odd times.

I sat in on a Steve Crouch critique and several of William Garnett’s critique sessions. Though not actually scheduled for any myself, after the first day or two, people began asking me if I’d look at their work. I ended up having unscheduled critiques three of the evenings. I enjoyed this, particularly since many of them were young people. I’m now going to make an astonishing statement: I think I would enjoy teaching! Not full-time, but as a periodic thing – a change of pace and a kind of recharging of my own interest. I can already feel changes there. Of course, some of this is the magic of Yosemite – but it is also the magic of getting rid of the feeling that I don’t like people. That feeling was never really part of me, or natural to me, and I feel that “the scales have fallen away from my eyes.” With more openness and generosity toward people, it’s wonderful to see how they respond. I feel like a great weight of negativism has been taken off me. Surely I’m not the same now after this experience. How good that I saw it as an opportunity and didn’t shrink from it. May I have good judgment to recognize such opportunities in the future.

Another thing this whole experience teaches me is that I need this kind of interchange for my own growth. It is Spring here in more ways than the obvious – your shrinking violet has bloomed, Love. It’s a sweet scent and I have such a good feeling about it. What a phenomenon. Well it’s getting on toward 9 pm and I’m going to be early and will start early in the morning. The afterglow is gone from Half Dome, which I see clearly from my campsite, but the afterglow is still in my heart.

I love you,

Dad

For more about photography workshops taught by Philip Hyde in Yosemite National Park and elsewhere see the blog post, “Photography Workshops Taught By Philip Hyde.”

What is your experience? Have you ever been in a social or learning situation where the human interaction inspired or changed you creatively or otherwise?

Why Defend National Parks And Other Wilderness By Philip Hyde

May 7th, 2013

Why Defend National Parks?

By Philip Hyde Circa 1951

Landscape Photography Blogger Note: Philip Hyde wrote this unpublished 1951 magazine article while the controversy was heating up over two proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument. In 1951, Richard Leonard, who was on the board of both the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club, as well as David Brower, another board member who would soon after become the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club and the father of modern environmentalism, sent Philip Hyde on assignment to Dinosaur National Monument. It was the first time a photographer ever went on assignment for an environmental cause. The resulting book published in 1955, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers, edited by Wallace Stegner, was also the first book ever published for an environmental cause. Article edited by David Leland Hyde in November 2011. To read more about Philip Hyde’s travels to Dinosaur in his own words, see the blog post, “On The Road To Dinosaur.”
Tenpeak Range From Slopes Above Image Lake,  Glacier Peak Wilderness - North Cascades National Park, Washington, copyright 1956 Philip Hyde.

Tenpeak Range From Slopes Above Image Lake, Glacier Peak Wilderness – North Cascades National Park, Washington, copyright 1956 by Philip Hyde. The 4X5 large format version of this photograph helped make North Cascades National Park. It appeared on the poster for the campaign and in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book “Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland.” The printer for the book, Barnes Press, lost the large format film original. This photograph, drum scanned from the 35 mm version of the same image with nearly identical framing is now a popular lightjet print. Before the digital era, Philip Hyde did not print his 35 mm slides large. However, with the sophistication of digital technology, the image is again released to the world.

In a few wild places on the surface of the Earth, nature has reached a climax. The United States of America has been gifted with a bountiful supply of these places of peak expression. While many were actively trying to convert these places to some kind of material gain, a few were finding out that these places had an intangible resource, a spiritual benefit that made itself felt in these natural areas. Fortunately, the inspirational character of wild places is becoming more recognized, even as exploitative uses are also on the rise.

Now more than ever, it is time for a new emphasis on intrinsic values and non-commercial use of our national parks. We have argued for preservation on principle, but the principle is little understood. People need a clearer sense of the importance of wilderness preservation. Dinosaur National Monument is a good example of how the dam builders offer people only one use of the national park system, a use that displaces most other uses. In our materially minded society, the “what can I get out of it” approach commands powerful attention. Irrigation water and electric power are strong selling points for building dams and limiting the scope of uses in Dinosaur National Monument and other units of the national park system. Conservation organizations all over the country oppose dam construction in Dinosaur National Monument. Why? What alternative uses do they propose?

To find the answer to this question, we must begin by taking a closer look at Dinosaur National Monument itself. This leads us to ask more questions: Why is Dinosaur a national monument? Why is the area set aside and its natural resources out of the reach of exploitation? The answers to these questions transcend solely material considerations. The canyons of Dinosaur National Monument were protected because they offer a benefit of greater value than can be obtained from the physical properties of the land. The labyrinthine canyons offer a place of inspiration where the integrity of nature is still intact, unaltered by the materialistic drives and desires of humans. It is a place where people can go to contemplate the works of a power greater than themselves, where they can transcend the destructive aspects of ego and lose some of their self-conscious thoughts.

That such an opportunity is a tonic to those who avail themselves of it is not sentimental wishful thinking, but has been demonstrated and proven. Preservation of an area because it provides such an opportunity is justified in and of itself alone, without any of the many other alternative uses to the industrial extraction of the natural resources.

