Posts Tagged ‘film’

Master of Platinum: Interview of Dick Arentz for Outdoor Photographer Magazine

August 9th, 2016

Master of Platinum and Palladium: An Outdoor Photographer Magazine Interview with Fine-Art Photographer, Innovator and Printer Dick Arentz

Cover of August Issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine.

Cover of August Issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine.

The August 2016 Outdoor Photographer Special Issue of the magazine print version features David Leland Hyde’s interview of Dick Arentz, an acclaimed large format photographer, workshop co-leader with Philip Hyde and expert platinum and palladium printer. Now the article, Master of Platinum, is available online.

The Arizona Arts and Humanities Commission honored Arentz as one of the most significant artists in the state. He helped Phil Davis develop the companion volume to Ansel Adams’ Zone System called Beyond the Zone System. He also has been researching 19th century techniques, testing, leading workshops and defining Platinum and Palladium printing for 43 years. His book, Platinum and Palladium Printing, is known in online forums and industry magazines as the quintessential book on the subject.

For those who are not familiar with this complex and difficult photographic black and white printmaking process, Arentz gave me a simplified summary himself:

In Platinum printing, as in most non-silver processes, an intense ultraviolet light must be passed though the negative to expose the paper coating. Because this is a higher intensity of light than is possible to project from an enlarger, the process requires contact. Before the ground breaking digital work of Dan Burkholder, there were basically two choices for the making of a negative: in-camera, or photo-mechanical enlargement by projecting the image on multiple stages of duplicating film. Later on, it became possible to use a service bureau to have a negative made using their image-setting equipment. Now, of course, using Burkholder’s method, many times with refinements added by others, a suitable negative can be made using an ink-jet printer.

As for the coating on the paper, the platinum process is one of many that depend on the reduction of a metallic salt to a pure metal. Instead of silver, which is most commonly used, platinum and/or its sister metal palladium make a high quality reproduction. Those with bit of background in photographic history know that in the nineteenth century, silver compounds were coating on paper as well. At the turn of the century, when commercially prepared silver gelatin paper became available, commercial platinum/palladium paper followed. However, pre-prepared platinum/palladium paper went out of production after World War I, though a packaged palladium paper was briefly available in the 1990s.

Arentz is known for his subtle, yet vivid and luminescent black and white photography presented through platinum and palladium prints and fine art photography books. His books are profound personal statements of his unique vision. Besides Platinum and Palladium Printing, Second Edition (2004), Arentz has published Four Corners Country (1986) with introduction by Philip Hyde, The American Southwest (1987), Outside the Mainstream (1990), British Isles (2002) and Italy Through a Different Lens (2009).

For more about his development as a photographer and lead technician of his printing medium, and for his words of wisdom about projects, making subjects fresh and capturing unusual perspectives seek out the Black and White Special Issue of Outdoor Photographer in print and on newsstands and in bookstores now. It can often be found at Barnes & Noble and some Safeways. The August Black and White Special Issue is also loaded with many other excellent articles on black and white photography. An online version of the article is now available at Master of Platinum. If you want the print version, pick up your copy soon because special issues sometimes sell out early.

My Most ‘Unique’ Photograph Of Yosemite Valley

April 1st, 2015

My Most Amazing Photo of Yosemite Yet

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California

Always. Do. Your. Home. Work…?

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California. Objects appear by special licensing permission from far out friends of Steven Spielberg.

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California. Sky objects appear by special licensing permission from far out friends of Steven Spielberg. (Click on the image to see large.)

        For many months I have been researching Yosemite National Park photo locations on Flickr, Instagram, 500px, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, The Luminous Landscape, Outdoor Photographer Locations, and how can I forget: Facebook. Then I consulted my photographer’s ephemeris, the Weather Channel, my neighbor who works at NOAA, astrological charts, astronomical charts, phases of the moon, sunspot activity reports, the Gregorian Calendar, the Hebrew Calendar, the Mayan Calendar, Dreamspell, a number of online games, Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Showtime, TV Guide, the Outdoor Channel, the Discovery Channel, Oprah, The Ansel Adams Gallery Blog, Michael Frye’s Blog, various Yosemite web cams, the Ghost of Ansel, the Yosemite Tour Bus Schedule, Bill Clinton’s speaking schedule, the Sierra Ski Report, the Central Coast surf report, literally hundreds of guidebooks, pamphlets, brochures, every hotel and motel and a few dive bars, taverns, bathroom walls and small funky convenience stores within 150 miles, searching for inspiration in Yosemite.

I wanted quintessential Yosemite, but yet my own take on this hallowed place. I input all of this data into a new photographer’s analytics program that I got at Home Depot, or was it Toys ‘R’ Us? Anyway, this is an amazing program. It crunched all this data and then tracked down the almost exact location through shared camera GPS coordinates.

