Posts Tagged ‘Capitol Reef National Park’

New Releases: Philip Hyde Signature Desert Landscapes

April 9th, 2015

New Releases: The History Behind Philip Hyde Desert Icons

Archival Chromogenic Prints from Large Format Film

Evening Light On West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah-Arizona, copyright 1963 Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. (Click on the image to see it large.)

Evening Light On West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah-Arizona, copyright 1963 Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. (Click on the image to see it large.)

Philip Hyde began photographing the desert Southwest with large format film in 1951. At that time, he used primarily black and white film, but did expose some large format color transparencies too. The Sierra Club book, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park and It’s Magic Rivers, with introduction, one chapter and editing by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner, included as many color plates as black and white, but editor, journalist, conservationist, pilot and river guide Martin Litton also made nearly as large a share of these images in the book as Hyde. To read more about the making of This Is Dinosaur see the blog post series, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism.” To read more about Martin Litton see the blog post series, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience.”

While on his way back and forth from his Northern Sierra home in California to Dinosaur National Monument, Philip Hyde explored and photographed much of Nevada, Utah, Arizona and parts of New Mexico. For more on his early travels in the deserts of North America, see the blog post series, “Toward a Sense of Place,” and the blog post, “Images of the Southwest Portfolio Foreword by Philip Hyde.” Below is the history of three Philip Hyde signature desert photographs that both exemplify his style of photography and inspired two generations of photographers.

Based on the photograph locations in Hyde’s Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series volumes Navajo Wildlands: As long As The Rivers Shall Run (1967) and Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest (1973) with Edward Abbey and in other Hyde books for Sunset and the prominent travel and natural history magazines of the day, large format film photographer Tom Till said that Hyde was the first to photograph areas of The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park and Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park. Large format photographer David Muench, who was 15 years younger than Hyde, a little later was also the first to photograph some iconic desert landscapes.

Evening Light on West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley

Possibly one of the most emulated American classics of all-time, Philip Hyde’s 1963 “Evening Light on West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley,” came into the public eye just as the quality of color printing in books developed enough for such books to become popular. “Evening Light on West Mitten Butte” enjoyed much recognition when it first appeared in the Exhibit Format Series book, Navajo Wildlands in 1967. Since 1967, hundreds of thousands of similar photographs have been made and many published of this view of Monument Valley. Navajo Wildlands helped the Navajo Nation, now more correctly called by their own name Diné Nation, to form seven Navajo Tribal Parks to preserve some areas of the reservation for all generations.

Ripples on Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert

Ripples on Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 1987 Philip Hyde. From Drylands: The Deserts of North America.

Ripples on Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert, California (Drylands Crop) copyright 1987 Philip Hyde. From Drylands: The Deserts of North America. (Click on the image to see it large.)

Two other Philip Hyde desert landscape icons have been emulated much since their creation, but they were neither the first, nor even early in the evolution of similar images, merely the most widely known and observed for inspiration. Ridges and ripples on sand dunes had been famously photographed by Brett Weston, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and many others well before Philip Hyde made the color photograph, “Ripples on Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert, California” in 1987. Hyde’s photograph perhaps was early in relation to all color images of this type of scene. Regardless, it was not until after “Ripples on Kelso Dunes” appeared in Drylands: The Deserts of North America that close up images of ripples on sand dunes flooded the photography market. Hyde’s original photograph was an unusual vertical that showed the ripples on the sand dunes in the foreground with the ripples fading into the distance at the horizon. Yolla Bolly Press, the packagers of Drylands, who also packaged Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape, convinced Hyde to crop “Ripples on Kelso Dunes” to a horizontal for the front pages of Drylands. This version only showing the bottom half of the original vertical, the close up part of the image, became popular for its abstract qualities. Many still today find the Drylands crop of “Ripples on Kelso Dunes” a stronger image than the original vertical.

Chinle Shales, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

The second signature desert landscape that Hyde made as late as 1982 was “Chinle Shales, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah.” This photograph also graced the pages of Drylands. Photography historians have found earlier photographs with vague similarity to this image, but it was not until after 1987 that similar images showed up in numerous magazines and other publications and now on the internet on various websites of photographers of the American Southwest.

Chinle Shales, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah, copyright 1982 Philip Hyde. From Drylands: The Deserts of North America.

Chinle Shales, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah, copyright 1982 Philip Hyde. From Drylands: The Deserts of North America. (Click on the image to see it large.)

So what? What is the point of researching who came first and who came later? This kind of tracking is not necessarily done for further recognition in and of itself, but it does serve to further establish and educate scholars, art historians and the public in this regard: it is important for determining the influence of an artist like Philip Hyde on his medium. Influence has a great deal to do with the perception of the significance of the life’s work of any artist and how his or her work is positioned in the historical record. These three photographs play a consequential role in the history of photography, particularly of landscape photography and photography of the Western US and Colorado Plateau. Similar photographs of a location do not necessarily emulation make, but in Hyde’s case, many of the who’s who of nature photography today acknowledge having been influence by his work.

Philip Hyde made six or fewer original dye transfer or Cibachrome hand made color prints of each of these four images. Only three original dye transfer prints remain of “Havasu Falls,” two of “Chinle Shales” and none of “Evening Light, West Mitten Butte” or “Ripples on Kelso Dunes.” Please consider acquiring our new archival chromogenic prints of these images, produced in a special numbered open edition, while they are at a special introductory price for a limited time. For more about new release pricing, see the blog post, “New Releases Now at Special Introductory Pricing.” For more information about the difference between archival digital prints and archival chromogenic prints, see the blog post, “About Archival Fine Art Digital Prints.” To purchase prints, see the images large and read more descriptions see the New Releases Portfolio on the Philip Hyde Photography website.

Have you ever seen photographs similar to any of these three?

Four Philip Hyde Authorized New Releases From Slickrock With Edward Abbey

November 14th, 2014

Philip Hyde And Edward Abbey First Meet In The Remote Wilderness Of Canyonlands Near Spanish Bottom–Ardis Hyde’s Travel Log

The purpose of the now classic book, Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest by Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde was to help in the conservation efforts to expand Canyonlands National Park and to aid in developing wilderness or national park protection for the Escalante River Canyons. Below read about the section of the project where Philip Hyde photographed the Escalante River and Ernie’s Country in Capitol Reef National Park and The Maze, Canyonlands National Park for Slickrock.

Also Below Are New Release Archival Prints From Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest… 

Now On Sale For A Limited Time: Archival Chromogenic Lightjet And Digital Prints Of Four Iconic Philip Hyde Large Format Film Photographs

For more information about New Release Prints Pricing, Sale Specials and Time Limits see the blog post, “New Release Pricing,” For more about the archival prints and materials see the blog post, “About Archival Fine Art Digital Prints.” Also, to learn about special features of only the two largest sizes limited editions see the blog post, “Why Photography Galleries And Collectors Like Limited Editions.”

