Posts Tagged ‘Ardis Hyde’

Philip Hyde Explored Wilderness In Photographs

February 18th, 2014

Philip Hyde Speaks Out About Respecting And Defending The Five Deserts of North America

By Jane Braxton Little

Note: This article originally titled “Philip Hyde: Exploring World In Photos” by Jane Braxton Little appeared in the Feather River Bulletin on October 7, 1987 just before the release of Drylands: The Deserts of North America. Jane Braxton Little now writes for the Sacramento Bee and magazines such as Audubon, American Forests, Scientific American, Nature Conservancy, Sierra, Native Peoples and many others. She is a full-time freelance writer who travels the world on environmental stories. Drylands is out of print but readily available through used booksellers. See Drylands: The Deserts of North America on Amazon.

Anvil Cloud Over Badlands, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 1975 Philip Hyde. A Drylands image. Philip Hyde was aided in image selection for Drylands by Jim and Carolyn Robertson of Yolla Bolly Press, who packaged the book for publishing by Harcort, Brace, Jovanovich. Yolla Bolly also packaged Galen Rowell's famous book Mountain Light. The Yolla Bolly archive with Drylands and Mountain Light now resides at Stanford University.

Anvil Cloud Over Badlands, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 1975 Philip Hyde. A Drylands image. Philip Hyde was aided in image selection for Drylands by Jim and Carolyn Robertson of Yolla Bolly Press, who packaged the book for publishing by Harcort, Brace, Jovanovich. Yolla Bolly also packaged Galen Rowell’s famous book Mountain Light. The Yolla Bolly archive with Drylands, Mountain Light and others now resides at Stanford University.

Traveling The West

Philip Hyde glanced around his studio lined with full-color landscape photographs in various stages of framing and confessed a yen to travel.

“I haven’t taken any kind of trip for 18 months and I’m beginning to feel it,” Hyde said. “My feet are itchy.” The Mojave, Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Great Basin and Painted Deserts are what have kept Philip Hyde, age 66, at his studio in his home in the Northern Sierra. His new book, Drylands: The Deserts of North America, will be published this month.

Sculpted sand dunes, multicolored lava flows and the surreal cracks of a sun-parched mud patch are among Philip Hyde’s 95 photographs that convey, often with stark simplicity, the complex beauty of North America’s five deserts. Hyde also wrote the text of the new large format coffee table book.

Hidden Complexity In Deserts

“To the casual eye, deserts look like simple places: scattered sage brush, the occasional lizard, bare rock…” Hyde wrote in his introduction. “Yet deserts are not really simple places and the bareness can be deceptive.”

With the publication of Drylands nearly behind him, Hyde has been kept in his studio readying the photographs reproduced in the book for shows at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, opening October 23, and at Lightworks in Sacramento, scheduled to open December 2.

Drylands is the most recent of the many books and calendars that have helped to establish Hyde as one of America’s most respected and experienced landscape photographers. His work has been exhibited nationwide and is represented in major photography collections. While Hyde’s work reflects the diversity of vegetation and topography from Alaskan tundra to the mountains of central Mexico, it projects a singular attitude towards his subject.

Reverence And Discovery In Nature Photography

“I photograph nature with great respect for it,” Hyde said. “I want people to appreciate wilderness and I would like to think that I have had a hand in making them more conscious of nature.” A perfectionist, who chooses his words with precision, Hyde refolds his lunch napkin into its brass ring and labels his studio typewriter with the date he installed a new ribbon. His photographs are the products of a fine eye distinguished by an appreciation for the subtly unusual.

“Photography for me is a discovery process,” Hyde said. “I don’t go to a place and wait. In a place that’s full of pictures, it doesn’t make sense to wait for them to happen. There are too many other pictures waiting to be taken.”

Philip Hyde and his wife Ardis spend an average of three months a year on photographic trips. They have climbed the mountains of Baja California, Mexico, rafted through the Grand Canyon, Rio Grand and many other river canyons, and camped on a glaciated beach in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. Before each trip, Hyde studies the geology and geography of the area and researches it pictorially. Hyde explained, “Basically I’m dealing with the land. I find out what I can about it in advance. When I get there I explore it—and see what happens.”

Environmental Activism And Politics

His travel far from the conventional tourist beats is in step with his environmental politics. An outspoken conservationist, he served as a photographer for the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that originally popularized the large format coffee table book. Hyde produced numerous books for the San Francisco based Sierra Club and worked with many other environmental organizations. He was a major contributor to the first Sierra Club desk calendar and his work continues to appear regularly in new editions, as well as numerous other publications. His pictorial record of Glen Canyon before it was flooded by Lake Powell is just one example of his use of photographs to make political statements.

“My photographs are my voice,” Hyde asserted. “They haven’t hurt people as much as I would have if I got mad and hit them over the head.” He is generally critical of the direction of national politics and specifically critical of the Reagan administration and James Watt, Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior.

“The whole idea of conserving things is more liberal than conservative,” Hyde said. “Conservatism, as practiced in this country is exploitation. It’s big business privilege. It doesn’t jibe with conservation or true conservatism.” Hyde has devoted a lifetime to photography out of a belief in communicating conservation ideals.

Art As Communication More Than Expression

“My philosophy of photography is communication,” He explained. “That rules out getting too far out and too personal—where the communication is so obscure you go to a show and the most banal photograph has three paragraphs of text to explain it. That’s not the true medium of photography. If it needs to be explained, it’s something else.” He also does not advocate art that is different merely for the sake of being different.

“There’s so much talk about creativity,” Hyde said. “Philosophically, I don’t know about creation. It seems to me there is no real need to make nature into something else. If you make a tree into something other than a tree, that’s not photography.”

