Posts Tagged ‘Cedric Wright’

Living The Good Life 4

March 26th, 2015

Living the Good Life, Part Four

Failure In Carmel

(Continued from the blog post, “Living The Good Life 3.”)

 

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”  ~ Jack Canfield

About This Blog Post Series: “Living The Good Life”

Riffle Through Woods, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California (Vertical Version) copyright 1983 by Philip Hyde. This view of Indian Creek is from the roof of the Hyde home they named Rough Rock. It is essentially the same view the Hydes watched wildlife through from the dining room table and living room beginning when the house was completed in 1959.

Riffle Through Woods, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California (Vertical Version) copyright 1983 by Philip Hyde. This view of Indian Creek is from the roof of the Hyde home they named Rough Rock. It is essentially the same view the Hydes watched wildlife through from the dining room table and living room beginning when the house was completed in 1959.

In early January 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I asked her if she would be my interview subject, as I intended to write magazine articles about her locally popular gardening, preserving and cooking techniques. I also wanted reminders and more detail on my parents’ philosophy of living and making a sustainable low-impact lifestyle long before sustainability became a buzzword.

In response to my inquiries, my mother handed me her personal copy of Living the Good Life how to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing, leaders of the 1950s Back to the Land Movement. Mom said simply, “This was our Bible.”

Through this series of blog posts, my parents, self-taught naturalist Ardis Hyde and pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail for a photography project, in their quiet way adapted and invented their version of “The Good Life.” In the blog post, “Living The Good Life 2,” we reviewed Ardis’ upbringing and Philip’s and how each of them having fathers who loved nature, instilled in them the values that brought them eventually to the country and to their own land. In the third episode, “Living the Good Life 3” I reflect on the changing seasons and passing years as our dream home and my parents’ way of life continue here, after my mother has been gone 12 years and my father six. People dwelling in a simpler way, while gadgets and “conveniences” multiply, must remain constant to the vision of low impact living and stay vigilant to keep the freedom to live life this way. Technology itself can even sometimes help in this, but it can also be a distraction that interferes with the values of quiet, peace and the ability to listen to natural sounds, community and local conversations. The series began with the blog post, “Living the Good Life 1,” in which my friend Nancy Presser compared each key aspect of the Hydes’ sustainable life to points in the book, Living the Good Life. This comparative format will be common in blog posts to come in the series.

Part Four: Failure In Carmel Leads To Philip Hyde’s Greatest Success

Early Rental Homes

Before Ardis and Philip acquired their property and began to build their “dream home” on a natural bench above Indian Creek, they lived in half a dozen small rental houses and apartments, some mentioned in other blog posts, starting right after their marriage in Berkeley in 1947; in San Francisco and Daily City while Dad attended photography school at the California School of Fine Art, now the San Francisco Art Institute until 1950; in the primitive Macaulay Cabin in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park for a summer in 1949; at the Fox Farm at Lake Almanor in the Northern Sierra and in nearby Greenville, where they moved into the Granary at Fredrickson’s Ranch while Mom taught kindergarten for 12 years. Her teaching at Greenville Elementary was interrupted for a few years and those interruptions made all the difference for the Hydes in the long run. This blog post is the story of the interruptions and how these showed the young couple they were doing what they were meant to do when they lived closest to nature in Indian Valley between the mountains of Plumas County.

The Granary at Fredrickson’s Ranch had been converted into an apartment before the Hydes lived there. Dad did his own conversion of one of the closets, about three by four feet, into a darkroom where he “souped” or processed his own film and made silver gelatin prints that he began to send out for publication. It was his first darkroom after he finished photography school. He did not have a darkroom while they lived at Benton’s Fox Farm on Lake Almanor, their first home near Greenville in Plumas County in the Northern Sierra Nevada.

First Publishing Credits

In 1949 while the Hydes lived at the Fox Farm, David Brower became the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club, a full-time paid staff position approved by the traditionally volunteer Board of Directors to better run the expanding hiking, climbing and conservation club that few people outside the mountains of California and the Bay Area knew about yet. David Brower had already led the Sierra Club’s High Sierra Pack Trips for a handful of years.

In 1950, Brower asked Dad to come along as official photographer for the Summer High Sierra Pack Trip. The other official photographer, Cedric Wright, mentored Dad on High Sierra tarp pitching, mountain film changing and timing meals and photography on the trip. Dad’s first publishing credit from the May 1951 Sierra Club Bulletin consisted of his photographs from the summer 1950 Sierra Club High Trip.

Mom and Dad moved from the Fox Farm at Lake Almanor to the Granary at Fredrickson’s Ranch, just below the California Highway 70 grade about two miles from Greenville in September 1951.

Dinosaur National Monument: The First Photography Assignment for an Environmental Cause

Meanwhile three states away, in the remote northeast corner of Utah near the Colorado border and not far from Wyoming, the town of Vernal, like many other small towns around the West, celebrated the possibility that it would soon become a boomtown. Vernal was the closest town of any size to two dams proposed on the Green River within the boundary of Dinosaur National Monument, one at Split Mountain and one at Echo Park.

Richard Leonard, Board Member of both the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, attended the Wilderness Society’s annual meeting in 1950 near Ft. Collins in northern Colorado. After the meeting, the founders of the Wilderness Society, Olaus and Margaret Murie, Richard Leonard and others drove through Dinosaur National Monument to see what it offered in scenic resources.

Highly impressed with the wilderness of Dinosaur, Richard Leonard back in San Francisco urged David Brower to expand the Sierra Club’s reach beyond the mountains of California to protect the spectacular Yampa and Green River canyons of Dinosaur. Brower needed to see more of Dinosaur. He needed better photographs. Other photographers’ images had been used in conservation campaigns before, but this was the first time a photographer would ever be sent on assignment for an environmental cause. Brower chose Philip Hyde, Brower said later because Hyde made reliable surveys of wild places and captured their unique natural features. However, when Hyde returned from Dinosaur, few of the conservation groups wanted to use his photographs or even exhibit his prints. Groups like the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, National Audubon and others that were starting to become more than regional, took very little action or even interest in Dinosaur from 1951 until 1954. Three years may seem like a short time now, but it is a long time to have little income for a young photographer. Dad had to wait three years before many publishers or non-profits would even look at, let alone buy or sell his photographs from Dinosaur.

Marketing, The Marketplace and Making a Living

“I think that you are making a great mistake to isolate yourself; you really should be right in the middle of humanity – bringing them the messages of nature which are of real value,” Ansel Adams wrote in a two-page letter to Dad dated May 4, 1952. Ansel urged Dad to find some means of support other than photography, which would work with photography. As Dad continued to struggle in Greenville, both Ansel Adams and David Brower suggested at different times that Dad try living closer to the marketplace for photography in San Francisco.

“Weeks of wondering and doubt,” said Dad’s personal log entry for May 16, 1952. “Ansel has been advising me to work toward some solution of economic problem. The two years in Greenville and the mountains seem to be drawing to a close. I have a feeling change is near. Ned Graves in Carmel suggests I work part-time in a photo shop and has provided the impetus. I will look into the possibility the second week of June when we go down below again.” Mom applied for the job of kindergarten teacher in nearby Del Ray Woods. Shortly after she landed the job, the Hydes moved to Carmel. For more on their life and struggles in Carmel, see the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 6.”