1951-1973 Slickrock Projects and Travels

1951   Dinosaur National Monument, Monument Valley, Canyon De Chelly, Canyonlands & others

1955   Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, Dinosaur N. M., Canyon De Chelly, Canyonlands & others

1958-1997   Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, Cataract Canyon, Colorado, Green, Yampa, San Juan, Delores, Rio Grande River Trips

1963   Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, Hopi Villages & others.

1967   Navajo Res, Rainbow Bridge, Hole In The Rock, The Maze, Canyonlands, others.

1968   Escalante River Canyons and Tributaries, Canyonlands

1970   Coyote Gulch, Escalante River Canyons & Tributaries, Canyonlands

 

Stevens Arch, Escalante River, now Grand Staircase Escalante Natonal Monument, from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1970. Made on backcountry backpack into Coyote Gulch.

Stevens Arch, Escalante River, now Grand Staircase Escalante Natonal Monument, from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1970. Made on backcountry backpack into Coyote Gulch.

(See the photograph large, “Steven’s Arch, Escalante River, Utah.”)

One of the world’s most widely published stock landscape photographers Tom Till said my father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, was one of the first to photograph some areas of the Maze and the Needles, Canyonlands National Park and Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park.

Dad’s main purpose for exploring and artfully documenting these locations in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was to splash them in newly introduced color across the revolutionary new coffee table size Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. These first landscape photography books, exploding in popularity were bringing the message of conservation to a widening audience. In the 1950s with the defense of Dinosaur National Monument against the building of two dams that would have flooded 96 out of the 104 river miles in Dinosaur, the Sierra Club had decided to advocate new wilderness beyond the borders of California and the Sierra.

Dad’s Spring 1970 itinerary primarily to photograph for the book Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest with Edward Abbey, called for an extravagant 71 travel days, but there was only time for 50 days of travel with my mother Ardis and me in the GMC Pickup and Avion Camper. Beginning April 15, we started with 11 days in Nevada photographing Tonopah, Pahrump Valley, Red Rock Canyon, Henderson, Lake Mead, Valley of Fire and US Highway 93 north to Panaca, Nevada.

On the 12th day, we crossed into Utah to Bryce Canyon National Park, on to Escalante and out the Hole In The Rock Road. On the night of April 21, we camped at Willow Tanks. In the morning we parked at the junction of Hurricane Wash and Coyote Gulch where we began our backpack into Coyote Gulch. The three of us walked in just past Icicle Springs the first night, over eight miles. My Mother wrote in her travel log that at age five I hiked most of the distance, about five miles, but grew tired near the end having made too many side trips to investigate distractions. The horse packer from Escalante took me the rest of the way to camp on horseback.

We backpacked for five days in Coyote Gulch with the support of a horse packer from Escalante. For more on our backpack and camp at Icicle Springs see the online blog post version of my future book introduction, “58 Years In The Wilderness, Intro 1.”

Plunge Pool, Tributary To Coyote Gulch, now Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, original version from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1978.

Plunge Pool, Tributary To Coyote Gulch, now Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, original version from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1978.

(See the photograph large, “Plunge Pool, Tributary to Coyote Gulch, Utah.”)

Contained in this blog post are four new releases of numbered archival prints. Two of the photographs were made on the 1970 Coyote Gulch backpack, “Steven’s Arch, Escalante River” and “Plunge Pool, Tributary To Coyote Gulch.” The third photograph Dad made a few days after the backpack in Capitol Reef National Park, “Canyon in Waterpocket Fold.” The fourth photograph, “Wingate Boulders In The Narrows,” Dad made in 1968 while hiking the Escalante River. See the previous blog post, “The Making Of Reflection Pool, Escalante River Side Canyon.”

I will share here a few choice excerpts of my mother’s travel log of our Coyote Gulch backpack and the four wheel drive trip in Waterpocket Fold, but they were only the beginning of our travels. Before we wound our way safely home, we also visited the Circle Cliffs, the Henry Mountains, spent six days with Art and A. C. Ekker by jeep and Wagoneer in Ernie’s Country, the Fins, Doll House, Spanish Trail, Candlestick and other areas of Canyonlands National Park.

We drove to Hite, Lands End Plateau, Hanksville, then Dad photographed for three days in northern Canyonlands, three days in Arches, two days at Hatch Point, two days at Harts Point, six days in the Needles, Canyonlands, two days at Cottonwood Creek Road near the headwaters of Lavender Canyon. By June 5 we had spent several days in Bullfrog and headed back through Nevada home to northern California.

Types of Sandstone Formations Photographed by Philip Hyde, Spring 1970

Mesa Verde—Tarantula Mesa
Mancos Shale—Blue Gate—Swap Mesa
Emery Sandstone
Dakota Sandstone—Cedar Mountain
Bentonite—Big Thompson Mesa
Salt Wash Sandstone
Summerville—thin bed
Curtis Sandstone—Cathedrals
Entrada Sandstone
Carmel, Gypsum Limestone, Sandstone
Navajo Crossbed
Kayenta
Wingate—Circle Cliffs
Chinle—Painted Base of Circle Cliffs
Shinarump
Moenkopi, Simbad Limestone, Chert
Kaibab Limestone
Coconino or Cutter Sandstone—White Rim, Organ Rock Tongue, Cedar Mesa
Hermosa Mesa

Wingate Boulders, Angular Shadows, Escalante River Narrows, now Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1968. from Slickrock with Edward Abbey.

Wingate Boulders, Angular Shadows, Escalante River Narrows, now Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1968. from Slickrock with Edward Abbey.

(See the photograph large, “Wingate Boulders, Escalante River Narrows, Utah.”

Lower Coyote Gulch is Wingate Sandstone and upper Coyote Gulch is Kayenta Formation where Hurricane Wash comes in having cut down through the Navajo Formation from Willow Tanks on the Hole in the Rock Road. The Wingate and Kayenta sing every note on the Earth color rainbow from red to yellow and deep into browns and blacks with some streaks of iridescent blue desert varnish from water seep mineral deposits.

On Thursday April 13, 1970, Ardis Hyde wrote:

Cloudless sky, cool enough but air warming up decidedly. Left camp at 9 am to head downstream with a goal of Icicle Springs tonight. Our feet were wet immediately. The ferryboat theme of carrying David over the deeper crossings began. He was a better hiker today, enjoying the interest of canyon, stream and foliage. Packer Reeves Baker from Escalante caught up with us and showed us some moqui steps, lichen covered, next to a dead cow with a calf skeleton along side. We heard the canyon wren song with only the soft water under it.