The Sound of A Million Shutters Clicking

I drove seven long hours to capture this amazing Yosemite Valley perspective that is destined to be a centerpiece of my Portfolio One. Just when I thought I was the only person who might have thought of capturing this unique vantage point, I was disappointed to find that hundreds of photographers were already there snapping away. The sound of electronic digital shutters clicking was like a thousand tiny tornadoes. At first I was dumbfounded and even sat down to cry. To think that my unique location had already been discovered. There was a lineup of photographers, shoulder to shoulder, camera bag to camera bag, stretching throughout the parking lot, down into the brush, into the woods and way up the hill as far as I could see, all facing the same direction, all with tripods interlocked.

Finally after a good gnashing, howling and trembling sob, I stood up and felt a little better, resigned to make the most of the situation. I jogged down to the lineup in slow motion and imagined triumphant music and a TV crew tracking me. Esteemed photographer Ken Cravillion was there, a voice of good humor and reason. He offered me his spot between two other “photographers.” I set up my camera and took only One Shot, just as a famous muscle man from Australia has taught.

“I freakin’ nailed it,” I yelled at the top of my lungs with gusto and glee.

Secret Systems and Special Gear Make a Photographer…?

At that moment, way up behind me in the crowd I saw my friend Jim Sabiston from New York City.

“New York City,” I exclaimed when he drew near. “You must have some of the same secret systems and special gear that I do. I can tell that is what has made you an extraordinary photographer. I wonder if that is how all these amazing master professionals knew to photograph here too.” We proceeded to compare notes as I wrapped up my exposure. It turns out he looked up some of the same materials and has many of the same sources.

“Golly-wiz,” I said, “We can’t let this information get out. Pretty soon all the photographs made with these secret toys, ahem, tools, will look the same.” I would not want to spoil the incredible uniqueness already developing online among people who snap photos, post regularly and read each other’s materials exclusively, rarely, if ever, reading a classic novel or setting foot in a museum.

Now that I had my One Shot, I gave my spot in the lineup to Jim. I told him that I couldn’t wait to compare my photograph to his, not visually or aesthetically, but socially, to see which one would get more likes on Facebook. We are in competition because competition is, of course, the name of the game in photography, especially competition for recognition, not necessarily for quality. Quality is sort of an afterthought. What matters are “likes,” retweets, pins and reposts. Nonetheless, even though we are in competition, because it is amazing, I highly recommend checking out Jim’s photograph on his blog.

Ghost In The Machine

It was not until I opened my photograph in Photoshop Camera Raw that I noticed that something very unusual had indeed happened after all. At first these flying objects that I could not identify in the sky were very faint. Yet, after I applied my layers, presets, plugins, knockoffs and knockouts, I found the objects were much clearer. I still am not sure what they are. They look like something from Star Wars or Star Trek, but as some people have pointed out, all three of them are the same size, even though they are each a different clarity and brightness. Something is shooting a beam off into space toward the upper left of the image. I am not sure if this has anything to do with the objects, or The Arcanum, or with Bridalveil Falls lined up with it in synchronicity on the right, but this beam is clearly there in the image and even in some other images I saw taken at the same time. If the objects are indeed flying, people have pointed out that the perspective is wrong for them to be behind one another coming toward us. I am amazed some people have even made comments like, “The sky is all messy in that spot. It looks like you Photoshopped those objects into your photograph.” Can you believe it? I was flabbergasted. I tried to explain that it might be due to the beaming in process. Skeptics.

My own theory is that at the decisive moment of capture, each object was in the process of beaming in from somewhere else. This explains the differences in appearance. Also, if you look closely and squint your eyes, you too may see the objects becoming even clearer before your very eyes. They have been getting clearer in the photograph gradually all along. I am not sure how to explain this phenomenon. The objects seem to be beaming into the photograph just as they beamed into reality. I did not see the objects at the time of exposure, nor did anyone else that I noticed, though there was that one pet woodchuck that was freaking out quite a bit there in the parking lot at Tunnel View. I have asked around and as far as I know, nobody else captured these objects on their digital SD Cards or film. It remains a mystery. I suppose the case of the unidentified flying objects is one that cannot be over-thought or over-explained as is the practice with everything else in photography.

Happy April 1!

San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 15

July 9th, 2013

Technical Aspects of Visualization

Lecture By Minor White

Philip Hyde’s 1947 Class Notes

California School Of Fine Arts, Now The San Francisco Art Institute

Photography Program Founded By Ansel Adams, Minor White Lead Instructor

(Continued from the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 14.”)

Landscape Photography Blogger Note:

Bristlecone Pine Snag Against Sky, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. 8X10 Deardorff Large Format View Camera.

Bleached Juniper Trunk On Ridge Above Parson’s Lodge, Cumulus Clouds, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. 8X10 Deardorff Large Format View Camera.