In such a wild place as Dinosaur, where nature is at climax, the physical uses are transitory like elsewhere, but their transitory nature puts into perspective the sacrifice of other values necessary to obtain a fleeting benefit. The minerals are mined and permanently disappear when there are no more minerals. Even a great dam can become a monument to expediency by filling with mud in a region of erosion where rivers carry a heavy burden of silt. The advance of science may bypass the most foresighted means of exploiting nature, as when atomic power generates electricity, but will no place be left untouched? Will we cut down the last tree? Shoot the last mountain lion? Stone the last canyon swallow? Dam the last river and flood the last canyon? Is it not time to defend and stand by the official recognition of the spiritual benefits of setting aside at least some sacred ground where people can find much needed solace and renewal?

For an introduction as to why the battle over Dinosaur was pivotal to the conservation movement, how the Dinosaur campaign transformed the Sierra Club and brought conservation into the limelight, transforming it into modern environmentalism, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1,” and other blog posts in the same series. The Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series popularized the coffee table photography book. To read more about this ground-breaking book series, see the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 1.”

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2

January 15th, 2013

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Two

Continued from the beginning of the text in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1.”

Where Drylands Began

 

Lava, Flowers, Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Idaho, copyright 1983 by Philip Hyde.

Lava, Flowers, Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Idaho, copyright 1983 by Philip Hyde. From the book Drylands: The Deserts of North America.

(View the photograph large: “Lava, Flowers, Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Idaho.”)

Yolla Bolly Press, the same book packager and agent who put together Galen Rowell’s famous book, Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape, collaborated with my father, pioneer color landscape photographer Philip Hyde, to select images and plan the concept for what became one of Dad’s most important books: Drylands : The Deserts of North America. Drylands, with photographs and text by Philip Hyde, introduction and notes on plants and animals of the North American deserts by renowned award-winning naturalist David Rains Wallace and drawings of desert plants and animals by Vincent Lopez was the culmination of Dad’s “wandering in the desert” as he put it, quoting the New Testament. Recently, Yolla Bolly Press donated its archive to Stanford University, which will be the home of Drylands in perpetuity.

In the next blog post in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3,” we will get back into Dad’s text, but first, I will start at the beginning and share some important insider background to round out the story. Also, I will give you a preview of what is to come by presenting the dust cover jacket flap blurbs below.

After he had been the primary illustrator of dozens of books, Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich blew Dad’s mind by sending him his only advance ever on a book: a check for $50,000, which is large for a photography book. HBJ then released Drylands: The Deserts of North America in 1987. Reviewers from several major newspapers reviewed Drylands, but the only major review reproduced online today is in the Los Angeles Times. After Drylands received the following review from Library Journal, libraries across the nation purchased the large format book for their collections.

In this beautiful exposition of the five deserts of North America, Hyde’s photographs capture the desolate and sometimes haunting beauty of the desert landscape. Hyde has been exploring the desert for over 30 years and his love for the land is obvious. Unfortunately, his essays here are rather slight compared with the photographs. There is, however, an enlightening introduction by David Rains Wallace about evolutionary mysteries the desert presents. Libraries that can afford this book will not be disappointed by its quality.

By Randy Dykhuis, Grand Rapids Public Library, Michigan.

Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

When I looked up Drylands on WorldCat, I was surprised to find that dozens of university, state and municipal libraries in most states have a copy of the book,including Harvard, Yale, Cornell and even Cambridge in the UK. Many libraries in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand have copies of Dad’s classic color film desert tribute as well.

The Dust Jacket Flaps

Distinguished photographer Philip Hyde and award-winning writer David Rains Wallace pool their talents here, in this dazzling book depicting in words, photographs, and drawings the many faces of the deserts of North America. What emerges is an unforgettable portrait of harsh yet lovely lands with diverse animals and plants and landforms.

Philip Hyde has been photographing the deserts of the North American West since 1951. Drylands reveals 95 full-color brilliant image of the five major deserts:

PAINTED DESERT with souring cliffs, deep canyons—including the Grand Canyon—and varicolored hills

GREAT BASIN DESERT with climatic extremes and long, parallel mountain chains and mountain “islands” surrounded by dry flatland

MOJAVE DESERT with many-armed Joshua trees and the vast, empty expanse of Death Valley

SONORAN DESERT with high mountains and oversized trees and cactuses—including the saguaro, which grows to spectacular heights

CHIHUAHUAN DESERT with two great rivers, the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos, yet with the driest country.

Hyde’s superb photographs are complemented by luminous descriptions of geographical and geological features and by journal vignettes of his encounters with the drylands.

In his introductory essay, David Raines Wallace looks at the deserts in time: the evolutionary past, the evolutionary future, and today. In his notes, Wallace provides a valuable guide to the characteristic features and habitats of desert plants (ocotillo, paloverde, desert evening primrose) and animals (the sidewinder, mountain lion, kangaroo rat), illustrated by Vincent Perez’s striking line drawings. The book also includes six relief maps.

