Posts Tagged ‘Colorado Plateau’

Announcing New David Leland Hyde Website – Hyde Fine Art

December 1st, 2016

Pleased to Present a New Home for My Own Photography…

Hyde Fine Art

Economic, environmental and social evolution through fine art photography of the urban, rural and natural landscape…

http://www.hydefineart.com/

Please visit and give me your opinion… are there any typos or aspects you don’t like?

Indian Creek Below Indian Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2009, by David Leland Hyde, Nikon D90. Prints of this photograph have outsold all other David Leland Hyde prints and Philip Hyde prints since 2009.

Dad gave me my first camera at age 10. At that time in the mid 1970s, my father conservation photographer Philip Hyde’s career, western outdoor recreation and the modern environmental movement were reaching new heights. Dad’s book Slickrock with Edward Abbey was also selling well, especially in California, the Southwest Desert and the Colorado Plateau states. Visit David Leland Hyde CV for more about what I was doing during this era.

My camera was a simple Pentax K1000 35 mm film camera. It was all-manual with no automatic settings. Dad gave me a good foundation for learning photography by teaching me basic camera operations and how to understand the relationships between aperture, shutter speed and film speed. I liked making photographs well enough. I made quite a few images on a number of different trips, but while growing up, to me photography was always Dad’s specialty. He had it covered and I had other interests. As a result, I went whole decades without ever making a photograph. I used my camera in high school a few times, but for school sports I needed a camera that could shoot on partial or full auto at many frames a second.

On a photographic trip with Mom and Dad, I made some good photographs in Yellowstone National Park, on the way home to California from my boarding school graduation from Principia Upper School near St. Louis, Missouri. On that trip, Dad and I photographed a number of national parks together.

In college at the University of New Mexico I tried to photograph the Albuquerque music scene and published a few decent images, but most turned out blurry or dark. One time I went to Arkansas for Spring Break and all of my photographs came out too dark because I used the wrong ASA shutter speed setting.

More than another decade later, after Dad passed on, I spent a great deal of time looking through his collection and talking to photography experts about what to do with his lifetime of work. While immersed in talking about images and selecting images with some of the best editors in the industry, my eye began to develop like never before. I started seeing photographs everywhere I looked outside of the studio: on drives, on walks, in unexpected places and in obvious places. I did some asking around about digital cameras and got a bit of guidance. One day in 2009, I just walked into Costco and bought a Nikon D90 kit with two lenses, a camera bag and an SD card. One photographer told me that it would make a good pro-consumer package to get me started. To see some of my early images and how I chose photographs for early versions of my portfolio, see David Leland Hyde’s Portfolio One Revisions and New Photographs.

My enthusiasm and diligence for making images grew in leaps and bounds. I have now made over 70,000 images since 2009. In the process learned quite a bit about Photoshop, but have just scratched the surface of what is possible with software, by choice keeping my workflow as simple as possible. I have made and plan to make more experimental work, but by far the majority of my images, certainly all but a few of my landscapes are single image capture, with only a few blends ever, no HDR, minimal masks, and only very small objects removed or altered in detailed retouching.

I use Photoshop for much the same purposes and to a similar extent that film photographers have traditionally used the darkroom. I do some dodging and burning, a.k.a., lightening and darkening. I increase saturation and vibrance in small doses and make minor layer and curve adjustments, much the way Dad used to balance the color when he handmade color dye transfer and Cibachrome prints. For more on how I work with images and the capture counts for each year, visit Best Photographs of 2014 and Favorite Photographs of 2015.

For an early version of my Artist Statement go to David Leland Hyde Archival Prints Pre-Launch. I plan to revise and update this statement some in the near future. Stay tuned for my blog project post in the next few weeks of my Favorite Images of 2016. In the meantime, please visit http://www.hydefineart.com/ and let me know what you think of it. Please let me know if there are any navigation problems, typos or anything else you don’t like. Enjoy browsing the various portfolios and watch for the new additions I am adding every week. Currently the site has just a few dozen images on it, but I plan to post at least 10,000 or more images in the coming months and years.

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?

The Making Of “Reflection Pool, Escalante River Side Canyon”

October 23rd, 2014

Travel Log by Philip Hyde

Group Sierra Club Trip, Escalante River Canyon Backpack

Escalante, Utah, May 1968

Note: Thanks to Bill Clinton, On His Last Day in Office, The Escalante Wilderness Is Now Part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

By Philip Hyde

May 1: Gates Cabin Camp to Camp Below 25 Mile Canyon

Reflection Pool, Curved Sandbar, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde.

Reflection Pool, Curved Sandbar, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde.

(To view the photograph larger or order prints: “Reflection Pool, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Utah.”)

The canyon was narrowing and the river stretches between bends were getting longer while the bends were tighter. We began this day to traverse the upper part of what the wranglers call “The Narrows.” The canyon walls were intermittently higher and the big alcove bends characteristic of the lower Escalante River near Glen Canyon had begun. There were also more short side canyons.

I turned and wandered into one canyon on the left at right angles to the river. Suddenly, another sharp bend next to a large sand slope looked promising, with a narrow bottom and high walls, cottonwoods, box elders and a few Gambel oaks. About two miles up this canyon, it ended abruptly, but there was a small, hard to see passage between two huge angular boulders. I entered the chamber, which was not unlike Cathedral in the Desert—its equal in quality, though not in size.