We camped with mom cooking dried add-water dinners over open flames with a #10 pound can and a small grill. Breakfast was muesli, a raw mix of dried fruit, rolled oats, nuts and coconut. One day we had omelets. Lunch was cracker sandwiches. I played in the water, Dad photographed. The sun was hot, but the canyon shade and water were cool to cold. In the days following we trekked along or in Coyote Gulch to its mouth at the Escalante River. There we hiked up and around the corner to a good view of Stevens Arch on the trail up and over the bench above the Escalante River. Dad photographed the arch and photographed Mom and me in front of the arch.

We also ventured down the Escalante River to a few side canyons. The water in the river was much colder. Mom ferried me across the few river crossings, but when we returned to go back up Coyote Gulch, I ran and played in the stream, now making all the crossings on my own.

 April 29, Layover Icicle Springs

We hiked toward Jug Handle arch and the sun at 9 am. Icicle Springs doesn’t get sun until noon and then only filtered through trees. We climbed up through the thicket and past wall seeps to get to the ledge under the arch to see the remains of the storage bins. Some small ones, one large one and one in between we didn’t notice at first because it was still intact with rock cover and blended in with the back of the canyon wall in perfect camouflage. We scrambled up into Hamblin Arch itself. Philip made lots of pictures in both places. Then we headed downstream to the Waterfall and a stop for lunch on large boulder in the middle of the stream. Philip left us and carried the Baby Deardorff back down Coyote Gulch for more images. David and I bee-lined for camp as the weather worsened threatening rain with much colder wind. Philip came into camp not long before dark. He said he had some cloud trouble but got the photograph he was after.

After a rainy layover at Icicle Springs, we hiked out of Coyote Gulch and gratefully reached our gray GMC Utility Body Pickup and Avion Camper that carried us on to the Henry Mountains and eventually to a rendezvous at Hite with Art and his son A. C. Ekker, horse pack and jeep guides, cowboys, ranchers, horse whisperers and wilderness connoisseurs. The Ekkers would take us into Ernie’s Country in the Waterpocket Fold of Capitol Reef National Park.

Canyon In Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park, from Slickrock With Edward Abbey, Made On Backcountry Trip With Art And A.C. Ekker, Canyons Utah, copyright Philip Hyde, 1970.

(See the photograph large, “Canyon In Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.”

At first we continued in our Camper, leaving Hite Marina, with Ark Ekker and Jay in the Jeep Wagoneer and A.C. Ekker in his GMC 4×4 Pickup. We crossed a cattle guard and followed a dirt track on a high cliff contouring around to the head of Rock Canyon. We crossed Andy Miller Flats with Man in the Rock, or the Sewing Machine, in the distance. At about four and a half miles from pavement the group passes shearing corrals for sheep. At about Cove Canyon we passed two men on horses, one of them a sheep man Art knew with his camp nearby.

The next morning Art cooked bacon, eggs and toast in the dutch ovens over an open juniper fire. Dad photographed old names carved in the rock under a nearby overhang. Soon we came to a good view high over the South Hatch drainage. Nearby it joins the North Hatch Canyon and empties into the Dirty Devil River. The group made many stops for Dad and sometimes others to make photographs.

At one stop I hiked up above the Chinle rounded hills to the chunky rock formations on top. We finally came to a place to park our Camper in a large dip that would hide it. Soon the Hydes moved to the Wagoneer, but David’s car seat rode in A.C.’s shotgun seat in his GMC 4×4 truck for later riding. To start with I rode in the far back of the Wagoneer with the gear. My mother wrote that I slept during the roughest, hard jarring part of the road.

Nine miles beyond where we left the camper, we could already see the thin sandstone Finns rising above the near horizon. Dad photographed the many rock formations in all directions.

When we came out to the Wall Overlook into the Maze, we looked for a camp. Philip was already running for pictures. Art drove over to a ledge of Slickrock on the Finns side of the Lizard for camp. Philip photographed madly around the Wall down into the Maze, around the Lizard, Chocolate Drops, Elaterite Butte, Ekker Butte, Cleopatra’s Chair all in plain view. We made an exposed camp, but no wind and the view glorious. Art and I made Dutch oven steak and fried potatoes for dinner. We kept Philip’s warm until he quit working. David and A.C. climbed to the top of Lizard Rock. David went to bed and we stayed up around the fire a while.

From Lizard Rock we passed pinnacles of sandstone on up toward the La Sal Mountains. We drove along the Cedar Mesa rim and then into the Finns. While descending, on a high opposing canyon wall we saw an arch. We hiked to other arches. One time they went out on a ridge to an arch.

A.C. got right down under the arch and paced it at 100 feet wide by 75 feet high. Huge distinct muffin shaped rock form right behind the arch on the east end. Hence A.C.’s name for it: Muffin Arch.

Dad climbed with his large format view camera over another ridge to photograph down into the Colorado River drainage. The rest of the next few days they spent winding in and out of canyons. Sometimes they would stop the cars and we would venture on foot, sometimes we would stop and camp or eat, but Dad was always photographing.

We saw a man standing at the rim of the Spanish Trail. Soon Philip came into camp having stayed making photographs in the canyon. A.C., who had gone over a ridge to pick up David and I, brought us into camp. Philip said he talked to the man on the rim. The man had said he was of Ken Sleight’s river party and walked up from Spanish Bottom. He said Edward Abbey was coming up too. Philip was getting more film and Art went with him to the wash to meet up with the man again. While I was preparing dinner, Philip, Ed Abbey and a girl named Ingrid appeared. They had a cup of coffee with us and then headed back down the trail. Philip will also be making a planned meeting with Abbey in Moab on May 25.

Here my mother’s travel log described another viewpoint of the Philip Hyde – Edward Abbey spontaneous meeting in the wilderness of Canyonlands. For the detailed story of their first encounter see the book Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest or the blog post, “Keynote Speech At Escalante Canyons Art Festival.”

For more information about New Release Prints Pricing see the blog post, “New Release Pricing,” For more about the archival prints and materials see the blog post, “About Archival Fine Art Digital Prints.” Also, to learn about special features of only the two largest sizes limited editions see the blog post, “Why Photography Galleries And Collectors Like Limited Editions.”

Have you ever photographed any unusual rock forms? Ever been to Canyonlands or walked on the sandstone of the Southwest?

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3

August 26th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is your favorite desert?