(View the photograph large: “Bleached Juniper Trunk, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite.”)

Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White were all proponents of visualization or pre-visualization as it is sometimes called. Ansel Adams wrote about visualization, as did Minor White to some extent. However, few, if any, of their students ever published any lecture notes sharing the contents of lectures on the subject. Here for what is likely the first time ever published, are the notes from star photography student Philip Hyde on a lecture by Minor White during the summer session, on August 19, 1947. Today is Minor White’s birthday. He was born on July 9, 1908.

Half way through the class lecture in 1947, Minor White shifted into a technical discussion regarding film density, exposure, the Zone System, film testing, tonal reproduction, tonal separation, contrast control by underdevelopment, various aspects of darkroom processing, waterbath formulas, and other details of film darkroom photography. The purpose of the lecture was to applying darkroom post-processing tools to carry out and complete the process of visualization as begun at the point of exposure in the field with the camera. This technical discussion consisted mainly of graphs and charts that do not apply to today’s digital photography and in some cases not even to today’s film photography. This complex portion of Minor White’s lecture is omitted here, for the most part, with some portions summarized, leaving us with the non-technical core of the subject.

These lecture notes are presented here mainly as a historical record, more than for teaching or learning purposes, though they may serve the latter two purposes as well, with certain readers. More on the theory and philosophy of visualization will follow in future articles and blog posts. Yet this lecture, may put into perspective how relatively easy making good photographs has become, due to technology replacing many of the processes mentioned below. Photoshop is certainly not simple, nor do we now merely press one button that eliminates all visual distractions and turns our images into artistic masterpieces, as many uninformed people seem to believe. Nonetheless, the lecture below puts into perspective the level of diligence involved in darkroom black and white photography. Which of these two post-processing methods do you feel took more skill? Or if the skills are different, how do they compare?

Technical Aspects of Visualization Lecture By Minor White

Philip Hyde’s Notes August 19, 1947
Visualization

Visualization is the basis of creative photography as taught at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) photography school. Visualization is simply visualizing, imagining in the mind, the final print while looking at the scene you are photographing. The approach to applying visualization is to place tones on a scale, in the 10 gradations of tone in the Zone System and internalizing the relationship of exposure to development taking into consideration the relationship between exposure and density of the film being used.

Any tone in nature can be reproduced with exposure control exactly as is with normal development. This is considered a normal exposure to development relationship. The relationship of tones remains the same with normal development. Less than normal development will compact the relationship, that is, it will compact the scale of tones. More than normal development will stretch the scale.

A full-scale print is one in which all the values of the 10 Zone scale are present including white and black, Zones 0-9. When exposure is graphed against density, there is a portion of the curve at the beginning, or toe, where the curve gradually increases steepness. This toe portion of the curve is preferred for enlargement, but can cause loss of accuracy of tonal relationships in darker areas. The curve then straightens out. This part of the curve is where tonal reproduction is accurate. The top, or shoulder, of the curve, where it gradually decreases steepness, is the least desirable for photographic enlargement and printing.

The lightest Zones, Zones I, II and III are on the toe portion of the graph and will be less dense than expected. Contrast can be controlled by underdevelopment. This must be determined by testing of the film to see whether upper or lower values will contrast more and in what relation to development. When lower values are in the toe, they can suffer serious loss of tonal quality. A good waterbath helps to increase separation in the lower tones, or the toe of the curve(s) and decreases or diminishes this effect in the upper Zones. Testing is done with a gradated step wedge.

Lens testing is also related to the success or failure of visualization efforts. Testing lenses determines the differences between theoretical and actual light transmission, due to flare, aberrations in the lens and technique of the photographer.

(Continued in the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 16.”)

For those of you who did both post-processing in a film darkroom and now use Photoshop, Lightroom or some equivalent, do you feel traditional film black and white photography or digital photography post-processing is more difficult? In what ways are the challenges of each different?

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? 

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 1

October 20th, 2011

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series

The 2oth Century’s Biggest Advance In Landscape Photography

Part One: Introduction

Hyde’s Wall, East Moody Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde. One of the most renowned photographs from the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. “Hyde’s Wall,” originally titled “Juniper, Wall, Escalante” was first published in the Sierra Club book “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” with Edward Abbey. For more about Edward Abbey, “Hyde’s Wall,” “Slickrock” and how the wall originally became known as Hyde’s Wall, see future blog posts in this series.

(See the photograph large: “Hyde’s Wall, E. Moody Canyon, Escalante Wilderness.”)

The 19th Century’s most significant advance in photography took place with the invention of flexible, paper-based photographic film by George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, in 1884. Another beginning that would grow and converge with photography in the mid 20th Century, was the founding of the Sierra Club in 1892 by 182 charter members who elected John Muir their first president. To read about how John Muir influenced pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, see the blog post, “Philip Hyde’s Trubute To John Muir.”

