Archive for ‘Reviews’ category

eBook Review: Essential Guide To Photographing Arches National Park By Bret Edge

April 29th, 2014

The Essential Guide To Photographing Arches National Park

By Bret Edge

Published by NatureScapes.net

The Essential Guide To Photographing Arches National Park by Bret Edge. Copyright 2014 Bret Edge.

The Essential Guide To Photographing Arches National Park by Bret Edge. Copyright 2014 Bret Edge.

Bret Edge is what I would call a power landscape photographer. His compositions are direct, with strong lines and bold arrangements that may often portray iconic scenery, but with more ingenuity and interest than most. The graphic design and lettering of Edge’s new guide to photographing Arches National Park are big and bold and frame his power images and direct text perfectly. In addition, NatureScapes’ logo and motif indicate that this new, bright and crisp PDF is one of their Photography Series eBooks and can be ordered directly from NatureScapes’ order page.

Besides small sections about the author, NatureScapes and a general introduction to the national park, the table of contents is divided into three main sections: Sunrise Locations, Sunset Locations and Alternative Locations. Immediately I want to ask, ‘What about midday locations?’ But much of the year photographing Arches in the middle of the day ranges from not much fun to downright miserable and even fatal due to the heat. As another outdoorsman I know said, “In that country in July you cannot carry enough water.”

Within the three main headings, each location gets a treatment. Each geographical area is laid out on one page with a short description; a section called, “Getting There,” essentially the trail directions; a “Need to Know” note that gives safety cautions, background, history, tips on how to tread lightly, or get more enjoyment out of each photo spot; and most importantly for our purposes, “Photo Advice.” Here Edge’s enthusiasm for the landscape shows, as does his acumen for open-ended suggestions that allow for more diverse possibilities rather than guiding everyone to make images like Bret Edge.

This format is not only clear and concise, but it saves time over wading through the many other guidebooks and pamphlets on Arches National Park. As might be expected in a guide devoted solely to one national park, Edge covers all of the locations found in the more broadly focused book, The Photographer’s Guide to Canyon Country: Where to Find Perfect Shots and How to Take Them by John Annerino, but Edge also adds quite a few more photo spots and goes into more depth on each. In Edge’s guide the type, though small, is in a clear, readable font. Division into the various headings and subsections as described above make Edge’s guide quicker to read and easier to find essential information inside than many guides arranged in standard text formats.

Moon Handbooks are known for quality and depth, but the Moon Handbook for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, covers no more trails and destinations than Bret Edge’s NatureScapes eBook packs into only 30 pages. Besides, the Moon Handbook, of course contains minimal information specific to photography. A guide by Wilderness Press called 50 Best Short Hikes in Utah’s National Parks by Ron Adkison offers a rich narrative on Arches National Park including archeology, flora, fauna, park ranger interpretive activities and more, but the limited photographs in black and white do not evoke as much of what can be experienced visually. Travelers and explorers may read many books on the history and background of Southeastern Utah, but for photographers, Bret Edge lays it out best in his short easy to follow format. Only Photographing the Southwest: A Guide to the Natural Landmarks of Southern Utah & Southwest Colorado by Laurent Martres covers more photographic ground than The Essential Guide to Photographing Arches. However, Edge does offer a few spots and details about spots that Martres misses in his comprehensive photographer’s guide. Also, Edge’s Photo Advice is more specialized to fit local conditions and customized for photographing sandstone formations, reflecting the experience of Edge as a desert inhabitant and photography workshop leader in the area.

The only change I would make to the Essential Guide to Photographing Arches is to add information on photographing the national park in the winter or during the middle of the day when the season or weather allows. Nonetheless, if you want a book that gives you much solid information in a tight, focused and well-presented arrangement, Edge’s power photography guide is the NatureScapes eBook for you. Order here directly from NatureScapes’ order page.

Glen Canyon Book Review: Resurrection By Annette McGivney With James Kay

September 25th, 2013

Book Review on the Biggest Conservation Story of All Time and New Solutions… Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West by Annette McGivney with Photographs by James Kay and Foreword by Bill McKibben (Braided River, 2009)

How We Lost Glen Canyon

Resurrection Book Cover, Photograph copyright 2009 James Kay.

Resurrection Book Cover, Lake Powell at Hite Marina, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, Photograph copyright 2007 James Kay.

In the mid 1950s, David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, led a coalition of conservation groups in an effort to permanently banish industrial development from national park lands. The primary battle defending the sanctity of the national park system was over two dams proposed inside Dinosaur National Monument. The proposed dams in Dinosaur would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument on the Yampa and Green Rivers.

David Brower in Congressional testimony used 9th Grade math to prove that if Glen Canyon Dam were higher, it could hold back and store more water than both proposed dams in Dinosaur. Congress removed the two dams in Dinosaur National Monument from the Colorado River Compact and passed the bill approving the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Having never seen Glen Canyon, David Brower and many others did not know the extent or nature of the sacrifice made to protect the national park system. Looking back, especially after he floated through Glen Canyon on the Colorado River for the first time in 1958, David Brower mused that he and the coalition might have pushed on and possibly succeeded in saving Glen Canyon. (For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.”

Ironically, before World War II, Glen Canyon had been part of a proposed national park that would have encompassed more than two million acres spread across much of Southeastern Utah including most of what are now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park and all of Glen Canyon. The attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted these discussions and turned the attention of Congress to preparations for war.

Drought, Distortions, Glen Canyon Dam And A New Dream Of The West

The Bureau of Reclamation closed the gates on Glen Canyon Dam in 1964, but “Lake” Powell did not reach full capacity until 1980. The reservoir water level ebbed and flowed until the last time it was full in 1996, then drew down over 100 feet by 2003 and has remained nearly half empty or more than half empty ever since. It turns out that the Colorado River flow calculations that justified the building of Glen Canyon Dam in the first place were exaggerated, as were the rainfall estimates on which expansion and development interests based the entire settlement of the Western US plains and Southwestern desert. Tree ring studies and other climate measures show that the 20th Century was one of the wettest ever in the Western US. Today’s much lower rainfall and river flow rates are more characteristic of the region, though big dam proponents are officially calling the present conditions a drought. Nonetheless, scientists project that “Lake” Powell may never be full again. Odds are that both “Lake” Mead and “Lake” Powell will both remain as they are now, roughly half full or less for the foreseeable future.

Annette McGivney, in Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West, tells the story of the loss of Glen Canyon, but more importantly the rebirth of life in the side canyons since the reservoir has subsided. Glen Canyon today is the poster child for watershed recovery for both Glen and Grand Canyon, as well as for the resilience of nature in general. McGivney’s easy-flowing text accompanies the photography of James Kay, who for more than three decades has photographed the Colorado Plateau, the seismically uplifted high desert that the Colorado River cuts through in Utah and Arizona. James Kay knows this land and these canyons. His sensitive, artistic eye finds for us the devastation that was, and the haunting, unparalleled paradise that is Glen Canyon.

McGivney and Kay explored many of the tributary canyons together for this project, either by boat, by kayak, but most often on foot, backpacking from the reservoir up canyon; or from the rims of the sandstone tablelands above, down into narrow, winding passages and rock alcoves. These slot canyons, often hundreds of feet tall and in places only a few feet wide, are already verdant with newly rooted cottonwoods, willows, and grasses, as well as teaming with wildlife just as they had been for centuries before everything drowned under the full reservoir.

