Posts Tagged ‘Half Dome’

My Most ‘Unique’ Photograph Of Yosemite Valley

April 1st, 2015

My Most Amazing Photo of Yosemite Yet

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

Always. Do. Your. Home. Work…?

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

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

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

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

The Sound of A Million Shutters Clicking

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

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

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

Secret Systems and Special Gear Make a Photographer…?

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

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

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

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

Ghost In The Machine

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

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

Happy April 1!

Ansel Adams On What A Mountain Means

June 13th, 2013

An Excerpt And Commentary On Ansel Adams’ Short Essay, “What Can A Mountain Mean?”

Last Light On Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Last Light On Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

(See the photograph large: “Last Light On Mt. Hough, Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California.”)

Within a few years of John Muir’s founding of the Sierra Club in 1892, charter members formed a committee to oversee the writing, compiling and production of a Sierra Club Handbook. The handbook went to all new members as an overall orientation, an introduction to outdoor etiquette and a guide to Sierra Club philosophy. Half a century later, David Brower became the editor of the handbooks, as well as the Sierra Club’s first Executive Director. The 1957 edition of the Sierra Club Handbook included on its Editorial Committee such renowned environmental leaders as Ansel Adams, William E. Colby, Charlotte E. Mauk, Harriet T. Parsons and Blanche Stallings.

David Brower wrote in the introduction:

America’s resources of scenery that we explore and enjoy today are not set aside through accident. National Parks and forests, state and county redwood groves and beaches, wilderness areas and primeval regions—these are not now open to free public enjoyment just through happenstance, just because the country is so big and its resources so limitless that no one has yet got around to fencing them in. These areas, to which millions go each year for escape, exercise, or rest, are available only because people have fought for them. We who enjoy the mountains today owe a debt to generations of those now gone, or now no longer able to be fully active, who have thought in terms of long-range public use and enjoyment rather than immediate development and exploitation.

The Handbook told the reader the story of the Sierra Club, educated about the Sierra Club’s conservation role, provided information on mountaineering, wilderness outings, Sierra Club lodges and lands, winter sports, administration of the Club, trails, the human need for tranquility, the library, scientific background, new films, how to contribute, folklore, directors, chairmen and honorary members, publications, Sierra Club Books, periodicals and the Sierra Club by-laws, but the highlight of the handbook was a signature of 16 glossy black and white photographs by Ansel Adams. The series included such famous plates as Moon Over Half Dome, White House Ruin, Yosemite Valley From Valley View, Old Faithful and The Grand Tetons from Oxbow Bend. The irony is that these locations have now become like treasure map stops on checklists kept by some of today’s landscape photographers.

Accompanying his photographs, and equally as moving, Ansel Adams wrote a brief essay titled, “What Can A Mountain Mean?” This short plea for people to look more deeply at nature applies today even more than when written. The following is an excerpt:

We are seeking a closer contact and deeper understanding of the natural scene in both its vast and delicate aspects. Our ultimate function was never the mere making of maps and the collation of physical data; rather it was to interpret the assembled facts in terms of enjoyment and spiritual experience, and to assist others to seek and comprehend the heart of nature. After all, in the strictly materialistic sense, a mountain is simply an object of inanimate stone garnished with vegetation. It can be measured, weighed, climbed, and even removed or destroyed. Gravity, weather, geologic processes determine its form and the flow of the rivers at its base. These streams posses potential water power, provide irrigation, and contain fish. The timber on the slopes may be salable, and on the surface and inside of the mountain valuable minerals may be found and mined. Obviously the corpus and the spirit of the mountain are two very different entities. A mountain provides an impressive symbol of the wonder and beauty of the natural world, of contact with the primal purities of nature, of the cleanliness and the emotional stimulus of the realities of the earth.

At the time Ansel Adams wrote his short introduction to accompany his photographs in the Sierra Club Handbook, the term ‘landscape photography’ had not yet come into common use. Ansel Adams and his associates called the outdoor photographer who photographed wilderness, a ‘photographer of the natural scene.’ Whatever term you use to describe photography of the landscape, flora and fauna; today many practitioners of it, including myself at times, approach it more like those who are making maps or collecting data, rather than with the intent to impart joy or share a transcendent experience stemming from a more developed connection with the land.

While the internet is a superb tool for showing, viewing and critiquing landscape photography, it sometimes encourages the photographic sport of trophy hunting. Some online photographers objectify nature like pornography and subliminally sexual advertising objectify women and sometimes men. If one photographer has a photograph of a Grizzly Bear, the Aurora Borealis, Antelope Canyon or another trophy that others also have, then we feel we must bring home similar big game to hang on the wall and join the icon club. In contrast, to create photographs with meaning and make a contribution to the art, we must examine our motives. Are we purely profit or recognition-driven? Are we grabbing and bagging moments rather than living them? Are we carving notches in our camera cases? Or are we embracing nature; studying, living and breathing our subjects? Are we getting to know the places we portray, or are we defacing rock art, trampling flowers, stomping on and digging up the mountain, like destructive miners only interested in a payoff?

Until a photographer experiences and imparts the intrinsic values of a natural scene, he or she will not obtain the same long-term satisfaction with his or her images. There is nothing wrong with photographing an icon from time to time, but if they dominate a portfolio, it may be time to re-evaluate. Perhaps the commoditization of landscape photography will continue. Maybe digital photography will be more of an industry than an art, but why be part of the problem? Why not set your own sail, calibrate your own gyroscope by what fulfills you from the inside? Each person sends out a ripple effect. The world needs more sensitivity to nature, not more objectifying of natural subjects. In fact, this adjustment in perspective, this shift in vision, may be exactly what can save us. Photography is much more powerful than many realize. Through it the vision of an entire society is examined, determined and cast. What version of society will we choose? Will future generations see us the way we wish to be seen? What kind of civilization and what kind of people are we?

Relevant Blog Posts:

The Trophy Shot – A Nature And Landscape Photographer’s Dilemma by Gary Crabbe

A Big Light Night – Are You Too Old for Trophy Hunting Photography? by Darwin Wiggett

Aboutness by Guy Tal

What do you think? What is your opinion about exploitation versus inspiration?

Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands

April 29th, 2011

Happy Earth Day 2011:

From The Archives…

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

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

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here.)

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

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

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

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

A Mission And Pilgrimage

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

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

The Needles, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

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

The Maze, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

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

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

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

Nature’s Morning Show At Canyonlands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above Big Springs Canyon, In The Heart of Canyonlands

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

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

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