Drylands is designed and produced in the grand tradition of fine art books. It gives continuing pleasure to those who delight in the splendors of the desert.

PHILIP HYDE’S landscape photographs have been exhibited nationwide. He is represented in several major photograph collections, and his work has appeared in books and magazines. He has written and collaborated on many books on the American West.

DAVID RAINS WALLACE has been writing about nature and conservation for almost ten years. He is the author of six books including The Klamath Knot, for which he was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for natural history writing in 1984.

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 3.”

What are your experiences in the desert? What does the desert mean to you?

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 1

April 3rd, 2012

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs Of Drylands: The Deserts of North America By Philip Hyde, Part One

Celebrating Landscape Photography Blogger’s 200th Blog Post!

On this special occasion Landscape Photography Blogger presents an excerpt from Drylands: The Deserts of North America, with photographs and text by Philip Hyde. Besides Slickrock with Edward Abbey and a few titles in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, Drylands is considered Philip Hyde’s magnum opus, or great work. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light, recently donated its archive to Stanford University. Help celebrate Landscape Photography Blogger’s 200th Post by reading a page from the great book that is becoming more rare all the time…

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 1

The Five Deserts of North America

…nature is already in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition that shines so peacefully around us.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

White Domes, Valley of Fire State Park, Mojave Desert, Nevada, copyright 1970 by Philip Hyde. Cover Photograph of “Drylands: The Deserts of North America.” Color Transparency: 4X5 Baby Deardorff View Camera. Dye Transfer Prints, Cibachrome Prints, and Archival Digital Prints. See PhilipHyde.com for Image Info and pricing.

(See the photograph large: “White Domes, Valley of Fire.”)

Webster’s dictionary defines a desert as “an arid region in which the vegetation is especially adapted to scanty rainfall with long intervals of heat and drought…amore or less barren tract incapable of supporting any considerable population without an artificial water supply…Desert rainfall is usually less than ten inches annually.”

This bare bones definition needs expanding. For one thing, barrenness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Ancients regarded the desert as a place to avoid—literally, to desert. The biblical “waste-howling wilderness” is a description of the Middle Eastern desert, a fearful place for most people. But even then it was for some a place for contemplation, a retreat from the cares of daily life. In our times, the desert is commonly a refuge, though we can be grateful that the deserts of North America were avoided by so many early travelers, and thereby protected. More recently, parts of these great deserts have become increasingly attractive to sun-worshipers. It is an irony that the climate, attractive to so many people, is being gradually altered by air pollution generated by population growth and its attendant requirements for industries and automobiles.

Webster’s definition doesn’t explain the aridity of the desert. High mountain chains intercept moisture-laden storms, keeping rainfall from the land in the lee of the mountains. Wind also contributes to desert dryness. A map plotting the course of trade winds in relation to deserts around the globe would show most arid lands to lie in the path of the trades. Though our deserts are not as directly in the path of the trades as some, strong winds persist over most of them for long periods, particularly in the spring.

The North American deserts are unlike most deserts in that they are not confined to the interior of the continent. They reach to the sea on both coasts of the Baja California peninsula and along the west coast of mainland Mexico as well, creating some unusual meetings of desert and water.

The scarcity of rainfall in the desert has one advantage. The surface of the land in well-watered regions is often obscured by dense vegetation. In the desert, land forms are readily apparent, the often beautiful sculpture of their contours revealed. This may be why geologists are drawn to the desert and sometimes inspired to near-poetic descriptions. A classic example can be found in Clarence Dutton’s monumental Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District, first published in 1882. Here is his description of the Vermillion Cliffs in the Painted Desert:

During the midday hours the cliffs seem to wilt and drop as if retracting their grandeur to hide it from the merciless radiance of the sun whose very effulgence flouts them. Even the colors are ruined. The glaring face of the wall, where the light falls full upon it, wears a scorched, overbaked, discharged look; and where the dense black shadows are thrown—for there are no middle shades—the magical haze of the desert shines forth with a weird, metallic glow which has no color in it. But as the sun declines there comes a revival. The half-tones at length appear, bringing into relief the component masses; the amphitheaters recede into suggestive distances; the salients silently advance toward us; the distorted lines range themselves into true perspective; the deformed curves come back to their proper sweep; the angles grow clean and sharp; and the whole cliff arouses from lethargy and erects itself in grandeur and power as if conscious of its own majesty. Back also come the colors, and as the sun is about to sink they glow with an intense vermilion that seems to be an intrinsic luster emanating from the rocks themselves.

The stone landscape of which Clarence Dutton writes might appear austere and unfriendly to the casual traveler suddenly thrust into it. Many people would not recognize it as a part of their familiar world, but something about the place immediately appealed to me. Perhaps it struck some of the same harmonic notes evoked by the clean expanses of granite in the High Sierra Nevada I had learned to love in my youth. The place spoke to me of the same kind of purity that Ralph Waldo Emerson was alluding to when he wrote of the integrity of natural objects.