Annette McGivney quotes Richard Ingebretsen, co-founder with David Brower of Glen Canyon Institute, who asked, “Why keep two reservoirs half empty?” Glen Canyon Institute, founded for the ultimate purpose of reclaiming Glen Canyon and turning it into a national park, is working on a current campaign called, “Fill Mead First.” The idea is to keep “Lake” Mead full because it supplies many cities of the Southwest with water and generates their electricity. If “Lake” Powell were then drawn down, Glen Canyon could be restored and even made into a national park. Many who saw Glen Canyon before the reservoir say that it rivaled the Grand Canyon in beauty.

Canyon Photography On Par With The Best Ever

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

James Kay’s photographs in Resurrection certainly provide the proof of this claim to canyon beauty. Traveling by Kayak, powerboat and most often on foot, Kay has shown us as never before, the side canyons and back alcoves of Glen Canyon reborn. His style is both effectively documentary, yet artistically strong. Kay’s experience in the canyons of the Southwest has given him not just an eye for form; he has an eye for gracefully capturing the forms of canyons. His understanding of natural light and how to use it to best portray the curves, edges, near and far, contrasts, shadows and indirect illumination of layers on layers of weather-sculpted sandstone.

Some of Kay’s compositions are simple. For example, one photograph in Resurrection depicts a massive wall of rock that juts out into “Lake” Powell like the prow of a ship. The vantage point of the image is from a boat close to water level. At the bottom of the wall that is about 200 feet tall, we see a small boat dwarfed by the immensity of stone above. The photograph is a work of beauty, while at the same time it accomplishes the practical task of dramatizing just how far the reservoir has receded from the high water line marked by a gray-tan mud stain, or “bathtub ring,” as people call it. The top half of the cliff is the beautiful red-brown of native rock, while the bottom half of the cliff is coated with ugly mud stain.

Other images give us the haunting, far away longing of luminous reflections or newly sprouted grasses, shrubs, cottonwoods and other lush greenery. Some photographs are purposely ugly, some are otherworldly and nearly abstract, while still others incorporate hikers in soaring walled narrows or show us intimate rushing water. If you love the desert and canyons, this is a book and a place different. Yet despite how unusual this place is, those who see it as nothing more than a holding tank, a cash register or a recreation area for motorized tourism, have seemingly never stopped to see it the way James Kay shares it.

The Desert, Progress, Jobs, Money And Other Myths

Despite US Bureau of Reclamation and pro-development rhetoric, the only two justifiable reasons Glen Canyon Dam was ever necessary, and remotely remains necessary, were the Politics surrounding the agreement between the seven Western states that share the water; and the Income from recreation on “Lake” Powell. The viability of Hydropower generation has nearly run out with low water levels often not providing enough gravity water drop to turn the turbines at sufficient speed. Besides, the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act no longer allows the fluctuation of water levels caused by increased dam releases during peak power usage.

Politically in relation to water use, the three Upper Colorado River Basin states: Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, for good reason mistrust the four lower basin states: California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. The lower basin states have all along taken more than their share of Colorado River water. Glen Canyon Dam provides a physical obstruction by which the upper states can regulate the flow to the lower states and keep them from taking more than their allotment, if and when the upper states catch up with the lower states in their land development and thirst for water.

Even though the desert does not inherently provide the water to support the building of industry and commercial buildings, suburbs, golf courses, and abundant water features, the seven Western states of the Colorado River system have been in a race to develop as fast as they can to be sure they obtain as much Colorado River water as possible in relation to the neighboring states. John Wesley Powell, whom the reservoir was named after, warned against developing the West beyond its water capacity. He recommended a number of water saving approaches that have been implemented by a few wise communities, but ignored by most.

Indeed, McGivney reminds us that the cities of the desert tend to flaunt the image of the manufactured oasis. The Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2005 adopted the slogan, “The Desert is a Myth.” A July hike in any direction beyond the edge of a Phoenix suburb like Anthem, for instance, and it becomes readily apparent that the desert is real and it is the lush golf courses that perhaps are already, or soon will be a mirage. Land development in the West has achieved similar temporary high profits and blindness to long-term consequences as recent Wall Street derivative speculation and the banking system near meltdown.

Nonetheless, it is less the cities that would run dry without “Lake” Powell than the farming of water-intensive crops like alfalfa, hay and cotton, grown not to supply market demand, but to take advantage of government subsidies and tax breaks. Dams are portrayed as symbolizing progress and economic growth, but special interests are the primary benefactors. In Utah, for example, mining, ranching and industrial agriculture represent less than 3% of the economy, but they use 85% of Utah’s water. Even though industrial agriculture comprises a decreasing portion of the Western economy, the industry is one of the largest contributors to political campaigns. Thus, even though dam projects, expanded water pipelines and other water infrastructure will not sustain society long-term, these outdated public works continue to garner support of those in political power.

A Dying Motor Tourism Industry And The Future

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century.

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. James Kay used this photograph side-by-side with his own like this in the book Resurrection too.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point, with the Cathedral almost fully recovered as only a few feet of water were left in the bottom.

The motorized brand of tourism that thrived on “Lake” Powell in the 1980s and 1990s, has generated significant income for concessionaires and boat operators, who also provide proportionally large support to politicians and boost the local economy. In 1992, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area hosted a record 3.5 million visitors, nearly as many at this peak as visited the Grand Canyon. Yet today with the shrinkage of the “lake” area, the closure of two out of five of the marinas and high gasoline prices area hotel stays and other tourism has dropped by 40 percent. Nearby national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Zion each increased visitation in the last decade. Indeed, the economy is playing a major role in the dying of motorized tourism nearly everywhere. Less disposable income, especially among the upper-middle class and upper class has led to less motorized lake recreation. In the past many high earning tourists have spent discretionary money on Jet Skis, Houseboat shares and other expensive water toys, but in the last 10 years public lands hiking and camping has grown, while motor boating has decreased significantly. Local jobs in Page, Arizona and elsewhere around “Lake” Powell have depended almost entirely on motor tourism. Most local people, including the Native Americans in the area, want to prolong a dying industry to maintain their livelihoods. While denying that their way of life is dying, they are likely missing the opportunities and shift in perspective that could bring them a far more sustainable, Earth-friendly and perhaps most importantly, a more permanent security.

McGivney’s “Step-by-step guide to saving Glen Canyon and then, perhaps the world” offers the kind of forward thinking solutions that thought leaders have begun to discuss in recent years. While these innovative resolutions will become requirements, rather than options in the near future, as a civilization we have a big leap to negotiate before we are ready to leave our self-serving short-term approaches behind and move into a mindset that is more conducive to sustaining our society and all life on Earth. This is perhaps the text’s only flaw, or perhaps it is more of a challenge: the leap from where our watershed management and environmental stewardship are now to where they need to be to sustain life in the Southwest and on Earth long range may be too big. Are we up to the task? Perhaps an even better question is: can we learn to cooperate with, listen to, find new ways to meet the needs of and educate those who have a vested interest in business as it has been for far too long?

For more on Glen Canyon and Philip Hyde’s photography of the lost paradise see the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1,” or “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

eBook Review: Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography By Guy Tal

August 7th, 2013

Review Of Guy Tal’s Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography

“In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The goal is to produce images that uniquely represent the photographer’s vision and possess meanings beyond the literal visual elements they portray.” – Guy Tal

Cover, Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography By Guy Tal.

