Posts Tagged ‘Galen Rowell’

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3

August 26th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is your favorite desert?

Ken Brower Speaks At “This Land Is Our Land” Philip Hyde Exhibition Opening

January 30th, 2014

250 People Attend The Opening For The Largest Exhibition Of Philip Hyde In Northern California In 20 Years

Ken Brower And David Leland Hyde Speak About The Collaboration Between Their Fathers, David Brower And Philip Hyde, On Behalf Of Wilderness

“This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness,” will run through March 1, 2014

David Leland Hyde, Ed Cooper And Debby Cooper At The Opening of "This Land Is Our Land." Ed Cooper was another mainstay photographer for the Sierra Club, his work appearing in the famous Sierra Club calendars of the 1970s and 1980s that contained the who's who of landscape photography at the time. He is a well-known mountaineering large format photographer. His latest book, "Soul Of The Rockies" came out in 2008.

David Leland Hyde, Ed Cooper And Debby Cooper At The Opening of “This Land Is Our Land.” Ed Cooper was another mainstay photographer for the Sierra Club, his work appearing in the famous Sierra Club calendars of the 1970s and 1980s that contained the who’s who of landscape photography at the time. He is a well-known mountaineering large format photographer. His latest books are, “Soul Of The Rockies” (2008) and “Soul of Yosemite.” (2011)

Stefan Kirkeby, gallerist of Smith Andersen North Gallery, said over 250 people attended the Philip Hyde exhibition opening this last Saturday evening, January 25, 2014. Included in the crowd were Ken Brower–history making editor of Sierra Club Books and National Geographic writer and author of several books, Sierra Club Calendar and mountaineering photographer Ed Cooper, Golden Decade photographers Stan Zrnich, Gerald Ratto and David Johnson, who each have significant accomplishments of their own, Jack Fulton department head and associate professor of photography at the San Francisco Art Institute, Jeff Gunderson co-author of The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, black and white architecture and landscape photographer Mark Citret, contemporary landscape photographer Gary Crabbe–protegé of Galen Rowell, a Sonoma County winery owner and other collectors, photographers and fans of photography.

“It was our largest show opening since the Golden Decade,” said Stefan Kirkeby.

The Golden Decade in West Coast photography refers to the first 10 years of Ansel Adam’s photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute when Minor White was lead instructor and other teachers included Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange and Lisette Model. The Golden Decade exhibit at Smith Andersen North drew over 500 people and exhibited the work of over 20 of Philip Hyde’s contemporaries.

“This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness” exhibition will run through March 1, 2014 and consists of vintage color dye transfer and Cibachrome prints, original vintage black and white silver gelatin prints, contemporary black and white darkroom prints from Philip Hyde’s original 2 ¼, 4×5, 5×7 and 8×10 negatives, and photographer authorized archival chromogenic lightjet and inkjet digital prints.

Stefan Kirkeby opened the evening’s talk by recognizing the commitment and dedication of Philip Hyde to preserving wilderness through conservation photography. He introduced David Leland Hyde, who first recognized Stefan Kirkeby’s dedication to art and artists. Then Hyde spoke about his father’s various campaigns and what it was like growing up with a father who was on the road 100 days out of every year for nearly 60 years. The young Hyde spoke of his good fortune to have traveled with his mother and father on many of their outdoor adventures. He told the story of traveling to a small wild island in the Caribbean as part of an assessment of whether or not to protect the island and it’s unique native species and endangered species in their home habitat, or to maintain the island as a US Navy bombing range.

David Leland Hyde described landing in a small plane in a grass field on Isla Mona, the island off Puerto Rico, driving through the jungle, staying in small beach bungalows, snorkeling in shallows filled with multi-colored fish that stretched for miles, backpacking across the hot desert interior of the 10-mile across island, hiking along the beach, camping near a Korean War era plane crash, befriending a four foot iguana, visiting a bat cave and getting up in the middle of the night with his parents and naturalist Frank Wadsworth to see the Southern Cross gleaming overhead in the clear milky way decorated night sky.

Ken Brower spoke next about the collaboration between his father, environmental leader David Brower, and his “go-to” photographer, Philip Hyde. Ken Brower told the story of David Brower and Philip Hyde having traveled to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir together in 1955 to photograph and motion picture film the low water that revealed the devastated dusty field of stumps as depicted in Philip Hyde’s famous photograph of the same title. Ken Brower also talked about other conservation campaigns and how art ultimately can make a big difference in the world.

The atmosphere in the gallery during the opening was festive and lively with plenty of refreshments including a selection of several types of white wine. You have never before seen gallery opening finger food cuisine like this: toothpick strawberries, kiwis, raspberries, grapes, cantaloupe, brie and three other types of cheese, four types of crackers, raspberries, cantaloupe, Shrimp Spring Rolls and sauce, both made on location, as were fresh Pico de Gallo with two types of chips and much more.

Besides being the first large photography exhibition of Philip Hyde’s work in nearly 20 years in the Bay Area, “This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness,” will run through March 1, 2014 and display the various regions in which Philip Hyde photographed and helped to protect wilderness.

For more on Philip Hyde’s career and “This Land Is Our Land” Exhibition, see the blog post, “Major Northern California Philip Hyde Exhibition.”

Smith Andersen North Gallery
20 Greenfield Ave
San Anselmo, California
415-455-9733

Tuesday – Friday: 10AM – 6PM, Saturday: 12 – 5PM, and by appointment.

Why Photography Galleries, Curators And Collectors Like Limited Editions

March 12th, 2013

Important Announcement: Philip Hyde Authorized Archival Prints, Largest Sizes Converted To Limited Editions

Misty Morning, Indian Creek, Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 1983 by Philip Hyde. The original color transparency went missing and this image has not been printed or published for over 20 years. With the digital age it can again be printed. West Coast Imaging produced the new file from a scan by their Creo CCD Flatbed Scanner of a Philip Hyde original dye transfer print.

Misty Morning, Indian Creek, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 1983 by Philip Hyde. Because the original color transparency was missing, this image has not been printed or published for over 25 years. With the digital age it can again be printed. West Coast Imaging produced the new file from a scan by their Creo CCD Flatbed Scanner of a Philip Hyde original dye transfer print. This is another Philip Hyde photograph that is close to selling 10 prints, at which point it will go up in value $100 in all sizes. Because this photograph is not available as a 32X40 print, the limited edition is only available in the 24X30 size.

(See the photograph large: “Misty Morning, Indian Creek, Northern Sierra Nevada, California.”)

After much research and deliberation, I have decided to take the advice of many photographers, photography gallery owners, collectors, museum curators, archive collection managers, appraisers, connoisseurs, critics and nearly every other established expert in the art of photography that I have spoken with: to change the largest Philip Hyde authorized archival lightjet or digital prints to limited editions of 50.

That’s right, you read correctly, from now on the two largest sizes, 24X30 and 32X40 Philip Hyde archival lightjet or digital prints will be offered in limited editions of only 50 prints from either size of each image. Not 50 24X30’s plus 50 32X40’s, but 50 prints total in either size. The remaining Philip Hyde archival print sizes: 8X10, 11X14, 16X20 and 20X24 will still be offered in an open numbered edition called the Philip Hyde authorized “Special Edition.”

In my research I found that only photographers were against limited editions and only a minority of photographers at that. One talented and prominent photographer and writer, who I agree with on many other subjects, Guy Tal, has even gone so far as to suggest that limited edition prints are unethical because he believes they manipulate the market, creating a false scarcity and an “inflated value.” His reasoning is that “manufacturing scarcity” through limiting editions goes against the goals of artists “to inspire, to share, to make accessible, to celebrate and other noble causes often associated with photography of natural things.” He proposes that “artificial scarcity” is not the same as “real scarcity.” If you read his blog post, “The Ethics of Limited Editions,” you may understand why he looks at it this way. The comments on his blog post are many and diverse. In my observation, some photographers who dislike limited editions look at it mainly from their own perspective and not that of the collector or even casual print buyer. For primarily this reason, these photographers overlook the real benefits of limited editions.

Who Brought Limited Editions To Landscape Photography?

Is it not ironic then, that it was Ansel Adams and later Galen Rowell, who did the most to popularize both landscape photography and limited editions in the genre? Some landscape photographers who do not like limited editions claim that Ansel Adams did not produce limited edition. This may be true of the prints he made himself, but his Special Edition prints made in his darkroom by an assistant and other editions were limited. Some early well-known landscape photographers also invented the now ethically questionable practice of size specific limited editions. They would offer 16X20 prints of a certain image as a limited edition of say 200. Once the edition of 200 sold out, they would then offer a limited edition of 15X18 prints of the same image. Fear and mistrust of these types of limited editions are what caused collectors to be wary of limited editions of digital prints when they were first introduced. When digital prints originally began to appear, Photography galleries and collectors believed that it was easier to make digital prints than traditional color or black and white prints. They feared that photographers would break their own self-imposed edition limits, or work around the limits by issuing different sizes or implementing some other ploy.

