Posts Tagged ‘Baja California’

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 1

April 3rd, 2012

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

Celebrating Landscape Photography Blogger’s 200th Blog Post!

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

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 1

The Five Deserts of North America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was Edward Abbey A Mystic?

September 12th, 2011

Jack Loeffler And Edward Abbey Discuss Mysticism While Camped At The Strait Of Hell On The West Coast Of Sonora, Mexico

White Herons, Playa, Baja California, Mexico, copyright 1981 by Philip Hyde.

In his biography of Edward Abbey, Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey, Jack Loeffler described traveling, friendship and working with Edward Abbey on various environmental campaigns. In one chapter Jack Loeffler told a story about exploring and car camping with the “Thoreau of the West” and his wife Clarke Cartwright Abbey on the west coast of Mainland Old Mexico. “On a dirt road that extended from El Desemboque to Kino Bay,” Jack Loeffler and Edward Abbey made camp.

They dubbed their camp “Osprey Bay” because they could see “no fewer than five inhabited osprey nests…” and during the day they could see osprey aloft nearly all the time. To get to the camp they had traveled several hundred miles from the U. S. border. Their camp was across Estrecho Infiernillo, or the Strait of Hell, from Baja California with Tiburon Island and Shark Island a few miles out in the Sea of Cortez or Gulf of California. Nineteenth century explorers called the narrow passage between Mexico and Baja California the Strait of Hell because during high tide and low tide, in some conditions, treacherous currents and sand bars tended to obstruct navigation and still do today. “There we remained for the better part of two weeks, hiking, floating in the rubber raft, avoiding stingrays, eating, drinking cold beer and warm beer, and even considering thinking about working.”

Edward Abbey made forays for firewood. Jack Loeffler and Edward Abbey dug a fire pit and lined it with large rocks in which they put a giant stuffed Turkey that Clarke Abbey had wrapped frozen before the trip. In the evening after their first Turkey feast when “the sound of the surf lulled them into a collective reverie,” Edward Abbey and Jack Loeffler set out on a walk east toward the mountains a few miles away:

The moon was bright. The air was warm. There was no wind. The conditions were ideal for a nighttime stroll near the Straight of Hell. We spoke very little for the first mile or so. We finally crossed the main north-south road and followed a trail continuing east. We were able to walk abreast and listen to the night sounds.

“Jack.”

“Ed.”

“Do you consider yourself a mystic?”

“Wow, I have to think about that for a minute. Do you?”

“Consider you a mystic? Yes.”

Consider yourself a mystic.”

“I asked you first.”

We stumbled along the trail for a bit.

“Probably no more than you do,” I replied vaguely. “Is there any vestigial Presbyterianism left in you?”

“Oh maybe a remnant or two left over from my childhood… But I was asking if you were a mystic?”

“It’s ironic, when I was in college, I was one of the two professed atheists on the campus. It took me years to realize that my sense of atheism was mostly the result of semantics. I certainly didn’t and don’t believe in an anthropomorphic god in any biblical sense. It seems that somehow I’ve intuited the presence of some principle or urge that the English language, at least, isn’t prepared to define. I suppose any religious feelings I have stem from the way I feel about the Earth and about consciousness. I’ve suspected for a long time that the planet is the living organism and that life is the way the planet perceives. We’re just a step along the way. Humans, I mean. We’re really not all that important when you think about it.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” said Ed. “But what about a sense of purpose? I wonder if we have any purpose in a higher sense. It seems like you spend years trying to absolve yourself from your childhood biases. If you’re really interested, that is.”

“What about you, Ed? Have you ever had a sense of the mystical?”

“Well, as you know, I’ve always tried to follow the truth no matter where it leads. And intellectually, I’ve tried to come to terms with reality by examining the evidence of my own five good bodily senses that I was born with, using my mind to the best of my ability. But there was a time back in Death Valley where I had what I guess was as close to a mystical experience as I’ve ever had. That was years ago. I was a young man. I’ve never had anything quite like it since. As close as I’ve come is after I’ve been out camping somewhere for at least two weeks. It takes at least that long for me to really get into it and leave all the baggage behind.”

“Can you describe what happened back then?” I asked.

“Well, it’s not something that’s easy to remember intellectually. It was more the way I felt. As I recall, I felt like I wasn’t separated from anything else. I was by myself at the time. It was as if I could almost perceive some fundamental activity taking place all around me. Everything was alive, even the rocks. I was part of it. Not separate from it at all. I wept for joy or something akin to joy that I can’t really describe. It was a long time ago. It’s not something that can be remembered in the normal way, or at least normal for me. The only time I can get close to it is out camping. I don’t get to do that enough. Not nearly enough.”

See a video of Jack Loeffler on the role of artists in environmental activism… Or, read more about Edward Abbey and how he met and wrote Slickrock with Philip Hyde in the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?