Cover, Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography By Guy Tal. Click On The Image To Read More…

In Guy Tal’s ebook, Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography, he assures the reader that digital image processing can be a much richer introspective and creative experience than can possibly be provided by formulas or rote routines to “achieve such trivial goals as more vibrant colors or gimmicky visual effects.”

In the introduction to Creative Processing Techniques, Guy Tal wrote, “The digital studio at your fingertips is every bit the fertile bed for creative expression as any field technique…” He refers to the process of visualization discussed in his ebook, Creative Landscape Photography, and explains how decisions in the “studio” give the photographer a wide spectrum of possibilities and control for attaining the “visualized end result.”

Guy clearly favors creative post-processing over using presets or leaving image files the way the camera captured them. He also makes a good case that the answer to the question, ‘How much is too much?’ is best left up to each photographer’s own discretion and intended use of the image. He argues that the creative photographer’s purpose is to go beyond a mere documentary recording of subjects. However, he urges us to remember, “We chose the medium of nature photography because we were moved by the beauty of natural phenomena, and we may not want to venture too far from our source of inspiration.”

From Basics To Advanced Techniques

From the basics of monitor calibration, definitions of bits, 8-bit versus 16-bit, RGB, CMYK, color channels, RAW files, JPEGs, TIFFs, GIFs, conversions, Bayer patterns, Digital Negative or DNG files, clipping of highlight or shadow detail, file storage, compression, Tiff versus PSD and other image file formats, pixels, PPI, DPI, the International Color Consortium or ICC Profiles, color space or gamut, monitor and printer profiling or calibration using a colorimeter, target images, hue, saturation, “dodging” and “burning,” .icc, .icm, Perceptual and Relative Colorimetric rendering intents, sRGB, Adobe RGB, Kodak’s ProPhoto RGB,  pixilation, and why images do not look the same online as they do when made into archival fine art digital prints, all the way through the process of creating and working on digital master files, Guy Tal guides us with smooth, clear and thoughtful precision. Not only are you rarely confused by Guy’s explanations, but at the end of each chapter to assure even better understanding of the ideas presented, we find short, fun exercises and self-quizes about various points in the text.

Guy Tal suggests that as you process an image, you may change your mind as to how you will finish it. Your pre-visualized goal when you made the photograph can be refined and reconsidered along the way in a process Guy calls Dynamic Visualization. The way Guy Tal presents global and local adjustments had me anticipating the development of my next photograph in the digital darkroom. I became inspired by the possibilities as I began to see the process through new eyes from what I did previously. I realized that by employing Guy Tal’s workflow, I caught his vision and enthusiasm for image refinement, while at the same time I came into a deeper understanding of my own approach to creative landscape photography.

Unconventional Self-Awareness In Photography

Guy Tal is photographically self-aware and by example he teaches the reader to be more self-aware of his or her own creative process. Guy’s wisdom is often unconventional. For example, one of his image captions reads:

Do not assume that just because something is technically deficient, it should always be corrected. For example, the image on the right contains areas of both over-exposed highlights and under-exposed shadows. Still, I found these perfectly acceptable and decided not to correct them. In fact, it is likely that if I had corrected them (e.g., by blending multiple exposures), the result would have looked decidedly unnatural.

In the film era, under and over exposed areas in photographs were common, even with the use of the zone system. It was only with the advent of digital and especially High Dynamic Range or HDR that striving for detail in all areas of photographs became the norm. In this sense, Guy Tal’s experience in large format film photography serves him well as to what is worth spending time adjusting. Along the same lines, Guy provides good guidance as to what to adjust and what not to adjust in RAW conversion, as well as what to adjust minimally to avoid detail loss and fringe artifacts.

Guy Tal also bucks another trend in the digital darkroom. He points out that high contrast, more color saturated images often make a stronger first impression but may have less “’staying power’ if bold color is all they have to offer.” He writes, “…nuanced and subtle images often invite closer inspection and result in a more extended, contemplative viewing experience.” In this spirit Guy tells us how to use the various controls in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. Not only does he provide a clear description of each tool and how it works, but he also explains various situations where one tool works better than another and shows us how the results differ.

Photoshop Setup And Tool Optimization

From giving recommendations for how to arrange your tools for easy access in Adobe Photoshop, to how best to apply each tool and adjustment, Guy shows you the best practices and set up to make Photoshop easier to use. My impression is that with Guy’s technical background, he has a better understanding how and why each tool in Photoshop works the way it does, than many of the most prominent photographers in the field. Reading Guy’s ebook clarified some ambiguities and showed me better technique than what I have learned by observing or talking to many other photographers working in Photoshop. For example, I had learned that in using “Levels” to find the white and black point in an image that it is necessary to bring the corresponding sliders into the histogram slightly. However, Guy recommends bringing the sliders to where they are either just touching the histogram or even just outside the histogram, not touching it at all. Guy explains succinctly why this is a better approach.

In this extensive ebook Guy also discusses layer blending and how to combine the highlight detail from one image with the shadow detail of another, a process many refer to as High Dynamic Range or HDR. With Guy’s specific and complete directions, I performed my first blending of two versions of an image. How exciting: I have hard drives filled with bracketed images waiting for this moment. As can be expected, much more can be learned and realized by applying each exercise to your own images. I had a sense of anticipation and accomplishment in the learning by running my own images through each process and exercise that Guy outlines.

Global And Local Adjustments And A Different Way To Dodge And Burn

Besides philosophy and global adjustments, Guy also touches briefly on a number of local adjustments including Cloning and Spot Removal. This helps to round out the reading experience, but other books or tutorials may be necessary for more detail. I like the way Guy moves on to expand on more advanced methods such as Layer Masking and various uses for these layer masks. Most of Guy’s explanations are clear and thorough, but in some instances, he summarized a bit too much in my opinion, shortening the explanation of certain steps when he might have included more specifics without taking too much more space and reader time. Nonetheless, no one book could ever cover all features and tools in Photoshop. Anyone can Google the step-by-step functions of whatever basic tools Guy leaves out. Guy warns us against attachment to any particular tools or methods, but shares the importance of developing a strong working approach to visualizing and finding gaps between what we envision and what we have so far attained. Meanwhile, Guy’s explanation of non-destructive Dodging and Burning is comprehensive and extremely helpful for improved image editing, as are most of his other process explanations.

Before reading Creative Processing Techniques, I had a fair understanding of many of the controls in Photoshop, but some of the time I was just guessing as to how to obtain what I wanted in my images. Afterwards, I now have much more control and am more able to directly obtain what I intend in my photographs. Guy wrote by e-mail that it is better to learn good workflow and processing methods from the beginning rather than trying to unlearn bad habits later. With the reading of Guy’s ebook, I feel I have caught the best wave to take me all the way into the shore of happy image making.

To order click this link: Creative Processing Techniques. Also, a two volume bundle discount is available when you purchase Guy Tal’s Creative Processing Techniques with Creative B&W Processing Techniques.

Grand Canyon Book Review: “Path Of Beauty” by Christopher Brown

June 19th, 2013

Review Of Christopher Brown’s New Coffee Table Photography Book On The Grand Canyon: Path of Beauty

"Path of Light" Book Cover: "Colorado River In The Grand Cayon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright Christopher Brown.

“Path of Beauty” Book Cover: Colorado River In The Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1986 Christopher Brown.