Certainly limited editions of 250, 500 or more than 1,000 are mirages. Print runs of this size only create the perception and carry the name of “limited editions.” They are not truly limited because few nature or landscape photographers will ever sell that many of one image out of their many prints offered.

What Photography Gallery Owners And Collectors Like

I remember a conversation I had with Terry Etherton, an esteemed photography dealer and owner of the Etherton Gallery in Tucson, Arizona. I asked his opinion whether I ought to offer my father’s photographer authorized archival digital prints in limited editions or not. I explained that the current numbered Special Edition was not a limited edition, but would be limited by its pricing structure. That is, each time 10 prints sell in each image, that image goes up $100 in all sizes. For example, we have already sold more than 10 prints of “Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra.” It is priced at $275 for an 8X10, $425 for 11X14, $575 for 16X20 and so on rather than the regular pricing of the rest of Dad’s photographs of $175 for 8X10, $325 for 11X14, $475 for 16X20, etc. After “Virginia Creeper” has sold 100 prints, the 8X10s will sell for $1175, the 11X14s will sell for $1325, the 16X20s will be $1475 and so on. Terry Etherton said that was OK, but limited editions would be simpler. I said that if I did switch to limited editions, I would probably limit them to perhaps 75, 100 or even as much as 200. He said, “I was thinking maybe 25 or 50. Collectors want something rare.” Most of the other photography galleries whose owners I talked to concurred with Mr. Etherton.

Collectors not only like, but purposely seek out vintage prints and even modern photographs that are printed in limited editions or are rare for some other reason. Photography galleries, museum curators and archivists like limited editions too. Why? Very simply, because whenever there is less of anything valuable, the less of it there is, the more valuable it becomes. This is not “manufactured” or “artificial” and even if it were, whenever there is less quantity, regardless of the reason or the cause, there is more value. Collectors want to have the satisfaction of knowing that what they have is something unique or nearly unique. They want to pay more to obtain art that they know will not be mass-produced. It is no more complicated or psychologically involved than that.

Black And White Magazine On Digital Print Values

Lorraine Anne Davis MA, MFA, a fine art photography appraiser since 1984 and columnist for Black and White Magazine, has managed, curated or consulted with many of the world’s most significant photography collections including the Paul Strand Archive. She wrote an article in the April 2009, Issue 66 of Black and White Magazine titled, “Concerning Digital Reprints.” Her article explained that digital prints are becoming more accepted and collectible, but that “posthumous” digital reprints of an artist who mainly printed with other processes are ubiquitous, but sometimes questionable in appraisal value. Indeed, according to Davis, the intent of the artist or the print maker is what determines value. For more about her article see the Fine Art Photography Collectors Resource Blog post called, “Photography Galleries, Collectors, Appraisers And Digital Prints.”

Having learned to print from Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White, my father produced his own fine art gelatin silver prints, dye transfer prints from color film and later Cibachrome color prints. He had Wally McGalliard in Los Angeles print all of his large exhibition prints using a C-print process. In 1998, master landscape photographer Carr Clifton restored two of Dad’s photographs. From then on Dad authorized Carr Clifton to print for him. Wally McGalliard retired around the same time and Carr Clifton’s new archival digital prints became the preferred printing process for Philip Hyde Photography. When Dad was making his own prints from color film, he only made 2-8 prints of each image. Thus, I no longer have many prints left of many of his most well known photographs. We expanded the line of digital prints offered mainly to Dad’s top images that have nearly or completely sold out and those that have been damaged in some way. Peter Fetterman, the number one photography dealer in Southern California, said producing any digital prints at all might confuse the market, but I imagine “the market” would rather be confused than not able to obtain any of Dad’s best photographs at all.

Are All Digital Prints Equal?

These archival lightjet or digital prints are very different from most digital prints. First of all they are made from high resolution Tango drum scans of large format 4X5, 5X7 or 8X10 color film. The resulting raw file is 800 MG to 6 Gigs in size and contains far more detail and a much wider range and depth of color than any digital camera capture today. A good analogy is why music lovers like vinyl LP records better than CDs. Analog sound is fuller, richer, more melodious and less metallic sounding because the sound curve is smooth, containing a continuous breakdown of all the sound, whereas the digital sound curve, when magnified, is a stairstep of sound with little pieces of the sound missing all along the “curve.” Tango drum Scans of large format original color film transparencies contain a much smoother color curve and much more of the colors in the continuum. Because of this, at first a drum scan comes out appearing dull in color, also due to adjusting the settings to obtain as much detail from the highlights and shadows as possible. The huge raw file must then be “developed” or “post-processed” in Photoshop by a seasoned restoration expert to most effectively match the way my father printed the image.

Carr Clifton’s expert Photoshop work is expensive and time consuming for both of us as we print a proof, change the digital file, print another proof and change the digital image again. Also, since many of Dad’s original color film transparencies and black and white film negatives are beaten up with scratches, pock marks, fading and all sorts of other damage due to age and being sent out to publishers so often, a great deal of restoration and cleanup work is necessary as each image gets printed larger and larger. The archival digital prints Carr Clifton and I have made are not considered posthumous prints because Dad authorized them eight years before his death in 2006 and two years before he lost his eyesight in 2000. Also, they are not technically even digital prints any more at all because they are now printed on a lightjet printer. The lightjet printing process does not produce the image on the paper with 11 inks the way the fine art digital printing process does, the lightjet process is actually a chromogenic or full color spectrum, photographic process whereby the paper is exposed with light much like the old darkroom printing processes. This produces a richer, even more full-spectrum color emulsion with better definition and contrast, even more like an analog vintage print. Lightjet prints are also more environmentally friendly not using toxic inks and wasting less paper and ink due to fewer printing mistakes. Some tests claim inkjet digital prints will outlast lightjet prints, but some tests claim lightjet prints will outlast digital prints. Either way, lightjet prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper when placed side-by-side with digital prints win hands down in their aesthetic appeal, print consistency and print quality.

What A Professional Appraiser, Some Photography Dealers And A Few Museum Curators Said

I contacted Lorraine Anne Davis in December 2009 and wrote that I enjoyed her informative article in Black and White Magazine. I also explained what Carr Clifton and I were doing and how we had enjoyed compliments from top photography galleries and major museums including the Oakland Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, whose head photography curators had seen the archival digital prints. I told her that I planned at some point to write about the subject and would she offer her expert opinion on what we were doing, even without seeing the prints. I explained that I wished to overcome the stigma sometimes attached to heirs making prints and be sure to bring out the archival digital prints in such a way that they would be accepted, respected, collected and go up in value.

I quote her reply in full:

I am afraid I am too busy to answer in depth. Just limit the editions and it doesn’t matter what the process is. Not any more – but collectors want to think what they have is “rare” –

You can make large editions of small prints and very limited of larger prints –

Blind stamp or holograph to protect originality –

A certificate or sticker of authenticity can be reproduced by anyone – certificates of authenticity are often issued with fakes – appraisers don’t even consider them, they are the easiest things to fake. It’s somewhat of a joke, actually – and It isn’t necessary of you keep track of the editions.

Unless your father’s work starts selling for over 100,000 per print, no one is going to make fakes –

Man Ray, Peter Beard, Hine and 19th C dags have some fakes – but Hine and Man Ray printers had the negs –and were selling very high

Sorry to be so brief

All my articles will be posted on my web site in the next weeks –

Happy Holidays – Lorraine

In my reply I of course thanked her and said, “This is quite a bit of information actually and very generous of you to advise.” Based on her guidance and much other research and conversations with people like Richard Gadd, previous Director of the Monterey Museum of Art, currently Director of the Weston Gallery in Carmel; Sandra S. Phillips, Senior Curator of Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Michael and Jeanne Adams of the Ansel Adams Gallery; Hal Gould and Loretta Young-Gautier of Camera Obscura Gallery in Denver; Andrew Smith and John Boland of Santa Fe; Scott Nichols and Susan Friedwald of San Francisco; Stefan Kirkeby of Smith Andersen North in San Anselmo, California; Robert Yellowlees and Tony Casadonte of Lumiere Gallery and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; Drew Johnson Curator of Photography and Visual Culture at the Oakland Museum and many others, I have decided to make the changes mentioned above to the two largest sizes of my father’s archival lightjet and digital prints. Dad’s 24X30 and 32X40 archival lightjet and digital prints will from now on be produced in limited editions of 50 prints per image.