The vaulted roof was not so soaring and the dimensions of the chamber much less, but the same feeling of remote, secret beauty was there. At the bottom sat likewise a plunge pool for reflections and the beauty of a curved sandbar. This pool was fed by a now-dry set of chute-like chimneys in the roof, rather than a waterfall, like Cathedral in the Desert. The chimneys, one alone and a double-barreled one next to it, were beautifully water-sculptured and made me wish there was some way to ascend to the level of the chimneys to see the carved stream channel above. I spent perhaps two hours there, then left reluctantly, but elated to find this chamber well out of reach of “Lake” Powell’s inundation.

I continued back to the river, then down canyon, crossing through the water back and forth innumerable times. The canyon was really narrow by then and the walls were more impressive, creating a chamber of darkness with a thin strip of sky above. I wandered on, past some sharp bends with great sandstone columns and overhangs. I kept on past the “Wrinkled Eyes,” two rounded out holes high in the wall of the left bank. I passed 25 Mile Canyon, but at first I started into its mouth, went 100 feet or so, reflected on the hour and decided to head for camp instead.

I was the last man in. Campers were having their soup in their Sierra Club cups beneath a deep red cliff perhaps 350 feet high that was catching the last rays of the sun. I ate and then made my bed among the limbs of a medium-sized cottonwood tree—a leafy bower with a sandy floor and more privacy than usual. It was cloudy again with stars and blowing broken clouds overhead, their moisture too diminished by the time they reached us to dump any, though it looked a bit threatening at times. My tarp was ready to be rigged, but no drops came and I slept.

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.”

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

June 19th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Path Of Beauty And The Photography Of Natural Landscapes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your process for making photographs? 

David Leland Hyde’s Portfolio One Revisions And New Photographs

April 5th, 2013

Many New Releases Added And Others Revised In My Portfolio On PhilipHyde.com

Cypress Trees, Point Arena Odd Fellows Cemetery, Mendocino Pacific Ocean Coast, California, copyright 2012 David Leland Hyde.

Cypress Trees, Point Arena Odd Fellows Cemetery, Mendocino Pacific Ocean Coast, California, copyright 2012 David Leland Hyde.

Besides several images from the blog post, “My 12 ‘Greatest Hits’ Of 2012,” now on display large on PhilipHyde.com, many other newly released DLH images are now on view and a number of previously released photographs are now revised and updated. See the David Leland Hyde Portfolio at the end of 16 Philip Hyde Portfolios on the Philip Hyde Photography website and acquire a fine art archival lightjet chromogenic print out of a limited edition of only 100.

For those who are not familiar with the term chromogenic, the simple definition is that such prints are not inkjet digital prints, but form the image on photographic paper through exposing the paper with light in a photographic process as opposed to using a digital print making ink set to color the paper. For more on digital prints versus chromogenic prints, see the blog posts, “Photography Galleries, Collectors, Appraisers And Digital Prints,” and “Why Photography Galleries, Curators And Collectors Like Limited Editions.”

Mesas, Boulders, San Rafael Swell, Utah, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Mesas, Boulders, San Rafael Swell, Utah, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

In this blog post, I will share a little about the making of a few of the newly released photographs now in the revised portfolio. In the blog posts, “Northern California Beaches: Misty Sonoma Coast” and “Actor, Photographer, Apple Farmer And 1960s Activist Nicholas King’s Memorial,” I included a few of the landscape photographs from the Sonoma County Pacific Ocean Coast and the Mendocino County Pacific Ocean Coast. Some of these California beaches and rocky cliffs can now be seen in the revised portfolio. One image that did not appear in “My 12 ‘greatest hits’ of 2012,” from my Sonoma and Mendocino Coasts trip, that now appears in my portfolio is “Cypress Trees, Point Arena Odd Fellows Cemetery.” Also, a photograph from 2009 of Utah called, “Mesas, Boulders, San Rafael Swell,” that I posted with my guest blog post on Greg Russell’s Alpenglow Images, “Make Your Own Tripod Tracks,” has itself also been revised and added to the remade portfolio gallery.

Sandstone Boulders Against The Sky, San Rafael Swell, Utah, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Sandstone Boulders Against The Sky, San Rafael Swell, Utah, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

On the same trip through Utah in 2009, I also made the vertical, “Sandstone Boulders Against The Sky.” This photograph was one of many I made that morning. I left Boulder, Colorado the evening before and spent the night just past the Green River crossing where Interstate 70 climbs up onto the Colorado Plateau. It was a bitter cold winter night with blowing snow and howling gale force winds. In the morning my Ford Van was caked with frozen snow, ice and road grime. I stopped there to sleep only for a few hours in the middle of the night and woke up just as the light began to dawn on the snowy landscape. The desert lands of Southern Utah came to live with new definition and beauty in the fresh snow. In the early morning my hands, nose and other extremities felt like they would surely get frost bite, but I persisted to photograph all morning. By late morning the snow was beginning to melt off in the surprisingly warm sun, a welcome contrast to the cold of the night before. As the snow melted, intricate and visually fascinating snow patterns were left against the red rock sandstone background. Also, the light softened and became more diffuse as high clouds moved back in.  The sandstone boulders appeared in many of my photographs, but this image in particular also captured the sky and the light.