“The picture doesn’t have to communicate just what the photographer is thinking,” said Hyde. “Let people play around with it. That’s part of the fun.” The best of Hyde’s photographs leave space for the viewer to complete the scene.

Self Made, Self-Reliant And Simple

Hyde does almost all of his own photographic printing in his studio, keeps all of his own clerical records and markets the bulk of his work by himself. Despite the challenges of running a one-man business, he prefers the simplicity of being self-contained to the complexities of being an employer.

“The hardest thing I do is to make things simple,” he said. Hyde recently simplified his printing process by replacing color dye transfer printing with Cibachrome, a color printing process manufactured in Belgium and marketed by an English company. Cibachrome has complexities in the chemical and manufacturing process, not in the print making methods.

When he is at home in the Sierra, Hyde maintains a disciplined schedule, working regular hours in his studio. The house where he and Ardis have lived since 1959 is decorated with clean, understated elegance: hand-made earthenware, Navajo rugs, books, rugs, wall hangings and brass trays from when the Hydes lived in Morocco for a year.  Their food is often picked from Ardis’ garden just up hill from Indian Creek, complimented by her homemade whole wheat bread.

His photographs bear a quest for simplicity, conveying a strong sense of the individuality of a single stone or the moment of a sunset over the Grand Canyon. They are images that may accurately reflect a point in time selectively plucked from a world in constant flux.

“Every day different things are happening. Every day the sun is in a different position… Photography is an exploration more than anything else.”

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 20

October 15th, 2013

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, his wife Ardis and son David in their Avion Camper on a 1968 GMC Utility Body Pickup. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 19.”)

Part 20: Layover Denali National Park (Formerly McKinley National Park) Back to Riley Creek Campground, Denali National Park, Alaska, from Toklat Road Camp and Finally on to Savage River Campground. Monday, July 19, 1971:

Kittiwake Bird Rookery Near Whittier, Alaska, copyright 1971 Philip Hyde.

Kittiwake Bird Rookery Near Whittier, Alaska, copyright 1971 Philip Hyde. Flatbed scan of vintage silver gelatin print. See PhilipHyde.com for full sun photos of Mt. Denali and others of Alaska.

Philip woke up first again. We were back in the sunshine of Riley Creek Campground, where we also camped a few nights ago. Night before last we tried Toklat Road Camp, but crowds there drove us back here. Philip at the wheel, took us out of Riley Creek Campground, while we ate breakfast en route toward Denali National Park Headquarters. We made our first picture stop at Toklat Bridge for the view upstream at the Toklat River with the 4X5 View Camera. The wind was stiff and the sky again beautiful with scattered clouds; an utterly different type from yesterday. A short distance on we stopped for our first view of the day of Mt. Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley). This view was not visible yesterday afternoon. By 6:40 am the sky had become cloudless.

On the climb up the road toward Polychrome Pass a red fox trotted across the road. Philip stopped and pulled out his 35 mm camera. David and I remained in the camper cab. Next thing we knew, the fox was trotting toward us with a half consumed ground squirrel in his mouth. Philip pursued the fox. The fox, while indifferent to us, occasionally stopped and looked back at Philip. He said he thought he had made several good photographs of the fox. As we climbed Polychrome Mountain, we stopped again for a picture across the green valley with tawny lower slopes and snow and rock contrasting higher ridges. We made another stop at Mile 47 for a cold breakfast and another photograph of Mt. Denali in the full sun without a cloud. (See PhilipHyde.com for more photographs of Alaska.)

We proceeded to the next photo stop for the braided pattern of a partially dry stream to the North and another to the East of the braided water streams reflecting in the light. By Mile 46, Mt. Denali was beginning to haul in a few clouds. Just beyond Mile 46 and at the top of Polychrome Pass, Philip stopped again for photographs with the view camera and the 2 ¼ Hasselblad. The next stop at around 9:30 am was for a Hasselblad photograph of Caribou on the skyline of green bald hills climbing to Sable Pass, followed by a 35 mm photograph of a bill Caribou on a snow patch at the top of Sable Pass.

Flat tires had become somewhat routine and we had another one at Sanctuary River. We then drove on to the service station at Park Headquarters. After the tire repair, we went over to the train depot to pick up our mail. We met Celia Hunter of Camp Denali, who was there to pick up her group of guests. After lunch and business taken care of, we drove back to Denali Lakes to visit Ginny Wood and Celia Hunter. As we arrived at Denali Lakes, we heard the hiss of air escaping from the tire we just had fixed. We turned around and retraced our progress back to the service station to have it fixed again. We pulled over to the Train Station area for dinner in the Camper. Off again we went, this time to Savage River Campground. On arrival at Savage River, we heard the familiar hiss of air escaping again. On returning to the service station a third time, we found it closed. Thus ended what was fortunately an unusually clear and warm day in Denali National Park. “Big Muh,” as David called Mt. Denali, was in view the entire day.

(Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 21.”)

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?

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? 

Inherited Nature: Father And Son Exhibit At The Capitol Arts Gallery

April 25th, 2013

Inherited Nature: Photography by Philip Hyde & David Leland Hyde

(Following is a variation of the press release for the show.)

Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. One of the images on display in “Inherited Nature.”

(See the photograph large, “Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California.”)

Plumas Arts will exhibit the historically significant photographs by Philip Hyde that helped to make many of our national parks at the Capitol Art Gallery at 525 Main Street in Quincy, California from May 3 through June 1. An opening reception Friday, May 3, 5-7 pm launches the show.  A special presentation by David Leland Hyde, Philip Hyde’s son, will also be held at the Capitol Arts Gallery on Tuesday, May 14, at 6 pm.