The Results And Bottom Line

For the remainder of this year of 2013 or whenever one image sells more than five prints, these limited edition prints from color film originals will be PRICED THE SAME AS THEY ARE NOW! That is, prints in LIMITED EDITIONS of only 50 will remain the same price until they either sell five prints or until December 31, 2013. After that they will go up an average of $200 in each size (see the chart below for details.) This represents a 15 percent savings.

Prices Now            Unmatted/Unframed                      Matted                         Matted & Framed

24X30                                      925                                    1050                                    1175

32X40                                    1175                                    1325                                    1475

 

Prices After            Unmatted/Unframed                     Matted                         Matted & Framed

24X30                                    1100                                    1225                                    1350

32X40                                    1300                                    1450                                    1600

For more information on Philip Hyde archival lightjet and digital prints from color film see: “About Fuji Crystal Archive Chromogenic Fine Art Prints,” as well as the blog post mentioned above called, “Photography Galleries, Collectors, Appraisers And Digital Prints.”

What do you think? Are we on the right track? Would it be wise to keep the editions the same as they are now? Print a completely open edition with no numbering? Produce the entire line of prints as limited editions?

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 1

April 3rd, 2012

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

Celebrating Landscape Photography Blogger’s 200th Blog Post!

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

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 1

The Five Deserts of North America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carr Clifton At Mountain Light Gallery

January 9th, 2012

A Solo Exhibition of New Work

Carr Clifton

Nine Weeks In The Sacred Headwaters

Guest Artist Exhibit At Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery

Bishop, California

January 13 to March 15, 2012

Artist’s Reception and Booksigning

Friday, January 13, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Slope in the Spectrum Range, Mount Edziza Provincial Park, Coast Mountains, British Columbia, Canada, copyright 2011 by Carr Clifton.

Please join Mountain Light Gallery on Friday, January 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for the opening of its latest guest artist exhibition, Nine Weeks in the Sacred Headwaters, featuring 32 fine art prints of the Sacred Headwaters, British Columbia, Canada, by master printmaker and award-winning photographer Carr Clifton.

In collaboration with author and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis, and the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), Carr Clifton captured some of the most beautiful and most endangered lands in North America.

Nine weeks trekking hundreds of miles of backcountry trails and roads, and 10 aerial shoots from helicopters, Carr Clifton’s portfolio of this incredible region conveys the importance of protecting this precious place from large scale industrial development. Many individuals and organizations donated their time and financial support making this project possible, and resulting in the visually stunning book, The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena, and Nass, written by Wade Davis, with photography by Carr Clifton and others, published by Greystone Books.

Mountain Light Photography, Inc.

106 S. Main Street

Bishop, California 93514

(760) 873-7700

Visit us at MountainLight.com

Interview of Gary Crabbe Part 3

July 12th, 2011

Landscape Photography Blogger Interviews Photographer Gary Crabbe

Last Part of A Three Part Series

(Continued from the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 2.”)

On Photography For Books, Publishing, Rebuilding After An Injury And Stock Photography

Interview Conducted By Phone May 25, 2011

Cloud Rising Out Of The Owens Valley At Sunrise, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph full size, “Cloud Rising Out Of The Owens Valley, Eastern Sierra Nevada.” For the story of Gary Crabbe’s transcendent experience making this photograph see his blog post, “Spirits In The Air.”)

DAVID LELAND HYDE: We continue with the conclusion of an in-depth interview of one of the leading landscape photographers working today, Gary Crabbe of Enlightened Images. Gary is also the author of an award-winning and highly acclaimed photo blog. In the first part of this series Gary and I talked about how the arts in general are relevant to landscape photography, his famous mentoring by the late landscape master Galen Rowell and the development of your own personal style. In the second part we developed the discussion about personal style, delved into the making of photography books, photo editing and selection and a bit more about Galen Rowell and how he worked. We are talking now about a few of Gary Crabbe’s photography books.

GARY CRABBE: The rest of the Voyageur Press books were in a pre-existing series. With Backroads of the California Coast: Your Guide to Scenic Getaways & Adventures, Voyageur Press put on a huge marketing campaign like they’ve done with other subjects like agriculture, trains, race cars and  basketball. If it’s kitsch, they’ve done it. They are a regional publisher so they’ve done books from Colorado to Chicago. They knew I was near San Francisco, so they asked if I wanted to do their San Francisco book and I said sure. They also said, “We’ve got this Back Roads series: Do you want to do Backroads of the California Wine Country: Your Guide to the Wine Country’s Most Scenic Backroad Adventures?” The writer that I had teamed up with on the first book project got together with me on four titles. She would say, “These are the places I’m going to be writing about.” I’d go out and photograph and the publisher would match my photos with her text.

HYDE: About your brand new release, Greetings from California: Legends, Landmarks & Lore of the Golden State: You wrote a blog post not long ago saying that when you told people your book was about history they were not enthused. You concluded that history is boring, but I find people are eating up the history. It may be the way history is presented. On my blog I’m mixing the history of conservation and the history of landscape photography. I find, to my dismay, that the history of conservation causes some yawns on a photo blog, but there aren’t as many dynamic leaders as in the history of photography. I’m finding that when history is presented with an emphasis on the interesting personalities, then people are interested. Although, I know your blog has much more traffic than mine because my traffic spiked significantly when you linked to my blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?” So what gave you the impression that history is boring?

GARY CRABBE: My blog post was more specific regarding the people I contacted to get permission or access to photograph. When they heard it was history, it didn’t mean much to them because they were thinking more about business and promotion. From the publisher’s perspective, this was to be part of a new series for which they had already published a few books they sent me like Twin Cities Then and Now (Minnesota) and Philadelphia Then and Now. My book was originally to be called, California: Then & Now comparing historical and modern photographs. That was the premise under which I did all my shooting though I didn’t need to be standing in the same spot as the historical photograph. Then someone did a book about Colorado using his grandfather’s photos. He took his modern photos in the exact same spot. He called it “Colorado: Then & Now.” After I turned in everything to Voyageur Press, they said, “We’re scrapping the series.”

HYDE: My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, had a lot more stories like that than like your other book where everything went smoothly. . .

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, you know it. I was sitting there with this huge knot in my stomach. Then they came back and said, “The publisher liked your work so much that we’re going to try to re-package this book as something a little bit more fun, like a scrapbook.” They still used all the same photographs and text, but instead of making it like the original layout, that even my mom had noticed from the sample copy was dry and stagnant, my book was to be the test guinea pig for repackaging. Three other photographers had their states’ Then & Now projects pulled. Whether their projects get repackaged will depend on how well my book goes over. One of the things you sign on the dotted line is that the publisher has complete and exclusive control over the design, layout and format of the book. When I saw the first layouts, I was blown away. They took this dry, dull and academic look and turned it into something that was exactly what they said: fun. They kept all the history, but they picked out pieces of my text and put in little scrapbook-like post-it notes to highlight the information instead of putting it all into one or two paragraphs of text. In my opinion it worked out perfectly, but I empathize with the three other photographers whose projects got shelved. I hope that my book does well and they can get their projects.

HYDE: Did your images cover the whole state?

GARY CRABBE: For the most part, yes. In fact I was scheduled to go off on my first shoot, down to Edwards Air force Base, when I fell off a cliff several years ago. I hadn’t even taken the first frame before I wound up in the hospital and shut down my business for half a year.

(See the photograph full size, “Morning Light, Badwater From Dantes View, Death Valley.”)

Morning Light And Clouds Over Saltpan At Badwater Basin From Dantes View, Death Valley National Park, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

HYDE: Wow. How did you fall off a cliff? What did you injure?