In 1951, the Sierra Club sent a young photographer named Philip Hyde, recently out of photography school under Ansel Adams, to Dinosaur National Monument, on the first ever photography assignment for an environmental cause. To learn more about the national battle to save Dinosaur National Monument that many consider the birth of modern environmentalism, see the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.” Philip Hyde’s photographs with those by journalist Martin Litton became the first photography book ever published for an environmental cause: This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And It’s Magic Rivers. Read more about Martin Litton in the blog post, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 1.”

By 1960, David Brower, an accomplished climber, Sierra Club high trip leader, member of the Sierra Club Board of Directors and previously a manager at the University of California Press, helped the Sierra Club establish the Sierra Club Foundation. One of the purposes of the Sierra Club Foundation was to develop a Sierra Club publishing program. Sierra Club Books launched the Exhibit Format Series with the first volume, This is the American Earth, with text by Nancy Newhall and photographs primarily by Ansel Adams with a handful of other photographers including Philip Hyde, Edward Weston and Minor White. The new Exhibit Format Series brought Sierra Club books and the cause of conservation national recognition, while advancing the art of photography and helping to establish landscape photography as a popular and persuasive art form. To learn more about David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1.”

In his 1971 book about David Brower, Encounters with the Archdruid, John McPhee described the coffee table books from the Exhibit Format Series:

Big, four-pound, creamily beautiful, living-room furniture books that argued the cause of conservation in terms, photographically, of exquisite details from the natural world and, textually, of essences of writers like Thoreau and Muir.

William Neill, in his 2006 tribute to Philip Hyde wrote:

Philip Hyde was the workhorse for the Sierra Club book series, providing images for nearly every battle of theirs in the 1960s and 1970s.  When David Brower, the director of the Club and creator of the book series, needed images to help preserve an endangered landscape, Philip and camera went to work.  Books in which his photographs are instrumental include: The Last Redwoods, Slickrock, Island in time: The Point Reyes Peninsula, Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, Navajo Wildlands, The Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland, and This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers. I have little doubt that every published nature photographer of my generation has been inspired by Philip’s efforts.  The large number of photographers, professional or not, working today to use their imagery to help preserve wild places, both locally and on national issues, owe Philip a great debt. The success of the Sierra Club books not only gave a great boost to its own membership, but also showed publishers that such books had commercial value, thus spawning the publication of thousands of books modeled after them.  The resulting nature book industry allowed many photographers to develop careers, and brought to light many issues of preservation.  Even those not familiar with the full extent of Hyde’s accomplishments can trace their roots to his efforts.

To read the full tribute, see the guest blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.” Stay tuned for the next installment in this series about the launching of the Sierra Club book program and the making of This is the American Earth.

(Continued in the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 2.”)

Notes On “The Redwoods” By Filmmaker Mark Jonathan Harris

December 29th, 2010

Introduction To “Notes On The Redwoods

Fog, Redwood Forest, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, 1962 by Philip Hyde. The left side of this photograph was the primary promotional cover photograph for the 1968 Academy Award Winning short documentary film, "The Redwoods," written by Mark Jonathan Harris.

The documentary The Redwoods, produced by the Sierra Club and written by Mark Jonathan Harris, was “a major influence in building public and congressional support for the creation of Redwoods National Park.” The film won the Academy Award for Short Documentary in 1968. Writer Mark Jonathan Harris is distinguished professor and head of documentary films at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Besides The Redwoods, he has either directed or wrote several other films that won the Academy Award. The Long Way Home, a film about the period immediately following the Holocaust won the “Oscar” for Best Feature Length Documentary in 1997. Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport was produced for Warner Bros. and also won an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary in 2000. See Mark Jonathan Harris’ short biography on the USC website for more about his other films since 2000 and his many other accomplishments. Today we have the honor of welcoming Mark Jonathan Harris for this guest blog post…

Notes on The Redwoods

By Mark Jonathan Harris, August 2006

Looking back at my early work as a filmmaker forty years later, I see themes and patterns that I didn’t recognize at the time. I grew up Scranton, Pennsylvania, a small coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania, but the first documentaries of any value that I made were both about California, and both were influenced by my youthful impressions of the state.

I first visited California on a summer vacation with my father when I was 13. Two of the obligatory tourist stops left lasting imprints. One was a visit to Paramount where Cecil B. DeMille was shooting The Ten Commandments and I watched hundreds of extras dancing feverishly around the Golden Calf. The other was a trip to Muir Woods where I tried unsuccessfully to capture the towering old-growth redwoods in my box camera. A year or so later, back in Scranton, I discovered John Steinbeck and avidly pored through all his work. If I had read The Grapes of Wrath and In Dubious Battle at a different point in my life, perhaps they wouldn’t have had as strong an impact, but at that impressionable age, Steinbeck’s books opened my eyes to social injustice and the need to fight against it.