During his 60-year full-time large format film photography career Philip Hyde lived with his wife Ardis in Plumas County for 56 years. His photographs that are part of permanent collections and were shown in venues such as the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, George Eastman House and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, now come home for a rare showing in Plumas County. The Plumas Arts show will be the first local exhibition of its kind since Hyde’s passing in 2006.

Why “Inherited Nature”?

The exhibition, titled “Inherited Nature” will also be unique because it introduces the digital photography of David Leland Hyde, who walked many wilderness miles with his parents and now works to preserve and perpetuate his father’s archives. David Leland Hyde not only inherited his father’s collection, but also his father’s love of nature, art and activism that helped shape his own photography and view of the world. Part of the show naming process included consideration of the double meaning of “nature,” as well as a third double meaning of the phrase which refers to all of us inheriting nature and passing it down as well. One title kicked around was “Nature Passed Down.” The inherited aspect of nature and landscape does not apply only to David Leland Hyde. As far as his photography is concerned, he photographs the landscape because he grew up on the land. However, having lived in cities as well as Plumas County where he was born, David also enjoys architectural, portrait and street photography.

Philip Hyde first made images of the Sierra Nevada at age 16 in 1937 on a Boy Scout backpack in Yosemite National Park with a camera he borrowed from his sister. By 1942 he was making photographs of artistic merit in black and white, and much more rare at the time, in color. In 1945, as he was about to be honorably discharged from the Army Air Corp of World War II, Hyde wrote to Ansel Adams asking for recommendations for photography schools. Adams happened at the time to be finalizing plans for a new photography department at the California School of Fine Art, now the San Francisco Art Institute. The new photography school was the first ever to teach creative photography as a profession. Adams hired Minor White as lead instructor and he brought on teachers who were luminaries and definers of the medium such as Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham.

Living The Understatement Style

Referred to as a quiet and humble giantby prominent landscape photographer QT Luong, Hyde chose to live in the wilderness of Plumas County, sacrificing the greater monetary success of living close to the marketplace of the Bay Area for values more important to him. He set an example of living a simple, close to nature, low-impact lifestyle that becomes more relevant as a model all the time. QT Luong wrote of Philip Hyde:

Living a simple life out of the spotlight, he always felt that his own art was secondary to nature’s beauty and fragility… As an artist, this belief was reflected in his direct style, which appears deceptively descriptive, favoring truthfulness and understatement rather than dramatization.

Philip Hyde spent over one quarter of each year of his career on the back roads, trails, rails, rivers, lakes and ocean coasts of North America making the photographs that influenced a generation of photographers. Today some find it easy to take his compositions for granted, but this mainly happens because they have been emulated countless times. Much of landscape photography today applies principles and techniques developed by Philip Hyde.

Philip Hyde’s Influence On Landscape Photographers

Philip Hyde’s wide sweeping impact started with his role as the primary illustrator of the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, the series that popularized the large coffee table photography book. The series also contained popular titles by Ansel Adams and color photographer Eliot Porter. Eliot Porter, along with Philip Hyde is credited with introducing color to landscape photography. Well known photographer William Neill said, I have little doubt that every published nature photographer of my generation has been inspired by Philip’s efforts.” To read William Neill’s tribute to Philip Hyde in full, originally published in Outdoor Photographer magazine, see the guest blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.”

Just as Philip Hyde inspired photographers, his wife Ardis inspired him and traveled as his companion throughout his life and after most would have retired. With Ardis, he built his home near Indian Creek surrounded by woods. Over a two-year period, Philip designed, drew the plans and constructed not only the home with Ardis’ help, but also gathered local river rock for a large fireplace.

Ardis And Philip Hyde At Home

The Hydes first came to Plumas County in 1948 through a chance meeting on a train with Ardis’ friend from college then living at Lake Almanor, who helped Philip Hyde land a summer job in Greenville at the Cheney Mill. Having a young college kid from the city endlessly amused the other workers at the sawmill. One time young Philip even fell into the stinky millpond, which drew great laughter and a ticket home for the day to photograph. Ardis taught kindergarten and first grade for 12 years to help supplement Philip’s photography efforts beginning in 1950 when the Hydes settled in Plumas County.

While living in Plumas County for 56 years, Philip Hyde also actively contributed to the community. He was a founding artist member of Plumas Arts and contributed funds to provide lighting in the gallery. He was also one of the founders of the Plumas County Museum. He hired the architect Zach Stewart, whose famous architectural firm had hired both Hyde and Adams as photographers. Stewart charged the Plumas County Museum much less than usual for his architectural services and as a result the Plumas County Museum had money left over for a small investment fund that has helped it perpetuate for the many years since.

A portion of all proceeds from the exhibition will go directly to the Feather River Land Trust and Plumas Arts, continuing Philip Hyde’s tradition of contribution to the community.

Gallery Hours for the exhibition are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11am to 5:30pm and Saturdays form 11am to 3pm.  Arrangements may also be made for viewings outside these times by calling Plumas Arts at 530-283-3402.

Interview By Joseph Munoz On “The Common Good” KQNY 91.9 FM Radio

April 11th, 2013

Interview Of David Leland Hyde By Joseph Munoz, Host Of “The Common Good” On KQNY 91.9 FM Plumas Community Radio: The Sound Of The Lost Sierra, “Real Radio for Real People.”

Airs On KQNY 91.9 FM Tuesday Mornings and Thursday Afternoons

Tuesday, April 16, from 10-11 am

Thursday, April 18, from 7-8 pm

Tuesday, April 23, 10-11 am

Thursday, April 25, 7-8 pm

NEW ADDED TIMES!