GARY CRABBE: I was going to meet someone to do a couple days of photography in Death Valley. I had bought a cheese burger, in the town of Ridgecrest, 100 miles away and I pulled off on the side of the road. I think I was going to go off-road somewhere, but I just climbed in the back of my Toyota 4-Runner, laid the back seat down and  went to sleep. On trips I have my sleeping bag and I lay down right behind the passenger seat. Behind the driver seat is all my gear, equipment, food containers and my backpack of film. I live like a turtle when I’m the road. I just as often sleep in the back of my truck as in a hotel. Apparently I woke up to answer nature’s call and in the darkness walked off a 40 foot cliff. I didn’t remember the fall at all. I woke up in the middle of the desert floor in the middle of the night. It took minutes for my brain to say uh, uh, where am I? Why am I lying in the dirt, face down in the middle of the night? Where’s my truck? Why am I at the bottom of the cliff? OK, now I know I hurt. I have no idea how long I was unconscious. At some point in the middle of the night I woke up again. I didn’t have my truck keys. The only thing I had was a lighter. I sat there and made myself a little camp fire in the middle of the night, in the desert, by myself. Maybe an hour, two hours later, I said, “Alright, I want to get back to my truck. I know the main road is that way. I know that my truck is up there.” I worked my way down this desert wash and then finally found a place on the hill where I could scramble up. I made it back to my truck and climbed back into my sleeping bag. The next morning I got checked out by the Park Ranger of Death Valley. I had a broken wrist, bruised ribs, a yanked nerve in my back, but I managed to get all the way home to the Bay Area. My wife Connie took me to the hospital that same evening. They put me in a cast, gave me medicine and sent me home. Two days later I was lying on the couch in the fetal position, barely coherent, throwing up. My wife took me back to the hospital and they found out I had a subdural hematoma, which is the same injury that killed the actress Natasha Richardson in just about the same window of time.

HYDE: So you hit your head, is that what that means?

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, bleeding was going on in the brain. One of the guys I have coffee with in the Bay Area is a retired surgeon from the Children’s Hospital in Oakland. When I told him this story he said, “You were lucky that you even woke up. Given your injury it was just as likely that you could have climbed back in your truck and never woke up again.” It is eye opening when someone who is a surgeon says something like that. I wound up spending a week in the hospital, recovering from the trauma and the next 3 months recovering from the physical injury. I couldn’t even hold a camera. As soon as I recovered, I had to start this book project, which was supposed to be done in a year. I had to do it in about four and a half months. It was challenging. It has taken me 18 to 24 months to get my business back up to speed because my business completely shut down.

HYDE: Wow. What does your wife do for a living?

GARY CRABBE: She’s part of the reason why I get to do what I do. She’s a senior business manager at AT&T. She has the full AT&T benefit package.

HYDE: That’s nice, yeah.

GARY CRABBE: I complain about big corporations, but I got to admit. You know… I originally thought she was the type of girl that working in the big corporation in the big city would chew her up and spit her out in no time flat. Instead, she’s now been there 10 years. They were so impressed by her work that they hired her during a hiring freeze. The benefits help make our family. She has been probably one of the biggest support factors I could ever imagine.

HYDE: How many kids do you have Gary?

GARY CRABBE: Two: a nine-year-old daughter named Alyssa and a 12-year-old son, Brandon. Both of them act like teenagers or four year olds, depending…

HYDE: I’m trying to piece the chronology together in my mind. Starting out, you didn’t know much about photography. Most of the time working for Galen Rowell you didn’t want to be a photographer. Was it while you were still working for Galen Rowell that you decided that you did want to be a photographer?

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, I knew nothing and was suddenly thrust into the top level of the industry. Trial by fire. All I had was a one week vacation for my first few years of working there. The first year’s vacation my wife and I went to Crater Lake. Wow. I had just switched to using color film and trying slides, as part of my job.

HYDE: Were you still using the same original camera?

GARY CRABBE: No, once I started working for Galen Rowell I bought my first Nikon 8008 S and some Nikon lenses. As part of my job at Mountain Light, I had to work with Galen in his workshops. Staff would help the students edit their work. We would be there while Galen was doing critiques and we’d be out in the field helping the photographers. It was like osmosis. Photography was coming at me even while I was asleep. One day I was out taking a photo at local Lafayette Reservoir when a guy walked right by me and said, “I’ll buy that.” I hadn’t even taken the photo yet. I had just put the tripod and camera in place. I said, “Do you want to at least look through the lens?” He said, “Why don’t you just call me when you get your film.” I didn’t think he was serious, but I called him when I got the film. He came over to my apartment and bought a 20X24 print. It was my first print sale. I made several hundred bucks and I thought, “Wow, this is pretty cool.” I established with Galen right away that I was completely up front. If something came up involving me doing photography, I always ran it by him first. I did not want to cross the line or create more stress than he already had. One day after I had been working for him for a number of years and been on several trips, as my photography was improving by the nature of being where I was, I don’t recall where he was, maybe the Himalayas, Galapagos Islands or South America. Forbes Magazine called the office and said they needed, “Ugly, trashy images of Yosemite Valley. They’re changing concessionaires and we want to show all the negative impact.” I said, “We don’t really have much of that.” They asked some question about what Yosemite Valley looked like right at that moment. By coincidence I was scheduled to go up with my wife to Yosemite Valley that weekend. So I said, “I’ll let you know on Monday.” They asked, “Can you shoot it for us?” They never even bothered to ask if I was a photographer. “I have to ask Galen.” Galen called the office and somehow he said OK. So I called the woman at Forbes back and said I could do it. I spent three days in Yosemite National Park for Forbes Magazine running around taking pictures of gas stations, garbage cans, lines of people at the hotel, the cafeteria, the messes. It was the first editorial assignment that gave me a chance. As I got further down the road and started making more images that were salable, it started to creep into my mind that I could be a photographer. I liked it, but I wasn’t going to step on Galen’s feet to do it. I could do my own print sales if I found my own clients without doing anything in conflict with Galen. What finally made me take the leap, was my wife getting pregnant. We knew we wanted one of us to stay home with the kid and she had all these major company benefits. If I stayed home maybe I could sell a few photos. I became a photographer by nature of choosing to be a stay at home dad.

HYDE: Is it a nice fit for that?

Morning Mist Along The Mendocino Coast Near Elk, California, copyright 2010 by Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph full size, “Morning Mist, Mendocino Coast.”)

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, except I don’t get to spend weeks and months traveling. I do know people that sacrifice their family to follow their photographic passion. That wasn’t going to be part of my consideration. I stayed close to home and fortunately all of the subsequent book projects were in California. I can be anywhere in the state within 8 ½ hours. That’s a day there and a day back.

HYDE: Well, now that you’ve developed a little more success, do you think you’ll go a little further afield, maybe, for future books projects?

GARY CRABBE: My kids are getting older. As of January, they are now old enough to walk home on their own and spend a few hours on their own during the day. That’s freeing me up much more than when someone needed to be there to pick them up.

HYDE: When the stock photography industry imploded, how much did that affect you?

GARY CRABBE: That was about the time of my fall. The changes in stock did have an emotional pull on me, not so much in my business personally, but in the broader sense. I couldn’t believe that photographers themselves were devaluing their work to commodity status. That was the part that I’ll still continue to say was difficult to see. I know the market shifts, you can’t stop the market, supply and demand and all. Digital did make the world much more accessible. It used to be with slide film, you had to get it right. If you were more than ½ a stop off, it was a disaster. I was always a proponent for photographers valuing their own work. Watching people think it was no big deal to sell unlimited commercial use of their images for say 10 bucks. That was the sad part. I still don’t sell my work royalty free. I don’t have a negative reaction to the sales model of royalty free. My main objection is to the rate people charge. If a national company wants to use one of my images royalty free, I want to see at least four figures for that. I want them to pay what I think is an appropriate value.

HYDE: Royalty free means selling the rights to an image forever for any use at a one time fee, right? And it is becoming more and more prevalent, correct?

GARY CRABBE: Yes, correct. Originally royalty free first came on the scene in the mid-90s as a reaction to regular stock photography, which was value based on use. It became price based on file size. You turned your work into a widget. Then suddenly photographers were offering widgets for 1/10th the cost of what the widgets were originally selling for, which became micro stock.

HYDE: Did your income mix change like many other full-time photographers during that time period—that is, the mix between stock photography and fine print sales, what would you say the ratio is and was?

GARY CRABBE: The ratio has remained relatively consistent, maybe around 70/30, 60/40, sometimes 80/20, somewhere in that neighborhood. But in a down economy, I still sell my work as only rights managed, value based on use. I may have fewer sales, but I’m still insisting on what I consider is a fair value for the use of my work. In a down economy, the first budget to go is an arts budget. People will still buy jewelry before they’ll buy something to put on their walls. As the economy ebbs and flows, sales tend to ebb and flow in relation, but in a down economy, prints may relatively dry up for a while and  then come back as people think, “Oh I have a little more expendable income.”

HYDE: My business is nearly 100 percent prints and I noticed that I was starting at the wrong time, but it is starting to pick up again.

GARY CRABBE: I will say, since the beginning of the year, I’ve had a considerable number of print sales.

HYDE: Is there anything else that you feel people ought to know about you Gary that maybe they couldn’t read somewhere else?

GARY CRABBE: All I can say is that I chose my company name, Enlightened Images, because I consider myself spiritual, especially in terms of nature and the universe. I have this big interconnected picture of how we as a species on a planet are in the universe.