“Dawn, American River From Fair Oaks Bluffs,” I made in 2012 from another Uncle, Clint King’s home the morning of his memorial service. I got up about a half hour before sunrise to be able to catch the sunrise and the mist on the American River. Fair Oaks is a beautiful bedroom suburb town on the outskirts of Sacramento. My Uncle Clint was a self-made man who did very well. I will write a future blog tribute to him as I did for my Uncle Nick King. The tribute will also contain more images of the event and related subjects.

After my Uncle Clint’s memorial celebration in November 2012, I drove to Livermore to see the Golden Decade Legacy Show at Figurehead Gallery that included my father’s vintage and authorized archival prints, Ansel Adams prints, Minor White prints and the black and white photography of other students of theirs from the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. After viewing the exhibition, I attempted to photograph at the Livermore Gravel Pits as Dad did in 1949. However, due to liability, they would only let me photograph on a day where the office foreman could accompany me. I tried to sneak some photos, but an upper level manager drove over and yelled obscenities at me.

Manly Beacon, Badlands And Panamint Range, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Manly Beacon, Badlands And Panamint Range, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

I drove from there down to photograph some architecture of the restored old homes in downtown Pleasanton, California. However, still craving more gritty fare, I also stopped under the freeway to photograph graffiti and street art. On the way home through Stockton, I also exited in downtown there, but did not find much I wanted to photograph until I found my way to the Deep Water Port of Stockton. Again, I ran into management that would not allow photographs without contacting the corporate office and coming back another day. One of the homeland security guards told me how to drive around to the other side of the San Joaquin River and photograph the Port of Stockton from a distance. This is how I made the photograph, “Port of Stockton” that also appears in the updated portfolio.

In 2009 in Death Valley National Park, I first came across the phenomena of photographers overrunning an iconic landscape. I descended into Death Valley during the evening magic hour, made some images near Panamint Springs and a few other stops on the way down to Stovepipe Wells and the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes. I hit the sand running in the Twilight hour. The dunes were heavily beaten with footprints, as I suppose there had not been any windstorms recently. Still, I managed to make a number of good images including some of the classic tallest dune there at Mesquite Flats with some Amargosa Range mountains in the background. I was satisfied, short on time and the campground and all lodging was full. I moved on to the Furnace Creek area and parked for the night in my Van in the hotel parking lot.

Two Horses With Live Oak, "Inveration," Sierra Foothills Near Dunlap, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Two Horses With Live Oak, “Inveration,” Sierra Foothills Near Dunlap, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

The next morning I woke up in the dark and headed out to Zabriski Point. I was amazed to find that even an hour before sunrise, the parking lot already had around 10 vehicles in it. I took the paved road width trail up to Zabriski Point proper and found close to a dozen photographers already set up waiting for the sun to come up. I stopped briefly in the paved stone-encircled corral where more cattle were gathering by the minute to photograph the sunrise cliché.

I walked back toward the parking lot, but saw a small dirt trail taking off for the ridge that angled toward Manly Beacon. I took this trail and the crowd of gathering photographers soon faded into the distance. I followed the dirt trail along the ridge top marveling at the vast open space of the Badlands and how not one photographer could be seen in the entire Death Valley landscape, except in the small confines of one paved trail overlook. I made a few photographs of Manly Beacon, an icon, by any definition, though captured from an angle that only a few take the time to see because it requires a little extra walking. The irony is that the sunrise all those other photographers were waiting for never happened. The sun never came up and never came out. it remained cloudy, as you can see in my photograph. I thought about how my Dad would most probably have hiked way down into the Badlands with his large format view camera, miles from the parking lot, lost amidst the bare earth of the erosion landforms. I remembered being teased in school for being different. At that moment  in the Death Valley landscape, all I felt was gratitude for my upbringing. My parents taught me not only to think “outside the box,” but more importantly to live outside the box… and as Robert Frost said, “That has made all the difference.”

Urban Railroad Ultra Fine, Reno, Nevada, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Urban Railroad Ultra Fine, Reno, Nevada, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

On that note I introduce “Two Horses With Live Oak, ‘Inveration,’ Sierra Foothills Near Dunlap, California,” and “Urban Railroad, Ultra Fine, Reno, Nevada.” These two 2009 photographs are what I call Photoshop experimental photography art. “Inveration” is a made up word to describe my Photoshop process for that image.

Please share: what do you think of these experiments and the other images? Do you live outside the box and away from the herd?

 

Toward a Sense of Place by Philip Hyde 1

February 9th, 2012

Marble Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park, 1964, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands, Sierra Club Books. Two miles from proposed Marble Canyon Dam site.

(See the photograph full screen: “Marble Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.” To view other photographs from the same Exhibit Format book see the photographs: “Stormlight, Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Arizona” and Navajo Wildlands Photographs In The Deserts Portfolio.)

From Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run, Text by cultural geographer Stephen C. Jett, Photographs by Philip Hyde, with Selections from Philip Hyde, Willa Cather, Oliver La Farge and Navajo Myths and Chants, Edited by Kenneth Brower, Foreword by David Brower, Sierra Club—Ballantine Books 1967–Exhibit Format Series

*Landscape Photography Blogger Note: Clarence Dutton was like the ‘John Muir’ of the Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau. As you look to explore the Colorado Plateau yourself, please be aware that the areas where people are allowed and the approaches to them have changed since 1965, especially in Canyon De Chelly National Monument. Also note that the politically correct term for the native people now is their own word, “Dineh,” in its various spellings, rather than the Spanish word “Navajo,” in common practice then.