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

September 25th, 2013

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

How We Lost Glen Canyon

Resurrection Book Cover, Photograph copyright 2009 James Kay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canyon Photography On Par With The Best Ever

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

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

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

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

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

The Desert, Progress, Jobs, Money And Other Myths

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

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

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

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

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

A Dying Motor Tourism Industry And The Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Naming Of ‘Hyde’s Wall’ By Writer And Photographer Stephen Trimble

August 8th, 2012

How The Photograph, ‘Junipers, Wall, Escalante Wilderness’ From Slickrock With Edward Abbey, Became ‘Hyde’s Wall, Escalante Wilderness’ Now The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Guest Blog Post By Natural Historian And Landscape Photographer Of The Western U.S., Stephen Trimble

Hyde’s Wall, East Moody Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1976 by Stephen Trimble. If you look carefully you will see that this photograph was not taken from the same distance, nor from the same lateral angle, in relation to the wall, as Philip Hyde’s photograph.

LP Blogger On Stephen Trimble:

Writer and photographer Stephen Trimble won the Ansel Adams Award for photography and conservation for his book, The Sagebrush Ocean: A Natural History of the Great Basin Stephen Trimble lives in Salt Lake City and in Southern Utah’s redrock country just outside of Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park. For more about his books, his conservation projects and other work visit his website at www.stephentrimble.net. Stephen Trimble is author of over 20 books on the natural West including

Hyde’s Wall, East Moody Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1971 by Philip Hyde. This was the favorite photograph from Slickrock, a Sierra Club book that sold well and received literary recognition for both Philip Hyde and Edward Abbey.

Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography, showcasing

photographs by Philip Hyde and the last living interview of the master landscape photographer. Stephen Trimble teaches writing in the University of Utah Honors College and spent the 2008-2009 academic year as a Wallace Stegner Centennial Fellow at the University of Utah’s Tanner Humanities Center. The Lasting Light Exhibition has been on a national tour with the Smithsonian Institute since 2006, when the show opened at the Historic Kolb Studio, father’s day weekend after Philip Hyde passed away.

By Stephen Trimble

In the long-ago spring of 1976, the side canyons of Utah’s Escalante River were more remote than they are now, and they are still pretty remote. My two buddies and I had driven without incident in our hand-me-down family sedans across the Circle Cliffs to the Moody Creek trailhead. We found no other vehicles parked at the end of the road. Once we set off on foot, we weren’t expecting to see anyone else for the next week.

As a college student, I had pretty much memorized the Sierra Club exhibit format books. I aspired to photograph like Philip Hyde and Eliot Porter and Ansel Adams. Though I used a 35 mm camera rather than their large-format view cameras, I knew I could learn a lot from thinking—and seeing—like they did. And I respected with all my heart their dedication to saving wild places.

I knew Philip Hyde’s photographs in Slickrock, the 1971 Sierra Club book he created with Edward Abbey on the southern Utah Canyon Country, and when I photographed in Capitol Reef and the Escalante, Hyde’s eye influenced what I framed in my viewfinder. I had always harbored a secret wish to stumble on the patch of lichened sandstone he chose for the cover of Slickrock.

Instead, I found Hyde’s Wall.

My friends and I made camp at the junction of East Moody Canyon and the Escalante. In the lengthening iridescent light of late afternoon we wandered up East Moody Canyon. Each rounding curve brought new walls. Desert varnish streaked the crossbedded sandstone, black swaths across lavender and vermillion. Here, the color fields of Rothko; there, the bold strokes of Franz Kline.

One wall in particular drew me. I moved my tripod this way and that, aiming my camera past piñons and junipers to a canyon wall reflecting purples and mauves, textured with fractures and cracks. The light had bounced down between canyon walls from the sky and the stars, distilled to an unbelievable saturation.  I had never seen such surreal and intense colors. As I wandered back to camp, I realized that this just might be the very same wall Philip Hyde had photographed for Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest with Edward Abbey and for Philip Hyde’s Glen Canyon Portfolio. I was intensely curious to see if my hunch was correct, but of course I couldn’t verify the match until I had my slides back from processing and I had the book in my hand. Once verified, the fact that we had both found our way to this inspirational wall in the middle of nowhere struck me as incredibly cool and serendipitous.

In 1979, I first published my version of the East Moody wall in its desert-varnished sunset splendor, in my first book with a spine: The Bright Edge: A Guide to the National Parks of the Colorado Plateau Not long afterwards, I heard back from friends who were with Philip Hyde when he first picked up a copy of The Bright Edge and saw my version of his wall—and they reported that he wasn’t pleased. So I contacted Philip to make amends, and I started captioning the photo “Hyde’s Wall” as a tribute whenever I had control of captions—most notably in Blessed By Light: Visions of the Colorado Plateau (1986).

Years later, I had the wonderful opportunity and honor to interview Philip by phone for my book, Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography in December 2005, just three months before his death in March 2006. He was still passionate, still inspiring. He told me that he was down there photographing in the Grand Canyon in the 1960s and 70s “because we wanted to keep the dam builders out,” but the place itself was most important: “Here was this magnificent canyon full of wonderful things to photograph. It’s a matter of seeing, not deciding where you are going to photograph but just looking around, opening your eyes.”

I often have quoted Philip Hyde’s preface to Slickrock, in which he articulated the wilderness photographer’s fear:

The focus of this book is on a part of Earth that is still almost as it was before man began to tinker with the land… Telling thousands about it—to get their help in what must be a prolonged struggle to keep it wild—is a calculated risk…. I have some hesitation in showing more people its delightful beauty—hesitation born of the fear that this place, like so many others of great beauty in our country, might be loved to death, even before being developed to death. So, if our book moves you to visit the place yourself sometime, first make sure you add your voice to those seeking its protection.

For every place, Philip Hyde said, “There will always be people that want to exploit it, and there will always be people—hopefully—that want to save it and keep it as it is.” Better to publish your photographs and rally the troops. What’s in the frame of the photograph matters artistically, to be sure, but what’s outside the frame can destroy it. The generation that followed—including myself—knew that the Grand Canyon was saved from dams, in part, by Philip Hyde’s photographs. We knew the power of nature photography. And we have tried to live up to his legacy.

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Landscape Photography Blogger Note: In 2012, this kind of inadvertent image similarity happens more regularly than it did in 1976 because many, many times the number of landscape photographers are out exploring the wilderness now; not to mention that many, many times more landscape photographs exist in the collective psyche as well. Discover more about Slickrock and Philip Hyde’s collaboration with Edward Abbey in the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?” and under the blog post tag Edward Abbey: Blog posts that mention Edward Abbey.

 

Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands

April 29th, 2011

Happy Earth Day 2011:

From The Archives…

Offering a Blessing for Future Generations and Tossing a Pinch Of Ardis and Philip Hyde’s Ashes in The Needles, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Ardis, David and Philip Hyde In The Maze, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, 1968 by Parker "Ham" Hamilton. David Leland Hyde at age three was the youngest child to ride horseback into The Maze for many years, perhaps even to this day. The Hydes and Hamiltons were guided into The Maze, Canyonlands National Park, Utah by Art Ekker and his son A. C. Ekker, who later hosted and became friends with Robert Redford when he rode into their Robbers Roost Ranch in search of the real Outlaw Trail. Robert Redford wrote a book called, "The Outlaw Trail" and a National Geographic Article in 1976 that depicted A. C. Ekker on the cover.