Loss and New Travels To Morocco

“Everything seemed to go wrong in Carmel,” Dad said. Even though they succeeded in buying a small property to build on, no bank would lend the young couple money to build a home. In those days banks did not count a newly married woman’s income because of the risk she might become pregnant and unable to work. Dad contracted a terrible case of Poison Oak trying to clear it from their lot. Dad lost his brother David Lee Hyde, my namesake, in the Korean War in mid 1952 and by the end of the year my grandfather Leland Hyde also passed on.

It was a lonely Christmas in Carmel. Jesse Hyde, Dad’s mom, came down from San Francisco for the weekend, but Dad’s new gas station job required him to work on Christmas Day, even after his boss learned of his recent loss of his father. About that time Mom’s dad, Clinton Samuel King Jr., an engineer, overseas in Africa building American Cold War Bases, told Dad he could come to Morocco and make a very good wage as a draftsman. Mom could work in the office and they could get caught up financially with the low cost of living on the large American base near Casablanca. After the drafting work wound down, Dad transferred to a department where they asked him to oversee a photographer documenting new American bases all over Morocco. Dad and the photographer became friends and traveled the country photographing everything because they had been instructed to stay busy even when there was frequently nothing to do.

It was through these travels in Morocco that Dad rekindled his enthusiasm for photographing nature in particular, even though he made more photographs of the local people and their culture and events than ever before. Also, by the middle of 1954 when the Hydes had been a year in Morocco, the battle over Dinosaur National Monument heated up when the Sierra Club decided to join the defense of the integrity of the national park system by keeping the two proposed dams out of Dinosaur.

Coming Home, Finding Home

Ardis and Philip, now with significant savings, longed to return to the mountains where the Fredrickson’s again had the Granary available for rent. After a few weeks in San Francisco with Grandma Jesse, the Hydes were again back home in Plumas County, this time actively looking for property to stay permanently.

In 1955, David Brower convinced the Sierra Club to publish This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers with photographs by Martin Litton and Philip Hyde. Brower had already asked Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner to write the forward and one chapter of what would become the world’s first “battle book,” as Stegner called it. This Is Dinosaur was the first book ever published for an environmental cause. Hyde’s career took off with the buzz over the Dinosaur campaign. Parallel with Sierra Club’s efforts, Hyde sent an exhibition of his prints of the national monument to show in some of the most patronized libraries in the nation. The show started at the Chicago Public Library and traveled on to other major cities such as Washington D.C., New York, Cincinnati and others.

In December of 1955, when most land was still in big ranches in Plumas County, Mom and Dad bought 18 acres from David and Mary Ann Newcomb, who had a large ranch in Mormon Canyon between Grizzly Peak and Mt. Jura that included part of Genesee Valley. The Newcombs suggested the Hydes could pick out a piece of land anywhere on their big ranch. Mary Ann taught First Grade in Greenville and the couple had become good friends. So it was that in 1956 that Mom and Dad began cleaning up logging debris on the site that would become our home and gardens. And so it was that a series of failures led to what Dad called his biggest success, designing, drawing the plans for and nearly single-handedly over two years building the home that became known as Rough Rock.

(The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living The Good Life 6.”)

Have you ever lived in or near wilderness?

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 2

October 4th, 2012

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series

Part Two: The Making of This Is The American Earth

(Continued from the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 1.”)

Aspens, East Side of the Sierra Nevada off the Tioga Road near Yosemite National Park, California, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. A close variation on the photograph of Philip Hyde’s that appears in “This Is the American Earth.” Made with an 8X10 Deardorff large format view camera.

“The Exhibit Format Series put the Sierra Club on the map,” Philip Hyde said in a 2004 interview. The Sierra Club Foundation, founded by David Brower, had the central purpose of operating the Sierra Club publishing program that published all Sierra Club Books and the Exhibit Format Series as it’s mainstay. For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1.” The Sierra Club Books’ Exhibit Format Series not only popularized the coffee table photography book, but brought an awareness of land conservation, wilderness preservation and environmental ethics into the national and eventually worldwide limelight.

The oversize photography books in the Exhibit Format Series spearheaded conservation campaigns to create Redwood National Park, North Cascades National Park, to save the Grand Canyon from two dams, to expand Canyonlands and many others causes. Photographer Ansel Adams, Museum Curator, Writer and Art Critic Nancy Newhall and Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower invented the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series.

Life Magazine Photographer, Joe Munroe, interviewed David Brower in 1967 for Infinity, the magazine of the American Society of Media Photographers or ASMP, regarding the new Exhibit Format Series. Joe Munroe asked David Brower, “You’ve called the Sierra Club’s Exhibit Format Series ‘Books with a bias.’ What is the central bias behind these books?”

David Brower answered:

We make it perfectly clear that we like this wild country we’re portraying in our books. We want it saved and we don’t want it paved, or logged, or dammed, or sprayed, or polluted. Our point is that there’s only 5 or 10 percent of the country left in its un-messed-up wildness. If our economy cannot operate on the 90 or 95 percent that has already been changed, that other 5 or 10 percent won’t save it; so our big effort must be in doing better with the land we’re already on. We say let’s pretend this 5 or 10 percent just doesn’t exist, so we can save it for itself for whatever answers there are to questions we haven’t learned how to ask yet. This has got to last for all the generations we expect to be aboard this planet. We’d like to have some of the wild spots left and we’ve been trying to stress this in several ways, one of which is through these books with an extra measure of physical size, the best of reproduction quality, and photographic and literary excellence.

This is the American Earth, the first book in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, was a perfect example of just these attributes. This Is The American Earth offered text by Nancy Newhall and photographs primarily by Ansel Adams joined by some of his photographer friends such as Ray Atkeson, Werner Bischoff, Wynn Bullock, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Garnett, Philip Hyde, Pirkle Jones, Eliot Porter, Edward Weston, Minor White, Cedric Wright and others. All in black and white, the book has both literary and visual eloquence unparalleled in books containing photographs.

The front flap of the Sierra Club Centennial edition published in 1992 said:

First published to acclaim in 1960, This Is The American Earth launched the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, creating a revolution in publishing and in conservation action and attitudes. “This Is The American Earth is one of the great statements in the history of conservation,” proclaimed Justice William O. Douglas… Called “terrifying and beautiful” by the New York Times, This Is The American Earth presents eighty-five powerful black and white photographs—fourty-four by Ansel Adams and others by such eminent American photographers as Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde, Edward Weston and Margaret Bourke-White. Accompanying the images is a luminous text in blank verse by Nancy Newhall. Reprinted in rich duotones from new prints supplied by the Ansel Adams Trust, the pictures exhibit the stark contrast between those spaces forever altered by the forces of development and those left unscarred by human presence. As Nancy Newhall explores the intricate threads that unite the earth as an ever-shifting whole, and Adams exults in Yosemite’s rocky peaks, and Porter reveres a single tern in flight, William Garnett despairs at waves of smog and frantic mazes of tract housing that forsake all of nature’s singularity. The images, so bold in their divergence, are an eloquent call for the preservation of wilderness. This Is The American Earth compels us to ask what is the value of solitude, the cost of freedom, the legacy of our ingenuity—and the peril of our unwavering march from nature.