Wilderness Guide, River Captain and Photographer Christopher Brown has given the world a photography book that highlights the Grand Canyon as grand vista, secret garden and old friend. Certainly great craft and care are evident in Brown’s intimate images of luminous side canyons, but his big scenes of the Grand Canyon show us the Canyon’s vast size like never before.

Chris Brown’s well-written text also puts the reader right into the canyons of sun-drenched rock, rampaging white water and hidden oasis gardens. We feel the desert heat and the cold wave spray. We sense the weight of time drifting slowly by as we descend into the deep gorges that Brown has explored for more than 50 years.

Christopher Brown gets into Path of Beauty by showing us various ways to get into Grand Canyon National Park. His discussion of Geography and the forces that shape the canyon is more wild than dry, the wildest forces being the raging of water in the river and the dumping of water from the sky in Monsoons and flash floods that choke the Colorado River with sticks, boulders and other material from side canyons. Brown vividly illustrates with active, interesting language and his powerful photographs how debris flows from side canyons produce increased excitement and danger in the rapids on the river.

Crystal Rapid is an example of this rapid building process. When Major John Wesley Powell navigated the Grand Canyon in 1867, “Crystal was a small riffle spread across the canyon bottom. It was mentioned only in passing in river journals for almost 100 years. Until 1966.” That year, a major flash flood “pushed several thousand tons of rocks and boulders” into the Colorado River, changing it’s course and raising the pool level above the rapid, making the rapid’s drop much more precipitous, concentrated and swift, as well as adding a giant hole created by an immense new underwater boulder. Brown describes how the rapid is run now:

A boat caught in the hole can surf around for a moment on the wave, do a pirouette, flip back into the hole, sometimes with a half or full twist, and can window shade, flipping over and over. A swimmer going into a big hole can be driven to the bottom of the river by the strong down current, and tumbled along the rocks on the bottom while being thrashed around in every which direction by the water currents trying to break her arms and legs and pound the air out of her lungs. It’s dark down there too. On a good day, which is most of the time, she will come to the surface a hundred or more feet downstream, gasp for air, and wonder for a second if she is alive or in boatman heaven, and which would be preferable. Hopefully she won’t be tangled up with her boat, which usually comes out of the hole just behind her. This is one of life’s longest 15 seconds.

Chris Brown goes on to share sometimes scary, sometimes humorous accounts of other mishaps and adventures he witnessed or participated in during his many decades rafting the wild Colorado River. Few men alive today know the Grand Canyon the way Brown does and it shows in his hard-won river wisdom and in his astonishing and vivid photographs.

Path Of Beauty And The Photography Of Natural Landscapes

In the back of the book, Brown includes a chapter on his approach to photography:

To begin I ask myself: “Where do I want to be today; what is calling me?” There may be a favorite place I want to revisit, or a new place I want to see. I don’t expect to see anything in particular, or to take a specific photograph. Mostly I want to photograph in a place where I enjoy being, and that is sufficient. I begin right there, and I go where I am drawn. I might wander off in one direction, and for no apparent reason, go off in another. I follow the slightest impulses and urgings, wherever the moment pulls me. I generally end up in a good place, and sometimes I wonder how I got there. Over the years I have learned that the intuition that guides me works well, so I trust it… When I hear someone espousing rules of composition I divert my eyes and cover my ears… If I have the desire to take a preconceived photograph, one that is in my head, or to find a certain light, I will feel this expectation and will see only this imaginary photograph, and nothing else. If I don’t find what I desire, I will feel nothing but frustration… The desire to create a good photograph can tie me in a knot of anxiety and paralysis. If it has to be good, this is an invitation for the gremlin of judgment and criticism to sit on my shoulder, just out of sight. He questions if something is really good, suggests it has been done better before, and tells me it’s not worth the time and effort. This is the kiss of death for any creative endeavor. I have learned to simply ignore this voice when I am working on anything creative, and the decision to ignore it is actually quite simple, and totally freeing. I have to remind myself of this every time I go out, because desire and expectation creep up unnoticed. I find that the less I expect, the more things will reveal themselves to me.

Brown’s photographs, while spontaneously found, also exhibit a thoughtful, deliberate method once in process. His selection in the field and his processing of the image at home is carefully orchestrated, sometimes right down to each individual pixel. He spends at least many hours and most often many days working on each image in post-processing to get it exactly right. His images capture the context and character of the Grand Canyon, like few have ever done for any place. Brown took his friendship and insights from Philip Hyde seriously in that he has shown the world sights and insights that they might not have ever seen or realized otherwise. Through Path of Beauty, you can treat yourself to a whole new, more lifelike version of the Grand Canyon, the next best thing to being there. Though be hereby warned, Brown’s book will most certainly entice you to go there and perhaps inspire you to photograph the place yourself from a different perspective than you might have before.

The only aspect missing from the book, in my opinion, is at least some mention of the grave threats to the ecosystems and doubts as to the very survival of the river itself, as it is known, going into the future. Nonetheless, keeping in mind this is not an environmental activism project or a book for a cause specifically, except perhaps the cause of natural beauty and the enjoyment of an unparalleled visual journey through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, this canyon and this river cannot receive too much praise or recognition for aesthetic and wilderness qualities alone. Feast your eyes on Path of Beauty. You will not be sorry, but you may be changed by the experience.

About Christopher Brown’s Friendship With Philip Hyde And Learning Photography

The North Canyon Pool, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright Christopher Brown.

The North Canyon Pool, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1990 Christopher Brown.

In the last 40 years, Christopher Brown has become a leading and award-winning full-time “professional” creative photographer and master print maker. He teaches photography and print making in Boulder, Colorado. His work is displayed in many private and public collections across the United States, including the Denver Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Brown was a guide and boatman for Outward Bound for over 30 years, during which time he began to make photographs of the natural landscape.

In the early 1970s, Brown decided to become more serious about photography and wrote a note to Galen Rowell, Eliot Porter, Bill Ratcliff and to Philip Hyde. He received a reply from all of them, but the reply from Philip Hyde was in Chris Brown’s words, “by far the longest and most thoughtful.” Not long after, Brown asked Hyde and Porter to review his portfolio. Porter wrote back to say that he was very busy and that Brown ought to do what he, Porter, had done and study the work of the masters. Hyde wrote Chris a letter that was “six pages, single spaced, both sides.” Brown, in a taped interview in 2005, said that he and Hyde in many ways had a similar approach to the world:

If somebody wrote me today, I would just send them a copy of that letter because what Philip said is what I would say to aspiring photographers now. He talked a lot about that if you are going to be an artist, you make your own path and you design your own life. I’ve always been that kind of person, a do it yourself guy. It was good to hear from him and realize that the struggles I was having, in terms of how to do this, were basically what it was going to be like. Nothing was going to change and that was ok.

Christopher Brown and his wife Elizabeth Black, a painter, went to visit Ardis and Philip Hyde in their mountain home in the Northern Sierra of California. “It was like we were on the same river trip. He was just a lot further downstream.” Brown and Hyde went on to travel together many wilderness miles, including self-guided river trips down the Rio Grande and the San Juan Rivers, in the Needles and Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park.