I am not able to take up full-time residence in the desert; my roots are too deep in the northern Sierra Nevada where I live now. I can, however, happily spend a season there and feel quite at home. It was not always like that. The ease I feel now is the product of many experiences, not all pleasant, but all valued for what they taught. Nor did the ease come without struggle, but as a result of an effort to understand, to penetrate the discomforts, to clear away the debris of prejudice and preconception that can so distort one’s view of a natural environment. It is not necessary to change the country—or to develop it. As Aldo Leopold put it so well: “Development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind.”

As a forest dweller and desert traveler, I am especially aware of the contrasts between an arid landscape and one that is well watered. The creek that flows beneath my window as I write; the groundcover, trees, shrubs, and flowering plants; the seasonal and atmospheric changes I observe here are all expressions of water abundance. In the desert it isn’t just the paucity of water that impresses me. I am delighted to discover water’s surprising, often beautiful presence in hidden places, as for example, the spring in Monument Valley that flows from beneath a high sand dune—or those few, small, spring-fed pools surrounded by the vast, sere, rocky landscape of Death Valley.

I also enjoy the contrast between desert vegetation and that of my home environment. In the southern part of the Baja California peninsula, the array of strange, even unique, plant forms is the result of the plants’ special adaptations to water scarcity…

Continued in the future blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2.”

Toward a Sense of Place by Philip Hyde 1

February 9th, 2012

Marble Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park, 1964, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands, Sierra Club Books. Two miles from proposed Marble Canyon Dam site.

(See the photograph full screen: “Marble Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.” To view other photographs from the same Exhibit Format book see the photographs: “Stormlight, Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Arizona” and Navajo Wildlands Photographs In The Deserts Portfolio.)

From Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run, Text by cultural geographer Stephen C. Jett, Photographs by Philip Hyde, with Selections from Philip Hyde, Willa Cather, Oliver La Farge and Navajo Myths and Chants, Edited by Kenneth Brower, Foreword by David Brower, Sierra Club—Ballantine Books 1967–Exhibit Format Series

*Landscape Photography Blogger Note: Clarence Dutton was like the ‘John Muir’ of the Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau. As you look to explore the Colorado Plateau yourself, please be aware that the areas where people are allowed and the approaches to them have changed since 1965, especially in Canyon De Chelly National Monument. Also note that the politically correct term for the native people now is their own word, “Dineh,” in its various spellings, rather than the Spanish word “Navajo,” in common practice then.

Toward a Sense of Place By Philip Hyde

When Clarence Dutton explored the Plateau Province a hundred years ago, he saw that a visitor conditioned to the Alps, if he stayed long in this new country, would be shocked, oppressed, or horrified. While in Dutton’s days emotion about scenery was still all right, today, indifference is popular, and we tend to take someone else’s opinion about what is beautiful and flock to the recommended places. Noting this, Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac has identified the “trophy recreationist,” and urges that recreational development is “not a job of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the…human mind.” Indeed, a great increase in individual sensitivity might be achieved if park authorities spent as much effort on interpretation as on road building.

Dutton lead the way, and his insight about what would happen to a traveler in the Plateau Province certainly worked for me in the Navajo Country. The traveler needs time enough, he wrote, and: “Time would bring a gradual change. Someday he would become conscious that outlines which at first seem harsh and trivial have grace and meaning, that forms which seem grotesque are full of dignity, that magnitudes which have added enormity to coarseness have become replete with strength and even majesty. The colors which had been esteemed unrefined, immodest and glaring, are as expressive, tender, changeful and capacious of effects as any others. Great innovations, whether in art or literature, science, or in nature, seldom take the world by storm. They must be understood before they can be estimated. They must be cultivated before they can be understood.”

A woman we met at the gas station in Newcomb volunteered that she and her husband had just driven through the Navajo Reservation and that, “there’s nothing there but little round shacks. We’re headed for Colorado!”

We had reached Newcomb, about halfway between Shiprock and Gallup, crossing the Chuska Mountains on a magnificent little dirt road. It wandered in the pine forest on top, discovered little aspen-ringed ponds, and found us a superb view of Shiprock, fifty miles to the northeast. It also climaxed our afternoon with an enormous thunderstorm we watched from an eminence above Two Gray Hills. I wanted to tell the couple something about what our old road had let us see, but they were off with their tank full of gas, to collect place names in Colorado like a good trophy recreationist should, ever hurrying over the ever-increasing highways that penetrate lovely country and either lacerate it or pass it by unseen.

John Ruskin said, with the invention of the steam engine: “There will always be more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly. He will see no more by going fast, for his glory is not in going but in being.”

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Mitchell Butte from Mitchell Mesa, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah-Arizona, 1963, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands, 1967.

Do you see Monument Valley now by whizzing past its monuments on a paved road, taking lunch in Tuba City or Kyenta, and spending the night in Moab? Or are its greatest rewards still reserved for those who take the dusty little dirt road that goes down among the great buttes and who feel the rocks and sand under their wheels and feet? I recommend especially the great reward of winter time, when there may be a light skiff of snow in the dune shadows. This reward is even greater if you have also experienced Monument Valley in the heat haze and dust of mid-summer. The crisp winter air is then a special elixir.