Ansel Adams first conceived This Is The American Earth as an exhibit of photographs, in response to the Natioal Park Service suggestion that something more functional be done with the Joseph LeConte memorial building in Yosemite Valley.  Ansel Adams asked Nancy Newhall to bring in her skill with exhibits and text she gained as curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The exhibition that opened simultaneously at the LeConte Memorial in Yosemite Valley and at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, gained a world-wide audience through the Smithsonian Institute, while a number of prominent publishers and foundations helped the show become a book. The idea of the project was to educate the public about conservation. Ansel Adams said in brainstorming sessions with his wife Virginia Adams and Nancy Newhall later quoted in Modern Photography Magazine:

What about a show on the whole of conservation?… Clear up the confusion in people’s minds, show them the issues at stake, and the dangers… Show the importance of the spiritual values as well as the material ones by making the most beautiful exhibition yet… A lot of people think Conservationists are a bunch of long-haired cranks and wild-eyed mystics. It’s about time they were given a chance to understand the broad principles and the full scope for which we’re fighting…

Ansel Adams raised the money to mount the exhibition himself. Nancy Newhall reviewed thousands of photographs, designed the overall concept and layout of the show and wrote the text. Beaumont and Christi Newhall’s new introduction to the Sierra Club Centennial edition described how the printing and organization of the show came together:

Six photographers made their own prints [including Philip Hyde] for the show, and Ansel Adams, with the help of his assistant Pirkle Jones, made the rest from the photographer’s own negatives. These images were attached to fourteen panels, each seven by four feet. Some of the photographs were mounted with spacers, making them stand out from the panels, and giving a certain visual liveliness to the show. Also displayed were natural objects and geological specimens such as butterflies, mushrooms coral, crystals, and shells, as well as small Egyptian and Greek artifacts. These objects added color, variety, a sense of life, and a sense of immediacy… Labels made from Nancy Newhall’s text were placed together with the photographs where they seemed appropriate, giving the exhibition an even broader scope. Immediately, the show received an overwhelming enthusiastic response.

An article in the November 1955 issue of Modern Photography Magazine stated:

This Is the American Earth is one of the most beautiful and remarkable photographic exhibitions ever put together… Various organizations have proposed to circulate it in reproduction to every community, to make it into a movie for TV and ordinary theater showings, to publish it as a book for distribution in this country and throughout the world. Why all the excitement? There are two answers, one is the theme of the show, the other its execution. The theme stresses the need, the history, the purpose of the conservation of America’s resources. The execution includes the display of some of the most penetrating and beautiful photographs ever made…

Nancy Newhall completely revised the text as the exhibition became a book, “to reflect new thinking and expansion of the original ideas.” Beaumont and Christi Newhall’s introduction explained:

The exhibit had focused on conservation and the “national park idea.” The theme of the book is avowedly ecological and environmental. It embraces an understanding of the interrelation of all resources including man, and the need for reverence and preservation of these resources. The impassioned, poetic text also deals with the tragic effects of man’s greed and ignorance throughout history upon this planet. The book was an instant success. It was chosen as one of the forty-six “Notable Books”  of 1960 by the nation’s librarians, and was selected Best Book of the Year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. It was reviewed in newspapers and periodicals throughout the country, often accompanied by photographs from the book and large sections of the text.

In Ansel Adams’ last living interview by Art News in 1984, he said, “…It boils down to the fact that the world is in a state of potential destruction. There’s no use worrying about anything else.”

(Continued in the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 3.”)

How Color Came To Landscape Photography

April 19th, 2012

Photography For Art’s Sake, For Earth’s Sake Or Both?

Drake's Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California, 1972 by Philip Hyde. This photograph was first published in the revised second edition of Island In Time, 1972.

(See photograph full screen, CLICK HERE.)

Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde were the three primary landscape photographers of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. The Series influenced a generation of landscape photographers as it redefined the photography book and brought international attention to the protection of wild places through photographs. While Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter were both Sierra Club Board Members and committed conservationists, Philip Hyde dedicated his life to the portrayal and protection of wilderness chiefly through landscape photography.

Both Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter considered the art of photography their foremost reason for making landscape photographs. Ansel Adams went so far as to say that he did not want people to view his photographs as propaganda for any cause. If his images were used in environmental campaigns that was all for the good, but he did not want that to be thought of as the motive for their creation. In contrast, Philip Hyde expressly stated that his reason for being a landscape photographer was to “share the beauty of nature and encourage people to preserve wild places.”

David Brower Sent Philip Hyde On The Projects That Made National Parks And Designated Wilderness

Though he had fine art training in Ansel Adam’s photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art institute, a fair portion of Philip Hyde’s landscape photography was documentary. Dorothea Lange had a significant impact on Philip Hyde and his classmates. She spent significant time in classes at CSFA as a guest lecturer, assistant and advisor to Minor White and the students. Dorothea Lange showed the power of photography in affecting social awareness. Philip Hyde applied what he learned to conservation photography as it transformed into modern environmentalism in the 1950s and 1960s. He became the “go-to-guy” for Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower and at times for other leaders such as the Wilderness Society’s Howard Zahniser, primary author of the Wilderness Act.

Eliot Porter was a doctor early in his photography career and later he came to the Sierra Club with his own completed ideas. Ansel Adams was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships to photograph the national parks. Meanwhile, Philip Hyde, young, motivated, talented, willing to work for little besides expenses, could take off on short notice wherever David Brower and other conservation leaders sent him to bring back images that would show them the beauty each place had to offer. Between the Exhibit Format Series and other photography books of the same era published by the Sierra Club, Philip Hyde had more photographs in more of the volumes than any other photographer.

This is the American Earth By Nancy Newhall and Ansel Adams Launched The Exhibit Format Series

The Exhibit Format Series was conceived in 1960 by Ansel Adams, Nancy Newhall and David Brower. The first book in the Series, This is the American Earth, mainly consisted of Ansel Adam’s landscape photographs and Nancy Newhall’s eloquent prose. The creators also invited a few other landscape photographers to participate such as Edward Weston, Minor White, Philip Hyde, Cedric Wright, William Garnett, Wynn Bullock, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eliot Porter, Pirkle Jones and others. An accompanying exhibition of the photographs toured nationally and internationally.