Toward a Sense of Place By Philip Hyde

When Clarence Dutton explored the Plateau Province a hundred years ago, he saw that a visitor conditioned to the Alps, if he stayed long in this new country, would be shocked, oppressed, or horrified. While in Dutton’s days emotion about scenery was still all right, today, indifference is popular, and we tend to take someone else’s opinion about what is beautiful and flock to the recommended places. Noting this, Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac has identified the “trophy recreationist,” and urges that recreational development is “not a job of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the…human mind.” Indeed, a great increase in individual sensitivity might be achieved if park authorities spent as much effort on interpretation as on road building.

Dutton lead the way, and his insight about what would happen to a traveler in the Plateau Province certainly worked for me in the Navajo Country. The traveler needs time enough, he wrote, and: “Time would bring a gradual change. Someday he would become conscious that outlines which at first seem harsh and trivial have grace and meaning, that forms which seem grotesque are full of dignity, that magnitudes which have added enormity to coarseness have become replete with strength and even majesty. The colors which had been esteemed unrefined, immodest and glaring, are as expressive, tender, changeful and capacious of effects as any others. Great innovations, whether in art or literature, science, or in nature, seldom take the world by storm. They must be understood before they can be estimated. They must be cultivated before they can be understood.”

A woman we met at the gas station in Newcomb volunteered that she and her husband had just driven through the Navajo Reservation and that, “there’s nothing there but little round shacks. We’re headed for Colorado!”

We had reached Newcomb, about halfway between Shiprock and Gallup, crossing the Chuska Mountains on a magnificent little dirt road. It wandered in the pine forest on top, discovered little aspen-ringed ponds, and found us a superb view of Shiprock, fifty miles to the northeast. It also climaxed our afternoon with an enormous thunderstorm we watched from an eminence above Two Gray Hills. I wanted to tell the couple something about what our old road had let us see, but they were off with their tank full of gas, to collect place names in Colorado like a good trophy recreationist should, ever hurrying over the ever-increasing highways that penetrate lovely country and either lacerate it or pass it by unseen.

John Ruskin said, with the invention of the steam engine: “There will always be more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly. He will see no more by going fast, for his glory is not in going but in being.”

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Mitchell Butte from Mitchell Mesa, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah-Arizona, 1963, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands, 1967.

Do you see Monument Valley now by whizzing past its monuments on a paved road, taking lunch in Tuba City or Kyenta, and spending the night in Moab? Or are its greatest rewards still reserved for those who take the dusty little dirt road that goes down among the great buttes and who feel the rocks and sand under their wheels and feet? I recommend especially the great reward of winter time, when there may be a light skiff of snow in the dune shadows. This reward is even greater if you have also experienced Monument Valley in the heat haze and dust of mid-summer. The crisp winter air is then a special elixir.

To me, Canyon de Chelly is another scenic climax of Navajo Country, and at its best in the fall. The cottonwoods lining the canyon’s fields and sandbars glow with their own inner light, and the sun arrives with that low-angled brilliance that drives photographers into ecstasy and exhaustion. Canyon de Chelly is perhaps the most Navajo of all the park areas on the Reservation. It speaks eloquently, in the present tense, of the Navajo and Anasazi past. Here is probably the Reservation’s most spectacularly beautiful combination of colorful rock, canyons, and ancient ruins. You can drive on pavement to its fringe and soon will be able to drive the rims on high-standard highways; but travel in the canyons, where the most exciting visual action is, is subject to nature’s whims. High water, or sand quicker than usual, can stall the most ingenious mechanical substitute for feet.

There is still a lot of foot travel in the canyons. The White House Trail that drops over the rim from an overlook on the rim road crosses the wash and leads to the area’s best known ruin, perched on a ledge above the canyon bottom, with a great wall sheer above it.

In the Spring of 1965, when heavy runoff in the canyons kept even the Park Service vehicles out…

(Originally posted January 17, 2010)

(CONTINUED IN THE BLOG POST, “Toward a Sense of Place 2“)

RELATED POST: “A Sense of Place and A Changing World.”

Many museum curators, gallery owners and photo buyers consider the image all important and often overlook the significance of place, even in landscape photography. Do you feel a sense of place is important in landscape photographs? If so, why?

Moving Past The Repertoire by Greg Russell

December 19th, 2011

Moving Past the Repertoire: An Essay By Greg Russell

Landscape Photography Blogger Note: My photoblog friendship with Greg Russell developed over the last year or more through an exchange of many e-mails and phone calls on the state of photography today and yesterday, philosophy, and our development as photographers.  This essay came out of our conversations. Concurrently on Greg Russell’s photoblog Alpenglow Images, he has posted an essay I wrote called, “Make Your Own Tripod Tracks.” For more background on Greg Russell see the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Greg Russell, Ph.D.” or his own short bio.

Moving Past The Repertoire By Greg Russell

Early Morning, Bisti Badlands, New Mexico, copyright 2011 by Greg Russell.

In a previous blog post, I mentioned Katie Lee, whose songs and essays have undoubtedly made her one of the greatest advocates for the Colorado Plateau, and the Colorado River in particular.  In one of her essays she talks about a photographer friend she once brought to Glen Canyon before it was dammed.  He dropped his camera in the sand before exploring a much-anticipated side canyon.  Instead of continuing up the canyon sans camera, he turned around, saying emphatically, “I don’t even want to see it if I can’t photograph it.”

Hmmm…that brings up an interesting question.  Imagine yourself on the trip of a lifetime, possibly even knowing you’re going to be one of the last people to see a particular canyon before it disappears underwater forever.  How would you react if your camera got filled with sand?