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here.)

This was the 50th blog post of Landscape Photography Blogger. Originally published April 22, 2010.

Update (2012): Please see my blog post, “Earth Day 2012 Review: Are Social Media Earth Friendly?

(This year [2011] I was traveling on the days around Earth Day and in airports and airplanes most of Earth Day itself. Not so Earth-friendly, but it was for a good cause.)

Back to 2010…. To celebrate this milestone and Earth Day, I have posted a journal entry from July 30, 2008, that I wrote in Canyonlands National Park. I originally planned to start Landscape Photography Blogger with this post.

A Mission And Pilgrimage

A few months before my father, landscape photographer Philip Hyde passed on, he and I talked about taking a small amount of my mother Ardis Hyde’s ashes and his ashes, mixing them together and sprinkling just a pinch in some of their favorite places they helped preserve like Canyonlands National Park, Grand Canyon National Park and other monuments and wilderness areas of the Southwestern Desert Landscape, the California Mountains and elsewhere. This is of course not legal, but a small pinch would not hurt anything. It would merely nourish the sage and primrose.

Most of their ashes are sprinkled around in the woods and gardens of the home I grew up in that they built in the wilderness of the northern Sierra Nevada in Northeastern California. I would begin to distribute the rest from a small pouch on my way from Boulder, Colorado back to the family home in California. I planned to visit Canyonlands National Park, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, The North Rim of The Grand Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park and Death Valley National Park to throw a pinch of ashes and say a word of tribute in each.

The Needles, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

I arrived at the Needles, Canyonlands National Park, in Southeastern Utah, at 2:00 A.M. after driving 450 miles from Boulder, Colorado. I found the campground and backed into a site nestled between house-sized rock domes and the stars. A brief stop in Moab, Utah at the City Market for some area guides confirmed what I remembered from the National Park Service website. Canyonlands is Utah’s largest national park, 35 miles Southwest of Moab, downstream from where the mighty Colorado River meets the Green River. The Green River and the Colorado River divide Canyonlands National Park into three districts: Island in the Sky, The Maze and The Needles. The meanders of the two rivers come to confluence and form essentially the shape of a giant lower case “y.” Moab and Arches National Park are on the tip of the right branch of the “y” and the center of the “y” where the rivers meet is the heart of Canyonlands. Island in the Sky, to the North between the branches of the “y,” is the easiest part of the Canyonlands National Park to access by car, with plenty of paved roads, parking lots, turnouts and scenic overlooks.

The Maze, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The Maze, to the West of the confluence of the two rivers, is the most wild and remote of the districts of Canyonlands National Park. Art and his son A. C. Ekker guided Dad, Mom, photographers Parker “Ham” Hamilton and Dilly Hamilton and myself at age 2 1/2 into The Maze in 1968. For many years, I was the youngest person to ever ride horseback into The Maze and may be still. I rode in front of my mother in the saddle. Art and A. C. Ekker also ran the nearby Robber’s Roost Ranch that had been a stronghold for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s Wild Bunch in the late 1800’s.  Today there are even hiking trails into The Maze but it takes a full day in a 4X4 vehicle just to get into this remotest part of Canyonlands National Park, The Maze proper. The literature and websites all recommend allowing an average of five to seven days for a trip even by vehicle. They also caution to go in well provisioned.

The Needles district to the South and East of the confluence of the two mighty rivers is partially accessible by car, but it is farther from the main highway on a half pavement, half dirt road. Dad made photographs in all three districts, but the Needles looked the most promising for a compromise between accessibility and being, as my dad would play on words, “Picture Skew.”

I crawled into my sleeping bag in my pickup camper shell at the campground in The Needles, Canyonlands National Park at around 3 a. m. after gazing at the stars and brushing my teeth at the water spicket. There were no campsites across the road from me and those on either side were empty. I was alone in the smell of sagebrush and wrapped in the dark desert night.

Nature’s Morning Show At Canyonlands

The next morning, or rather, later that morning just barely at first light, I awoke at 6:15 a.m., ready to go, not even tired. I noted that this or earlier was the time Dad would have awakened to photograph if he was still with me in body. As I rolled out of the camper shell, a panorama of red, brown, tan, orange and all colors in between splashed in horizontal bands across a collection of mesas, spires, hoodoos, domes and rock columns, stretching out before me in every direction. The glow of pre-sunrise dawn made me wish I had a camera. I woke up inside a Needles postcard. As I drove to the end of the campground, the sun crested the horizon. Nature’s show was on. It also dawned on me that this was the time Dad passed away.

As I drove with eyes taking in the splendor, knowing Dad and Mom would love this moment, I thought back to the morning of Dad’s passing two years prior, at the end of March in 2006. He was in the desert then too, but in very different surroundings. He was in a room on the Neurosciences Wing of Washoe Medical Center, now Renown Medical Center, in Reno, Nevada. I remember the overnight nurse assured me that if Dad died on her shift, she would see him start to take agonal breaths and call me. I had already been by his side a week and had read to him late into the night, but decided to get some sleep. He had already lasted a week in his post-massive stroke state, and I didn’t know when he might go.

Philip Hyde Climbs The Mountains For Their Good Tidings One Last Time

The nurse did call me but she said he had already slipped away without so much as a single agonal breath. He went easy in the very end. Perhaps he wanted to get out of that hospital bed and that body that didn’t work like it had so well most of his life. I imagined at the time that perhaps he left his body behind early in the morning to take a few last mental exposures of the beautiful snow-covered Sierra Nevada Mountains visible in the distance outside the hospital window.

Until he died, Dad often recited by heart two appropriate quotes by John Muir, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” Dad also had memorized this quote by John Muir, “I want immortality to read this terrestrial language. This good and tough mountain-climbing flesh is not my final home, and I’ll creep out of it, and fly free and grow.” I thought of those two favorites of Dad’s that he also published in his last book, The Range of Light, the name John Muir called the Sierra Nevada. Dad intended The Range of Light as a tribute to John Muir, Dad’s life-long inspiration, and to the Sierra Nevada, particularly Yosemite National Park, Dad’s spiritual home since age 16.

A quiet man slipped out of life softly. I was sad that I had missed the moment of death and that I had not been there for him. Though that was his way, he never called attention to himself or asked others to trouble about him. By the time I arrived at his bedside, about 15 minutes from getting the call in bed in my hotel room on the far end of the huge hospital campus, his face was already turning an off shade. As I sobbed, the nurses were reassuring that he went without any pain. Then I felt him. I felt something, maybe it was my imagination, but it felt like something more. I felt his joy at being free of that worn-out shell. I realized that he had left to “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings,” one last time. He flew free to see the sunrise and I found him gone just like I had 1,000 times before.