Early in their correspondence Brown wrote to Hyde that he occasionally felt the need for the perspective controls and depth of field possible with a large format camera. He saw switching to a 4X5 film camera as an inevitability that he was not ready for at the time. Hyde wrote back regarding many of the advantages and disadvantages of large format photography. (Stay tuned for future blog posts that will include portions of these letters.) Brown at first used his medium format camera more, then converted to large format for several decades. Brown described his relationship with Hyde in Path of Beauty:

Photographer Philip Hyde let me be his friend, and we hung out together on the Rio Grand and in Canyonlands, laughing at each other fumbling with lens caps, debating whether an exposed piece of film was empty or full, while we searched for the next “snap.” Phil refused to be a guru or give advice, and steadfastly lived the belief that each artist has to find his own path.

In another section of Path of Beauty where Brown discusses the “art of seeing,” he recalls,

Photographer Philip Hyde said to me: “If you see a picture, better take it.” Life is always uncertain, so why not take yet another chance? You can debate the merits back in the studio. I try to save my analysis and critique for later. It is a distraction while I am photographing. “Shoot first and ask questions later.”

This may not be good advice for the use of guns, but it probably is the best policy for the use of cameras.

(More of the Philip Hyde—Chris Brown correspondence, the merits and drawbacks of color versus black and white photography and David Leland Hyde interviewing Christopher Brown in future blog posts.)

What is your process for making photographs? 

Monday Blog Blog: Review Of ‘Light And Land’ by Michael Frye

October 31st, 2011

Monday Blog Blog: Review Of Light And Land: Landscapes In the Digital Darkroom By Michael Frye

Light And Land E-Book Promotional Image.

(What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? See the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”)

Michael Frye’s articulate, yet casual writing style in Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom, easily conveyed ideas to me that perhaps had seemed more complicated or even intimidating before. Right from the start I felt relaxed as though he would take me through a challenging journey safely. For example:

In this book I’ll take you step-by-step through each decision as I process five different images in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. You’ll see my workflow in action, and I’ll explain why I use particular techniques in a particular order. But more importantly, you’ll come to understand the aesthetic judgments behind each decision… you’ll gain insights about how to convey your own unique vision, and how to squeeze every ounce of beauty, emotion, and inspiration out of your photographs…. While I use Lightroom for these examples, the basic principles apply to any software. Learning how to make good decisions and find the right balance is more important than learning any particular tool or technique.

“OK, I’m in,” I said to myself. “I can do this.” Michael Frye then rolled right into Highlight and Shadow Detail, Black Points and White Points, Workflow, Curves, Tools, Default Settings, Finding Direction and other sections in the natural flow of his work on digital images. These sections, besides explaining technical concepts in non-technical terms, made the process seem simple, but not too simple. Many photography how-to books wax long on technique, but Michael Frye showed me what to do with the techniques to create images that bring out my own vision. He also told me how to best apply each technique depending on what I intend to accomplish in each photograph. In my view, this makes Michael Frye an above average teacher. No wonder he teaches workshops through the Ansel Adams Gallery. No wonder he is the author of the traditional paper paged book Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters. Michael Frye knows what he is doing regarding the unique considerations in landscape photography post processing. In his e-book, Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom, he also sprinkled in his own wit and wisdom for landscape photography in general:

…In some other photography genres the photographer is often concerned with only one subject. Landscape photography frequently requires blending many different ingredients in a harmonious way.

Or:

…Landscape photography is all about communicating the mood of a particular place at a particular time.

Or:

Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether you prefer using Curves or some other tool, what default settings you start with, or even what software you use. The goal is to make the image communicate something, and there are many ways to accomplish that. Knowing what you want to say is more important than using a particular procedure.

At the top of Michael Frye’s section on Workflow, he listed for us readers in order the various steps he takes in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Then he elaborated on each one. He showed how he goes about each step in a sort of “real time” demonstration on his landscape photographs.

He explained that “in a book of this size it’s impossible to describe every nuance and keyboard shortcut in Lightroom.” Then he went on to recommend the two books I already have on Lightroom, but have never read, how handy is that? Plus Michael Frye recommended one more book on Lightroom by David DuChemin called Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. The other two books I have are Martin Evening’s The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers and D65’s Lightroom Workbook: Workflow, Not Workslow in Lightroom 3 by Seth Resnick and Jamie Spritzer.

Having watched master landscape photographer Carr Clifton work with curves since 2008, but having only minimally tried it myself, I found Michael Frye’s explanation of curves to be the easiest to understand of any I have read. To check out the Photoshop and Lightroom resources I have either studied or gathered and not yet studied, see the blog posts, “Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros” and “Monday Blog Blog: Lewis Kemper.”

What I liked about Michael Frye’s style of presentation in Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom was that he urged the reader to think and make decisions. He asked many questions that put me into action in processing images along with him and starting in on my own. His sections called “Evaluation” in Light and Land and on his “In The Moment: A Landscape Photography Blog” have encouraged and inspired us students of landscape photography to jump right in and get involved.

Michael Frye powerfully wound up Light And Land by advising us to go to galleries and museums and look at the finished product: fine art digital prints. He said not just to look at them but to ask yourself his many evaluation questions:

When viewing prints, look at the contrast. How much of the photograph is pure white? How much pure black? Is the print dramatic or understated? Notice the color balance and saturation. With black-and-white prints, check for slight color tints.

To bring home his e-book coaching Michael Frye in Light And Land quoted Ansel Adams, one of the world’s greatest fine art print makers of all time:

The difference between a very good print and a fine print is quite subtle and difficult, if not impossible, to describe in words. There is a feeling of satisfaction in the presence of a fine print—and uneasiness with a print that falls short of optimum quality.

The only aspect of Light And Land I don’t like is that it is too short. I would like to learn much more and have Michael Frye go into greater depth in many of the areas of his coaching in this e-book. Fortunately, Light And Land is priced at what David DuChemin termed the “outrageously low price” of only $5.00. If you look around some you may even find a coupon to purchase the e-book for $4.00. I recommend that each of you who takes the digital printing of landscape photography seriously not wait any longer: buy the book now. Michael Frye will show you how to make that subtle difference, referred to by Ansel Adams, in your fine art digital prints. To order go to Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom.

Monday Blog Blog: Ansel Adams In The National Parks

February 28th, 2011

Book Review: Ansel Adams In The National Parks: Photographs From America’s Wild Places

Highlights Of And About The Essays And The Photographs

 

Ansel Adams In The National Parks by Ansel Adams. Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Amazon.com price $22.72.

How to add to what other reviewers have said? Ansel Adams In The National Parks has been reviewed in a number of other venues online (see list of relevant posts below), which represents a sizable marketing and publicity outlay for Little, Brown and Company. Little Brown was kind enough to send me a review copy as a gift, thank you to Little Brown and the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust as well as the Center For Creative Photography. I imagine the other reviewers received advanced review copies to aid their review efforts too.

Below is what I like and dislike about this new release. I highly applaud the book and offer some criticism too. Ansel Adams in the National Parks: Photographs from America’s Wild Places (Amazon) is a beautiful addition to anyone’s library. The look and feel of this new volume about Ansel Adams, pleases the senses and says quality all the way, yet the book is reasonably priced at only $40.00. Considering the book displays “more than 225 photographs” and the reader discovers “many rarely seen and 50 never before published” Ansel Adams photographs. These facts alone make it worth owning. The new binding of  Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, Ansel Adams In Color and Ansel Adams In The National Parks: Photographs From America’s Wild Places are all similar in attractive design and style: block lettering on white covers with smaller photographs on front and back.