HYDE: I really like the name. Thank you so much for your time Gary.

GARY CRABBE: My pleasure. David, have yourself a wonderful day and thank you.

Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 2

June 27th, 2011

Landscape Photography Blogger Interviews Photographer Gary Crabbe

Part Two of a Three Part Series

(Continued from the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 1.”)

On Personal Style, Book Projects, Photo Editing And Working With Galen Rowell

Interview Conducted By Phone May 25, 2011

Rural Highway Below Mount Shasta, Northern California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(View photograph large: “Mt. Shasta.”)

HYDE: You also said that one important lesson in landscape photography you learned from Galen Rowell had to do primarily with responding to the light.

GARY CRABBE: That lesson originated with Galen Rowell and ever since I’ve become hyper-sensitive and in tune with what the light is doing and what the light is hitting, versus the subject I set out to photograph. Now I say to my student’s, “A boring subject in great light will always make a better photo than a great subject in boring light.” I may have a subject in mind, but if I see the light happening somewhere else, I am willing at a moment’s notice to drop any preconceived idea.

HYDE: That flexibility strikes me as not only the similarity between you and Galen Rowell, but also between Galen Rowell and my father, Philip Hyde. Many landscape photographers have this philosophy that they go out, scout out a location, then literally set up camp and wait for the right light, sometimes for as long as several days. My dad never did that. He would photograph in the middle of the day rather than wait. Part of it had to do with limitations of budget and time. He had to cover certain territory because he had his itinerary planned. He had obligations. He was often on assignment and someone else was paying his expenses. Certain landscape photographers like Jack Dykinga, for example, take the exact opposite approach. Jack Dykinga is sometimes on a loose assignment from a group like the iLCP, International League of Conservation Photographers. He may be setting the direction and parameters of the assignment, maybe he picks his own. He’ll wait days for the right light or weather conditions. Do you do that?

GARY CRABBE: No, I wish I could. I know a friend who does and he returns with some gorgeous images. He also has the patience to wait for something better. I don’t get it. (Laughter) I make the best of what I can because I can’t wait with my book projects. Plus I’m also a stay at home Dad. I’m the one that drops my kids off at school and picks them up in the afternoon. When I’m out photographing, I have to turn tail and get back. My time is limited. I did double back one time on my way to Lava Beds National Monument up in Northern California on my last book project. I cut from Weed over to the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and then on to Lava Beds. I looked in my rear view mirror and said, “Wow, there’s a great shot of Mount Shasta,” making a note to come back for sunrise. I circled around through Alturas into Susanville, back over to Lassen Volcanic National Park and then up again toward Mt. Shasta, making a 500 mile loop. I can’t recall many occasions where I’ve made that choice, but it was my time to make something work. That’s why I’m here.

HYDE: So looping back 500 miles was more the exception than the rule for you?

GARY CRABBE: Absolutely, and it was one nice sunrise morning. Sure, I could have said, “I wanted more clouds in the sky, or the moon setting,” but I didn’t have the luxury to do that. In that regard I’m more of an editorial photojournalist. I’m out there to document the place. I need to get this, this, this and this for my book project. I work myself to max out a set schedule. Landscape photography art does not always happen like it did at Lava Beds National Monument. Two mornings later I also shot a wonderful sunrise in Susanville, but, the morning in between was crap. (Laughter) Nothing came out. It wasn’t the right weather. I couldn’t just stay there and hope that the next day was going to get better and miss all the other photographs I needed. In that regard, it sounds trite, but it’s a job. My work dictates my schedule and then my creative instincts guide what I do within the confines of that schedule. I just spent two days in Yosemite National Park. I had to get Vernal Falls for my next book project, Where to Photograph in Northern California. I’ve rarely ever tried to take, for lack of a better word, cheesy, iconic photos like the rainbow and Vernal Falls. But it’s the kind of photograph that provides the reason to go up to Yosemite National Park and face the crowds. It’s ironic to dread Yosemite Valley, but that’s summertime. In the text I’ll explain that to photograph the rainbow your best chance of seeing it is at ‘this time’ and ‘this time.’ Sure, my photograph was of Vernal Falls from the Mist Trail, but I am always happier as in this case when I came back with my own personal vision of the scene as opposed to the same image that has been on a post card for the last 35 years in every gift shop in Yosemite National Park.

HYDE: Speaking of waterfalls, I really like your “Sunlight on Berry Creek Falls.” You know my dad made a well-known photograph of Berry Creek Falls. Your photograph makes it look even more picturesque now. Berry Creek is a really nice waterfall. The way you framed it, that’s one of the best waterfall photographs I’ve ever seen.

GARY CRABBE: Wow, I’m beyond flattered. I just wrote about it. I put up an article at a place called Pro Photo Resource. It was called, “Seeking Out Definitive Moments In Outdoor, Nature And Travel Photography.” Berry Creek Falls was one of my examples.

HYDE: I want to talk to you about each of your book projects, maybe a spattering of what was interesting about each project. It’s important for people to know that you have illustrated six coffee table books. Also, there is one more question about your experience with Galen and Barbara Rowell that I want to ask you. It is personal to me because of my process working with my father’s photographs. Carr Clifton helped me all along in choosing images and many other people helped too, various gallery owners and other experts. I had consulting work by Ryan Baldwin, who at one point ran Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery in Emeryville. Did you work there when he did?

GARY CRABBE: Yes. I know him very well.

HYDE: OK. He actually did a little consulting with me in the very beginning when I really didn’t know anything about anything. He helped me start choosing images. I feel like my vision and my ability to choose photographs grew exponentially over the years since then. Ryan Baldwin’s good advice was to choose images of my dad’s at first that no other photographer could have done. He suggested that later I could mix in some that my dad did first and everybody else has done since. My question to you is, in managing Galen Rowell’s stock department of 300,000 images, you must have learned a lot about photo selection from Galen and also from editors. You stepped into it with no idea of what makes a good photograph. Tell me a little about your learning curve, what was that like?

Stormy Sunrise Over Lava Beds National Monument, Siskiyou County, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(View the photograph large: “Lava Beds.”)

GARY CRABBE: Interesting question. I feel bad that at one point I fibbed to Galen, some people might call it a lie. I was so green, that when I first started working at Mountain Light and he asked me, “You know what a dupe is, right?” I said, “Sure.” (Laughter) I asked another employee later, “What is a dupe?” He said, “Oh, you know, a duplicate slide.” “Oh yeah,” I said. That’s how green I was. First I learned the basic technical points of what editors need. For a magazine cover, you need to have some negative space where your text can go, your subject needs to be centered in this area, you need to have space at the bottom of the frame where they can add the mailing label and bar code and so on. When you’re selecting a double page spread, be sure the most important part of the subject is not in the middle of the frame where the seam of the paper goes. I would go through slides and pull out what I thought might be appropriate and Galen would tell me what was good for what reason, “Yes this is good, this is good, no this one wouldn’t work.” Galen obviously had his own preferences. As part of the interview process, we started having people do light test submissions. You were put in a situation where an editor called you from National Audubon or National Wildlife Federation and you needed to send 20 images of polar bears or penguins. We would give the applicant the entire penguin folder or the entire polar bear folder and we’d see what they would choose to send. It was a great litmus test to see how people responded to what a photo editor wanted and how they responded to Galen’s images as well. Over time I got to where I could usually look at a sheet of 20 slides in approximately one second and know whether there were any images on that page worth taking a second look at for any given project. We’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of images. For example: you know you need a shot of the Marin County Coast. Galen didn’t have separate organized folders other than every shot from Marin County going into one folder. So I’d be looking at images of Point Reyes next to Mount Tamalpais next to Bolinas next to Fairfax, somewhere in that jumble of 35 mm frames was the photograph you needed. It always seemed that there was one or two images that would stand out. Those were the ones I found where the story and the light came together in the best way possible. That’s what I use to guide the editing of my own images. (For more about how Gary Crabbe edits photographs see his post on Jim M. Goldstein’s Blog, “Pro Tips: Photo Editing With Gary Crabbe.”) You want the viewer to instantly know what your photograph is about, if there is confusion, you’ve lost them. If something in the composition creates an emotional or bio-physiological hiccup, you’ve lost them. And this is what I said in this recent article I wrote is, you want every photograph you take to be a headline and an exclamation point for whatever you are photographing. You want the story to come across that quick, with no ambiguity whatsoever.

HYDE: Of course that is for editorial stock photography, but to play devil’s advocate, Paul Strand and my father even, at times, made images that when you look at them at first you have no idea what you are looking at, you can’t figure out what it is. (Find out more about the history of abstract photography and Paul Strand in the blog post, “Straight Photography And Abstraction.”)