In Island In Time Is The Preservation of The First Master of Black and White, and Color Landscape Photography

In 1962, the Sierra Club published Eliot Porter’s In Wildness is the Preservation of the World.  It outsold all of the other books in the Exhibit Format Series including This is the American Earth. Eliot Porter became known as the photographer who introduced color to landscape photography. However, the same year the Sierra Club also published Island In Time: the Point Reyes Peninsula text by Harold Gilliam and landscape photographs by Philip Hyde. Island In Time was not a well-planned art project like In Wildness Is The Preservation Of The World. Island In Time was rushed through to have a book to show in fund raising efforts to buy the ranches of Point Reyes before developers bought the land and began to build homes. It had a more documentary look and purpose, but it also showed the world the impact of color and helped establish color photography as the new trend in publishing and printing. Island In Time: the Point Reyes Peninsula contained beautiful color landscape photographs as well as black and white images together for the first time. While Philip Hyde became the first landscape photographer to master both mediums, Island In Time helped establish Point Reyes National Seashore and color photography. For more on Philip Hyde’s black and white printing and transition to color printing see the blog post, “Black And White Prints, Collectors And Philip Hyde.” To read more about today’s trends and concerns in color landscape photography see the blog post, “Is Landscape Photography Thriving Or Dying?” and “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?” To read about Color Magazine’s feature article about Philip Hyde see the blog post, “Color Magazine Feature Out Now.”

References:

Sierra Club Records at Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley, California

Taped Interviews of Philip Hyde by David Leland Hyde

Taped Interviews of Martin Litton by David Leland Hyde

Notes from Conversations with Ken Brower

The History of the Sierra Club 1892-1970 by Michael P. Cohen

This is the American Earth by Nancy Newhall and Ansel Adams

In Wildness is the Preservation of the World photographs by Eliot Porter with quotes by Henry David Thoreau

Island In Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula text by Harold Gilliam, photographs by Philip Hyde

Ansel Adams: An Autobiography

Ansel Adams: A Biography by Mary Street Alinder

For Earth’s Sake: The Life and Times of David Brower by David Brower

Work In Progress by David Brower

Originally posted August 16, 2010

Tuolumne Meadows Parsons’ Lodge Caretakers Hugh Sakols And Mara Dale

March 20th, 2012

Photographer Hugh Sakols And His Wife Mara Dale Work As Summer Caretakers Of Parsons’ Lodge And The Historic McCauley Cabin In Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park…

Environmental Educators And Back Country Mountaineers Hugh Sakols and his wife Mara Dale, Each Summer Since 2008, Have Honored And Educated About Early Conservation Leaders, While Acting As Volunteer Docents, Leading Interpretive Walks, Caretaking The Sierra Club Parsons’ Memorial Lodge And Staying In The Rustic McCauley Cabin, Much As Ardis And Philip Hyde Did In The Summer Of 1949. On This Land, Next To Soda Springs In Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, John Muir And Other Pioneer Conservationists First Conceived The Sierra Club.

"Lenticular Clouds and Lembert Dome," Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada High Country, California, copyright 2010 by Hugh Sakols.

(View the photograph large: “Lenticular Clouds and Lembert Dome.”)

Hugh Sakols first started exploring Yosemite National Park on a backpacking trip when he was seventeen years old. He started seriously photographing the Park after working as a Yosemite Institute instructor teaching environmental education. He later assisted photography workshops taught by Michael Frye through the Ansel Adams Gallery. Today he continues to explore the Yosemite back country, whether in summer or winter. He now lives just outside Yosemite National Park in El Portal, California, where he teaches elementary school during the school year. Hugh Sakol’s photographs have been used by the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite Institute, and have appeared at the Yosemite Renaissance. He has converted almost entirely to digital photography, now using a Nikon D300, whereas before he often used a Bronica SQA medium format film camera and a Horseman VH-R large format View Camera.

Summer In Tuolumne Meadows By Hugh Sakols

Over the last four summers, starting in 2008, my wife Mara, and I have worked as National Park Service Volunteers. We are summer caretakers for Parsons’ Memorial Lodge and the historic McCauley Cabin in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. We are lucky enough pull this off and continue working at our “real jobs” as Educators in Yosemite National Park.

Just like the Southern Miwok people have done for thousands of years, Mara and I migrate upslope, where at 8600 ft the meadows are green, the temperatures are generally cool, and the views are striking.  Tuolumne Meadows is a glacially scoured sub alpine landscape that is the heart of Yosemite’s high country and part of what John Muir referred to as the Range of Light. To learn more about John Muir and the Sierra Nevada, see the blog post, “Philip Hyde’s Tribute To John Muir.”

It was here at Soda Springs that John Baptist Lembert, namesake of Lembert Dome, spent his summers on a 160 acre homestead where he raised Angora goats and became an expert on local butterflies. John Baptist Lembert’s only friends in the summer were sheepherders, many of whom were Basque. At this time Tuolumne Meadows was essentially a land grab. Reportedly, in the late 1860s there were thousands of grazing sheep that later John Muir described as “hooved locust.” After John Lembert’s death (he was murdered in El Portal), the McCauley brothers acquired the land where they grazed cattle and built a log cabin. The McCauley Cabin now is a park service residence, where Mara and I live come summer.

Honoring The Place Where Western Conservation Began

Hugh Sakols And Mara Dale In Front Of The Historical McCauley Cabin, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 by Hugh Sakols. Self portrait.

While at the McCauley Cabin, Mara and I have some big shoes to fill.  It was here that the western conservation movement began. John Muir saw the commercialism that was taking over Yosemite Valley and dreaded what would happen to Tuolumne Meadows. In 1889 Robert Underwood Johnson convinced John Muir to write two articles for a popular East Coast magazine. In one article John Muir described the beauty of Yosemite, and in another article John Muir proposed the need for Yosemite’s preservation. Only a year later, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill to establish Yosemite as the country’s first national preserve. Soon after Yosemite became a national park.

In 1912, the Sierra Club bought the McCauley brother’s land in hopes that it would be saved from the building of hotels, stables and other improvements. The land around Soda Springs with Parsons’ Lodge and the McCauley Cabin on it, the Sierra Club eventually seeded to the National Park Service in 1973. During the Sierra Club’s ownership, this remarkably beautiful spot brought club members together for mountain adventures and a place to discuss the protection of wild lands, many of which are now national parks. The most famous early battle was probably over the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley inside Yosemite National Park. Sierra Club leaders such as Edward Taylor Parsons, William E. Colby, and John Muir fought tooth and nail, but eventually lost the battle. Interestingly, the man Forest Service people call their first environmentalist, Gifford Pinchot, was in favor of damming Hetch Hetchy. Gifford Pinchot opposed John Muir in the ongoing public debate over building a dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley within Yosemite National Park around the turn of the century. In 1915 Parsons’ Lodge was built as a mountain headquarters and a place to reflect the work of forward thinking Sierra Club leaders.

A year after Parsons’ Lodge was built, Ansel Adams made his first trip to Yosemite National Park. After that he quickly became part of the Sierra Club where he first worked as a custodian at the LeConte Memorial and later served on the board of directors. The Sierra Club over time indoctrinated Ansel Adams to Yosemite’s High Country and the importance of preserving wilderness. This was the beginning of a close relationship between landscape photographers and conservationists.