On dozens, perhaps hundreds of trips with him, throughout my life, I woke up and found him gone. He was typically gone out in the field taking photographs, starting much earlier than I usually awakened.  I woke up often to the smell of my mother’s breakfast cooking and her coffee brewing. That morning in Reno, I woke up and found Dad gone for the last time, probably carrying a 4X5 baby Deardorff camera as he soared over canyons and mountaintops, just like the famous Cartoon of Ansel Adams in heaven looking down on Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.

In The Needles, Canyonlands National Park, On The Slickrock Nature Trail

In Canyonlands National Park two years later, I woke up about the same time, at photography hour. How fitting, here I was in the heart of Canyonlands, at a short trailhead called Slickrock, no less. That was the name of Dad’s now collectible book with Edward Abbey in the renowned Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that helped to expand Canyonlands National Park in 1971. For more on Edward Abbey, read the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?

“Slickrock, a general term for any bare rock surface,” the trail brochure said, “dominates much of the landscape in Canyonlands.” I remember Dad saying that there are dozens of places named Slickrock in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. The slickrock my dad photographed Mom and me standing on for the title page of the book Slickrock, could be anywhere in this country but was near the entrance of Capitol Reef National Park, also in Utah. At the end of this Slickrock Trail in the Needles, I will be only a little over a mile from pavement, not much by Dad’s standards, but at least off the road.

Whew, it was already hot at 8 a. m. Fortunately, I found enough shade under an overhanging rock wall to stop and write more. I see the mesas of Island in the Sky to the North in the distance to the left of the La Sal Mountains on the horizon. The smell of Pinon pine, Juniper, sage and dust fill my nose, while the sandpaper of sandstone under foot catches the soles of my cross-trainers. The trail brochure map indicates that the trail ends out on a point where canyons on either side narrow the mesa. Once I made it out there, I ventured out on a side arm of the mesa. I scrambled out to the end where there is a stair-step down from the rim. I stood on the rim looking down probably 1,000 or more feet, though the next ledge of the stair-step jutted into space just three stories distance below.

Above Big Springs Canyon, In The Heart of Canyonlands

I sat near the edge to write more of this. This place was perfect for tossing my parent’s ashes—in the heart of Canyonlands—within sight of Grandview Point and Junction Butte to the North. Near the end of the sandstone mesa top, to my right, stood an ancient dead Juniper tree skeleton that looked like it belonged in a Philip Hyde photograph. I opened the ornate little pouch from India and the sealed plastic bag of ashes inside. It was quite still for the edge of a canyon, just a faint breeze. I reached into the bag, took a three-fingered pinch of ashes and flung them into the air over Big Springs Canyon.

“For all the generations to come,” I said, “a blessing and prayer for Ardis And Philip Hyde. Here’s to Canyonlands, birthplace of many beautiful photographs and memories.” As I sat down on the very edge with just my feet, not my legs dangling, part of my pinch of ashes must have caught an updraft and drifted high, far out over the canyon. Some of it may drift over the Southwest still; while a moment later I heard the heavier bone fragments hit the ledge below.

To read more about my personal experiences with my father see the blog post, “Memories Of Finally Working With Dad.”

New Release: Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

April 26th, 2011

The Making Of The Widely Published And Collected Photograph In Philip Hyde’s Own Words

New Release: Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 1963

Landscape Photography Blogger Introductory Note:

Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, copyright 1963 by Philip Hyde. Widely exhibited and published including in “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America” and related major museum exhibitions. In permanent museum collections.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

As part of his first explorations of the American Southwest in 1951 and 1955, Philip Hyde documented Dinosaur National Monument on the first photography assignment for an environmental cause. (See the series of blog posts that begin with, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1“)

Ardis and Philip Hyde returned to the Southwest in the Fall of 1963 and visited Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Monument, now also a national park, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon National Park, the Hopi Villages, Canyon de Chelly, Petrified Forest National Monument, Walnut Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, “Lake” Mead National Recreation Area and Glen Canyon Dam. Philip Hyde on this trip planned to build his stock photography files, gather images for several upcoming conservation projects as well as working on an assignment from the National Park Service photographing several of the national park’s facilities and buildings’ architecture. After a stop in Zion National Park, the Hydes moved on to Bryce Canyon National Park…

Excerpted From Philip Hyde’s 1963 travel log:

By Philip Hyde

September 24, 1963: We decided to go on to Bryce Canyon and come back to Zion National Park later—after Canyonlands, or on our way home before “Lake” Mead. We broke camp and headed for Bryce Canyon. On the way out of Zion, I spent an hour or so working on the East side formations after the tunnel—Checkerboard Mesa and Navajo Formation pavements. Then we went on out of Zion and north. We stopped about 11 am at Edith Hamblin’s place on the north end of Mt. Carmel. Edith Hamblin is the widow of painter Maynard Dixon. We also stopped in to see Dick McGraw at his studio and guest house with a view toward the White Cliffs, then drove on to Bryce Canyon, arriving about 3 pm.

At Bryce Canyon we went to the visitor’s center to meet with the Park Engineer and Naturalist. Then we headed on out to the first overlook road. In the fairyland section the light was gorgeous. I took my 4X5 view camera and walked down the trail half a mile or so into the canyon. I made six color transparencies and two black and white negatives. Then we drove back to the Visitor’s Center in later light which was also very good. Called it a day and headed to the campground, which was rather exposed with little gravel platforms for camp sites. The Park Ranger said that the low last night was down to 29 degrees Fahrenheit, so I put antifreeze into the radiator that I bought in Hatch, Utah.

September 25: In the morning I went up to the Visitor’s Center to shoot interiors for the National Park Service. Then we went first to Sunset Point and down the Navajo Loop Trail to the canyon bottom where I made several exposures. We drove out along the loop road to

Various viewpoints and eventually to Rainbow Point, then back along the rim. Back at Sunset Point I caught the late light and walked down the Queen’s Garden Trail just at Sunset when the light was magnificent. I photographed until the light failed. When we returned to the car, we ran into Adele and John Hampton of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, whom we had met in Zion National Park. We had dinner with them and talked until about 9 pm—late for us.