GARY CRABBE: That’s true. That is where art photography is different. I love doing abstract photography myself, but that wasn’t the sort of work that Galen did. I used to judge local camera clubs. And they’d have a category that was called “Contemporary,” which meant it had to be some kind of abstract or manipulated photo. I would stand in front of 30 or 40 amateur photographers and say, “The faster I can figure out what you did the less I like it.”

HYDE: But it’s the opposite for magazine submissions or other types of stock photography, correct?

GARY CRABBE: Yes, but you are still trying to generate instant emotional impact, even from an abstract. You are trying to create some kind of subconscious emotional reaction. You don’t have to know what it’s about, but you need to know how it feels. And that’s where art becomes personal and subjective. Some people say, “That doesn’t do anything for me.” Others say, “I could spend a week looking at all the detail in that photograph.” All you can do as an artist is put out what you find interesting.

HYDE: When you first started working for Galen Rowell, your article said something like you had seen only two photography exhibitions, but was there an educational process for learning about the work of other landscape photographers?

GARY CRABBE: Looking through photography magazines, who pays attention to photographer credit lines? Other photographers. That’s how you learn. Every time I saw an image that made me say, “Wow,” I noticed the name. I began to recognize the names Galen’s work was published with right up through the evolution of outdoor photography. I certainly have developed my own personal preferences for the sort of work I like seeing.

HYDE: I’d like to hear how each of your book projects came about.  So how did Backroads of the California Coast: Your Guide to Scenic Getaways & Adventures published in 2001, which won Book of the Year 2002 from the California Outdoor Travel Writers Association, how did that book come about?

GARY CRABBE: Way back when, trying to get your work in front of people, you would buy these source book ads and they would be like $1000 or $2000 a page. And the publisher would send these big books out to all the advertising agencies and publishers and whatever. I went into one of those books my first year as an independent photographer. One of the images I put in was of a twisting road below the Grand Tetons. One day a publisher sent me a note, “Do you have more good road shots like that? We’re doing a book called, ‘The Back Roads of Northern California.’ We would like you to submit some photographs for the cover.” They already had the whole book photographed and written, they were just looking for a different cover. They went through my submission and they didn’t choose any of my photographs. They went with a photo by the photographer for the book, but the quality of the images I submitted stuck in their mind. From that one failed submission, when a well-published travel writer approached them to do a book on the California Coast, they asked, “We need a photographer for this project, are you interested?” That’s how it started. Voyager Press has been the publisher for five out of my six published books.

HYDE: So were Our San Francisco and Yosemite & The Eastern Sierra, similar books?

GARY CRABBE: All of them except for Yosemite & The Eastern Sierra, that’s the one that was published by a different publisher as its own stand-alone project. The editor for that book was Peter Beren, the foremost publisher for Sierra Club books. Peter knew me from Mountain Light. I worked with him as kind of a liaison. I had also done some freelance projects for him as a photo editor. I remember this vividly, it was my daughter’s first birthday, a Saturday afternoon, the house was packed with friends and relatives. My office phone rang. I was thinking I’m not going to bother answering. The phone rang once, twice, a third time, “Oh I can’t stand it.” I raced back to my office as fast as I could go, grabbed the phone, and I hear, “Gary, this is Peter Beren. You’ve got a bunch of Yosemite images, right?” I said, “Hi Peter, yeah.” “Great. I’m going to recommend your photos for a book project.” “OK, thanks.” “Alright, bye.” That was the entire extent of the conversation. A couple weeks later, the publisher called me from her office in New York, “Can you have images to us by next Wednesday?” “Sure.” I never needed to take another picture for that book. Every image came from my existing slides. I sent them 300. They did a beautiful job. Unfortunately the book is out of print now, but I remember approving all the color proofs. On their third or fourth go around, I said it was great, but they still went two more rounds with some of the images. They did an impeccable job with the printing. Peter did the editing of the book. He gathered quotes from Ansel Adams, John Muir and others, which they matched up with my images and boom, the book was done that fast.

Continued in the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 3.”

Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 1

June 21st, 2011

Landscape Photography Blogger Interviews Photographer Gary Crabbe

Part One of a Three Part Series

On The Arts, Photography, Working With Galen Rowell And Personal Style

Interview Conducted By Phone May 25, 2011

Full Moon Setting Over Rock Outcrop Near Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park, California, copyright 2010 Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph large Click Here.)

DAVID LELAND HYDE: I read your articles on working with Galen Rowell on Naturescapes.net and on your Enlightened Images blog. In your website bio it said you started taking photographs while you were going to college at Humboldt State University.

GARY CRABBE: That’s correct. It was one of those art electives to make me a more well-rounded square. It was basic black and white photography 101 and an introduction to composition, how to use the enlargers in a darkroom, process film and all that fun stuff.

HYDE: Did you make your own prints?

GARY CRABBE: I certainly did for that class. Also, I started taking photos for the Theater Department in 1988 or 1989. I bought a bathroom darkroom setup. I’d literally shoot photos of a stage production in dress rehearsal. I would get up on stage with a little old manual Minolta X-370 camera, some 3200 speed Tri-X film, shoot without flash, hand held. Because I was also an actor and director I had a sense of what to shoot. Then I’d run home and print 20 or so 8X10 RC prints that night and give them to the theater department the next morning. The art department mounted them on mat boards and by 5:00 pm the Theater Department would have a full exhibit of my prints in the lobby of the theater for opening night of the play.

HYDE: When did you start photographing in color?

GARY CRABBE: Not at all until much later. I had been working as a breakfast cook all through college and after, flipping pancakes, cooking omelet’s, all that. I was so sick of it. I was screaming profanities every morning and my wife said, “Just go for a different job.” I looked through the newspaper and applied for everything I could. One of the ads I applied for in that time just said, “Outdoor Photo Agency,” and, “must like dogs.” I didn’t know what an “Outdoor Photo Agency” was, but I like photos, dogs and the outdoors. I sent in an application, got called for an interview, showed up to the place in Albany, California, before they had the gallery in Emeryville and there was Galen Rowell’s name and the Mountain Light Gallery logo hanging over the front door. I instantly recognized it because one of the very few photographic exhibitions I’d ever gone to on my own was Galen’s Mountain Light exhibit, when it showed at the California Academy of Sciences. I got the job. I was immediately thrust in as this $7 an hour file boy, where my job was to take the slides that were coming back from magazines and publishers and put them back in their spots in the file drawers. It was an intensive sudden exposure to Galen’s work. Then I went off for three weeks on my honeymoon to Hawaii.

HYDE: Your article said that when you came back the woman that had been running the stock department for Galen Rowell had been fired. Why did they choose you? For the filing job, they didn’t want someone who was a photographer. But you would think that for the stock job they would want a photographer.

GARY CRABBE: You’d think that, but they had been very badly burned by some photographers that they had previously had in their employ. They wouldn’t hire another photographer.

HYDE: How did they get burned?

GARY CRABBE: One photographer actually had the gall to take Galen Rowell’s Rainbow Over The Potala Palace photo out of the office and make his own prints of it. One photographer was caught submitting his own images to clients and making sales through Mountain Light, of his own stuff, when they were supposed to be selling Galen’s work.

HYDE: How do you feel your background in theater and what you learned there ties into photography? And the second part of the question is: Did Galen and Barbara Rowell believe your experience with theater might be an asset to choosing photographs or being the stock manager?

GARY CRABBE: I think it was the idea that I had a broader exposure to the Arts, with a capital “A.” I had some basic interest in photography, but I had absolutely zero interest in being a photographer. When I graduated college, if someone said in five years or ten years, I would be a professional photographer, I would have said that they were out of their gourd. I think probably my specific directorial talent and theater background translates into photography in that it was a form of visual storytelling. We had text, granted, that we don’t have in photography, but the idea was that you would use actors and sets to create a composition of a particular moment. When I was photographing the actors on stage, I’d be waiting for that decisive moment. I would be able to communicate the emotional content of the scene, without the text, but still get it across so when the people were walking into the lobby that night, they would be able to build some anticipation. When the photos were used for publicity, it would hopefully spark interest.

(For more on the decisive moment in photography see Gary Crabbe’s recent article on Pro Photo Resource, “Seeking Out Difinitive Moments In Outdoor, Nature And Travel Photography.”)