Tuesday, April 30, 10-11 pm

Wednesday, May 1, 10-11 am

(All Times Listed Are Pacific Standard Time.)

Also Airs WORLD WIDE Streaming Online At: www.KQNY919.org

(At The Same Times)

KQNY-LogoJoseph Munoz asks David Leland Hyde about growing up exploring and wilderness traveling with his mother and father Ardis and Philip Hyde, representing Philip Hyde with photography galleries, the transcendental view of nature, what it’s like being the son of a “famous photographer,” Sierra Club Books, the upcoming May 3-June 3, 2013 Philip Hyde And David Leland Hyde Plumas Arts Show at the Capitol Arts Gallery in Quincy, California and whether Quincy is becoming an Artist’s Retreat or Colony.

The Common Good Radio Show on KQNY 91.9 FM is a local Feather River Region community affairs talk show. Joseph Munoz is the host and moderator. The Common Good’s mission is to provide a forum to inform citizens of the communities in Plumas County, Sierra County and Lassen County about “past or current matters of public interest.” The approach on The Common Good is to bring to light these local affairs “in an objective, non-partisan way and to permit persons of differing views to speak in their own voice. Enlightened thinkers like John Locke believed that a free marketplace of ideas will always promote the common good in almost every aspect of society.”

Joseph Munoz, a professor, educator and administrator at Feather River College, won the Hayward Award for Excellence In Education. Feather River College in Quincy, California was recently named one of the top 10 academic community colleges in all California.

Previous guests on The Common Good have included Rob Wade, coordinator of Learning Landscapes, an outdoor classroom program for each of the schools in the Plumas Unified School District; Paul Hardy, the Executive Director of the Feather River Land Trust; and Bill Coats, one of the founders of The Quincy Library Group, nationally recognized for research and mediation of timber and lumber environmental conflicts.

Living The Good Life 3

February 21st, 2013

Living the Good Life, Part Three

The Change Of Seasons

(Continued from the blog post, “Living The Good Life 2.”)

“When I hear people say they have not found the world, or life so interesting as to be in love with it, I am apt to think they have never seen with clear vision the world they think so meanly of, nor anything in it, not even a blade of grass.”  –W. H. Hudson

“I have moments, in these days of national gloom, financial depression, ‘hard times’, when I feel it my duty to be sad, or at least cynical—but cannot be—not in spring.”  –David Grayson, 1936, from The Countryman’s Year.

Looking Back

Oak Trunks, Maples, Fall Snow On Ardis Hyde's "Ornamentals" Garden, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2012 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Featured in the upcoming David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.

Oak Trunks, Maples, Fall Snow On Ardis Hyde’s “Ornamentals” Garden, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2012 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Featured in the upcoming David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.

Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, provided much of the basis for how Ardis and Philip Hyde lived at home. In the blog post, “Living the Good Life 1,” guest blogger Nancy Presser and I introduced Helen and Scott Nearing and looked at how they led the back to the land movement of the 1950s. We also looked at how my parents, Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail of a photography project, in their own quiet way adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.” In the blog post, “Living The Good Life 2,” we reviewed Ardis and Philip Hyde’s upbringing and how this brought them eventually to the country and to their own land. In the following third episode, I write about the seasons on that land and unravel how my parents ensured they would have freedom in life.

Ardis Hyde’s Bookshelves

Besides what she once called “our Bible,” Helen and Scott Nearing’s Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, Ardis Hyde had many other books on gardening, living on the land and country living philosophy on her bookshelves. One of them of particular inspirational content was The Countryman’s Year by David Grayson.

In The Countryman’s Year, David Grayson, while placing his experiences and observations within “the magic circle of the seasons” described his own “Good Life”:

Many years ago I came to the hillside in the town of Amherst where I now live. I bought a few acres of land and built a house. I planted trees and cultivated my garden. I kept bees. I made good friends among my neighbors. Here I have known the best, I think, that comes to any man—times of sight that is also insight.

The Change of Seasons As A Rite of Passage

My mother Ardis reveled in the change of seasons. I learned from her and my father to joyfully anticipate the subtle indicators of change in nature. My mother kept a written log of our family experiences and events, which could easily also be organized around the four seasons. When living close to the land, the seasons are telltale mile markers to keep you awake and aware of your progress or lack thereof, and to remind you that your progress or lack thereof is only fleeting, eventually immaterial in the big scheme of all life. Your own work and life are kept in perspective and relevance to the life around you by the disappearing and returning of life with the time of year.

This Year The Seasons Are All Mixed Up

This year, 2012 into 2013, summer lingered long with Indian summer blue skies and white, puffy unicorn-rainbow-dreamy clouds flitting and skidding merrily around the heavens. Autumn or fall, as we always called it, took a long time to arrive and segued out of summer without much effort. It was hard to distinguish summer from fall and they both carried on much longer than usual. Some tree leaves such as those from the Maples and Aspens turned yellow, orange and red on schedule, while the Black Oaks were late and the Alders, Willows and Cottonwoods hardly changed yellow or orange, but way behind schedule mainly went straight to brown. Finally in November, fall acquired a little of its usual bite and the leaves, having taken a long time to shed their green for brighter colors on many species of trees, suddenly began to blow free in the gusts of wind and drift to the ground.

Just as the leaves started to fall, while the fall color show was still in full swing, suddenly winter blasted in from the Arctic and the Gulf of Alaska with over a foot of snow. We had been swimming in Indian Creek two weeks before the snow began to fly. I had been feverishly photographing the fall color because I had almost completely missed fall in 2011. As a result, my portfolio was a bit thin on fall color photographs. I made up for it fall of 2012. I had been photographing four to five hours a day for months. The arrival of snow brought, I thought, an anticipated break. However, I discovered that snow over the top of fall colors offered a whole new range of possibilities that screamed to be photographed thoroughly. I set to work on this, but found that snow while adding great glory to the cloak of fall, also stripped the cloak away and hastened the march into the barren days of dead winter.