To me, Canyon de Chelly is another scenic climax of Navajo Country, and at its best in the fall. The cottonwoods lining the canyon’s fields and sandbars glow with their own inner light, and the sun arrives with that low-angled brilliance that drives photographers into ecstasy and exhaustion. Canyon de Chelly is perhaps the most Navajo of all the park areas on the Reservation. It speaks eloquently, in the present tense, of the Navajo and Anasazi past. Here is probably the Reservation’s most spectacularly beautiful combination of colorful rock, canyons, and ancient ruins. You can drive on pavement to its fringe and soon will be able to drive the rims on high-standard highways; but travel in the canyons, where the most exciting visual action is, is subject to nature’s whims. High water, or sand quicker than usual, can stall the most ingenious mechanical substitute for feet.

There is still a lot of foot travel in the canyons. The White House Trail that drops over the rim from an overlook on the rim road crosses the wash and leads to the area’s best known ruin, perched on a ledge above the canyon bottom, with a great wall sheer above it.

In the Spring of 1965, when heavy runoff in the canyons kept even the Park Service vehicles out…

(Originally posted January 17, 2010)

(CONTINUED IN THE BLOG POST, “Toward a Sense of Place 2“)

RELATED POST: “A Sense of Place and A Changing World.”

Many museum curators, gallery owners and photo buyers consider the image all important and often overlook the significance of place, even in landscape photography. Do you feel a sense of place is important in landscape photographs? If so, why?

Glen Canyon Portfolio 3

April 14th, 2011

Glen Canyon Portfolio 3

Photographer’s Comment From The Original Vintage Black And White Glen Canyon Portfolio

Continued from the blog post, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 2.”

By Philip Hyde

Cathedral In The Desert (Horizontal), Glen Canyon, Utah, 1964 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

My involvement with the Colorado Plateau province and its centerpiece, the Colorado River, began in 1951 when I was commissioned by the Sierra Club to find out and to photographically document what was in Dinosaur National Monument, particularly along the Yampa River and Green River, that would be impacted by the dams proposed in the Upper Colorado River Storage Project.

It was a tough assignment for a fledgling photographer whose only other exposure to the landscape of the Colorado Plateau province had been as a boy on a visit to Grand Canyon. My work up to that time had been in the well-watered forests and mountains of the Pacific Coast, and I was at first a victim of the landscape shock Dutton speaks of in his Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon Region. I had to learn how to cope, both physically and photographically, with the heat, haze, and dryness that dulled the mind, fogged the shadow, and made the distances disappear.

I needed more time to digest what I saw in the arid lands, and besides I still had a love affair going with mountains. It wasn’t until 1955 that I went back to accompany a Sierra Club group that floated the length of Glen Canyon from Hite to Lees Ferry. One of the high points of this trip, oddly enough, was the prelude, a two-day school bus ride around the canyon overland from Lees Ferry to the start of the river trip at Hite. The frustration of being imprisoned on a bus going through such radically different and beautiful country was so great that it etched that country in my mind and programmed me to spend the next twenty-plus years trying to find some of those retinal images that had rushed past too fast, unfixed on film. Leaving Lees Ferry we scanned the Vermillion Cliffs while climbing up the edge of the Kaibab, then the White Cliffs while climbing the Southern Utah plateaus; we then made the long descent down the slopes of Thousand Lake Mountain through Capitol Reef, past the soft gray shales of Caineville, into the deepening, sinuous White Canyon to Hite and the Colorado River.

In my memory of the river trip, nights on rocks radiating too much heat for sleeping are mingled with days of growing awe of the strange forms of this stone country. My awareness of water as a miracle was born in the shining trickles in canyon bottoms and the sudden springs that gushed out of rock as though piped through the water bearing Navajo Sandstone. These imprints went deep. This landscape took hold of me, in spite of physical discomforts and the initial visual strangeness.

An opportunity for a closer look at a piece of Glen came in the spring of 1962, when I joined a backpack expedition into Rainbow Bridge whose purpose was to study the possibility of building a small dam to prevent the reservoir’s waters from undermining Rainbow Bridge’s sandstone base.

Later, in June, I joined another float trip, this time with fewer people and a slower pace that provided better opportunities for making photographs. The collection made on this trip provided a majority of the photographs in this portfolio. A high point was climbing to the top of Rainbow Bridge at David Brower’s urging, with his climbing expertise to assure success.

Glen Canyon Dam was nearly finished at this point; a short time after the trip, the gates of the diversion tunnels were closed to begin the filling of “Lake” Powell.