Did these early experiences really shape the filmmaker I became? Or do I remember them now because they are congruent with my later history? As storytellers, we all try to find some narrative thread in the often incoherent randomness of our lives. Still, it isn’t surprising to me that the first documentary of any significance that I made, Huelga!, explored the farmworkers’ strike in the grape fields of Delano, California, and that I immediately followed it with The Redwoods, a plea to save the ancient and stately Sequoia Sempervirens.

Both of these films were heavily influenced by the idealism of the Sixties and the social protest movements of the times, the civil rights struggles in the South and the burgeoning environmental movement. But I also see a connection in the two subjects I wasn’t aware of then. Both films reflect the belief that there is something more important than self — whether it be the grandeur of nature or the power of collective action—and that we must all join together to fight for what we believe in.

The Redwoods was a collaboration of three young filmmakers–Trevor Greenwood, Richard Chew, and myself–all working together at King Screen Productions, a three-year-old documentary production company located in Seattle. Trevor had come to King by way of UCLA film school, Richard as a dropout from Harvard Law, and me after a brief stint as a wire service reporter covering crime in Chicago. It was Trevor’s inspiration to make the film and his aesthetic vision that guided us. At UCLA he had studied with Basil Wright and been deeply influenced by the British documentaries of the Thirties and Forties and the Pare Lorentz films made for the Roosevelt administration during the Depression. We all carefully studied The River and tried to achieve the same lyrical blend of sound and imagery.

At that time, the Sierra Club was leading the fight to establish a Redwood National Park and we went to them for financial support for the film. I don’t remember the exact budget anymore, but I doubt that it was more than $30,000. The Sierra Club put up $10,000 and King Screen Productions agreed to cover the remaining costs. Trevor made an initial research trip to Humboldt Country and hiked over the area being considered for the park with Sierra Club president Edgar Wayburn. “Walking through the fog-shrouded trees,” he told us when he returned, “you could actually hear the droplets of dew falling from the foliage and striking the forest floor.”

Shortly afterwards the three of us went off to make the film. Richard was the cinematographer, I took sound, and Trevor shot additional footage with an Arriflex and a spring-wound Bolex that would only run for about 15 seconds. We took a 16mm projector with us and at night would view the rushes in our motel room in Orick.

There were two principal artistic challenges we faced in making the film.  One was the simple difficulty of filming the trees well. The other was making people care about preserving them. Ronald Reagan, after all, had famously remarked, “If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.”

Filming the trees was technically difficult because of both their size and the excessive contrast between light and shadow in the forest. Since we were making the film for the Sierra Club, we were conscious of the high photographic standards it had set in the coffee table books it published by artists like Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, and Philip Hyde. It took some experimenting for Richard and Trevor to find the best photographic approach. Finally, they settled on shooting the trees in a light fog or from the edge of a forest where sidelight struck the trunks and brought out the texture of the foreground trees. The fog helped to create a sense of mystery and of age–the primeval forest–and when the fog drifted through the trees it made them come alive. I still remember standing on the road with my Nagra in the morning damp and mist, recording  the logging trucks approaching in the distance. We used that sound to good effect in the opening of the film.

Although we wanted the trees to speak for themselves, we knew we also had to have a human voice in the film, a person who could provide us some perspective on what we were seeing. We struggled to find that elusive voice. While Trevor and Richard were filming the trees, I spent much of my time searching for a narrator, interviewing long-time residents and loggers in the area. Although all the interviews were informative, I wasn’t able to find any one individual whose voice seemed strong enough to me to carry the whole film. So I ended up creating a composite narrator based on the comments of the people I had interviewed. In the end, a Seattle actor who had worked as a logger in his youth recorded the narration for the film, adding some of his own phrasings and observations to my text.

When we had edited the film to our satisfaction, we took it to San Francisco to show the board of the Sierra Club. The lights went on after the screening and there was a long, almost interminable silence.  Finally, a woman raised her hand and spoke. “That bird call at the beginning of the film,” she said, “that bird is not indigenous to the area.” We had been caught red-handed using a bird call from a library of sound effects. Outside of that memorable and unexpected comment, I don’t remember much more about that screening except that the Sierra Club was pleased with the film and used it extensively in its lobbying and organizing work to establish a Redwood National Park.

Although none of us had great expectations for the film’s theatrical release, we wanted it to be seen by as many people as possible, so we blew the film up to 35mm to increase our opportunities for distribution. The Academy Award nomination was a great boost in getting theaters to run the film. The Oscar itself was a huge surprise. Charles Champlin and other Los Angeles film critics had picked other documentaries to win. The Oscar ceremony that year was postponed a few days because of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Unfortunately, Richard and I were booked for a flight to Colombia the day before the rescheduled ceremony because we were starting a new documentary about the Peace Corps. Given the prediction of the pundits, we decided not to change our flights. Trevor stayed in L.A. to attend the ceremonies. Richard and I read about the award the day afterwards in El Tiempo, the newspaper in Bogota.   It was two more months before I actually held the statue in my hand.  After spending those months in an impoverished rural village in the Andes, the Oscar seemed even more unreal.