Conservation, The Environmental Movement And Landscape Photography

Beginning in the late 1930s and 1940s, Ansel Adams and wilderness photographer Cedric Wright both contributed photographs to conservation campaigns. However, it wasn’t until 1951, when the Sierra Club sent photographer Philip Hyde on the first photography assignment ever for an environmental cause. The Sierra Club sent Philip Hyde, who had been a photography student of Ansel Adams in San Francisco, to Dinosaur National Monument to help prevent the building of two dams, again within the National Park System. The battle over Dinosaur, many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement because it combined the conservation ideals of John Muir and other turn of the century conservation leaders with the hard hitting tactics of David Brower and other environmentalists of the 1950s and 1960s. For more about David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1.” The Dinosaur battle redeemed the loss of Hetch Hetchy to the extent that it reversed the precedent set for such development within a national park. Read about the first photography assignment for an environmental cause in the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.” Activists are still working to remove Hetch Hetchy Dam and restore Yosemite Valley’s sister valley to its original pristine state.

In the decades that followed the Dinosaur battle, Philip Hyde, worked with the Sierra Club, National Audubon, Wilderness Society and other environmental groups, contributing his photographs to more environmental campaigns than any other photographer of his time. David Brower, Sierra Club Executive Director and head of the publishing program, used Philip Hyde’s widely published photographs in Sierra Club Books to help save such places as the Grand Canyon, the California Redwoods, the North Cascades and many other national treasures. The Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, not only popularized coffee table photography books and the modern environmental movement, but paved the way for photographers to be able make a living from such publications. Photographs from this time period helped spark the 1960s interest in getting back to nature and helped instigate a backpacking boom in the 1970s.

Philip Hyde’s first exposure to vast wilderness also occurred in Yosemite National Park in 1938. Philip Hyde at age 16, joined a Boy Scout backpacking trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley. To read this history see the blog post, “Lake Tenaya And Yosemite National Park.” For some years afterward, Philip Hyde visited and backpacked in Yosemite National Park until World War II. After the War, Philip Hyde studied photography under Ansel Adams. For more on Ansel Adams’ innovative photography department, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 6.” During the summer 1949 break from photography school, Ansel Adams helped Ardis and Philip Hyde land the caretakers job at Parsons’ Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows. Ardis and Philip Hyde stayed in the rustic McCauley cabin while Ardis Hyde studied for her teaching credential and Philip Hyde gleefully photographed. Future blog posts will share more about the Hyde’s Summer in Tuolumne Meadows. That summer Philip Hyde met David Brower briefly in Tuolumne Meadows, as the Sierra Club leader brought a Yosemite High Trip through the Soda Springs area. Philip Hyde and David Brower were more formally introduced later by Ansel Adams, which led to David Brower inviting Philip Hyde to act as official Sierra Club photographer for the 1950 Summer High Trip, one year before the battle over Dinosaur National Monument began to take the national stage. Read about the Sierra High Trip in the blog post, “Cedric Wright And Philip Hyde On The 1950 Sierra High Trip.”

Tuolumne Meadows And Landscape Photography Today

"Golden Reflection, Gaylor Lake" Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada High Country, California, copyright 2008 by Hugh Sakols.

(See the photograph large click: “Golden Reflection, Gaylor Lake.”)

Understanding the history and traditions of Tuolumne Meadows has helped me to realize why I am so intrigued by landscape photography.  First I have always felt the need to venture into wilderness. Second, I hope my photography advocates the importance of wilderness preservation and the complexity of nature. And third, I want to uncover Yosemite National Park as a place I have spent years exploring and observing.

While at the McCauley Cabin, some of our tasks include taking care of Parsons Memorial Lodge and assisting presenters who come each summer.  Also, I lead weekly photography walks while my wife teaches Junior Rangers.  Together each Sunday we serve coffee in the campground where we are able to talk with a very diverse group of visitors. It is not uncommon to have gritty looking backpackers who are passing through on their way along the Pacific Crest Trail, a computer geek from the Silicon Valley, and a family looking for the falsely posted church service, all together around a single camp fire.The one thing we all have in common is our love for Tuolumne and of course, caffeine. It is during these informal programs that Mara and I try to instill the values of our predecessors. We remind the visitors of the challenges Yosemite National Park faces in finding a balance between preservation and access. Furthermore, we celebrate Yosemite’s timelessness by enjoying the rustic nature of places such as Tuolumne Meadows.

When I am scheduled in the Yosemite Guide, I lead a Monday morning photography walk for the general public.  During the walk I quickly go over the basics of composition, exposure, and quality of light.  Along the way I will pull out prints I have made that illustrate these concepts and show views from the trail that I have collected over the past summers. It is fun to pass them around and not worry about people handling them.  I’ve even dropped a few on the trail. I explain that for me the end product of an image is the print, and it is always fun to carry a few in a box to share with others.

Imparting Landscape Photography’s History And Significance To Yosemite National Park’s Visitors

Beyond the basics of photography, it is more important to help visitors understand what landscape photography represents today and how it co-evolved with the creation of national parks and organizations like the Sierra Club. Early photographs have documented changes in the landscape over time whether it be a sandstone tower that is now covered in water in Glen Canyon, a 1860s view of Yosemite Valley that shows a greater abundance of black oaks, or an 1870s view of thousands of sheep grazing in Tuolumne Meadows. Hopefully modern landscape photographs will someday represent our successes, failures and our human need to connect with nature.  I think understanding this tradition will help fellow photographers be more cognizant of their own impact in the park.

I also take the opportunity to discuss our increasing detachment from the natural world which could have alarming effects on the future of our natural heritage. Today our new generation of young people spend more and more of their free time glued to a monitor and show little interest in the out of doors. In fact many children do not know how to play outside unless they are playing organized sports.  Today most Yosemite visitors walk a quarter mile or less from the road. Increasingly I find visitors who don’t quite know what to do in a place like Tuolumne Meadows. For these visitors photography is a perfect way to have fun, become observant, and connect.

I am not sure how long we will continue to live in Tuolumne Meadows during our summers. At some point Mara and I want to have more time to explore areas of the park that take more than a long weekend to find.  However, having had this experience makes my photography all the more meaningful.

June 2, 2012 Exhibition At The Ansel Adams Gallery

Local artists including Hugh Sakols will show their work at the Ansel Adams Gallery on June 2nd.  All proceeds will go to Yosemite Park El Portal School.

What makes your photography more meaningful? Have you been to Yosemite or explored its back country? In what place or places do you enjoy getting off the beaten path?

Cedric Wright And Philip Hyde On The 1950 Sierra Club High Trip

May 25th, 2010

Split Boulder Near Lake Ediza, Minarets Wilderness, Now The Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 1950 by Philip Hyde. This photograph that went on to be widely collected and published and was part of the famous Perceptions Show in San Francisco, was made on the 1950 Sierra Club High Trip with David Brower and Cedric Wright.

(See also the blog post on, “A Credo For Mountain Photographers” from the book Words of the Earth by Cedric Wright.)

In 1950, David Brower invited Philip Hyde to join the Sierra Club High Trip that David Brower led in the high country of Yosemite National Park. Cedric Wright was also on the trip as a veteran wilderness photographer to serve as high country photography mentor to the young Philip Hyde just out of photography school, who would also act as ‘official photographer.’