Two years later, in 1964, I participated in a wake for Glen Canyon. Starting near the dam on two hundred feet of water, we floated over Music Temple and passed over the Great Overhang in Moki Canyon well known to river travelers, but now barely traceable by the top of its great curve. We boated through the narrows of Aztec Creek, floating over what had been a most beautiful stream junction, with small, sculptured pools in lovely curves linked by a trickle of water. Landing a short distance below Rainbow Bridge, we walked past groups of people in yachting clothes to pay our respects to the now domesticated bridge. We then returned to our raft to push out of the narrows past some small boats in a cove cowering from the howling gale roaring across the reservoir’s open water; such gales were unknown on the river with its high, sheltering walls. Oh, there were some healthy winds on the river, but they gave you a choice: if blowing downstream, you could continue; if blowing upstream, you found the nearest sandbar, made camp, and hoped the wind would abate after sundown.

Continuing up the stormy “lake,” we entered the Escalante arm, crossed its flooded lower reaches to Clear Creek while marveling at the sheer height of the canyon walls, and walked the remaining mile of canyon above slack water into the Cathedral in the Desert. This place was not drowned yet, but later that summer we learned that the water had come in for the first time and flushed out the floor, destroying the lovely rich green moss carpet the ages had furnished.

Investigating half-drowned Davis Gulch and Soda Gulch, we floated past half-submerged entrances, straining to imagine their lost beauty, up to the point where the boat grated on sand at water’s edge; then we walked up canyon as far as we could. In Soda we found the water lapping at the base of Gregory Natural Bridge, a named glory among uncounted, unnamed glories flickering out.

In subsequent trips to the Colorado Plateau province, I have passed the remnants of Glen Canyon to go on to happier places to walk and photograph. Somehow, the passing of Glen Canyon gave me a better reason to see as much of the province as I could, before all of it changed. These trips took me to the Grand Canyon, Navajoland, slickrock country – Escalante, Waterpocket Fold, Canyonlands – from the edge of the Great Basin to the feet of the Rocky Mountains.  Subconsciously I always kept looking for something as fine as Glen Canyon, holding my memories of Glen Canyon up to new country as a standard for color, sculpture, and fineness of detail.

My search confirms an early belief that Glen Canyon was one of the two grand climaxes of the land of the sediments, both born of the river. The other, kindred though quite different, but not less glorious, is Grand Canyon. One is flooded. The other, owing its life to the sacrifice of the flooded one, still lives.

To read an impassioned essay by Philip Hyde on the failings of the Glen Canyon Dam project see the blog post, “Lament For Glen Canyon By Philip Hyde 1.” To read about Canyonlands National Park and other areas of the land of sediments see the blog post, “Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands.”

Glen Canyon Portfolio 2

March 17th, 2011

Glen Canyon Portfolio 2

Photographer’s Comment From The Original Vintage Black And White Glen Canyon Portfolio

Continued from the blog post, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1.”

By Philip Hyde

Reflections, Fronds Gelees Canyon, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1962 by Philip Hyde. From the original Glen Canyon Portfolio.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here or view the entire Glen Canyon Portfolio. The first 20 images are from the original Glen Canyon Portfolio. The photographs that follow those are scans of the other best 8X10 vintage black and white prints.)

It is ironic that Glen Canyon has come to be known as the “place no one knew.” It was well known by those tireless engineers of the 1930s and 1940s who combed the West searching out all possible dam sites. It was known by the National Park Service as early as the 1930s when a proposal was made for an Escalante National Park to Harold Ickes, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Interior. Such a park would have encompassed all of Glen Canyon and many of its tributaries, but the proposal succumbed to the ambitions of the dam builders, as was revealed when the Park Service published Survey of the Recreational Resources of the Colorado River Basin in 1950. The survey lists all the potential dam sites and accompanying “recreational” plans, while potential areas for preservation are conspicuously absent. It is only fair to say here, that while the Park Service knew Glen Canyon’s qualities, its voice for preservation was stifled in the Interior Department where the Bureau of Reclamation had become the powerful tail that wagged the dog.

Glen Canyon was also known by legions of Boy Scouts who kayaked or rafted through and by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who went through and on their own (anyone could, for Glen Canyon’s Colorado River was mild) or with early professional river runners like Moki Mac, Georgie White, Bus Hatch, Pat Reilly, and others. The place wasn’t unknown. Its partisans just couldn’t be heard over the roar of political power.

It may seem further irony to some that while Glen Canyon went down the drain, another area survived because it had a boundary line drawn around it.

When the bill to authorize the Upper Colorado River Storage Project was in Congress, it was opposed by conservationists and actually stopped, temporarily. As constituted then, it would have authorized two dams in Dinosaur National Monument at Echo Park and in Split Mountain, in addition to Flaming Gorge dam on the Green River just north of Dinosaur, Glen Canyon Dam, and several smaller projects.

It is important to note that conservation in the mid-1950s was far from the strong and united force it is today, and it seemed doubtful whether Glen Canyon and the two Dinosaur dams could have been kept out of the final project. The spectre of opening the national parks to dam projects must have heavily influenced the conservationists’ decision when they finally agreed to withdraw opposition to the Upper Colorado River Storage Project if the dams in Dinosaur National Monument were deleted. This done, Congress authorized the Project—a political decision made to build another big dam on a river that could not adequately supply the first one. The best that can be said for the loss of Glen Canyon is that more “big dam foolishness,” as Elmer Davis called it, eventually aroused enough opposition to help stop two more dams proposed for the Grand Canyon a few years later.