Personally, I would probably begin by using every curse word in my vocabulary.  Then, I would probably pout, and I hope I would enjoy the rest of the trip, even without “that shot.”

Today on my blog, David Leland Hyde in his blog post, “Make Your Own Tripod Marks,” likens landscape photography to trophy hunting, with intense competition to get “the shot.”  Indeed, despite the camaraderie, things have evolved into a very “me first” sort of culture.  As a result, as soon as a new location is discovered (and its coordinates disseminated), it quickly becomes part of hundreds of photographers’ libraries.  Mark Meyer has written an excellent article on the landscape photographer’s repertoire, which describes the mentality of this culture very well.

Rather than rehash Meyers’ comments (he makes his point much better than I ever could), I wonder to myself, can we move past the repertoire?  Can we discover our own little wild places, places that inspire creativity based on our own discoveries, our own way of seeing?

As a beginning landscape photographer, it seemed logical and intuitive for me to learn about composition and exposure by following in the footsteps of photographers who inspire me.  I visited the classic viewpoints—Mesa Arch, Tunnel View—and in all honesty, I don’t regret it.  I think everyone should see sunrise at the Towers of the Virgin at least once.

However, I began to realize that by visiting these locations and making the same compositions as everyone else, my creativity was impeded.  By photographing the repertoire, my technical skills matured, but when the time to look for unique, incongruous, compositions and to attempt to break the “rules” in an artful way, it was obvious to me.  In other words, it was time to put down the roadside guide, to stop letting highway pullouts dictate what would make an interesting photograph.

Wave Abstract, Channel Islands National Park, California, copyright 2010 by Greg Russell.

In the search for my own voice, I quickly learned that for me, fostering a connection with the land—a sense of place—was the most valuable tool in letting me discover the landscape’s “unseen” beauty.  As a result, my writing and photographs focus on the place, rather than the technical aspect of photography, see, for example, the blog post: “Overland Flight.”

It was my voice, not the voice of others, that I wanted people to hear; speaking for the land, in my opinion, is an important aspect of being an artist.

All of this isn’t to say you should avoid Yosemite Valley at all costs, or that you should never venture into the eastern Sierra in October.

What I am saying, however, is to enjoy the landscape for its own sake.  Ask yourself, “If I forgot my camera on this trip, would I still be enjoying myself?”  After all, the first step to moving past the repertoire is to foster a connection with the land, not to race everyone else in documenting it.

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4

March 27th, 2010

Philip Hyde on Assignment in Dinosaur National Monument and the Setting for the Battle that Helped Launch the Modern Environmental Movement

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “The Battle Over Dinosaur 3“)

The View From Roundtop, Dinosaur National Park, Utah-Colorado, 1951 by Philip Hyde.

“Next we knew, gas was gushing from the wound and my worst fears seemed realized as I recalled what people said about such a predicament. But the Ranger came dashing up in his green Charger, pulled us up the hill and led Champion still bleeding profusely up to the Mantle Ranch.”

Charlie Mantle provided a tub to catch the gas and reassured the Hydes that he could fix the tank with his soldering outfit. Philip Hyde and Charlie Mantle removed the gas tank and carried it over to Charlie Mantle’s lean-to outdoor shop. “He said he would take care of the rest,” Dad continued, “He said to go on inside and he would fix it before we left. Ardis and I went in to visit with Evelyn Mantle and the two kids that were there.”

One of Dad’s pictures shows Charlie Mantle’s Castle Park house with the landscape architect’s jeep parked in front. Dad took a dozen or more documentary and landscape photographs while waiting. Some of the photographs show the round castle-like buttes across the river, the inspiration for the name Castle Park. Charlie Mantle fixed the tank in just a few hours but he allowed Ardis and Philip Hyde to look around the area extensively. Today it takes a river raft or a four-wheel-drive vehicle to reach Castle Park. The road to Castle Park was not the only harrowing road experience the young couple went through to see the country.

Dad told me about his one day trip up Roundtop Peak, one of the highest peaks in the monument, which rises above the Yampa River. Dad and Mom rode with “Boon” MacKnight, a local construction company owner and the monument’s maintenance man. Boon’s mission was to install fire lookouts. Roundtop is 8,575 feet in elevation and the river at Echo Park is 5,079 feet above sea level. Roundtop is almost 3,500 feet above the Yampa River and offers an excellent view of the whole Dinosaur canyon country. In another letter addressed to ‘Dick’ Leonard, Dad wrote:

We arrived up there around noon and the light was rather mediocre. We were there quite a while though getting antennas, etc, up and around 2:00 pm it began to get cloudy. I really should give you a little background—such as the many stories we’d heard about these dirt-clay roads when wet and the cloudbursts that one could expect in this country—So when the rain started pelting the little tent-house roof we could let our imaginations go a long way. After about an hour it cleared up, but Boon wouldn’t leave until he was sure the radio worked. Four o’clock came and no success and 4:30 brought another hour of pelting rain and greater doubts about our return. But when it cleared those ideas were quickly driven out of my head when I went outside and looked toward the Yampa River canyons, now shining in that beautiful, warm, late sunlight with long shadows. Here and there among the canyons white wisps of cloud were trying to make their way back to the sky. If I had ordered a perfect set of conditions it could not have been better. My shutters were literally smoking or steaming when I got through. The ride that followed down the mountain over clay-mud roads for some two and a half hours was an experience I don’t think Ardis and I will ever forget. It was one of those experiences you wouldn’t miss for the world, but would debate a long time before taking on again. But for the excellent driving and judgment of Boon MacKnight we would probably have slept that night on the mountain or maybe met some worse fate. But bring us through he did—over some 50 miles of sliding, slipping, sloshing, muddy morass. A paved highway has never meant quite so much, and I’m sure never will, as that black ribbon of firmness meant that night.