HYDE: You wrote that Galen Rowell encouraged the use of a tripod and approached 35mm photography with the same deliberate, meticulous set up of the shot as they call it, as people who use a large format camera. I thought, maybe that’s key to why Galen’s compositions look like he could have made them with a larger camera. At the same time you wrote, “Watching Galen’s approach to a scene was like watching a creative dynamo. I always likened it to the cartoon of the Tasmanian Devil with a camera.” When Galen Rowell came on a scene and he decided to make a photograph, what did he do?

Sunrise Light On Coastal Fog Over Hills Near The Mouth Of The Klamath River, Redwood National Park, California, copyright 2010 by Gary Crabbe.

GARY CRABBE: Galen would often tell his students in a workshop that when they were shooting landscapes they should take their time and treat it as deliberately as someone setting up a large format camera. His own way of pursuing photography was a bit different. Galen, in semi-jest, described photography as an action sport. His brain was turbo charged. His experience allowed him to work and recognize things at a quick pace. When it becomes innate, you walk up on a scene and you know if you need to change lenses and when. You know which filter you want to use. You know you need a fast shutter speed. These thoughts are coming almost instantaneously. You are reaching in the bag and you’re not even thinking about it, your body is doing it. That’s because you have absorbed the skills and the science of your art to a point that it is deeply engrained. That’s the way Galen approached and did his own work, but for students who hadn’t reached that level, he taught the deliberate landscape. Galen would say, “Oh, I like this,” and he would set up and make the shot. Then he’d say, “Ooh, I like this,” and he’d go get that shot. “Ooh, I like this over here,” and he’d run 100 yards and set up another shot. He was doing what he advocated the student‘s to do, but at 8X speed. That’s the Tasmanian edge. In one of his video’s he’s literally running by the shore of Mono Lake going from one spot to another. His landscape photography was an action sport, because he was so active getting to the right place at the right time, or trying to connect whatever was happening here with whatever was happening over there.

HYDE: My father, Philip Hyde, had a more contemplative approach. I don’t know if you’ve seen my blog post, “Galen Rowell And Outdoor Photographer Style.” It compares my dad’s style, which was very yin, meditative and receptive to Galen Rowell’s approach, which as you say and as he wrote was much more of a yang, create the photograph you want style: “I’m visualizing. I’m going to go out there and based on the situation I’m going over here and I’m getting this and going after that.” I also notice there are differences between the approach that comes out of using a large format camera and using a 35 mm camera. For example, I’ve only ever photographed with a 35mm camera, I guess I did actually take a few photographs with a medium format, but I’ve never photographed with a large format camera… I notice if I’m photographing a car, I’ll make 30 photographs of that one car. Whereas, my dad used to sort of frown on that approach to photography. He frowned on just going out and banging away, making loads of photographs, roll after roll after roll. But I find that’s what I do. The smaller camera’s more conducive to that, but is that what Galen did?

GARY CRABBE: I think as you point out the key to the difference in approach was format. Galen would say to students, “Oh, there’s too much foreground,” or “Oh, how come you didn’t see this ugly stick down here,” or “You’ve got all this nasty stuff going along the edges.” You’re right, with large format, you only have one frame. You may shoot five frames your whole afternoon out. You have to be very deliberate about things like: Is there anything along the edges that I don’t like? Is there a nice visual pathway? Is the composition right? Is it better from here or is it better over there? That’s the approach Galen was trying to encourage his students to take. He was bringing them to a better level of photography through a more deliberate cognitive awareness of what they were doing. With Galen though, he would go out with one, two or three primary guiding ideas that set his compass needle and the rest of it was responsive. Once he got out to the spot where his pre-visualization took him, active visualization took over. That’s when he would turn on his little dynamo. So it was a little bit of both. He’d have a very strong idea with elements A, B, C and D. He would go to the field at this time, somewhere in this general angle and then he’d start looking at, “OK, there’s A and there’s B and there’s C. And if I want to get A, B and C together I need to move myself over there.” And that’s how I learned to do it too. With the 35 mm format, he bracketed exposures and composition. He might go out on an afternoon run with his camera and he might take one photograph or he might take six rolls. If nothing stopped him in his tracks, he’d just keep going. If something went, “Wow, this is pretty good,” he’d stop and work it.

HYDE: How is your approach similar to Galen’s and how is it different?

GARY CRABBE: My approach is very similar to Galen’s in that it is responsive to what I am seeing. I use a general idea to get me where I want to be. I’ve got this picture in my mind with this and that. That to gets me to the place. Then, much like Galen I hop from “Oh, I like this, I like that, I like this.” The primary difference is that Galen was so incredibly driven, working each scene, active, like a sport and a lifestyle. I’m a little more relaxed and Buddhist. I like taking my time on trails and I like to stop. I have a personal, slower pace, not only out on the trails, but in life in general. Galen was a dynamo. Sometimes I’m just happy to be a cow under a shade tree in the middle of summer.

Continued In the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 2.”

Monday Blog Blog: Greg Boyer

May 16th, 2011

Monday Blog Blog: Greg Boyer Photography

Raised on ranches as a boy and now living in Bishop, California in the shadow of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, Greg Boyer first became serious about photography in the early 1970s. He first began making landscape photographs at age 12 when his father gave him an Argus C3. In 1960, a trip to Yosemite National Park helped spark his creative inspiration. By the time he reached age 13, he had been to 18 states.

Moonrise Over Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2008 by Greg Boyer.

(View the photograph larger Click Here.)

(What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? To find out more read the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”)

Greg Boyer’s father was in the Army Air Corp which became the US Air Force. He later became a safety engineer for a the U.S. government and in the Missile Industry. The family began ranching in California and then moved to Idaho north of Boise along the Payette River. Greg Boyer worked on his father’s ranch while also photographing and hiking the mountains and back country of Idaho.

In the mid 1970s and early 1980s, Greg Boyer worked as a well driller and did construction work building irrigation pumping plants along the Sacramento river in California. At the zenith of Greg Boyer’s early photography life, he recently explained, he dove in more deeply and then faded after a camera catastrophe and other life changes:

I was about the same age as Galen Rowell. He was in all the magazines. He was an outdoor hero. I was doing mountain climbing and some of the same things he was but on a smaller scale. I was always an explorer as a kid. The last year I was very serious about photography was 1975 when I was photographing on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, a wild and wooly place. I was using a Nikon F2. I had a 500 mm lens on and I was getting ready to change the focusing screen. I set the camera down and it fell off the rock perch I set it on at the edge of a deep gorge. I was rummaging in my camera bag trying to find the focusing screen and all I heard was the first clunk of my camera bouncing several times down in the ravine. I turned around and the camera was gone. On the second bounce I saw the body go one direction and the lens go the other. Soon after that my ex wife and I moved back to California in 1975. I was drilling wells and the work was demanding. I didn’t have the time to devote to photography that I wanted to. I was raising a family. I still made snapshots of my kids and family vacations.

Greg Boyer worked for Campbell Soup for 14 years as a maintenance planner. When an opportunity to go back to school came, he took it. He attended UC Davis in Multi-Media Design, where he learned about video production and Photoshop, which he had originally started to learn in 1992. He worked in Video Production from 1997 to 2005. Around that time the video business began to change. The video company he worked for and many others were casualties.

In 2004 Greg Boyer bought a Nikon D2X digital camera. With his extensive knowledge of Photoshop, he also began digital printing. Thus began a whole new experience with photography:

With digital photography I found out how to express the way I saw a scene. I couldn’t do that with film. Digital landscape photography was everything film photography could have been to me but that I never had with film. I never had the tools to do what I really wanted to do until digital came along.  It’s the immediacy of the digital image. You can see right away what you have. You can look at the image and at the histogram and then do something different if it doesn’t work. In the film era you didn’t know what you had until you had the rolls processed. Then you might never make it back to the same place, or you had to get back there in the same conditions.

In late 2005, Greg Boyer was diagnosed with Emphysema. When he told his son, his son said, “Well, you better quit wasting time.” After thinking about it, Greg Boyer realized his son was right. He decided to change his lifestyle and do what he really loved, which meant getting back in touch with nature and taking up photography again. Soon afterwards he moved to Bishop, California to be near the Sierra Nevada in a small-town atmosphere and clean air. Greg Boyer described his experience of connecting with nature and the philosophy behind it:

Krishnamurti was an influence on the way I look at what I’m doing in landscape photography. I go out and get absorbed by my surroundings. When I’m out taking photographs it is a spiritual experience of that moment in time and space when it is all yours. You are it and it is you. Krishnamurti wrote about seeing and not categorizing. His philosophy was that by defining something you separate yourself from it. He gave me a new way of being out and connected to nature. Civilization’s mistake is in separating from the natural world.