Forty years later, the fight to preserve the few remaining old-growth redwood forests against the greed and short sightedness of corporate logging still goes on. Although a definite accomplishment, the national park that Congress established saved less of the ecosystem than the Sierra Club and other environmental groups had battled for. Logging companies continue to threaten the entire redwood forest ecosystem by clearcutting trees to the edge of park boundaries and destroying streams and wildlife habitats throughout the region. In the late 90s, environmental activists took up the battle again to save more of the remaining 3% of the world’s tallest living trees. Julia Butterfly Hill attracted international publicity by climbing an over 1000-year-old giant redwood and living 180 feet off the ground for two years and eight days until she finally  persuaded the Maxxam Corp. to preserve the tree and a 200 foot buffer zone around it. Other activists continue to employ her tree-climbing tactics.

Richard, Trevor, and I have all gone on to make other films since The Redwoods, but this short documentary remains a source of pride. Not only were we able to use our cinematic skills in the service of a cause we believed in, but we were able to help achieve a concrete result. It is impossible to measure accurately the effect any single film has on public opinion, but the Sierra Club did show The Redwoods to members of Congress, and not too long afterwards a bill to create a Redwood National Park was passed. I’m pleased to have contributed to its establishment. Now my grandsons will be able to experience the same feelings of awe and wonder that I first felt as a child, and continue to feel, whenever I enter these majestic forests.

How To Get The Film

The DVD of The Redwoods can now be purchased through the Phoenix Learning Group, where the film is described as bringing “attention to the impending doom of California’s magnificent redwoods which are being logged at a rate of three million a decade. Through the narration of an old logger, viewers are moved to consider the environmental value of these magnificent trees which date back to the age of the dinosaur.”

“The Redwoods” Contest Follow-Up

December 27th, 2010

The Redwoods Contest Follow-Up And Special Guest Blog Post Preview Announcement

The Original Cover Promo For The Academy Award Winning Short Documentary, “The Redwoods” written by Mark Jonathan Harris and produced for the Sierra Club to help in the campaign for Redwood National Park.

“The Redwoods” Contest And Complications

On November 6, I wrote a blog post called, “November 2010 Digital Print Contest.” Please see the post for details of the unusual contest it launched, but in short if someone could help me find out the name and background of the Academy Award winning documentary film that used Dad’s photograph for its cover promotional image, the first person to do so would win an 11X14 Philip Hyde authorized archival fine art digital print of choice.

Originally I announced the contest at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival and gave the rules in the blog post. I made the blog post at 2:50 pm and we had an unverified winner by 5:13 pm of the same day. Bill Sawalich, photographer and writer, from St. Louis, Missouri correctly identified the name and year of the film. Thank you also to other participants, notably one Vicki Gundrum, who also discovered the correct film just a few hours later, and who provided much good information also to be seen in the comments on the post. Bill Sawalich found and provided contact information for film director and writer, Mark Jonathan Harris, who wrote “The Redwoods.” It was easy to verify that Mark Jonathan Harris’ film, “The Redwoods” was indeed the 1968 Oscar winning documentary made for the Sierra Club to help establish a Redwood National Park.

There was only one hitch: Mark Jonathan Harris’ film, “The Redwoods” did not have my father’s photograph on the cover, at least not currently, 42 years later. I needed to find out if there was another film that used Dad’s photograph, in that case Bill Sawalich would not yet have won the contest, or whether for some reason Dad or I had been mistaken or mixed up and his photograph was not used on a Redwood film at all, in which case I would honor Bill Sawalich as the winner anyway because he found the name and information about the right documentary.

Academy Award Winning Film “The Redwoods” And The Mystery Solved

I contacted Mark Jonathan Harris, still a filmmaker and professor at the USC Film School. Mr. Harris was cordial, helpful and seemed happy to hear from me about the film. Among other things he wrote:

We were of course aware of your father’s photographs of the redwoods when we made our film, but the photograph we used to publicize the film is not the same one you sent me. This photograph, too, could be one of your father’s. Perhaps you will recognize it. It’s 42 years since we made the film and King Screen Productions has been defunct for many years. I’m not even sure who is distributing the film now–it may be Pyramid films–and I don’t know what art work they are using. We did not use any of your father’s photographs in the film. We shot all the footage ourselves on 16mm, but the Sierra Club coffee table books, of which your father’s was one [The Last Redwoods], certainly set the bar for the quality of images we tried to capture.