Winter And Spring March On

Last year and the year before, winter seemed to drag on forever, but this year though it hit hard early and stung deep with unusual cold and ice, it seems now to be flying right by. After all, we are just a few weeks away from the first flowers, the snowdrops, which are regularly scheduled to appear within the first week of March. In the early 1960s my mother wrote that the snowdrops were appearing in early April, but for the last 10 years I have observed them arriving in early March. In The Countryman’s Year, David Grayson began his narrative “with the first shy touches of spring” on April 1, when the land is locked in “Endless winter, raw and cold.” New England loosens its grip on winter less easily than the Northern Sierra of California.

For my mother February meant fertilizing. March began preparation for the planting of vegetable starts. This year in February we were doing fall’s leaf raking because fall offered no time to rake the fallen leaves before the snow buried them. The first original snow stayed on the ground for three months until mid February because it froze in place and turned to pure ice while more snow piled on top.

The Nearings’ Philosophy On Seasons And Livelihood

The only mention of seasons by Helen and Scott Nearing in Living The Good Life is in regard to the maple syrup season:

People brought up on a money economy are taught to believe in the importance of getting and keeping money. Time and again folk told us, “You can’t afford to make syrup. You won’t make any money that way.” One year a neighbor, Harold Field, kept a careful record of the labor he put in during the syrup season and of the sale price of his product, and figured that he got only 67 cents an hour for his time. In view of these figures, the next year he did not tap out because sugaring paid less than wage labor. But, during that syrup season he found no chance to work for wages, so he didn’t even make the 67 cents an hour. Our attitude was quite different. We kept careful cost figures, but we never used them to determine whether we should or should not make syrup. We tapped our trees as each tap season came along. Our figures showed us what the syrup had cost. When the season was over and the syrup on hand, we wrote to various correspondents in California or Florida, told them what our syrup had cost, and exchanged our product for equal value of their citrus, walnuts, olive oil or raisins. As a result of these transactions, we laid in a supply of items at no cash outlay, which we could not ourselves produce. Our livelihood base was broadened as the result of our efforts in the sugar bush and the sap house.

The Nearings were interested in self-reliance and setting up their own “self-contained household unit,” independent from the money economy around them:

The Great Depression had brought millions of bread-winners face to face with the perils which lurked for those who, in a commodity economy based on wage-paid labor, purchase their livelihood in the open market. The wage and salary workers did not own their own jobs, nor did they have any part in deciding economic policy, nor in selecting those who carried policy into effect. The many unemployed in 1932 did not lose their jobs through any fault of their own, yet they found themselves workless, in an economy based on cash payment for the necessities, necessaries and decencies. Though their incomes had ceased, their outgo for food, shelter and clothing ate up their accumulated savings and threw them into debt. Since we were proposing to go on living in this profit-price economy, we had to accept its dread implications or find a workable alternative. We saw this alternative in a semi-subsistence livelihood.

Self-Reliance Versus Making Money

The Nearings raised their own food, bartered for what they did not produce, used wood for fuel, built their own buildings from materials gathered from their land, made their own tools as much as possible and kept down their use and acquisition of tools and gadgets made by “the assembly lines of big business.” If they had to have any of these, they rented them for short periods of time. They did not focus on making money, but produced enough cash crop each year for their livelihood and then beyond that turned their efforts “toward social activities, toward avocations such as reading, writing, music making, toward repairs or replacement of our equipment.” They kept all of their operations on a cash and carry basis, incurring no debts or mortgages. The Hydes applied much this same philosophy. They agreed with the Nearings stance on money:

Ideas of “making money” or “getting rich” have given people a perverted view of economic principles. The object of economic effort is not money, but livelihood. Money cannot feed, clothe or shelter. Money is a medium of exchange, a means of securing the items that make up livelihood.

Employing this outlook toward making money did not bring Philip Hyde fame in the traditional sense. He became known for defending wilderness, but he spent more of his time working on conservation campaigns than approaching photography galleries or arranging large exhibitions with major museums, unless they came to him. He and my mother lived life on their own terms, beholden to no one. They were not slaves to tight schedules for workshops, speaking engagements, touring exhibitions and book signings. A few of these events went a long way. Mom and Dad were then free to sit out on their deck and observe the birds arriving in the spring, or to enjoy the dropping of the air temperatures in the evening that signals the approach of fall.

What Is Freedom? Who Is Free?

Walt Whitman offered some guidance:

After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on—have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear—what remains? Nature remains: to bring out from their torpid recesses the affinities of a man or woman with the open air—the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.

While I’m here and not at my place in Colorado, I often look out at the same scene that my parents looked at most of their lives, living here in their paradise on earth. I realize that I have become too much a slave to the dollar, too much a cog in the machine. I see that the internet has in some ways given me freedom, but in others has made me much more dependent on the system and stolen my time. I would much rather read a good classic than yet another article on why I need to “maximize my social media presence.” At least I have the seasons and nature to remind me of what is real, to help me recall who I am and why I am here.

Recommended Reading (Please Show Your Appreciation And Help Us Out By Ordering Through These Links)

Busting Loose From the Money Game: Mind-Blowing Strategies for Changing the Rules of a Game You Can’t Win by Robert Scheinfeld

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa

The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy And Environment by Chris Martenson

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems by Van Jones

Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender by Thomas H. Greco

The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered by John Michael Greer

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience by Rob Hopkins

Love Is the New Currency by Linda Commito

The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality by Richard Heinberg

The Growth Illu$ion: How Economic Growth Has Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet by Richard Douthwaite

(Continued in the blog post, “Living The Good Life 4.”)