In the Eastern Sierra Nevada Greg Boyer now goes backpacking at least twice a year. He still carries 50-60 pounds of gear on backpacks including cameras and lenses. Greg Boyer said he is ‘living the dream,’ but he is glad he doesn’t have to rely on photography for a living in today’s conditions. He has the freedom to pursue landscape photography as he likes:

I’m enjoying life and having a good time. This is the way life was meant to be. I’m blessed to be doing what I love in a beautiful place. At Campbell Soup some people had been working there for 35-40 years and hated every minute of it. I feel bad for people who are stuck doing something they have no idea they can get out of. Many people are not doing what they love to do. I like sharing what I’m doing in photography. I like the interaction with other photographers in the photo blogosphere. Besides, I live a few blocks from Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery.

Take a close look at Greg Boyer Photography and his blog, which offer an inspirational perspective on landscape photography. His blog posts about Photoshop and other post-processing tools and techniques provide an experienced presentation of simple and advanced methods.

Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?

May 12th, 2011

Did the “over-saturation” of landscape photographs start with digital printing and Photoshop, or did it originate well before that in the film era with the advent of Fuji Velvia Film and Kodak Ektachrome E100VS Film? Is “over-saturation” a myth?

Urban Railroad Distortion, Reno, Nevada, copyright 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Post-processed in Photoshop.

In his 1993 book Galen Rowell’s Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography, Galen Rowell wrote a chapter called Velvet Media in which he extolled the virtues of Fuji Velvia film, with some cautions. Galen Rowell wrote:

After twenty-five years of using Kodachrome film whenever sharpness was of the utmost importance, I abruptly gave up on it in February 1990 after seeing tests of an amazing new slide film from Japan…. Fuji’s introduction of ISO 50 Velvia at the Photo Marketing Association show in Las Vegas… After I returned home, I ran controlled comparisons of Velvia against Kodachrome 25, Kodachrome 64 and Fuji Pro 50. On my own light table the next morning, I clearly saw the end of an era. Velvia was the best of all existing worlds. Its resolution exceeded that of Kodachrome 25 and the other test films in high-contrast tests simulating daylight and equaled Kodachrome 25 in soft light. Its color saturation and separation of tones exceeded those of Fuji Pro 50 and the other films. I was aware that many photographers would prefer Kodachrome’s relatively muted colors, but I believed much of this was due to a conditioned constancy illusion that Kodachrome slides accurately represented the natural world. I knew better and fully expected Velvia to establish a new constancy illusion with picture editors and the public… I wanted to see the world freshly through this new tool and to push it to the limit to see what it would do. Over the years, the limitations of other films had caused me to consider certain kinds of subject matter and lighting as impossible. Murky renditions of greens in shadow under a blue sky on Kodachrome became vivid on Velvia. Fuji Pro 50 renditions of delicate foliage have very strong color, but also a lack of resolution that calls attention to itself, especially when compared with Kodachrome 25. Velvia holds both color and sharpness.… I soon began asking, ‘Is anything wrong with this film?’ not only to myself but to other users. The few negative answers had to do with too strong colors and a slower film speed than the advertised ISO 50.

In early 2010, in the comments on Steve Sieren’s blog post, “Ever Wonder About The History Of Landscape Photography?” large format landscape photographer Michael Gordon commented about how Fuji Velvia film had changed Landscape Photography. Michael Gordon first did a blog post about Velvia in 2008. In his 2010 comment, Michael Gordon said, “Want to be shocked? Compare Hyde’s “Drylands” photos to the current crop of Velvia-ized desert landscape photographs. Porter too. Not many years have passed, and despite the drying climate, the desert sure got a lot more vibrant in photographs!” Other comments on Steve Sieren’s blog post addressed the effect Velvia film had in the hands of various landscape photographers and its general impact on all landscape photography.

Many galleries, museums, photographers and others blame “over-saturation,” if it exists and can be defined, on the advent of the digital age and Photoshop, but here we see much evidence that “over-saturation” began long before. Also in 2010, outdoor, documentary and landscape photographer Carr Clifton offered his thoughts and possible explanation as to what happened in landscape photography from 1990 through the early years of the new millennium. Carr Clifton said, “When we first started printing digitally, we were used to trying to get the richest and even the hottest color out of whatever film we were using. Many films didn’t have the rich color palette that we now see. The same thing happened back in the 1990s with Velvia. Velvia was different because for the first time, it offered too much color, more than you see in nature. When everybody started scanning film and making digital prints, even the scans of Velvia were too gaudy.”

On reading Galen Rowell’s Outdoor Photographer features, Sierra Magazine articles and several of his books I discovered that he wrote more eloquently about photography than perhaps just about anyone else ever, with the possible exception of Robert Adams, Charis Wilson, Edward Weston, Minor White and Ansel Adams at times. That puts Galen Rowell at the top of all writers on photography. He is also admirable as a landscape photographer because he was self-taught. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde has been said by many of the who’s who of photography today to have influenced a generation of photographers. See the blog posts, “How Color Came To Landscape Photography,” “The Golden Decade: California School Of Fine Arts Photography,” and the series beginning with the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism.”

Notwithstanding, Galen Rowell also influenced a generation, the next generation, our generation, the landscape photographers just coming into prominence now. Galen Rowell was also one of the most talented photographers who ever lived. He was the master of “fast and light” and capturing unusually powerful landscape photographs. When we showed the Philip Hyde exhibition at Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery, I found through talking to guests and staff that Galen Rowell was also known as a life-changing mentor, a generous mountain guide, a driven activist for various conservation and social causes and a dynamic leader of an organization of top quality people who continue to inspire the world. However, some segments of the art establishment hardly recognize him because they feel he overdid the color. Carr Clifton, who also greatly admired Galen Rowell put forward the theory that when Velvia film first emerged on the scene and also in the early days of digital printing, that Galen Rowell went a little far with the color, but never lived to rein in when other photographers did.

“It was around 2003-2004 that everybody started to pull back some and bring their color back into the realm of reality,” Carr Clifton said. “All except for a few blatant examples that remain. Galen, unfortunately for all of photography, died in the plane crash in early 2002. We were all very sad about it. Now Galen’s prints are frozen in a state of too much syrup. He never made it to the time in 2003-2004 when everyone backed their color off.” Because Galen was so admired, there are now many photographers who try to do what he did with sunrise-drenched mountain tops, brilliant reflections and ultra-vivid colors. Other landscape photographers agree with Carr Clifton. They believe that Galen Rowell might very well have pushed his own work back down the color saturation scale if he had lived. It’s all conjecture, but an interesting theory and something to consider in view of how much landscape photographers try to emulate Galen Rowell’s work. For more about other concerns over the direction of landscape photography today see the blog post, “Is Landscape Photography Thriving Or Dying?” For a new way to look at it and other remedies see the blog post, “What Urban Exploration Photography Learned From Nature.”

Travel and landscape photographer Richard Wong wrote on this subject in November 2010:

…Galen did have a large audience probably due to several factors, one of which was a long relationship with Outdoor Photographer Magazine dating back to the beginning from what I understand, but even before that he had “street cred” in the outdoor community for being a prolific adventurer and rock climber. There were photographers just as good if not better out there at all the different things he did but he was able to connect with and convey his philosophy to his audience much more effectively than most. He was a great writer. And also someone who was always striving to innovate. Looking at his body of work, you can clearly see the evolution over the years. You also have a good point about the color. I was told that his staff worked on those digital masters from his slides in the years prior to his death and probably against advisement, he wanted to push the envelop on the saturation. You can tell by looking at some of his prints up close at his gallery and also in some of his books that some highlight detail was probably sacrificed due to saturation. His Evolution Lake image for example. With that said, I have always overlooked that phase of his career because that doesn’t define his body of work. One thing I’ve always pondered is what Galen would be doing now on the Nikon D700 if he were still around. Breaking new ground for photography I would imagine.

Fuji Velvia film was not the only film that amped up the saturation. Galen Rowell provided a warning against overdoing the color saturation in this quote also from the 1995 book, Galen Rowell’s Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography:

 

Much of what people were saying when Velvia first came out applies to Kodak E100VS today. Sometimes it looks garish, sometimes it looks great, and much of the time it will produce the image that editors will choose. Kodak E100VS often produces bright colors closer to what you believe you saw in flat light or at a distance, but if you use it all the time, you risk having the sum total of your style appear garish and suspect. In direct light this film doesn’t just come near the edge of the color saturation envelope; it moves beyond into a realm that requires the same sort of restraint as the use of color-enhancing filters does.

Probably the same could be said for the color saturation adjustment slider in Photoshop. What do you think? Is “over-saturation” an overblown issue? Is it a myth? Is over-saturation a problem in landscape photography today?