Mark Jonathan Harris sent me the jpeg of the original film cover. It turns out it is Dad’s photograph. The artwork the current distributor is using has changed from the original. As soon as I opened the jpeg, I saw right away it was the image I remembered as a kid. Apparently I am the one who mixed up the two photographs recently. They have very similar names. The one depicted on the film cover and seen partially in the cover above was, “Fog, Redwood Forest, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park” and the one that I put in the blog post was “Alder, Redwoods, Fog, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.”

Coming Attractions…

Because I asked about the making of the film, Mark Jonathan Harris also sent me his article, “Notes on The Redwoods” that he wrote in 2006 for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when they were showing a retrospective of Oscar winning documentaries. After getting his “Notes on The Redwoods” and seeing how interesting and evocative of the times his writing was, I asked Mr. Harris if he would honor me by allowing his article to be used as a guest blog post on Landscape Photography Blogger. He agreed. Stay tuned for Mark Jonathan Harris’ “Notes on The Redwoods” coming very soon.

November 2010 Digital Print Contest

November 6th, 2010

Philip Hyde Authorized 11X14 Archival Digital Print Of Your Choice Awarded To The Winner ($450 Value)

Alder And Redwoods In The Fog, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, 1962 by Philip Hyde. Widely exhibited and published including as the promotional photograph for a Documentary on the Redwoods that won the Adademy Award.

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here.)

As announced at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival, I will be giving away an 11X14 Philip Hyde photographer authorized special edition numbered archival fine art digital print of your choice from the images available as archival digital prints on PhilipHyde.com, a $450 value.

As a side note remember that Philip Hyde’s Mountain Landscapes exhibition at Camera Obscura Gallery in Denver is still up for another week, as is the Golden Decade Exhibition in the San Francisco Bay Area at Smith Andersen North Gallery.

Photograph, Film And Contest

The photograph above, “Alder And Redwoods In The Fog, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, 1962,” was the promotional photograph for a documentary film produced in the mid-1960s about the Redwoods that won the “Oscar” or “Academy Award” from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. My father, landscape photographer Philip Hyde, in taped interviews I did of him mentioned the film and that it had won the Academy Award. Also, Michael McCloskey, Executive Director of the Sierra Club after David Brower, wrote about the Academy Award winning film briefly in his book, In the Thick of It: My Life in the Sierra Club. Michael McCloskey is still around and active working in conservation. He was famous for stabilizing the Sierra Club after its civil war, for being a legal advisor to the Sierra Club and earlier for helping to organize and systematize the grassroots conservation efforts in Oregon and Washington. I asked him recently if he could remember the name of the film and he did not know for sure. It may have the same title as the book of my father’s photographs, The Last Redwoods, it may not. I have already checked with the Sierra Club and they don’t know. However, somebody who knows films or knows how to research films in Hollywood may be able to win fairly easily. There may even be a book or a website that lists the Academy Awards.

The Game And The Rules

The rules of the contest are simple. The archival fine art digital print can be won by correctly identifying which year the film came out between 1962 and 1968, the proper full name of the film and whether it won the Academy Award or was merely nominated, as well as some descriptive information, how long it is, summary, etc, about the film including where and how it can be viewed or purchased. Also, here’s the most challenging part, you must prove, either with an image, link to an image, a third-party witness or in some other documented way that it is indeed the film that “Alder And Redwoods In The Fog, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, 1962,” was the promotional photograph for. The first person to get this information to me wins. I will keep the contest open until the end of November. Winning merely requires a bit of digging in the right places. I could probably find it myself, but I have too many other facts to verify and research. Besides, I thought this would be a fun way for someone to participate in finding out. Good luck and don’t hesitate to comment here or write me if you have questions about the contest.

Colorado Environmental Film Festival

October 20th, 2010

2nd Annual

Environmental Photography Exhibition

6:00 pm, November 5, 2010

At The 5th Annual

Colorado Environmental Film Festival

American Mountaineering Center

710 10th Street, Suite 101, Golden, Colorado

David Leland Hyde Will Kick Off The Environmental Photography Exhibition With A One Hour Talk Called:

Philip Hyde And The First Environmental Photography

6:00 pm, Friday November 5, Foss Auditorium

After photography school under Ansel Adams, Philip Hyde
made the majority of photographs for the first book ever
published for an environmental cause “This Is Dinosaur” edited
by Wallace Stegner. Philip Hyde’s son David will share stories
from his father’s 58 years in activist landscape photography and
the role of his work in the preservation of National Treasures
Such As The Grand Canyon, The California Redwoods,
The North Cascades, Dinosaur National Monument and Others.

One of the few environmental film festivals in the nation, the Colorado Environmental Film Festival’s mission is “to inspire, educate and motivate audiences,” says the Colorado Environmental Film Festival’s media materials. “We hope to provide an experience for our audiences that goes beyond just passive film viewing: we aim to inspire our audiences into awareness and action.”