Even in 1950, Philip Hyde was no stranger to the Sierra Nevada High Country. He had been backpacking and exploring it since he was 16 turning 17 years old in 1938. Nor was he new to outdoor photography. During the years from 1946 through 1950 while he was enrolled in photography school at the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute, Philip Hyde spent every summer in the mountains. The previous summer of 1949 Ansel Adams had helped Philip and Ardis Hyde land the caretaking job at the Sierra Club’s Parson’s Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows. The young couple, just married two years, lived in the rustic McCauley Homestead cabin all summer and scrambled all over the nearby peaks and domes. While Philip Hyde photographed, Ardis Hyde had plenty of peace and quiet to study for her teaching credential and identify birds and flowers. More about this special summer in a future blog post.

By the time Philip Hyde went on his first Sierra Club High Trip, he was seasoned by a summer in Tuolumne Meadows and 12 other summers in the High Sierra. However, as soon as he met Cedric Wright, he knew that this man had a depth of knowledge about wilderness travel and wilderness photography of which he had only dreamed. Here was the ideal teacher and companion.

Cedric Wright was a childhood friend of Ansel Adams. They met through piano playing. Both of them were in training to be concert pianists but ended up as landscape photographers. Ansel Adams wrote the forward to Cedric Wright’s book, Words of the Earth, one of the early volumes in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series:

His work reveals a strange and compelling beauty; it is not obscure, oblique, mechanical, or intellectual, but is the evidence of a great insight and intuitive power. It moves the spirit; then, because it is so simple and direct, it moves the mind and conscience… What is offered here is not merely a collection of nostalgic and beautiful pictures and poetic text, but a profound revelation of a most uncommon man, who, despite avalanches of problems and distractions, held fast to the essential dream. I regret there must be a date on this work, because in essence, it is timeless.

“That first 1950 High Trip in the capacity of ‘official photographer’ was a very important trip for me,” Philip Hyde said in 2004. “I look back now and still feel that the photographs I made on that trip are among some of my best. All I had to do was sleep, eat, make photographs and walk 10-12 miles from one camp to another, unless there was a layover.” The trip started in the northeast corner of Yosemite National Park and journeyed along the Sierra Crest to Tuolumne Meadows and beyond out of the national park and into the Minarets Wilderness Area that is now the Ansel Adams Wilderness. In those days the backcountry was little traveled. Philip Hyde shared more about Cedric Wright:

One of the things I remember about Cedric is that he had certain little systems because he had been on so many High Trips, maybe 20 or more. He had special ways of pitching a tarp. Sometimes he would give lessons to other people who didn’t know how. He also had a little practice of making it to the first camp early. When the first group of hikers would arrive, he would have hot tea waiting for them. Another time he had a number 10 can full of hot water and he would bathe people’s tired feet in hot water. One time we found a note from Cedric, ‘Be sure to go out and look at this view,’ and he wrote directions. Cedric took me under his wing and taught me all his intricate details. Some were a bit overboard, like shaving off the handle of his toothbrush to save weight. He was kind of a nut about saving weight, even though he did not carry much. His outfit was a little square box about 6″ X 6″ X 15 inches that contained his extra lenses and extra film. He was shooting black and white film pack. I didn’t get into film pack on that trip. I was still using 5 X 7 cut film, a single sheet film you load into a holder in a changing bag. The holder takes two sheets on each side, for a total of four. I think I carried 18 holders and several lenses on metal plates that I could interchange. I carried a 5 X 7 camera with a 5 X7 back on a big wooden Reese tripod that I still have. I thought I was going pretty light, but my outfit was a lot heavier than Cedric’s.

More about the Summer 1950 Sierra Club High Trip in a future blog post…

A Credo For Mountain Photographers

May 7th, 2010

Melting Snow Pattern, Kings Canyon National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, 1951 By Philip Hyde. This photograph shows the influence of Cedric Wright, at least Cedric Wright made several photographs of the groves and pock marks that form in deep melting snow as much as a decade before this photograph.

Master landscape photographer Cedric Wright wrote poetry, prose and illustrated early Sierra Club books with his fine art photography. In Galen Rowell’s renowned 1986 Sierra Club book, Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape, Galen Rowell quoted Cedric Wright’s 1941 “A Credo for Mountain Photographers” from the Sierra Club Boook Words of the Earth by Cedric Wright with a preface by Ansel Adams, edited by Nancy Newhall:

A Credo For Mountain Photographers

The mountain photographer is interpreting the face of nature–that mysterious infinity, eternally a refuge, a reservoir, an amplifier of spirit; a mother of dreams; a positive though elusive voice in whose depth lies its subtlety. They will interpret best who are never so content as when under the influence of situations where silence is rich in the mute assurance and beauty of mountain surroundings. The quality of emotional knowing has a finer integration with our spirit than anything that comes from barren intellectual processes. This point of view only accumulates slowly, out of long experience and contact with wordless influences. Under the spell of solitude and of natural beauty the root system of this kind of awareness establishes itself. Great art is usually created under some such saturation of awareness. The work is then permeated with an inner perception of beauty and an inner personal philosophy. The hope for our photography is that it shall retain these high lights of more than beauty, that through it symbols shall be preserved of response to our mountains, keeping them to a flow, a golden thread, in our experience.

Words of the Earth by Cedric Wright was part of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. Cedric Wright and Philip Hyde both contributed a photograph to the collection of now famous photographers who joined Ansel Adams in illustrating the book This Is the American Earth written by Nancy Newhall. This Is The American Earth kicked off the Exhibit Format Series, a mastermind creation by David Brower, Nancy Newhall and Ansel Adams. This Is The American Earth was made into an exhibition and toured nationally and even in Europe. Cedric Wright’s book, Words of the Earth was also one of the early books in the series.

This Is The American Earth and Words of the Earth contained all black and white photographs. Philip Hyde’s first several books in the series were a mixture of black and white photographs and color photographs. Philip Hyde eventually had more photographs in more of the books in the series than any of the other photographers. Eliot Porter’s book In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World with quotes by Henry David Thoreau was the first all-color volume and sold more copies than all of the other Exhibit Format Series Books, including This Is The American Earth. From then on the books in the series were all in color.

58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 2

January 18th, 2010

Drake's Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California, 1972, by Philip Hyde. From the Reprint of "Island In Time: Point Reyes Peninsula." (Out of Print)

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 1“)

Why did the pair spend one third of their lives pursuing this unusual brand of adventure?

As the 1950s became the 1960s, groups like the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Izaak Walton League, the National Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation brought public attention to protecting and enjoying nature. Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society authored the Wilderness Act legally defining wilderness. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring came out in protest of chemical spraying and exposed corporate environmental negligence. The same year, Sierra Club Books released In Wildness Is The Preservation of the World with color photographs by Eliot Porter with quotes from Henry David Thoreau and Island in time: The Point Reyes Peninsula by Harold Gilliam with photographs by Philip Hyde. These were the first two widely distributed books with large color fine art landscape photographs sharing the beauty of nature. While Eliot Porter’s book was all color, Philip Hyde mixed beautiful vintage black and white photographs with large color plates. Dad was recognized as a master of both mediums, though as color caught on, Porter’s book sold more copies. A handful of photographers, through the Sierra Club and its leader David Brower, brought wilderness right to the United States Congress and Senate and into living rooms across the country. The Sierra Club had reinvented the large picture book as the Exhibit Format Series. These high-quality coffee table volumes represented, as never before, the wild places the Sierra Club wanted to protect.