Though I consider Glen Canyon’s loss tragic, I am certain that had dams been authorized in Dinosaur National Monument, no national park area would have been secure. The precedent would have opened the gates to at least eight national park areas, including Grand Canyon, where Bureau of Reclamation or Corps of Engineers dam proposals were already on drawing boards.

As things worked out, the building of Glen Canyon dam became literally, the high water mark of the Bureau’s power, and it has receded ever since—for which lovers of the land everywhere can be grateful. –But not complacent; for old dam projects, like old soldiers, never die; they just lie low until revival looks safer.

The reservoir behind Glen Canyon dam has been called “the most beautiful man made lake in the world.” That should tell you something of the quality of the wild canyon when you realize what you see today is but a remnant.

The scenic climax of Glen Canyon was along the Colorado River and at, or near, the tributaries’ junctions with the river. Cutting down to the river’s base level, the small streams (and flash floods) created grottos and waterfalls, carved great vaulted chambers, and deeply incised meanders in the final plunge to the master stream. These places of magnificent rock sculpture were among the first to go when the reservoir started rising, and they now lie hundreds of feet under water. Gone are the river and stream edges softened by riparian vegetation—grass, moss, even large trees where enough soil accumulated—willows, gambel’s oak, cottonwood, box elder. Gone, too, is the remoteness and feeling of adventure, reduced to the commonplace of reservoir recreation by gasoline power, noise, and smoke.

Though Glen Canyon gave its name to the dam, it is like the name inscribed on a tombstone that can only hint at the life that was. So, this portfolio hints at what was, to trigger memory in those who knew and to celebrate the life and beauty that was there for those who didn’t know.

To read more about Glen Canyon see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1,” “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 2,” and “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 3.” To read what David Brower wrote about Glen Canyon go to, “Let The River Run Through It.” To read about the movement to remove dams see the blog post, “A River Will Run Through It.”

The first 20 images in the website portfolio are the same as the original Glen Canyon Portfolio. The photographs that follow those are scans of the other best 8X10 vintage black and white prints. Click on the title here: Glen Canyon Portfolio to view the images. Enjoy.

This series on the Glen Canyon Portfolio continued with the blog post, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 3.”

Images Of The Southwest Portfolio Foreword By Philip Hyde

April 26th, 2010

Plateau Edge, Southern Utah, 1974 by Philip Hyde. One of 12 photographs printed as dye transfer prints in the “Images of The Southwest” portfolio. “Images of the Southwest” was intended as a limited edition of 50, which in itself was a collosal undertaking. Making 50 X 12 = 600 dye transfer prints by hand was no easy task. However, at some point there was trouble with the distributor. Philip Hyde took the sale of the portfolio back over after 31 sold and no more portfolios were distributed or made thereafter.

Images of the Southwest: Foreword by Philip Hyde

The Southwest is a very special place for me. Over the many years of travel and photography in the region, there has been a certain evolution in my work from communication of a sense of place, to a search for the essences that express the whole region’s uniqueness.

My method of working has long been a kind of passing through the country, hoping to make discoveries. I want to let the country speak to me without my imposing preconceptions on it. A slow pace is important in this. And, since I can be only a temporary visitor, walking and camping for a month or a season, I must keep going back. I can’t get enough of that warm color, sense enough of the remote wilderness that still lingers in places.

Here the Planet’s basic structure has been laid bare, as if to serve better the consummate artistry of erosion’s creative force, that is even now enlarging its catalog of supreme works.

At the extremes of the year in Summer or Winter, the country may retreat behind a screen of seeming hostility, as with the heat haze of Summer noons, or the bone-chilling cold of blizzard winds that hurl sparse snowflakes across the unbroken spaces. But even then, the country invites you to come again, in Spring or Fall when these ephemeral seasons supply the brightest accents of nature’s scene. This elusive quality is underlined by an increasing awareness that the land’s vulnerable beauty is fading under the onslaught of development.

Emerson wrote: “A nobler want of man is served by nature, namely the love of beauty…. But beauty in nature is not ultimate. It is the herald of inward and eternal beauty.”

Will the “inward and eternal beauty” thus heralded develop in men soon enough to preserve its well-springs? The question evokes a feeling of urgency in what was once called “the land of room enough and time enough.”

SEE ALSO THE BLOG POST, “The Legend of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 1.”

Toward a Sense of Place by Philip Hyde 3

January 30th, 2010

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST “Toward a Sense of Place 2“)

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Horse and Cottonwoods at the Mouth of Canyon de Chelly, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1963, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands, Sierra Club Books.

Toward a Sense of Place 3

By Philip Hyde

From Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run

Sierra Club—Balantine Books

*Note: Beware of using this as a travel guide. The areas where people are allowed and the approaches to them may have changed since 1967. Also, the politically correct term for the native people now is their own word, “Dineh,” in its various spellings, rather than the Spanish word in common practice then, “Navajo.”