September 26: We were up before dawn, about 5:30 am, to catch the sunrise light on the Queen’s Garden Trail. Hiked down into Queen’s Garden working all the way as the light was spectacular. Photographed in the Queen’s Garden until about 9 am, then back up to the car, showered, packed up and set out for Capitol Reef about 10:30 am. Drove down into the Paria Valley—now called Bryce Valley—around Tropic, Utah. Tropic is just awakening from its sleepy, remote, Mormon character to tourist awareness. However, only the main “street” has changed adding a drive-in and frosty store. The road is now paved all the way to Escalante, Utah—not just paved, but realigned to “modern” engineering high standards—70 mph in most places. It circles around the Table Cliffs of the Aquarius Plateau and crosses several layered ridges and streaks across some broad open plateau tops to reach Escalante. Several roads beckoned. One that looked interesting was the one to Hole In The Rock, which we will take before we finish this project—maybe on this trip or perhaps next Spring. About eight miles East of Escalante the dirt started and except for a stretch on top of a ridge several miles long near Boulder, Utah, it was much like it was five or six years ago, though the surface this time was in better shape and some of the notable grades have been eliminated.

Landscape Photography Blogger Postscript

Philip Hyde made four dye transfer prints of “Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 1963” in the early 1970s and two more in 1987 when Drylands: The Deserts Of North America came out. See the blog post, “The Legend of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 1” for more about dye transfer printing and “Philip Hyde At Home In The Wilds 1” for an interview in which Philip Hyde talks about his approach to dye transfer printing. Now for the first time since Kodak discontinued the manufacture of dye transfer printing materials in the early 1990s, “Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park” is available as a color fine art print in archival digital print form. Also for a limited time “Formations From Bryce Point” is available at introductory New Release Pricing. For more about Philip Hyde’s connection to the Southwest see the blog post, “Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands.”

Backpacker Magazine Interview: Conservation Photographer Philip Hyde Part 2

March 31st, 2010

McClure Meadow, Evolution Valley, King's Canyon National Park, California, 1951 by Philip Hyde. "The Evolution Country" was one of Philip Hyde's all-time favorite places to backpack.

Continued from the blog post, “Backpacker Interview: Conservation Photographer 1.”

See also the blog post, “The 1970s Backpacking Boom, Conservation and Photography.”

This interview republished by permission of the writer Gary Braasch and Bill Kemsley, Jr., founder of Backpacker Magazine.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  You have not only made your creativity into a successful way of life but taken photographs that have been instrumental in battles for very important wilderness areas. How can other photographers—skilled amateurs—use their creativity for conservation?

PHILIP HYDE:  Off the top of my head, they’d do a lot better by going to law school because it looks to me as if the fight is now in lawyer’s hands. But on a local level, an individual can do a lot by becoming familiar with a place that needs protection and by studying the issues. The camera can be an important tool to him. The person can make himself an ad hoc committee on a project and carry it along until something gets done. The weekend photographer may have an even more important role in such cases than the professional, who is always hung up on having to make a living from photography. There are thousands of causes I could donate my photographs to if I were only privately endowed.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  How did your career evolve?

PHILIP HYDE:  I started in photography through nature, rather than vice versa, because of an early interest in mountains. Like everyone else, I carried a little camera around to take pictures of my favorite mountains, and one thing led to another. That was before World War II. When the war ended, just before I got out of the service, I wrote to Ansel Adams. He said he was starting a school of photography; that’s where I spent the next three years. Ansel knew I was interested in conservation and nature, and helped me get acquainted with people in the Sierra Club. My first major published photos were in the Sierra Club Bulletin of May, 1951. Making photographs of Dinosaur National Monument was the first conservation project I did for the Sierra Club. Even with that beginning my wife, Ardis, taught school for 12 years to support us.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  There’s a lot of Ansel’s influence showing in your earlier work.

PHILIP HYDE:  Yes, some people have always said that. But I don’t think I ever imitated him. That picture of Yosemite is a good example of my evolution. Twenty years ago, I had great difficulty making photographs in Yosemite because all I could see was Ansel Adams, and I was sure I didn’t want to duplicate his pictures. Now I can go to Yosemite and see it through my own eyes. I have a tremendous debt to Ansel—not just for having taught me technique but for having inspired me, introduced me to the Sierra Club and helped me get on my way. I want to acknowledge that debt, but I don’t agree that my pictures have ever been more than superficially like his pictures.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  Let’s discuss taking photos for straight illustration to show other people what a place is like, versus an artistic, creative image done to please yourself. The difference seems apparent in comparing many of your shots in The Wild Cascades with those in Slickrock. For instance, the photographs in the first book have much less emphasis on small detail.

PHILIP HYDE:  Several things happened between books. One was my own development. I think I started out with the idea of showing people what an area was like. When I went there I was very conscious of it as a place. Through the years as I visited more and more places, I began to realize that the PLACE, in capitals, is not really what we’re looking for after all; PLACE has become a commercial object more than anything else. To illustrate: There is no difference between Capitol Reef National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park. The place is the same, but the name change was sponsored by Utah’s industrial tourism because the term “national park” puts the place on the map. If the current wilderness proposal goes through the way it should, a very large percentage of the park will be preserved as wilderness, and the place will remain pretty much the same. Practically every book project I’ve ever worked on has had a very strong conservation aspect for saving a place. Another difference between the two books you mentioned is not the photographer’s approach but the editing. For The Wild Cascades and The Last Redwoods I produced many of the photographs, and I certainly edited them. I didn’t just dump the takes on somebody’s desk. But working with David Brower, he pretty much decided what ended up in a book. Practically all the exhibit format books were crash projects; that was Dave’s way of working. When he got an idea, he wanted to see it in a book as fast as possible. I was sympathetic to that wish because some of the places were threatened, but it often meant that the people involved didn’t really have time to do their best work I think that shows up in the photographs as well as the texts. Slickrock is a more finished book because I took all the photographs and I worked on the project a lot longer. I worked on it for several years before I ever talked to anyone about a book. I helped with the photo selection; the design and sequence of photographs were worked out by the book’s editor and a designer.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  It seems more and more nature photographers and editors are using images that suggest an area or give an impression of it without being specific about the exact location or subject, such as your exquisite photos of small details in Slickrock and here in Backpacker Magazine. Do you see this as a major trend in outdoor photography?

PHILIP HYDE:  I think that aspect is coming out more and more. You know, there are common elements to any scene. During the gasoline shortage I thought; “What can I do? I’ve got to go where the wild places are and make pictures of them.” But if the subject were the little common things of nature, I wouldn’t have to travel very far. Maybe, conservation-wise, that’s what we all must do. Instead of flying off to another part of the world and burning up all that fuel getting there, maybe we should just look down at our feet. I’m fond of quoting what John Ruskin said: “There was always more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly. He will see no more for going fast.”

Covered Wagon Journal 1

February 8th, 2010

Did you have a favorite vehicle growing up? What kind of rig do you use for photography or other work you do?