Does nature help you remember who you are? How do you celebrate or observe the change of seasons?

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 19

December 27th, 2012

 Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, his wife Ardis and son David in their Avion Camper on a 1968 GMC Utility Body Pickup. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 18.”)

Part Nineteen: Riley Creek Campground, Denali National Park, Alaska (Formerly McKinley National Park) to Toklat Road Camp, Denali National Park, Alaska

Polychrome Pass, Alaska Range, Alaska, copyright 1971 Philip Hyde.

Polychrome Pass, Alaska Range, Alaska, copyright 1971 Philip Hyde.

Sunday, July 18, 1971:  At 4:00 a.m. Philip woke up and slipped outside for 2 ¼ Hasselblad photographs of the sunrise and sky full of pink, puffy clouds. He came back in to bed until 6:00 am when I got up for a shower. The sun was streaming in through the now more stretched out wind blown clouds. It promised to be a clear day. We got away from the campground by 7:30 a.m. Our first stop was on the pass between Denali Park Station and Savage River. It was glorious to watch Mount Denali come out from behind the brown slopes of Double Mountain in absolute clear and total white form. Rolling shrubbery covered the foreground interspersed with some spruce. As Philip took pictures toward the west of Mount Denali, clouds came across the mountain’s face. He had going both his 4X5 Baby Deardorff View Camera and the medium format Hasselblad with the 250 mm lens on it. More views and photographs to the east for the lovely clouds. As we left this spot, South Peak was cloud swathed. At the next stop, just past the Savage River Bridge, Philip pointed the view camera east again where zeppelin clouds sailed over the peaks.

About Mile 18, we stopped for 35 mm photographs of cloud wrapped Mount Denali. He also made large format photographs of bar type zeppelin clouds to the east at the next stop near the Sanctuary River. We drove past the Teklanika River Campground to a small pond on the left with bent grass. The air was very cool with a stiff breeze blowing. We had lunch on the far side of Teklanika Bridge. After lunch we passed through the narrowing Igloo Canyon bounded by grassy slopes. The road narrowed and roughened as it climbed to Sable Pass. Before getting that far, we stopped behind a procession of cars looking at and photographing a young bull caribou. After we passed the caribou crowd, we drove on to the top of the pass and stopped for pictures of Tundra and flowers called Mertensia. Philip made a 35 mm photograph of a ground squirrel too. Just beyond David said, “There’s old Mount McKinley.” Sure enough, (now called) Mount Denali rises here above the colorful volcanic hills. Our next break from the road at 2:00 p.m. came at a road cut flower garden down from Sable Pass a little further. The road cut flower garden contained Arnica, Bush Cingul Foil, Spotted Saxifrage, Anenome, all captured with Philip’s 35 mm camera. Just before the East Fork Bridge we turned onto a service road for photographs of a braided stream flowing out of the colorful volcanic ridge gully. Once we crossed East Fork Bridge and climbed up the dug way that looks out over the alluvial fans of the Polychrome Hills, we stopped against the cliff. Philip walked on around the bend for view camera photographs. He also spotted the young caribou again, without the observing crowd and photographed him with the 35 mm.

At the top of Polychrome Pass we parked again while Philip took photographs of the view with the Hasselblad. The clouds had become almost solid and it looked like rain. We approached the Toklat River and halted by the bridge. With the binoculars I detected an animal on the distant side of the riverbed and a row of people at the road edge with cameras and binoculars. We moved on across the bridge where we could see it was a grizzly bear flaked out for a nap in the gravel. Shortly we saw there were also three caribou lying down, but with heads up watching the bear in the gravel beyond the grizzly. All three caribou were males, ranging from a young one with immature antlers to a bull with a very large full rack. For the next half hour we watched Philip photographing the bear with both small and medium format cameras. David was right along side his father with his “play” defunct camera. David looked over at me and said, “Mom, isn’t this fun?” The grizzly finally stood up, pawed around in the stream, then ambled into the brush in our direction. Philip made a few closer pictures, then into the camper to head on up onto the Toklat Campground slope. The campground turned out to be very small and congested. We had dinner and watched David’s “Eskimo Demonstration” igloo complete with a broom. David wore his nappy jacket and called himself a bear, then he became an Eskimo hunting in his skin boat and so on. Philip packaged up roll film while two Golden Eagles soared over the ridge top above the campground. During the night about 2:00 a.m. while it was still twilight, we heard a horn blowing and dogs barking. It turns out that the grizzly had come to visit the campground. A man from Quebec in a small car near us asked Philip as he stuck his head out the camper door, “Did you see the bear?” Philip shook his head “no” in surprise. “He was shaking my car,” the Canadian said. Just then, the Park Ranger came to the rescue and drove off the bear with a gun firing blanks.

Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 20.”

 What kind of bear encounter(s) have you had?

Happy Holidays…?…!

December 20th, 2012

My Mother’s Christmas

Christmas Tree Soft, Rough Rock, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 David Leland Hyde.

First A Preview And Review

Been a challenging year. Lost two out of three uncles. Relationship ups and down. Business reinvention. Stalled remodeling. Derailed writing projects. Trying to do too much with too little resources. My own photography is saving me, helping to keep me fit, serving as an outlet. Made some breakthroughs in other areas too. Retreading, retreating, retrofitting, reorganizing, organizing, and self-re-recognizing.