Photographs first helped preserve wilderness in 1864, moving President Abraham Lincoln to establish Yosemite as the world’s first scenic land preserve. Yet in the 1950s and 1960s the use of the camera to defend wilderness reached its zenith. More preserves, wildernesses, National Parks and Monuments formed out of campaigns by environmental groups than ever as America’s leaders and people saw natural landscapes through a “new” medium. During the heyday of the Sierra Club publishing program, Club membership grew exponentially. The first book in the series, This Is The American Earth featured primarily the work of Ansel Adams though other well-known western photographers such as Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde, Edward Weston, Pirkle Jones, Minor White and Cedric Wright had one or two photographs. Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde became the primary illustrators of the series. Dad’s photographs in particular, appeared in eight out of the sixteen books published in the sequence. Several volumes in the series became bestsellers and this combined with Washington DC lobbying, brought the Sierra Club into national prominence.

After marrying in June 1947, Dad and Mom joined the Sierra Club later that year while Dad started photography school. The Club had just over 900 members, but within the next two decades the ranks swelled to over one million. Other conservation organizations like the Wilderness Society also grew exponentially and many new organizations formed.

Photography itself had undergone a transformation as well. Soft focus pictorialism dominated the first third of the 1900s. Few photographers successfully bucked the trend toward printing on canvas and other art papers, soft focus and special effects that made photographs resemble paintings, until Alfred Stieglitz published a magazine called Camera Work in which he began to encourage what he called “straight photography.” Photographers in the Western United States increasingly made photographs of landscapes without people. Only a few pioneers had captured landscapes previously, they were not common. In 1932 photographers Willard Van Dyke, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Henry Swift, Sonya Noskowiak, John Paul Edwards and Ansel Adams formed Group f.64 in San Francisco. Named after f.64, the smallest lens setting enabling the most detail in a photograph, the group composed a manifesto limiting “members and invitational names to those workers who are striving to define photography as an art form by simple and direct presentation through purely photographic methods… Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form.”

In the mid 1940s, Group f.64 member Ansel Adams founded a fine art Photography Department, the first ever of its kind, at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Arts Institute. When Ansel Adams first started the department, students of painting, sculpture and other disciplines erupted into a school-wide protest against photography being part of a fine art school. In those days, photography was not considered an art form, let alone a fine art. Yet Ansel Adams persisted with encouragement and support from San Francisco art patron Albert Bender and other California art movers, as well as fellow photographers such as Paul Strand in the Midwest, whose work appeared in Camera Work, and from Alfred Stieglitz himself. Group f.64 members Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham helped teach at the California School of Fine Arts. Besides Philip Hyde, the program turned out such notable photographers as Pirkle Jones, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Charles Wong, Bill Heick, Cameron Macaulay, Benjamen Chinn, Don Whyte, Rose Mandel, Bob Hollingsworth, Stan Zrnich, Pat Harris Noyes, David Johnson, Ira Latour, Gerald Ratto, John Upton, Walter Stoy,  and others.

With three years of photography school and a certificate of completion, Dad built on what became known as the west coast tradition and went on to influence a generation of nature photographers with his simple, understated forms and subtle desert and mountain landscapes.

“Dear Phil,” Minor White, lead instructor at CSFA, wrote in a letter to Dad in 1950, “Your pictures are as clean as Ansel’s, with a slant of your own seeing. You are starting your career as few of my students have done. In a way I envy your present mastery of the medium…”

By 1971, Ansel Adams wrote that Philip Hyde was “one of the very best photographers of the natural scene in America.” Ansel Adams said he liked Dad’s photograph, “The Minarets from Tarn Above Lake Ediza,” better than his own photograph of the Minarets in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. In 1999, American Photo Magazine named Dad’s “Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon” one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. Dad’s work appeared in more than 75 books, 130 newspapers, 100 exhibitions and over 60 magazines including Audubon, Wilderness, Life, National Geographic, Aperture, Newsweek, Time and Reader’s Digest. He has received many awards including one for lifetime achievement from the North American Nature Photography Association in 1996 and the Albert Bender Award in 1956. The principal artist in over a dozen books, he also wrote magazine articles and an autobiographical essay to accompany his photographs and the writings he selected of John Muir’s in The Range of Light (1992). Dad wrote the text for Drylands: The Deserts of North America (1987), which won three literary awards. Beginning in the 1970s he taught photographic workshops for more than 30 years for organizations such as the Museum of Northern Arizona, John Sexton Workshops, Ansel Adams Gallery Workshops in Yosemite and many other schools of photography.

Dad and Mom stand as examples of how to tread lightly on the earth and find satisfaction in a simple self-sufficient lifestyle. Early in Dad’s career he made a decision to live in the mountains of Northeastern California far away from the photography marketplace. By living in such a remote place, he also gave up the opportunity to be more involved in the Sierra Club and other organizations. With fewer book signings, gallery openings and connections he sacrificed greater financial success to live close to nature.

Mom worked by his side from the beginning. While he attended the California School of Fine Art she worked as the receptionist at the school. Later she became known as an excellent kindergarten teacher and was renowned in the mountain valleys of Plumas County for her knowledge of birds, plants, organic gardening and natural cuisine long before it became popular. Dad thought he would go on working and making photographs his entire life, but in the summer of 1999 he began to lose his eyesight, and within a year he was completely blind.

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 1977, by Philip Hyde. Made more magazine covers than any other Philip Hyde photograph. Example of Straight Photography and colorful enough without amping up the saturation.

Yet Dad proved there is more to vision than eyes and more to seeing than vision. He was one of the first to visualize a civilization in harmony with all life rather than exploiting the Earth as a commodity. In his photography training, as in any good art training, he learned to see deeply. Photography is the art of seeing patterns, forms, relationships that the untrained eye would not see. One day in 1987 he slowed his gait as he passed through our yard at home. He stared at the Virginia Creeper Vines against the weathered gray cedar siding of the house he built. Besides autumn reds, yellows and oranges contrasting with unturned green leaves, some of the leaves reflected blue from the sky. Most eyes do not notice the blue because we automatically edit it to green, the expected color for leaves without the reflected sheen. He ran inside and gathered his wooden Reis tripod and 4X5 Baby Deardorf view camera and set up on our front lawn for one of his most widely-published and exhibited photographs.

By late 2001, his 58-year photography career ended suddenly as his sight fully faded to black and he could no longer make photographs or even print them in his darkroom. Mom acted as his guide, business manager and constant companion. She tried to do the work of two people, keeping up with the photography business and finances as well as maintaining the grounds, house and kitchen. Then the second devastation arrived, Mom died suddenly in March 2002.When she passed on, I moved back to the mountain home where I was born, from my place across the country in upstate New York. We cried, reminisced and cried some more. Sometimes we screamed into the lonely woods, at the sky, at the stars, but the night absorbed it all. In time we began to talk on tape about the many wilderness miles we walked together. Dad described his adventures with Mom seeking the “Good Life” while helping to protect such places as Dinosaur National Monument, The Grand Canyon, The California Redwoods, and many other seashores and wilderness areas of the American West.