The Colorado Environmental Film Festival arranges for open discussions related to the films, either with filmmakers or with experts on the film’s topic. The Colorado Environmental Film Festival shows national and international films and highlights the work of local filmmakers. Also, mentoring and a filmmaking forum on Saturday, November 6, cultivate interest in environmental film making.

Colorado Environmental Film Festival Front Building. The Colorado Mountain Club is generously hosting the Colorado Environmental Film Festival at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado, November 4-6, 2010.

This fifth year, the Colorado Environmental Film Festival will show 45 films over three days from November 4-6. The films are from six countries and 16 states and range from two minutes to just under two hours. Five of the productions are from Colorado. “This year there are more international films,” said Shawna Crocker, director and founder of the Colorado Environmental Film Festival and environmental educator for the Colorado State Forest Service. Shawna Crocker explained that she and a few colleagues started the Colorado Environmental Film Festival when she came back from attending an environmental film festival in Washington D.C. and realized that such an event in Colorado could help broaden the reach of local environmental education.

The Films

The Colorado Environmental Film Festival will start on Thursday, November 4 at 6:00 pm mountain time with a Kick Off Celebration followed at 7:00 pm by the showing of this year’s featured film, Play Again:

Play Again investigates the consequences of a childhood removed from nature and asks “What are we missing when we’re behind screens?” At a time when children spend more time in the virtual world than the natural world, Play Again unplugs a group of media
savvy teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure, documenting the wonder that comes from time spent in nature and inspiring action for a sustainable future.

The producer of Play Again will attend the Kick Off Celebration and lead discussion after the screening. Other prominent feature films over the weekend include Forever Wild: Celebrating America’s Wilderness hosted by Robert Redford and featuring the poetry of Terry Tempest Williams; Burning in the Sun about the first solar panel builder in Mali, Africa; Facing the Storm: The Story of the American Bison; Local Warming a music teacher sets out to prove one person can do something about global warming; Eating Alaska is about a vegetarian who moved to Alaska and after searching for the “right” thing to eat began to eat meat; Milking the Rhino examines the deepening conflict between humans and animals in an ever shrinking world; Hands On Farms chronicles a visit to 10 certified organic farms; The Elephant in the Living Room dissects the controversial world of exotic animal ownership; Butterflies and Bulldozers looks inside the fight to protect San Bruno Mountain, the last piece of wild San Francisco; and many others. Of particular note is an award-wining 10-minute documentary called Senekerim Dohanian: Uncle Sam’s Ace Insect Hunter written and produced by the 12-year-old great nephew of Robert Coulter about his pioneering of biological pest control.

Environmental Photography Exhibition

On Friday, November 5, as part of the Colorado Environmental Film Festival, the second annual Environmental Photography Exhibition started by photographer and filmmaker Kent Gunnufson will begin. The still photography exhibition this year is juried by master photographer Al Weber, who is known as a teacher, mentor and advocate for photographers. Last year Hal Gould from Camera Obscura Gallery juried the still photography exhibition. Al Weber’s career spans six decades and includes aerial photography, architectural work and landscape photography. He was a trustee of the Friends of Photography, taught at the Ansel Adams Workshops in Yosemite since their beginning and founded The Rendezvous, an annual gathering and portfolio sharing of photographers from all over the Western U.S. Al Weber was a long-time friend of Philip Hyde, who among other names in photography attended The Rendezvous a number of years.

“More than anything else I appreciate honesty in a photograph, and a print made with skill, care and passion,” Al Weber said.

Kent Gunnufson said, “We are honored this year to have Al Weber jury the photography show. The Colorado Environmental Film Festival is one of the few places people can find out what is really going on in the environment. The media doesn’t cover it. Most other film festivals don’t have many environmental films and they have become more of a marketing tool. All of our staff are volunteers including myself. I do it every year because when I am out photographing I have seen over time how things have degenerated. This film festival helps give people solutions and gives them options of things they can do beyond passively watching films.”

Tickets for the Colorado Environmental Film Festival are good for one two-hour session of two to three films and can be purchased in quantity for discounts. The tickets go for $5.00 for one, $15.00 for five tickets, $25.00 for 10 tickets, $40 for 20 tickets and $60 for an all-inclusive Festival Pass that includes the V.I.P. Opening Kick Off Celebration at 6:00 pm Thursday, November 4. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time at the Denver, Lakewood and Boulder R.E.I. stores and at the American Mountaineering Center Theater one hour before the Kickoff.

While people are in town for the Colorado Environmental Film Festival, Philip Hyde’s Mountain Landscapes Exhibition is showing right at the Camera Obscura Gallery in Denver, a rare appearance in Colorado. Philip Hyde has not exhibited in Colorado since the 1980s at an exhibition also in Golden. His only other showings in Colorado were in the 1970s at CU Boulder in a group show and at Camera Obscura in the 1960s.