Our Navajo Mountain adventure took on a new aspect two mornings later when our packer brought up his retinue of three horses, four people, and two dogs. Walking down into Painted Rock, where we would set up our base camp for exploring the westside canyons, we learned that the first four miles don’t prepare you for the spectacular climax. The trail traverses the slopes of the mountain—lightly dusted with snow on that early morning—crosses several incipient canyons, climbs a bit, and passes through a narrow sandstone defile called Sunset Pass on one side and Yabut on the other. Then the trail peels off like a dive bomber into a funnel-shaped abyss, Cliff Canyon, and its great sheer cliffs of warm yellow sandstone. The canyons that twist their way eventually into the waters of Lake Powell come into view, and the long backbone of the Kaiparowits Plateau recedes in a straight line northwestward into the blue slopes where the Escalante River begins.The isolated bulk of Cummings Mesa intervenes to the south. If you look when you are high enough, and it is a clear day, you will see the great arch of the Kaibab Plateau on the far southwestern horizon. We saw it. To the north, Waterpocket Fold, and its Circle Cliffs are partly cut off by the northwestern shoulder of Navajo Mountain. Within this arc you see what is left of the climax of the Glen Canyon system. They still have beauty, but to those of us who knew Glen before it was flooded this remains a supreme act of bureaucratic vandalism. Happily, little of the unnaturally—and temporarily—blue water of “Lake” Powell is visible from the trail.

Two miles beyond the great drop into Cliff Canyon is First Water. A mile beyond that, our trail turned out of Cliff Canyon to climb through a narrow cleft in the sandstone, Redbud Pass. At this turn, we saw the pictographs that gave Painted Rock its name. We camped, and spent one day exploring Cliff Canyon and Forbidden Canyon. The second we went as far as Oak Canyon on the trail leading around the Mountain. On the third day we reached around the Mountain. On the third day we reached the perigee of our five-day orbit when we decided to walk down to Rainbow Bridge.

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Rainbow Bridge from Downstream, Navajo Mountain in the Distance, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Arizona, 1964, by Philip Hyde. Before Glen Canyon Dam filled and Lake Powell flooded Forbidden Canyon. Reached Hiking with a Backpack.

Our first view of the Bridge had been some years before, after coming up five miles from the river through a magnificent canyon of beautiful rock sculpture and delightful long, narrow pools. We were almost reluctant to go to the Bridge again after that fine, wild memory of it, knowing that it was now only a mile and a half from the rising edge of Lake Powell that is engulfing the stream that created the bridge.

We had been three days in the wilderness, with all that is implied in getting close to the land and letting it get close to you. For more on wilderness see the blog post, “Wallace Stegner: The Wilderness Idea.” We rounded the last great curve above the Bridge and began to see tourists. I sniffed the air and—sensed something extraordinary about it, but was not quite able to name it. Then I knew: it was perfume, emanating from some immaculately clad yachtsmen—or was it the yachtwomen among them—busily signing the register under the Bridge. The Bridge looked the same, or did it? Was it only an illusion that it looked a little like a reasonable facsimile, a little plastic? To know what the real Bridge looks like, don’t you have to participate in the finding of it, a little arduously along the stream that made it possible, the heat and the cobbles and the water and the time that all combined to build that Bridge? Can you merely sit, throttle, steer, and saunter and still begin to know what it was? For more about the color photograph of Rainbow Bridge see the blog post, “The Making Of ‘Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side.'”

I think of the land of the Navajos as a living entity of moods—of light moments and gloomy. Above all I think of color—color constantly changing with the light, color that infused the life of the people who have passed over this land.

Overpoweringly, this place testifies to man’s transitory nature—and yet confirms his continuity. That continuity may end if this should ever cease to be a land of time enough and room enough. The automobile could obliterate both, and along with them, the wilderness experience.

I still remember the climax of that experience for us. It was the walk to Keet Seel, and what we felt there. Keet Seel, the most remote of the three great Anasazi ruins in Navajo National Monument, is about eight miles by trail through the sandy canyons of the Tsegi system cut into the mesas just west of Monument Valley. The great ruin itself is not visible until the last quarter of a mile, and then it seems diminutive. Not until you are under the edge of the great sandstone shell sheltering the ruin does its scale become apparent.

Great Kiva, Mummy Cave Ruin, Canyon del Muerto, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, by Philip Hyde.

We climbed up the ledge, into the ruin, and suddenly believed we were the discoverers. There were few footprints, and we saw only a lone Navajo looking for strays. The silence was so pervasive that we found ourselves speaking in low tones—I guess out of respect for the people who had just departed 700 years ago. The wind blew everywhere we went that spring, but it was still now. The silence grew as we cooked supper and rolled out our bags on a lower level beneath the ruin. A tiny seep, with a depression beneath it just big enough for a cup, gave us our nightcap, and we went to sleep where the ancient ones had gathered food and looked out and talked, and had put their children to sleep.

Philip Hyde, April 1967

To read more about Navajo Country go to the blog post, “The Making Of ‘Rainbow Bridge From the Upstream Side.'”