In Ansel Adams In The National Parks I was happy to find many Ansel Adams photographs I have never seen before. The far majority of his photographs of the national parks in the book are a supreme joy to discover. There are perhaps half a dozen or less that I thought were below the standards of what Ansel Adams himself would have published. Ansel Adams was very particular about which of his photographs he printed and published. He printed only about 900 images out of his 50,000 original negatives.

I liked the notes and letters between Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall and Beaumont Newhall, when they either traveled together or wrote to each other about Ansel Adams’ travels and photography on his Guggenheim to photograph the National Parks.

I also enjoyed reading darkroom black and white photographer John Sexton on printing Ansel Adams photographs in the 1970s.

It is always a treat to read Wallace Stegner. His essays are well-informed and well-argued. As good as his essays are, his fiction is even better. Why not use new essays rather than reprints of essays published in previous books about Ansel Adams? Plenty of high quality credentialed essayists would love the opportunity to write about Ansel Adams in the National Parks.

The essays in the back of Ansel Adams In The National Parks, sing, especially the last essay by William A. Turnage “Ansel Adams, Environmentalist.” William A. Turnage’s prose is lyrical as he praises and passionately gives tribute to his life-long friend and partner. The two essays by Richard B. Woodward, “Ansel Adams In The National Parks” on the travels of Ansel Adams, Nancy Newhall and Beaumont Newhall and “Ansel Adams and the Preservation of Wilderness,” each provide a well-written and fascinating short history lesson. In “Ansel Adams and the Preservation of Wilderness”  Richard B. Woodward wrote:

As our sense of what happened yesterday or decades ago is often as muddled and contentious as our plans for the future, a mechanical process that provides more or less realistic evidence of the world as it once was can be of immense practical and political value…. Architecture historians in several European countries understood this vital function of photography soon after Daguerre took credit for inventing it in 1839. In France the government had already founded the Commission des Monuments Historiques in 1837 and assigned it to compile a list of old decaying medieval and Renaissance structures—cathedrals, parks, chateaus, villages—imperiled by neglect…. In 1851, the Commission selected five photographers—Edourd-Denis Baldus, Hippolyte Bayard, Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and O. Mestral—for an elite unite that operated under the name La Mission Heliographique. It was perhaps the first time, though by no means the last, that photographers were hired in a noble-minded effort to preserve valuable parts of the world, in this case a centuries-old heritage that France was in danger of forfeiting unless quick action was taken to save these crumbling and irreplaceable sites….

Richard B. Woodward continued with sections on how photographs helped protect Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone, and many other conservation causes all over the world. Then he wrote about Ansel Adams’ leadership in the transformation of photography and its establishment as an art form:

By organizing the exhibition Group f.64 in 1932—with Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and others—Adams became an eloquent spokesman for “straight photography” in San Francisco and far beyond….Finally no photographer except Stieglitz did more to win acceptance for photography as a fine art. In 1940, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York created a separate department of photography, the first in the world, Adams became one of its founding fathers. Without training as a scholar or curator, he was nonetheless instrumental in the rediscovery of Watkins, Jackson, and O’Sullivan. By extolling their achievements to Beaumont Newhall and others in the museum community, he helped to construct a nascent art historical continuum for landscape photography. His own international prominence as an artist toward the end of his life altered the material conditions for those choosing to take the medium in that direction. In the 1970s, prints by Adams became one of the pillars of an emerging market for photographs as an art collectible, for sale in galleries and auction houses. The select but not inconsiderable number of photographers lucky enough to earn a living today from sales of their prints have Adams to thank for proving this could be done. Despite an altered context and a newfound respect for photographers within the realm of contemporary art, his pictures remain basic to the photography market and show no sign of diminishing in prevalence twenty-five years after his death.

Related Posts:

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Ansel Adams Gallery

“Black And White Prints, Collectors And Philip Hyde” Fine Art Photography Collector’s Resource

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” National Parks Traveler

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Travel Blissful

“Review: Ansel Adams In The National Parks” JMG Galleries

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Photonaturalist

Monday Blog Blog: Creative Landscape Photography By Guy Tal

February 7th, 2011

Reviewed, Revelled And Recommended: Guy Tal’s New E-Book, Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition

Cover For "Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition" by Guy Tal.

The goal is not to make you creative. Whether you know it or not, you already are. The chal­lenge, rather, is learning to tap into and focus your creativity and to help it find its ultimate expression in a photographic image.  –Guy Tal

“In his new e-book “Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition,” Guy Tal starts by going back to the basics, yet continues on far beyond the basics. Guy Tal shows you how to identify and develop the concept of each photograph. He also shows you how to train your mind and eye to recognize elements that can become photographs in scenes and objects around you.

He encourages you to discover what moves you emotionally in nature and then what to do with that to make more powerful landscape photographs. “The more profound your feelings, the more moving and interesting your work will be,” Guy Tal said in “Creative Landscape Photography.” This new e-book is inspirational in nature, much like Guy Tal’s popular blog/journal.

A quote from Minor White sets the tone for Guy Tal’s exercises on taking a visual inventory, telling the story of your image, developing the concept and visualization:

I seek out places where it can happen more readily, such as deserts or mountains or solitary areas, or by myself with a seashell, and while I’m there get into states of mind where I’m more open than usual. I’m waiting, I’m listening. I go to those places and get myself ready through meditation. through being quiet and willing to wait, I can begin to see the inner man and the essence of the subject in front of me. – Minor White

This quote by Minor White reminds me of the inner techniques learned by the photographers who studied with Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White in the first 10 years of the photography department during what is now being called the Golden Decade at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. Each of the Golden Decade photographers I have interviewed or photographed with, said that getting into this quiet, creative space is one of the more important skills they learned in photography school.

The California School of Fine Arts photographers also learned about visualization. Guy Tal defines and quantifies the process for easier absorbtion. His Visualization checklist gives you various aspects of the photograph and its making in your mind ahead of time including contrast, dynamic range, composition, exposure and a number of others.

Guy Tal also recommends slowing down and making photographs at a pace where you can take a break and come back to your work. “Looking at anything for too long may color your judgment,” Guy warns. “Before releasing the shutter, take a step back, close your eyes for a few seconds, reopen them, and examine your composition anew.

“Creative Landscape Photography” provides guidelines and productive exercises, but cautions against the overuse of rules:

…No work of art hanging in the Louvre was painted by numbers, renowned chefs did not become so by following cookbook recipes, and Nobel prizes are not awarded for repeating somebody else’s achievements. On the other hand, progress is often made by those standing on the shoulders of giants, and age-old wisdom should not be dismissed. Take the gifts of the elders and develop them forward. Contribute something of your own making for future generations.

Throughout the e-book you will find Guy Tal’s own magnificent landscape photographs as high quality examples of each of the concepts he presents.

The only improvement the e-book needs is in diagrams. It needs more diagrams and maybe even pictures to help explain the text in the histogram chapter and other more technical sections. There are some diagrams, that are excellent. The e-book needs more.

The text is loaded with other small chunks of wisdom that will bring new results:

Though some critics and collectors prize specialization and consistency, you can decide at a later time how to structure your portfolio and what to present to whom. When out in the field, though, try to silence all voices other than your own…. To many advanced photographers, finding and developing a distinct and recognizable personal style is the pinnacle of creative expression. Many, however, fall into the trap of placing more emphasis on a recognizable style rather than a personal one.