Wears me out just to think about this year. A year dominated by Pluto, the god of death and transformation. God of power struggles, the underworld, the subconscious, money, power, sex, transcendence, inner demons, destruction, devastation, hope, oil, gasoline, water, floods, hurricanes, nuclear accidents, secrets, lies, deception, corruption, realization, inspiration.

All that is now in the past. Coming into this moment: the smell of Douglas fir needles and the fresh cut trunk of the new Christmas tree. Colored points of light reflecting off the black windows at night. Smelling black oak and ponderosa pine smoke from the fire blazing in the woodstove. Walking carefully outside, everything sparkles, covered with tiny crystals of ice.

I am teetering on the razor edge of the present and then slipping back into the past, a farther past. Christmas has not been the same since 2002 when my mother passed on. Gazing into the Christmas tree, I am transported back to memories of turkey, dressing, pies, big salads, presents all around the room. Christmas carols and bells jingling. A poem I wrote in 2005 can best bridge the gap from here to there. It was a poem about how my mother used to make Christmas…

My Mother’s Christmas

By David Leland Hyde
Written March 12, 2005

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

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

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

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

I Would Apologize Too: A Letter To Mother Earth

August 23rd, 2012

I Would Apologize To Mother Earth Also, Except That Implied In An Apology Is The Intent To Stop Committing The Offense, Which I Am Working Toward, But Have Not Yet Achieved…

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Something about fast food, the Catholic Church, electric wires powered by San Francisco’s electricity grid and a sky turned apocalyptic in a pleasant Photoshop surprise, seemed appropriate to post again with this would be apology. Available as an archival fine art digital print.

(See the photograph large, “Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California.”)

Recently master photographer Youssef M. Ismail of Organic Light Photography wrote a blog post titled, “I’m Sorry – An Open Letter To Mother Earth.” This beautifully written expose is also an openhearted lament for what we humans have done to our home planet Earth. Echoing Youssef M. Ismail’s sentiments, talented photo blogger Monte Stevens made a blog post in his own words that he called, “I also apologize.” I would like to continue the trend and the tradition by adding my own message to the conversation.

The Holocaust?

I was also inspired to write this blog post by the holocaust that is currently transpiring. That’s right, I said holocaust: bigger than any holocaust we’ve ever seen of humans. I’m talking about the animal holocaust, the wholesale slaughter of our feathered and furry friends and relatives, directly by murder and indirectly through the destruction of their habitat.

Part of what also inspired me to write this letter to Mother Earth was an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone by Bill McKibben called,  “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math: Three Simple Numbers That Add Up To Global Catastrophe – And That Make Clear Who The Real Enemy Is.” Bill McKibben has authored important books such as The End of Nature, The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change, American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau with Al Gore, The Age of Missing InformationDeep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future and others.

“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”

In his Rolling Stone article, Bill McKibben reminded us that in 2009 world leaders signed the “Copenhagen Accord” agreeing that the most our civilization can survive is a two degree Celsius increase in global temperature. Two degrees is the fatal first number. Scientists estimate that we can pollute the atmosphere with approximately 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide and still remain below the two-degree safety limit. This is the safe second number. Engineers have since calculated that the amount of carbon in proven coal, oil and gas reserves is five times what will produce the pollution to exceed the safe two-degree temperature increase. That is, we have more than 2,795 gigatons of carbon already discovered and big oil and energy companies are still looking. This third and scariest third number is the amount of carbon already known, that if burned, will produce a planet 11 degrees warmer and “straight out of science fiction,” wrote Bill McKibben. This means that we need to convince Big Oil, gas and coal companies to keep 80 percent of fossil fuel in the ground. What it comes down to is that as a species, we humans need to let go of greed, the fear of not having enough, to survive. Strange that it’s necessary to let go of the fear of death to avoid experiencing it.

Is “Big Oil” Or “You And I” To Blame?

Therefore, to begin with, after I stop doing it, I will apologize to planet Earth for my part in continuing to drive automobiles and run other engines that burn fossil fuel, thereby supporting and fueling big oil’s greed addiction. For more on Big Oil’s greed addiction, see the blog post, “Exxon Profits $11 Billion As Oil Prices Skyrocket.” I drive much less than the average American, diligently combine trips and carpool, stay home a lot rather than “going out,” but I am still part of the problem. I could blame it on the car companies for not offering me convenient and reasonably priced alternatives, but other options are out there and have been for some time. There are diesel conversions to make it possible to burn biodiesel and there are electric vehicles available now, bicycles, horses, no I’m not joking, and many other ways of getting around besides petroleum powered automobiles. I live in a rural area and notice that many of my neighbors will drive the 54 miles round trip to Quincy, California or the 212 miles round trip to Reno, Nevada, several on the same day. If these neighbors took a little time to communicate with each other, or set up a system to notify each other when they would drive to town, we could all make travel and errands into social events. We are so addicted to convenience that we often “take separate cars” to the same event.

Alternatives have existed for cleaners, detergents and other household soaps and products for many years. I am sad that I have been aware of these alternatives for at least 20 years. I have made a point of using some of them, but up until the last few years I still used some toxic cleaners and other household products. Detergents that contain phosphates inevitably work their way into streams, rivers and lakes fertilizing algae and causing it to grow out of control killing native fish and other water dwelling beneficial insects, animals and plants.

I do recycle, compost and have a grey water system saving water and energy, but I could do much more. I eat locally when I can, but I often eat foods from far away lands, thereby increasing the fuel costs and my carbon footprint. I will apologize for this too, when I stop doing it.

Is Meat A Problem?