The canyon country mud irritates eyes, rubs into the pores of skin, cakes under fingernails and sticks in the pockets of clothes. The rivers of the Southwest are heavy laden with it, which is why the dams of the Colorado River system are each filling with silt from the upper end. Even as little as five years after Glen Canyon Dam backed up “Lake” Powell downstream from Dinosaur National Park on the Colorado River, at the reservoir’s upper end miles of mud flats had already accumulated. Dams in the Southwest are like giant strainers, slowing the water down and allowing the finest mud in the world to settle out.

Besides the disadvantage of creating vast silt beds, of degrading surrounding habitats and many other harmful environmental impacts, even the economic soundness of large dams world-wide has come into question, reports a study by the World Commission on Dams, a coalition of industry and environmental groups. The long-term viability of dams in the arid Colorado Plateau region is now especially doubtful as evaporation rates have proven much higher than anticipated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau of “Wreck-the-nation” as environmentalists called it, and the Army Corp of Engineers, were the two government organizations responsible for building an estimated 2.5 million dams in the United States, said Time Magazine. Every Engineer knows that all dams will eventually fill with silt. David Brower in For Earth’s Sake said the Bureau of Reclamation must have encouraged their engineers to pad figures to make the dams plausible.

David Brower believed in fighting all environmental destruction, but in the 1950s even conservation organizations like the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, National Audubon Society and the Izaak Walton League were in favor of some dams because in the post-World War II political climate they did not want to appear against progress. In the early days of modern environmentalism, the organizations opposed dams if they threatened to flood a National Park or an exceptionally beautiful landscape. Early environmentalists had little political power, but the Dinosaur battle changed all of that. The burgeoning movement discovered it could influence public opinion and move Congress with enough publicity, lobbying and letter writing.

The battle over the dams in Dinosaur National Monument centered on preserving the protected status of the National Park System. Because of this intent, an even greater loss occurred, that of the spectacular canyons and grottos of Glen Canyon downstream on the Colorado River. Glen Canyon was never protected by a National Park or Monument. Therefore, the majority of Sierra Club leaders who had never seen Glen Canyon considered it a worthy sacrifice to withdraw opposition to the proposed dam there, if dam proponents and Congress would guarantee the sanctity of the National Park System. Certain Sierra Club leaders, like Martin Litton, had seen Glen Canyon and called for the Sierra Club  and its allies to continue opposition to the many proposed dams of the entire Colorado River Storage Project. Martin Litton and others supported a proposal for an Escalante National Park before World War II and the later Dinosaur battle, but after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the idea of an Escalante National Park remained in the background.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the two decades of peak dam construction in the United States, the government built dams mainly as pork barrel projects to provide jobs and financial stimulus to less developed areas of the country, explained Patrick McCully in Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams. To begin with, the Dinosaur projects were the same. In recent years dam construction has declined world-wide, as the movement against dam building gains momentum. Time Magazine said that in the United States over 600 dams have been dismantled, including 175 this decade.

Dams in the Southwest interfere with several natural processes crucial to river ecosystems: Dams prevent the large floods that used to clean out brush and the overgrowth of weeds. Floods deposit fresh sand bars and form pools and small mudflats that provide breeding, feeding and spawning grounds for native species of fish, birds, reptiles and mammals, Jeffrey Mount wrote in California Rivers and Streams: The Conflict Between Fluvial Process and Land Use. The non-native and highly invasive Tamarack tree took hold since the end of the largest annual flows. None of the dams in the Colorado River Storage Project generate the level of electricity for which they were engineered. As Marc Reisner points out in Cadillac Desert, Reservoirs raise the salt content of the river and this effect compounds yearly, decreasing irrigated crop quality and yield. Hydropower is not even a clean energy, as scientists have discovered, because reservoirs emit green-house gases, Patrick McCully points out in Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams.

In 1950, the same year the Korean War began, Oscar Chapman, Harry Truman’s Secretary of Interior, recommended congressional authorization for the Upper Colorado River Storage Project, which consisted of a dam at Echo Park, a few miles downstream from Steamboat Rock, and a dam at Split Mountain also on the Green River below the Dinosaur Quarry near the Monument’s southern boundary…

(CONTINUED IN THE NEXT BLOG POST IN THE SERIES, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 5.”)

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 3

March 3rd, 2010

Whirlpool Canyon, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah-Colorado, 1951, by Philip Hyde.

Philip Hyde on Assignment in Dinosaur National Monument and the Setting for the Battle that Helped Launch the Modern Environmental Movement

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 2“)

The Escalante Overlook is the first branch off of the Harper’s Corner Road. Today there are signs at the Escalante Overlook discussing air pollution, its effects and what average people can do to decrease it. It is surprising to find signs on this subject in Dinosaur, the remotest National Monument in the lower 48 states, but a thick sea of haze nearly always sits on the southern horizon, carrying 500 miles from Southern California or occasionally from Texas or Mexico. The signs also show nearby copper smelters, oil refineries, and both coal and oil-fired power plants where pollution originates. One sign says, “If each commuter car carried just one more person we would save 600,000 gallons of gas a day. Welcome to Dinosaur National Monument.” See this article: “Road Transportation Is The Greatest Culprit In Global Warming.”