Guy Tal does not skimp on solid real-world advice. He goes into some depth on a number of technical issues while his writing about these remains accessible to non-technical readers. I enjoyed his discussion of exposure and the use of the histogram to ensure detail in your entire photograph. Besides being about creative composition, Guy Tal also gives us highly instructive chapters and sections on other considerations of image capture. Besides using the histogram to maximize detail, he also explains how to arrange settings for the best captures when you intend to stitch two or more images to get detail in both highlights and shadows.

To wind up, Guy Tal carries us through presentation options, final print size, matting, signing, even lighting and hanging, and other final considerations.

While Guy Tal clearly believes in getting the most out of the digital darkroom to enhance the final performance of the print, he also shows a dedication to a certain aesthetic of realism and explains why it is important. Guy Tal’s next photographic e-book will be about creative processing techniques for creative landscape photography.

I strongly believe that photography is the most restrictive of the visual arts but at the same time has the potential to make the most impact for one simple reason: photographs have a binding connection with real events, real elements, real light, and real moments in time. Any blatant departure from these realities can cause an image to be dismissed regardless of other aesthetic qualities.

To order “Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition” go to Guy Tal Photography E-Book In PDF Format.

For more insights on important concerns read two recent blog posts by Guy Tal, “Photography and the Environment” and “Macro Environmentalism.”

Color Magazine Feature Out Now

January 4th, 2011

Cirios Silhouettes At Sundown, Baja California, Mexico, 1984 by Philip Hyde. This photograph appears on the title page of the March 2011, Issue 12 of Color Magazine, along with 14 other photographs in the feature article.

March Issue #12 Of Color Magazine Featuring Philip Hyde In Stores Now

At home I have three file safe drawers full of clippings of articles either by or about my father master landscape photographer Philip Hyde. The article files start in 1947 and keep going right past Dad’s passing in 2006, up to the present.

A recent issue of Outdoor Photographer contained a well-written feature about Point Reyes by Sean Arbabi that mentions Dad’s photography there, along with that of Ansel Adams, Brett Weston and other great landscape masters. The piece even mentioned that my father’s photographs helped to make Point Reyes a National Seashore. That was one of the better articles.

A few of the articles in my file safes about Dad are excellent. Some even from the very best magazines are riddled with inaccuracies and misconceptions. The majority are essentially mediocre in that they don’t dig very deep or say much that hasn’t been said before. The majority of writers just don’t make those one or two extra phone calls that turn the article into a multi-source story with more dimension. This is mainly because publishers don’t pay writers much for their submissions any more. With this backdrop, imagine the unfortunate freelance writer, David Best, also a photographer in his own right and known as Panoramaman, writing me and telling me he wants me to review his rough draft for his feature on Philip Hyde for Color Magazine.

Color Magazine is one of the most respected photography magazines today, especially for collectors of fine art photography, along with Black and White Magazine, both published by Ross Periodicals. All along Color Magazine planned to do a feature article on Philip Hyde, but they did not want it to follow too soon after their article on Eliot Porter.

David Best interviewed me over a year ago. I thought he asked excellent questions in the interview. It went very well. Then he sent me his article. I warned him I would beat him up on the details. To my pleasant surprise his draft did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of Dad’s love of nature, while also presenting the story of his landscape photography career in a quality, smooth-flowing narrative that showed a fine dexterity with words. I did beat him up to make sure the facts were straight. I’m not sure he was very happy about it, but I went on to also give a hard time to the friendly, conscientious editor John Lavine to get the facts correct too. He said David Best took it all in stride. Regardless, between David Best’s superlative prose and the layout and photograph selection by John Lavine, in my opinion the final article is one of the best ever written about Dad, which is saying a great deal considering there are 63 years of articles in my file drawers.

Do yourself a favor and go out to the bookstore or newsstand and grab your own copy of this excellent magazine. The current issue with Philip Hyde in it is Issue 12, March 2011. It will be on retail shelves through March, but I wouldn’t wait because every time I have gone to get Color Magazine it has been sold out.

For more on the history of color landscape photography and Philip Hyde’s role in it see also the blog post, “How Color Came To Landscape Photography.” To read how color landscape photography changed after 1990, see the blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?

Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening

September 9th, 2010

Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening, Vintage Philip Hyde Print Is The First To Sell

Title Wall, Golden Decade Exhibition, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde.

Over 500 people turned out for the Marin County opening reception of the Golden Decade Exhibition and Golden Decade pre-publication launch at Smith Andersen North Gallery in San Anselmo, California on Saturday, September 4th from 6 pm to 9 pm. The first prints from the show to sell in the morning before the opening were Philip Hyde’s 4X5 contact print “San Francisco Piers and Waterfront” and Stan Zrnich’s 5X7 contact print “South Pier, Bay Bridge.” Out of over 150 vintage black and white prints from 32 students at the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute, over 30 prints sold the first night.

Front Room, Golden Decade Exhibition, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde.

“There is currently a lot of energy around the work from this period,” said Scott Nichols, a downtown San Francisco photography gallery owner and collector of Scott Nichols Gallery. Scott Nichols has the largest collection of Brett Weston in the world. The 32 photographers featured in the Golden Decade Exhibition were students at the California School of Fine Arts after World War II, in the first decade of Ansel Adams‘ photography department when he hired Minor White as lead instructor, Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham and Lisette Model as guest instructors and Edward Weston as field instructor. Former students John Upton, David Johnson and Stan Zrnich all spoke about their experiences at the school and their lives in photography.

Stefan Kirkeby, Smith Andersen North Gallery Owner, Sunday Morning After Golden Decade Opening, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Stefan Kirkeby finally gets a chance to see a bit of the book. "I'm knocked out," Stefan said after hosting, curating, matting and framing the show in his in-house frame shop.

“I’ve never seen so many people at a gallery opening,” said Smith Andersen North proprietor Stefan Kirkeby. “There were people packed into the front and spilling out into the street, in the back and outside on the patio. They went through 250 oysters in two hours.” Smith Andersen North Gallery is equipped with large garage doors in front and most of the front of the building can open wide right onto the sidewalk. The Golden Decade Exhibition, scheduled to wrap up at 9 pm, raged on and finally closed down around 11:30 pm. At around 8:25 pm the surrounding neighborhoods looked as though a concert had just let out. Hundreds of people were moving toward their cars and traffic was snarled in surrounding streets. “It was sardine night,” said Stan Zrnich the next morning.

Smith Andersen North presented The Golden Decade Exhibition in conjunction with the release of the book The Golden Decade by former students Cameron Macaluley, William Heick and Ira Latour with Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball daughter of former student Don Whyte. (Website links and more information to come.)

Golden Decade photographers also include Pirkle JonesRuth Marion Baruch, Philip Hyde, William Heick, Pat Harris, Bob Hollingsworth, Cameron Macauley, Ira LatourBenjamen Chinn, Rose MandelGerald RattoJohn Upton and others. Their work has been represented in important photographic historical events such as The Family of Man Exhibition (1955, New York and international venues) and The Perceptions Exhibition (1954, San Francisco), and many of these photographers were prominently featured in the early issues of Aperture magazine when Minor White was editor.