Covered Wagon Journal 1

By Philip Hyde (1955)

With Introduction by David Leland Hyde (2010)

1952 Chevrolet Pickup, Perhaps much as Covered Wagon looked new, perhaps slightly greener and a little less shiny.

In the early 1950s, pioneer landscape photographer Brett Weston drove back and forth from New York to California via Texas, up and down the East Coast, to Mexico and widely explored the Western United States. For more on Brett Weston, his photography and his influence on all of landscape photography see the blog post, “The Hidden Brett Weston.” In 1955, Brett Weston settled down for a time in Carmel to help print his father, Edward Weston’s photographs. Brett Weston in the Spring of that year, sold his traveling rig to Ardis and Philip Hyde. The dark-green 1952 Chevrolet step-side pickup complete with a metal canopy made the ideal photographer’s camper.

Knowing my parents, if Brett Weston had already called it “Covered Wagon,” they might have named it something else. It seems like an Ardis and Philip Hyde name, but you never know. I seem to remember my mother saying, “We’ve always called it our Covered Wagon.” Whether Brett Weston gave it the name or gave it another name, and which of his many journeys he took the truck on, is yet to be discovered. Regardless, after the pickup came from Carmel to the Northern Sierra Nevada, it did not stay home for long. Fate ordained it would be a traveling truck for many years, even after I was born in 1965.

I knew Covered Wagon well. By the time I grew to the age I would remember anything though, the old dark-green truck was going on 20 years old and had long since shed its silver corrugated metal rounded shell that made it look like a covered wagon. By the 1970s our old friend had been relegated to local trips to buy groceries and hauling horse manure, hay and rocks for the garden. Besides gardening, landscaping and building supplies, Covered Wagon had become primarily a wooding truck with tall wooden framed-in sides for the back end. I loved that old truck. It had running boards and the spare tire on the side behind the flared front wheel well.

You would often spot similar trucks in the rural area where I grew up in the Northern Sierra Nevada, California. These brother and sister trucks were sometimes lowered, sometimes raised with huge wide tires, brightly painted in orange, red or yellow with decals of flames on the sides, extra long chrome tail pipes and spoke rims. They made a sputtering, rumbling sound that exploded into the noise of a 50-caliber machine gun when their driver stomped on the gas and screeched the tires for 50 yards. Whenever I went with my mom to shovel barnyard cargoes, older kids that I looked up to would come over and say, “Wow, what a cool truck. You could really do something with this. Put in a 4-barrel carb, raise the hood, metallic paint, new rims, bad man.”

As a boy who felt inadequate in many ways, especially in junior high school, I wanted my parents to give Covered Wagon to me so that I could “jack it up” and attain the status of cool. My parents did hold on to Covered Wagon much longer than most vehicles they bought new, owned for exactly 10 years and sold. When Mom and Dad finally did sell it to a local guy who liked old trucks, while I was away at prep school in the early 1980s, I made a big protest, even though I had outgrown my hot-rodding fantasies by then. It was the end of an era.

Even so, I wish my parents somehow could have kept that old truck. I would still have it today. I never went with them on any long trips in it, but I loved it just the same because of all the memories of shorter trips. For more memories of eventually being able to work with my father see the blog post, “Memories of Finally Working With Dad.”

Covered Wagon, as you shall soon read in Dad’s own words, made its maiden Philip Hyde photographic journey in 1955 to Grand Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Dinosaur National Monument and elsewhere in the West, shortly after it left off wandering with Brett Weston. Covered Wagon was a loyal, faithful comrade to my family for many years. So without further  ado, here’s Philip Hyde’s Covered Wagon Journal as first published in the Sierra Club Bulletin in December 1956…

Covered Wagon Journal

Extracts from a Summer Journal of Travels Through the Western National Parks and Monuments

By Philip Hyde

In June 1955, my wife and I set out in our newly acquired camping pickup to find out how a summer of being on the move would help us to accomplish our prime purpose of studying and interpreting photographically the western natural scene. Our plans were flexibly hitched to a series of Sierra Club outings. What follows is a collection of extracts from our trip journals of some of the high points of our summer.

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capital Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in “Drylands: The Deserts of North America” by Philip Hyde. Some say this is a stronger, more majestic image than an earlier photograph made from the same location published in “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” by Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde.

June 7. From our sandy bedsite by the Colorado River at Hite, Utah, we are recalling the activities of the past two days. Yesterday morning we got aboard a school bus at Marble Canyon Lodge, Arizona, for the climb over the edge of the Kaibab Plateau, and north, to Richfield, Utah, where we turned off the highway into some of the most colorful scenery of the Southwest. Last night we watched the moon flood its rising light over the great white and red cliffs of Capitol Reef National Monument. This morning, after a brief sampling of the Monument, we got back on the bus to rattle on through the heart of the uranium country. In every direction the landscape is punctuated by claim-marking cairns. Will any stones be left unturned before the tide of the uranium madness recedes in this once remote and austerely beautiful desert wilderness?

(In 1970 Edward Abbey helped start Black Mesa Defense Fund to keep uranium mining off of Navajo and Hopi lands on Black Mesa. In 1971 the Sierra Club published Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah by Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde in the Exhibit Format Series to assist in a campaign to protect the delicate desert landscapes of the region. For more on Edward Abbey and Black Mesa Defense Fund read the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?”)

June 13. We started our walk up Aztec Canyon to Rainbow Bridge under heavy overcast. There is a wonderful passage where Bridge Canyon cuts through the walls of Aztec Canyon. One of the choicest bits of canyon we have seen, this proves to be the precise spot where the Bureau of Reclamation proposes to build a cut-off dam to protect Rainbow Bridge from the waters that will be impounded by Glen Canyon Dam. Entering Bridge Canyon we walked on to the grand climax of the Glen Canyon trip. Rainbow Bridge’s mighty, free-standing arch was as impressive in the overcast lighting as it might have been in sunlight.

(For more about Rainbow Bridge and the making of the color photograph of it that appeared in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series Book Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run, see the blog post, “The Making Of Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side.”)

June 14. We were thoroughly awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a crescendo in the chorus of rain that had been constant for most of the night. A short time after it began, it was coming into the tent in wholesale quantities. A large rock falling off the ledge above us tore a huge gap in the tent and we were forced to leave. Fortunately, it hit to one side, missing us. As we ran toward shelter under some large boulders, we heard an ominous roaring, and looked up to see a full-blown waterfall cascading down into what had been the camp kitchen. But for the quick thinking of some of those who had been sleeping close to the kitchen, much of our equipment and supplies might have been carried into the Colorado River…

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 2“)

Covered Wagon is also mentioned in the blog post, “What Urban Exploration Photography Learned From Nature.”

Did you have a favorite vehicle growing up? What kind of rig do you use for photography or other work you do?