New Portfolio Added: Old Mexico And Baja California

June 9th, 2011

New Portfolio: Old Mexico and Baja California In Color

Ardis And Philip Hyde’s Old Mexico And Baja California Travels And A New Portfolio Of Philip Hyde’s Photographs Added To PhilipHyde.com

Comala Church Interior, Comala, State of Colima, Mexico, copyright 1995 by Philip Hyde. This medium format photograph is a raw high resolution scan file, not yet post-processed for printing.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Ardis, David and Philip Hyde traveled to Baja California, Mexico with trip leader and photographer Terrence Moore and assistant leader Tom Pew in 1973. The purpose of the journey was to seek out the wildest places on the Baja peninsula that could be reached by four wheel drive vehicle. The year 1973 will always be significant to Baja California wilderness history because that year the Mexican Government completed all pavement sections of the main road from Tijuana and Mexicali on the California, United States border to the end of the 800-mile Baja peninsula at Cabo San Lucas and Cabo Falso. In 1973, Cabo San Lucas was still mainly wild, while today it is a tourist mecca and resort destination. See Philip Hyde’s well-known black and white photograph of Cabo Falso compared with the beaches at Cabo Falso and Cabo San Lucas today.

Outdoor Photographer Terrence Moore had been an expert for decades on Baja California, Mexico. Terrence Moore knew the roads, the missions, the towns, the beaches or playas, the Mexican people and the Spanish language. Tom Pew was also a long-time Baja California explorer, long time Southwestern US explorer and the publisher of American West Magazine when it was about all aspects of the Southwest, particularly the arts of the Southwest, as opposed to after 1989 when he sold American West Magazine and it became solely a cowboy Western magazine.

The 1973 Baja California Camping Trip Began A Wilderness Love Affair

The 1973 four-wheel-drive wilderness camping trip down Baja California began in Yuma, Arizona where Ardis, David and Philip Hyde met trip leader and photographer Terrence Moore, as well as assistant leader and publisher Tom Pew and the rest of the participants in the group. They all set out in the Hydes’ Toyota Land Cruiser Wagon and two Chevrolet Blazers down the Gulf of California coast from Mexicali to San Felipe to Puertocitos, Bahia San Luis Gonzaga, Calamujue, San Borja Mission, Bahia de los Angeles, Bahia de la Giganta, San Javier Mission, Punta Conejo, La Paz, Cabo Pulmo and finally to Cabo San Lucas. On the return up Baja California, back to the US, the Hydes traveled without the group back to La Paz and then on to Commandu, Bahia Concepcion, Rancho Rosarito, Rancho Jaraguay, El Rosario, San Ysidro, Baja and finally to San Diego, California, USA. For more about the 1973 Baja California trip stay tuned for future blog posts.

The 1973 wilderness camping trip began Ardis and Philip Hyde’s love affair with Baja California, as well as their love affair with Mexico. The Hydes returned to Baja California in  1981, 1984, 1988, and in 1995 with Jack Dykinga and Susan and Tom Bean when Ardis Hyde was nearly 70 years old and Philip Hyde was almost 74.

Travels To Mainland Old Mexico

In 1980, Ardis and Philip Hyde visited mainland Mexico. They traveled by air from Sacramento, California to Guadalajara, Mexico, rented a car and drove to Patzcuaro Michoacan, Mexico and Colima. Near Colima they re-discovered Rancho El Balcon, where Ardis Hyde’s Grandparents and her father’s family lived for nearly a decade in the early 1900s. Ardis and Philip Hyde attended an Audubon seminar at Cobano, visited Cuyatlan Lagoon, Manzanillo and Volcan de Colima before flying back to the US. More on this trip in future blog posts.

As part of Philip Hyde’s desert project that later became the book Drylands: The Deserts of North America, Ardis and Philip Hyde made a field trip to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts through Arizona and into Baja California, Mexico at San Luis and through the Pinacate Volcano Field and the Cerro Colorado Volcanic Crater area in Pinacate Biosphere Reserve, Mexico and the Elegante Volcano field in Pinacate Natonal Park, Mexico, Puerto Penasco, Playa Encanto, Cabeza Prieta, Granite Range, Ligerta RV Park, Microonda Basura, Kino Bay, Hermosilo, Nogales, Chihuahua, Paquime, PIrineos, Cuatro Cienegas, Pozo Churince, Canon Huasteco, Gomez Palacio, Posada del Rio, Villa Humada, Samalayuca Sand Dunes and up to El Paso, Texas. The Hydes also returned to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts in 1989. In 1990, Ardis and Philip Hyde traveled to Mexico City and the City of Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico. See the blog post, “Mexico City And Oaxaca Travel Log.”

The New Portfolio And Future New Releases

The photographs in the “Old Mexico And Baja California Color Portfolio” on PhilipHyde.com represent a cross-section of the places Ardis and Philip Hyde visited in Mexico and Baja California. The portfolio as you see it is just beginning and currently incomplete with many of the images remaining in raw high resolution drum scan form, not yet post-processed for archival fine art digital printing. Also, only 12 photographs out of 18 to 20 are now available for viewing even in raw form. Many more Mexico and Baja California photographs will be drum scanned, post-processed and made available as archival fine art digital prints. Please stay tuned.

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?