Frame Selection Area, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Besides developing a strong following of photography collectors, Smith Anderson North also is a leading framer for major museums in Northern California. Stefan Kirkeby just completed installation of the famous Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He mats on 8-ply Rising Board with archival hinge mats and hand-made paper corners. The frames are hand-made of poplar, ash and other hardwoods. Wooden frames have a much nicer feel than metal frames, don't catch on clothing or packing materials and are perfect for traveling shows because if they get dinged they can be sanded down and repainted. An 11X14 museum frame retails for $200.

The Golden Decade Exhibition runs through October 15, 2010. For more specifics see the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography.” For an updated article on the ongoing show see the Fine Art Photography Collector’s Resource Blog post called, “500 People Attend Golden Decade Exhibition.” Also, more description and information about the Golden Decade Opening itself can be found on the Large Format Photography Forum. The Contra Costa Times and other papers announced the Golden Decade Exhibition and Stefan Kirkeby ran a full-page advertisement in Black and White Magazine for the show. To learn more about the Golden Decade of photography in San Francisco and the California School of Fine Arts see the blog posts, “Photography’s Golden Era 7” and “Photography’s Golden Era 6.”

Does “Food, Inc.” Apply To Stock Photography?

August 2nd, 2010

A Review Of “Food, Inc.,” A Question And A Questionable Future For Stock Photographers????????

Steamboat Rock, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, 1955 by Philip Hyde. His most published and widely used stock photograph. First published in "This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers" ed. by Wallace Stegner with photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. Also exhibited nationwide.

(See the photograph full screen CLICK HERE.)

This is in part a review of “Food, Inc.” and in part a warning to photographers that the business of stock photography, as well as other types of photography, may well go the way of farming, to a hostile takeover and domination by corporate giants that could care less about quality or about the supplier, or even worse, could bring about the end.

Food, Inc.” is a must-see, even for those of you who believe you know everything there is to know about the decline in food value in the last 100 years and the rise of corporate farming. I was one of you. Besides growing up on my mother’s home-made whole wheat everything, home grown vegetables, scratch-made meals, hand-made butter, cottage cheese, tofu, sea salt and so on, about 15 years ago I found out even more about food through the process of learning to eat and sell dried up green slime (Super Blue-Green Algae). The pitch is that this nutrient-rich dried green pond scum gives us back the nutrients that are no longer in our food. For example, it helps you sell compacted pond scum if you know that it takes 75 bowls of today’s spinach to equal the nutritional content of one bowl of spinach in 1910.

Fear And Loathing In “Food, Inc.”

“Food, Inc.” takes all of this to a whole new plane. “Food, Inc.” not only informs, it horrifies. The New York Times book review of “Food, Inc.” said, “…One of the scariest movies of the year, “Food, Inc.,” an informative, often infuriating activist documentary about the big business of feeding or, more to the political point, force-feeding, Americans all the junk that multinational corporate money can buy. You’ll shudder, shake and just possibly lose your genetically modified lunch.” “Food, Inc.’s” narrator tells us that the food we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than the last 500. In the supermarket and in advertising we see plentiful agrarian images, but when we go behind the scenes we find a factory, not a farm. To get gross right away, “Food, Inc.” explains and shows how the industrial food system that now delivers us most of our supermarket food, is the same system originally perfected to supply fast food chains.

Corporate Takeover, Domination And Takedown

The part that applies to photography, as we will see, is that in 1970 the top five food producers owned 25 percent of the market share of food. Whereas today, the top four producers hold 80 percent of the market. This is the kind of oncoming speeding truck of which it is healthy to be afraid. Speaking of trucks, the average meal in the U.S. travels 1500 miles before we eat it.

After the decline of tobacco, many southern farmers began raising chickens. Chickens used to take three months to raise, now they take 49 days and can barely walk, defecate all over themselves and each other every day and the chicken farmers are for the most part all in debt and under the complete control of Tyson, Purdue or Smithfield Foods.

It is the same story across the board. Take corn, for example. One acre of corn used to produce 20 bushels, now it produces 200, but the water and energy consumption have skyrocketed and the diseases, bugs and weeds rampage if massive spraying doesn’t keep them down. The average American eats 200 pounds of meat a year. This would not be possible without cheap corn feed. Cows are engineered to eat grass. A corn diet produces harmful E. Coli. Besides, on the feedlot they stand ankle deep in their own manure. The hides are coated with manure. Four hundred animals an hour are slaughtered in the slaughterhouse. No wonder some of the E. Coli gets into the meat. “Food, Inc.” relates that in 2008, enough meat was recalled to feed one hamburger to everyone in the U.S. Strangely enough, the Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry. The Head of the FDA is the former Executive Vice President of the National Food Producing Association. So it goes. “Food, Inc.” gets really scary when the film zeroes in on the story of a 2 ½ year old boy who ate a hamburger and then died in 12 days. The culprit hamburger matched a meat recall.

Cows Get Religion But Do People?

On the flip side of it, if you take corn-fed cattle off of the feed lot and feed them grass for five days, they shed 80 percent of the E. Coli in their guts. As the organic farmer interviewed in “Food, Inc.” said, “It is a systemic problem. The typical approach is not to fix the system or look at what might be wrong with the system, but to come up with high-tech fixes that allow the system to go on.” Why is it that you can get a double cheeseburger at McDonalds for 99 cents and you can’t get a head of broccoli for 99 cents? It is no accident that our food system is skewed to the bad calories. They are cheaper because they are subsidized.

“Food, Inc.” concludes that we can vote to change the system three times a day. We can buy from companies that treat workers, animals and the environment with respect. Buy foods grown locally. Shop at local farmer’s markets. Plant a garden. Cook a meal with your family and eat together. Ask your school board to provide healthy school lunches. Tell Congress to enforce safety standards and re-introduce Kevin’s Law. Kevin was the little boy who died from E. Coli poisoning. You can change the world with every bite. “Food, Inc.” is a very well-documented, ambitious, comprehensive and positive film by the end. There are solutions. This is true of food, but is it true of photography? What do you think?

“Food, Inc.” And Stock Photography: The Big Squeeze

In photography, the stock industry has all but imploded due to mismanagement by the largest players. Nonetheless, now textbook companies and many other publishers across the board are only dealing with stock agencies. The individual freelance photographer is becoming less and less welcome to share images. Imagery availability has exploded and those who supply images consistently on a full-time basis are passed over. It is starting to look a lot like chicken farming. The pricing structure has turned upside-down. Where will it end?

Various photographers have written about this. A blog post by Eric Brading on Quazen discusses the “Death of Stock Photography” and why. Moab, Utah landscape photographer Tom Till wrote a blog post called, “HDR Or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Tone Mapping.” Even the New York Times chimes in with, “For Photographers, The Image of a Shrinking Path.” Darwin Wiggett asks if this is, “The End of Stock Photography?” and the answer comes in the title of a post on AU Interactive, “It’s the End of Stock Photography as We Know It, and I Feel Fine,” but MicrostockGroup.com answers that the end is nigh in, “Topic: End of Stock Photography.” And to dig the final shovel full, the Photoshelter Blog has an article titled, “Stock Photography Is Like the Gold Rush and That Didn’t End Well.” So there you have a smattering of current bloggers and experts to safely guide you to what some of them consider the upcoming dead end, and some consider a change to which they have innovative solutions much like “Food, Inc.” Maybe we will just have to find a new source for food in both industries now that the big guy has stamped out the little guys. What do you think? Are we at the end of stock photography, or in some kind of transition or what?