I still eat meat, but need to cut back. Humans are meant to be omnivores, not gluttons. In North America, the sustainable practice would be to get rid of the cattle that are destructive to the land, inefficient with resources and provide a lower quality meat that has a higher fat content than meat from the original native species: buffalo, or the American Bison. It is not the eating of meat that is a problem, but the quantity that Americans consume that poses a resource problem. If Americans reduced our meat intake just 10 percent, we could feed 60 million more people around the world. Science has proven we eat many times the protein necessary for our health, not to mention the consumption of fat and grease that leads to many diseases. For the overeating of protein, I apologize.

I apologize to Mother Earth for the toxic substances I use in my everyday life. I feel remorse for being naive and thinking government agencies are here to protect the public from poisons and other harm, when agencies such as the FDA, FTC, DEA, FAA, FCC, FDIC, ICC, NIH, and SEC are corrupt. Government agencies fill their board of director seats with executives from the very companies they are supposed to regulate.

Junk The Junk

Americans receive almost four million tons of junk mail every year, the equivalent of 62 billion pieces, about 240 mail items for every man, woman and child in the country. I am sad to admit that at most times in my life I have not had time to sit down and write every company that sends me junk mail asking them to desist. One year I did do this and had about six months of blissful junk free mail where I only received the mail I wanted before the whole process started all over again. I apologize for not having gone through the process all over again.

Coffee filters, paper towels, paper napkins and other household paper products are not naturally white. I will apologize later when I have stopped adding to the use of these products and instead opt for unbleached paper products or better yet, use washable or recyclable cloth napkins and towels. The bleaching of paper creates dioxin, which is a deadly poison that wipes out all living things in its path through our disposal and waste water systems.

More Apologies To Apply?

I apologize for having kept my hot water heater on high until recent years when I turned it down to a lower setting and bought insulation to keep from wasting heat and maintaining higher energy and carbon use than necessary.

I apologize for the times in my life when I didn’t recycle. I am sad that on those occasions I didn’t take the few minutes necessary to find out what company did the recycling in the area I lived.

Toxic paint both interior and exterior has surrounded me most of my life, but whenever I had to paint anything, I didn’t necessarily use the most Earth friendly product. I didn’t want to spend the extra money or do the research. I apologize. Paint and paint products account for over 60 percent of the toxic chemicals that private individuals dump into landfills.

At certain times in my life I drove on worn out, nearly worn out, unbalanced or under inflated tires, which alone wastes up to two billion gallons of gas per year in the US. I apologize that sometimes when buying tires I have gone the most economical route rather than purchasing the longest lasting, most fuel efficient tires, or just as stated above, cutting down on driving altogether. I have often not paid attention to rotating and balancing tires every five thousand miles.

Simple Actions For A Longer Life On Earth

In the book 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth authors John Javna, Sophie Javna and Jesse Javna explain that we can have a significant effect on the environment simply by maintaining major appliances such as refrigerators, range stoves, air conditioners and others. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that if each of us only increased the efficiency of our appliances by 10-15 percent, we would decrease the demand for electricity by about 25 large power plants nationally. I still use some inefficient appliances, but of course filling landfills with old ones just to replace them with new ones only compounds the waste problem. I apologize for not having phased out old, inefficient appliances a few times when I had the chance.

My list of apologies and promised apologies for the future could go on and on. Here’s just a few areas where I notice that either myself or my neighbors are doing more than our share to destroy the environment and continuing to do so, while we pay lip service to being sad and sorry about the state of our world:

-       Leaving water running while brushing teeth or doing dishes

-       Washing dishes with a dishwasher (hand washing uses half the water)

-       Forgetting to get tune-ups and other car maintenance on time

-       Buying and driving gas guzzling autos

-       Using non-rechargeable batteries

-       Not Recycling Alkali batteries. The technology does exist.

-       Not bringing our own shopping bags to the supermarket or grocery store

-       Having our own shopping bags in the car but not remembering to bring them into the store

-       Wearing bleached clothes that very often also contain formaldehyde

-       Using traditional oven cleaners

-       Using permanent ink markers and pens that contain harmful solvents

-       Maintaining a lawn in an arid climate

-       Buying food or other products from places that use Styrofoam

-       Using paper plates and plastic tableware

-       Choosing plastic over other materials in products

-       Failing to research products we buy to be sure they are not polluters or wildlife killers

-       Investing in polluting companies, big oil, and other Earth destroying industries

-       Not having your home heating system properly tested, tuned up and maintained

-       Keeping the heat on in your home or office when you are not there

-       Keeping any lights on in your home or office in rooms you are not in

-       Throwing away magazines and newspapers without recycling or donating

-       Purchasing foods that use extravagant packaging for marketing advantage

-       Using disposable landfill choking diapers rather than cloth washable diapers

-       Keeping all or most of the lights on at night in your business

-       Using disposable cups at work rather than bringing your own from home

-       What else are you wasting or neglecting to save?

If you are guilty of any of the above, you are helping to spell doom for our home planet Earth. It is easy to look at the vanishing beauty in nature and at environmental destruction and point the finger at someone else, or disconnectedly say that we will have to do better. However, if each and every one of us took more small actions each day, it would make a gigantic difference. We have to vote with our pocketbooks, as they say, and through our other choices to ensure the survival of our own planet Earth. I apologize for usually doing too little too late myself.

Our Addictions

One of the main issues is that as a society we have become addicted to convenience. We have also allowed television and other major media to program us to want more than what we have as a general practice. My father used to say that the secret to happiness in this world is to want less, to desire less. What we must seek if we are to live is long-term prosperity, not abundance at the expense of the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the wildness of the natural world within which is the preservation of the Earth, as Henry David Thoreau warned us.

Are you, dear reader, apologetic?

For more on how Ardis and Philip Hyde lived lightly on the land, see the blog post, “Living The Good Life 1.”