When the Bureau of Reclamation first proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument and downstream at Glen Canyon, in the Grand Canyon and at many other sites on the Colorado watershed, they claimed hydropower was clean energy. This has subsequently proven incorrect as scientists have discovered that reservoirs, especially in the hot Southwest, radiate greenhouse gases. To read about some of what was lost when Glen Canyon was dammed, see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde.”

At another overlook an unimproved trail winds out to the canyon rim. Cholla Cactus wedges between parted layers of lichen-covered sandstone. Skunkweed and sage hold to small troughs of soil. To the right the cliff drops a dizzying 1,500 feet straight down to the steep slopes dotted with the green of stunted Douglas Fir and Juniper that run down to the edge of the inner gorge of bare rocks and wind-swept stone domes. Lichen varies from black to gray to burnt orange, yellow-green, gray-green and many combinations, matching the layers of sandstone. Robins and a Chickadee call softly. Back from the cliff edge the gray twisted wood of dead Junipers and Pinon Pines shelters Rudbeckia, a tall yellow star-shaped flower. Today Dinosaur remains one of the least developed National Monuments in the country. Most of the roads are still unpaved and few are graded and graveled.

Following the plateau skirting the canyons, on 26 miles of part dirt and part pavement, between monument headquarters and the Echo Park turnoff, the weather changes four or five times. At one moment the white puffy clouds with plenty of blue sky between look harmless. In the next moment after topping the plateau, a low, dark bank of clouds approaches. It is hard to tell at what speed the clouds are approaching, when they will arrive, how soon they might produce rain, or whether they are headed toward the Echo Park road that cuts steeply down through long, precipitous alluvial slopes and sandstone cliffs.

In dry weather, the hardened mud-slide road is more visible and easily examined from the turnoff as it descends. The beginning of the route consists of mostly gravel and seems easily passable, perhaps even in rain. The roughest, most rutted part of the road is deceptively out of sight and turns to clay as slippery as axel grease when wet. In the space of 15 minutes the sky shifts and changes several times from threatening to clearing. Before a rain any two-wheel-drive car could make it down the 13 miles, but not back up—rain could trap an unfortunate sojourner in Echo Park for days.

In 1950 Richard Leonard served both on the Sierra Club Board and as a leader of the Wilderness Society. Olaus Murie and Margaret Murie were also Wilderness Society leaders. After a meeting of Wilderness Society leaders in Denver, Richard Leonard, Olaus Murie his wife Margaret Murie visited Dinosaur National Monument. They made it out of Echo Park without incident and they were greatly impressed by its scenery. The next year when Richard Leonard and Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower sent my father, landscape photographer Philip Hyde on assignment to Dinosaur National Monument, Dad almost did not make it out of Echo Park.

When Richard Leonard returned to the Sierra Club Headquarters in San Francisco he and David Brower, then Fifth Executive Board Member, agreed to team up to work on the Dinosaur battle. They had been climbing friends for a long time. But they were preoccupied with many battles in the early 1950s and the Dinosaur National Monument issue sat on a shelf for a year until after David Brower met Philip Hyde. They met, Dad said, “Probably in Tuolumne Meadows, when Dave was coming through and Ardis and I were custodians at the Sierra Club Lodge. I used to think that Ansel introduced me to Dave, but Dave said no, that I met him before that.”

“That was the beginning of a very long association with Dave of making books and working with the Sierra Club too.” Dad made sure he did not work “for” the Sierra Club. He was a freelancer on assignment. “They managed to scrape together small amounts of cash and I would go off on a project.” Dad said. “In the case of my first trip in July l950, Dave invited me to accompany the 6 week High Trip, which looking back now was very important for me to do.” Following the High Trip, a signature, or series, of Dad’s photographs graced the pages of the Sierra Club Bulletin. It was Dad’s first publication and was widely acclaimed. That paved the path for David Brower to suggest to the Sierra Club Board that Dad go to Dinosaur and bring back some of the beauty.

On assignment from the Sierra Club in June 1951, Dad had difficulty making it out of Echo Park even in dry weather. Dad said that when he and my mother, Ardis Hyde, tried to climb the steep hill out of Echo Park in their 1949 Studebaker Champion, they could not make it up the steep section above the inner canyon.

“We had a lot of camping gear, food, photography equipment and God knows what else,” Dad said. “Champion was notoriously underpowered. I got up as far as I could and unloaded the car partially. We took what was left on up to where the road leveled off a bit. Ardis stood by the upper half of the load while I went back for the rest. That was the kind of thing you had to be prepared to do in that country because there isn’t any help out there.” Ardis and Philip Hyde worked as a team and Mom never balked at any challenge nature presented. At Dad’s picture stops, Mom slipped right out into the deep grasses or onto the steep hillsides, observing and identifying all she saw. She was a keen birder and a self-trained botanist.