Until his death in 2006, I read him the environmental news almost daily. He relied on dreams for glimpses of the natural world he spent a lifetime defending. We sought to make sense of the loss of my mother; the loss of Dad’s eyesight and the state of environmental decline and violence the world is in today. Dad sometimes wondered why he worked so hard. Unfortunately environmental battles are never won, they are merely postponed. The dam site is still there, the mineral resources are still in the ground, the trees are still uncut, the road plans may some day yet destroy the pristine meadow. The beaches are always ripe for new hotels and condominiums. Nonetheless Dad saw clearly two possible visions for the future. In one we continue to poison our home until we destroy ourselves. In the other we learn to live in harmony with life and sustain ourselves on this planet perpetually. In the chapters that follow, I retrace the wanderings of Ardis and Philip and sometimes me tagging along, throughout the wilds on an odyssey through remote terrain from Alaska to Switzerland to Mexico to Southern Utah, my dad’s favorite state besides his home in the mountains of Northern California. All with the purpose of offering a glimpse of how one family lived and did what they could to make a difference and inspire others to do the same, to bring about the future with the most possibilities.

58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 1

January 18th, 2010

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1964, by Philip Hyde. Named One of The Top 100 Photographs of the 20th Century by American Photo Magazine

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Revised January 17, 2010
Originally written 2005

From 58 Years In The Wilderness:
The Story of Ardis and Philip Hyde Traveling, Defending and Living in the Wilderness

Introduction First Draft

Two days of rain battered our white plastic rain fly. The 20-foot-square white tarp hung from ropes tied to trees on the two diagonal corners and to stakes in the ground on the remaining corners. Under the tarp our orange four-man tent billowed in gusts of wind.

I snuggled into my down sleeping bag in the tent and listened to the drone of rain. Just outside the front flap of the tent, though well under the rain fly, squatted Mom. She held a Sierra Club cup with a decaf coffee freshly poured from the small teapot on the grate down at the fire.

It was April 1970 and we were backpacking in Coyote Gulch in the Escalante Wilderness, Utah in an area that later became inaccessible as the waters of “Lake” Powell drowned the mouth of Coyote Gulch. My dad, Philip Hyde, a freelance landscape photographer, often worked with the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations such as the Wilderness Society and National Audubon. He found out about this spectacular red-walled canyon full of arches, overhangs and green seeps slipping over hidden ledges, because the area was part of a proposed wilderness and more than once put forward as a potential National Park. By 1970 Dad’s photographs had already appeared in dozens of books and before the United States Congress, Senate and many other state and local political leaders on behalf of wild lands all over the Western U.S. His photographs were applied to more environmental campaigns than those of any other photographer of his time.

Ardis and David, Camp at Icicle Springs, Coyote Gulch, Escalante Wilderness, Utah, 1970, by Philip Hyde. Baby Deardorf 4X5 View Camera taking a break, Hasselblad in operation. Ardis Hyde writing in the trip log.

The wind picked up and the rain fly pelted the tent roof, keeping me from dozing off and getting my daily nap I usually had in the afternoon at age five.

“Where’s Daddy-O?” I asked, up on an elbow to see Mom.

“He’s getting firewood.”

“In the rain?”

“He must have had to go farther than expected and decided to hole up under an overhang or something,” Mom said.

“Hmm. I hope he’s all right.”

“Now David, your father is a very capable man. Do you want more hot chocolate?”

“Yeah,” I sat up, pulled my Sierra Club cup out and held it up to her.

“Say please,” she responded.

“Please,” I said.

She carried my cup down to the fire in the rain, balanced it on a rock, lifted the larger kettle from the campfire with pliers, tilted it and poured into my cup spilling only slightly. She delivered the hot chocolate to me, safely squatting and dry still just inside the tent and without shoes.

“Let that cool again now,” she said.

“OK,” I said, balancing the cup to the side and scrunching back down into my bag. “It seems pretty dark.”

“There is plenty of light left,” she said.

The wind and rain blended into a rising roar. I was back down into my bag but up on my elbows. I shivered though I was a mummy in down. I sipped tiny scalding tastes of hot chocolate. The light from the campfire flashed and flickered dimly on the tent ceiling. The shadows deepened. Every few seconds I heard the splitting of limbs or the thunk of twigs on the tarp. The fresh smell of masses of water pounding sand and sandstone was punctuated with bursts of lightning followed by deafening cracks in the sky.

Just then Dad appeared with a large arm-full of wood.

“You sure are soaking wet,” Mom said. “Why don’t you come in and take off those wet clothes?”

“I need to get a few more armloads of wood,” he said. He began to jog off into the rain but she stopped him.

“Philip?”

“Ardis?”

“There’s hot chocolate here,”

“Ummm,” he said kissing her quickly on the lips and running. “Thank you love, I’ll have some in just a minute.”

I snuggled deeper. Mom poked the fire. The rain fell even harder. It seemed the raindrops were bunching together in torrents and falling like waterfalls on the flap bucking in the wind.

Mom never doubted Dad’s capabilities. She added her talents to the collaboration perfected and imperfected by time and exposure to a spectrum of weather conditions. Dad fixed flat tires, dead batteries and broken equipment with patience, ingenuity and often little resources. Mom planned and prepared. She managed the food and supplies. She supported emotionally, physically and spiritually. She kept the daily trip logs, read the guidebooks and for fun studied plants, animals and especially birds.

Preparing for excursions, Dad studied the geology of the area he would scour for picture possibilities. In the field he knew the weather. On his studio wall he kept a chart of more than 20 types of clouds. He could often accurately predict the weather by looking at the sky or indicators like the barometer and thermometer. He kept a constant vigil for the light and atmospheric conditions favorable to photography.

From their marriage on June 29, 1947, until Dad began to lose his eyesight in 1999, he spent an average of 99 days a year in the field. Mom accompanied him more than half the time. They traveled mainly between April and October in the Western United States camping, backpacking, driving, riding horses, mules, trains, planes and boats to access wilderness for almost one third of every year of his working life. Summers were not the best months for photographs, but that was mainly when he traveled, so that Mom could go along in her time off from teaching kindergarten.

The summer of 1955 was typical of Dad’s early career. After buying a 1954 Chevrolet Pickup in March from Brett Weston, a contemporary photographer, Mom and Dad spent 12 days in April in the California Redwoods, across the state, 300 miles west of their home in the mountains of Northeastern California. Then Dad turned around and journeyed alone 600 miles south of home, May 3-14 to photograph Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Continuously for the next three months Mom and Dad backpacked, camped, river rafted and drove thousands of miles through Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. This included three river trips: 13 days on the Colorado River through little known Glen Canyon, 26 days on the Yampa River in Utah and Wyoming inside Dinosaur National Park, and five days on the Ladore River, also in Dinosaur. By August 16, after three weeks in Wyoming in Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park on a Sierra Club Pack Trip, Mom got a ride home with participants, but Dad continued on to Glacier National Park, Montana for 10 days and Olympic National Park, Washington for two more weeks. Dad did not see home until September 10.

Why did the pair spend one third of their lives pursuing this unusual brand of adventure?  (Rhetoric question. Part of the text.)

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 2“)