Dad and Mom drove from their home in Greenville in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northeastern California about 850 miles to Dinosaur National Monument with only a verbal request from the Sierra Club and a promise to pay Dad’s expenses plus one dollar per print or published landscape photograph. He was not long out of photography school at the California School of Fine Arts where he studied under Ansel Adams, Minor White and Edward Weston, with guest lecturers including Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Lisette Model and other photography greats from 1946 to 1950. Philip Hyde joined the Sierra Club in 1946, a year before his marriage. Ardis Hyde joined the Sierra Club the year she married Dad. They were married four years when she accompanied him on this, his first photographic assignment to the dry Colorado Plateau. The young couple had become acquainted while attending the University of California Berkeley and found they had much in common including a shared passion for nature. Both of them grew up camping under the stars, Philip in the Boy Scouts and with his family; Ardis with her family, her father especially loved the outdoors. Later, the couple imparted that love to me, their only son.

Dad’s wilderness photographs in time would appear in more environmental campaigns than any other landscape photographer. Dinosaur was the first major campaign, and to this day Dad’s image of Steamboat Rock is one of his most published. “That photograph became a symbol of the fight to save Dinosaur National Monument,” Dad explained. “Steamboat Rock was the symbol representing Dinosaur long before I photographed it.” Dad made his photograph from the end of Echo Park where the road enters, near the cliff across the field and opposite Steamboat Rock, probably not far from the old cabin, where the night Ranger now stays.

Today, the field is home to at least one four-foot long rattlesnake. I saw the distinctive diamond-shaped skin pattern and rattles as the snake slithered away when I was stalking Dad’s picture site. He made the photograph with his 5X7 Deardorf View Camera. He framed the picture with some of the waist-high grasses in the foreground and the dry desert grasses only an inch or two long stretched away toward the Cottonwood-lined river and the 800 foot tall Steamboat Rock looming over it all. As with his later landscape masterpieces, Dad’s use of foreground detail invites the viewer to all but step into the photograph.

At the upstream end of Echo Park the Yampa River joins the Green River just out of sight on the far side of Steamboat Rock. On the near side of the giant monolith, the narrow 1,000 foot deep gorge opens into Echo Park, essentially a small valley lush with cottonwoods, willows, native grasses and wildlife. Off to the left of the road at the downstream end of the valley lies a small 17-site campground with running water. A gravel road leads down to the river for float trip access. At the water’s edge Steamboat Rock dominates the view. Its hulking nearly 800 foot tall mass of vertical sandstone rises directly out of the far side of the swirling waters of the Green. The swollen river slows, reflecting glimpses of red sandstone and shattering the images as the torrent churns again naturally free and unfettered.

From the boat landing the proposed dam site is almost visible just out of sight where the river dives back between narrow sheer walls that could make dam construction easy. The boat landing would have been buried under 500 feet of water. Echo Park potentially could have become the ideal water storage tank, though its scenery would be destroyed, not enhanced as the Bureau of Reclamation claimed. Only the top 300 feet of Steamboat Rock would have shown and the sense of the size and grandeur of the formation would have vanished. With the monolith dwarfed, visitors today would be left with the reek of motorboat gasoline and a cesspool of settling mud and evaporating water.

Some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire region would have been inundated along with Echo Park. The road into Echo Park through Sand Canyon, along shady Pool Creek and the Pool Creek Petroglyphs, would all have been flooded. In Sand Canyon the sandstone forms into cake-layered tan-gray rock terraces. Over the terraces and alternating rounded and undercut layers, the black lichen stains run vertically where water seeps. In the horizontal ledges Junipers cling to pockets of earth. At intervals the soft underlayers cut far under harder layers to form overhangs and caves. A few of these have collapsed or partially collapsed roofs forming the beginnings of future arches. All of this would have been lost.

Dinosaur National Monument contains 200,000 acres, predominately canyons. Most of the canyons would have been flooded with the dams in place, virtually eliminating the primary scenic feature. The two proposed dams, at Split Mountain and at Echo Park, would have inundated about 91 out of 101 river miles in the monument, Sue Walter explains in her Ranger talk at Dinosaur National Monument Headquarters. She reminds the listener that the Bureau of Reclamation did have a dam built upstream from Dinosaur’s northern boundary, on the Wyoming border at Flaming Gorge, but the Yampa River remains the only undammed tributary to the Colorado River system. Because of this the Yampa River is the only surviving habitat for four endangered fish species: the Humpback Chub, Razorback Sucker, Colorado River Squawfish and Bonytail Chub. Dams stop the flooding that maintains natural flora and fauna and creates backwaters for spawning.

Wishing to photograph some of the wildest parts of the Yampa River and Green River, Ardis and Philip Hyde explored the Dinosaur National Monument canyons the whole month of June, 1951.

In a letter from the field to Richard Leonard, Secretary on the Sierra Club Board of Directors, Dad wrote, “At Mantle’s Ranch we wandered for eight days and left feeling like we’d only scratched the surface.” Mantle’s Ranch is in Castle Park, another verdant opening of the canyon into valley, upstream from Echo Park. The Mantles were early homesteaders before the monument. Into Mantle’s Ranch Mom and Dad followed a landscape architect in a jeep, who was investigating possible campground sites and other potential improvements for the Park Service. Fortunately a Park Ranger followed along behind them in a green Charger.

Dad began to have misgivings he said when, “We dropped down into most aptly named Hell’s Canyon. Champion’s undersides began utter protests and finally after half-a-dozen very rough creek crossings, downright refused to go any farther, conked out and rolled back a little before I could stop and we crunched on a rock. Next we knew, gas was gushing from the wound…

(CONTINUED IN THE NEXT BLOG POST IN THE SERIES, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4.”)