Posts Tagged ‘High Sierra’

Forgetting Winter

April 10th, 2019

Elusive Memories, Snowfall, Weather and Climate at home in the Sierra of Northern California

Mt. Hough From North Arm of Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. In this image, the snowline from the most recent storm can be seen clearly at about 5,000 feet in elevation. The top of Mt. Hough, the giant rock outcropping jutting out of the right middle, is just over 7,000 feet and the top of Arlington Ridge in the left middle of the whole mountain, is 7,232. (Click image to see large.)

Plumas County, where I am writing from, is the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges. Here the Sierra is much lower in elevation overall, while we also have much more volcanic activity, defunct volcanoes, hot springs, geothermal vents and old lava flows weaving in among the Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir Forests growing out of Sierra granite terrain.

In our milder Northern Sierra Nevada, most mountain peaks are 6,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation, unlike the High Sierra farther south, where the peaks range from 11,000 to 14,000 feet. Our mountain valleys, where most of the people live in the Feather River Region, usually range between 3,000 and 5,000 in elevation. By the time you drive two hours south of here to Lake Tahoe, you are in the Sierra proper, which usually receives much more snow, mainly due to higher altitude.

Bear in mind that the base lake elevation of Tahoe is 6,225 feet. This means that most of the tops of our mountains reach only as high as the bases of most of the mountains in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Many of the winter snowstorms that dump the heaviest in the Tahoe area bring us nothing but rain. Some years most of the Sierra receives heavy snowfall, while we do not, and other years it is vice versa. Consequently, we do not follow the various long-range forecasts all that closely, as they do not always apply.

This year was different though. We heard from many sources about the coming long, heavy and cold winter. Most of my neighbors braced themselves by getting in extra wood and supplies, putting on snow tires and updating vehicle maintenance, though we all remained skeptical. The weather itself did not seem to care whether we were skeptical, or whether the predictions were dire, either one. Winter came on very gradually and much the same as it has arrived most of the last 15 years. Our contemporary pattern, no different this year, for at least 15 years has been a little rain in October with Halloween being unseasonably warm and essentially an extension of what we used to call Indian Summer.

Following the current pattern, this season we received a little more rain in November, several flurries of snow that were just enough to stick in the first week of December and finally about one foot in one storm shortly after. This brought on hopes of a White Christmas, as well as fears we might be buried by then. However, it warmed up and dried out again for most of the month until it clouded up and threatened either rain or snow just before the big holiday. It snowed just after the Winter Solstice, just a skiff, which we thought might last a bit to give us a White Christmas, but the only weather that lasted beyond the holidays was the cold, which after all showed up with enough mojo to provide ice skating on the local pond during the weeks on either side of New Year’s Day.

Toward the end of the first week of 2019, weather reports had people talking again. The big snows were coming. Most of us went right on ahead with what we were already doing in disbelief. Then about January 5th or so, it snowed a foot in one night. Ok, we had seen this lately here and there, but then it snowed about a foot the next night. Here we go, or not? The weather skipped a few days just for dramatic effect and then snowed a foot again and again and again, not necessarily every day, but frequently enough that everyone knew this was already a series of storms more like we used to have and possibly the beginning of an old-fashioned winter, as officially expected.

Since the winter of 2011, we have not had more than a foot of snow on the ground at one time. Before that 2002 was the last heavy winter where we had more than one foot at a time. Also, besides 2002 and 2011, I do not remember the last time snow stayed on the ground more than a week at a time. From the beginning of the New Millennium and probably earlier, onward to today, the snow melted quickly, even in mid-winter. Long, cold, snowy winters require different skills and different thinking than snows that always melt in a few days. They require different patterns of grocery shopping, woodbin filling and snow shoveling prevail.

When I was a boy, I remember us getting six feet of snow in one storm more than once. It happened in 1968 when I was three years old and one or two other times. Dad made photographs of me at age three in a red snowsuit sliding down piles of snow he had shoveled in the driveway that were taller than the flat roof of the house. Once in the late 1970s, it snowed four feet on April 1st. This event we forever after called the April Fool’s snow. I also remember the snow sticking for months in the dead of winter. Most years, the snows started in October and even sometimes in September. Many winters we had snow on the ground continuously all season. Once the snow had been on the ground a while, lasting right through temporary warm spells, it usually melted a little each day warm enough to get above freezing and refroze at night. The deeper the snow and the greater the range between nighttime lows and daytime highs, the bigger the icicles grew that hung from the eves, the deck railings, water drains and spouts and any other horizontal surface close enough to the house to thaw out temporarily. I remember Dad photographing the largest icicles that grew up to six or more feet long. Usually, the icicles never got a chance to grow that long though because he either followed along after his photographing with a shovel and knocked them down, or just knocked them down without photographing them.

Dad had a rule that I followed when I took over the snow shoveling duties: always shovel all the snow off the decks every day, if at all possible. If you do not do this and the snow piles up in subsequent storms, the bottom layer of snow, or whatever portions of it you did not shovel, turns to ice. Considering we have thousands of square feet of decks, clearing them after every snowfall is not necessarily an easy or even convenient task.

I left home to go away to boarding school at age 15 in 1980 and never came back for longer than a few weeks on vacations and holidays until 2002 when Mom passed on. After moving back home to be Dad’s primary caregiver in 2002, I became lazy about shoveling snow. The average winter temperatures were warmer and cold spells lasted for less time. After any storm of less than a few inches, I hardly shoveled, if at all. This was rarely a problem since the snow tended to melt long before more snow fell. If a storm did drop more snow before the previous storm’s accumulation melted off, it never mattered much either because both would either melt or at least stay warm enough that the bottom layer never converted completely to ice. In the last few decades, there has just been a lot less ice in general. Shoveling off the front walkway between the house and driveway once eliminated the possibility that much ice would build up there. In the “old days,” that same walkway usually turned to ice even if shoveled off because more snow would inevitably fall and turn to ice, sometimes before it could be shoveled.

With so many mild winters in a row, I forgot about these nuances of snow conditions and the differences between heavy snow years and light ones. This year in early January, I still doubted we would have much snow when the first series of storms hit. I shoveled a path around the inside edge of the decks next to the house, the usual first shoveling pass, but left over a foot of snow on most of the decks. I was busy and needed to get back to work rather than spending an entire day shoveling. I also neglected to use the shovel to cut the snow back off the edge of the roof in the front of the house, where melting snow usually dripped to form ice on the front walkway.

As more and more storms came through, I began to realize this was a more serious error than it had been even back in my youth. As snow does, it compacted down over time and soon I had about 18 inches of close to solid ice on my decks. The sheer weight of this could cause damage to the deck, but the longer it stayed, the harder it would be to remove and more snow kept arriving all the time. It took me about five days of shoveling over four hours a day to get all of the decks cleared. I also spent many hours chipping, scraping and chopping away at the ice on the front walkway.

I began to realize that what was happening to me and my snow management in regard to the severity of the winter in the microcosm was the same thing that had happened to mankind in relation to climate change in the macrocosm. Winter had changed from what it was 20 years ago and I had forgotten what it was like to have to remove the ice from the front walk, or how critical it was to get it off the decks right away. I had been lulled into shoveling complacence, had forgotten how we used to go about it and what the consequences were of neglect. I marveled how soon I had forgotten and felt happy to be chipping and pounding away at the ice again. All was well. Then I remembered that all is not well.

When someone in a room with a dimmer switch that is gradually being turned down does not notice how much darker the room is than before, one of the main reasons they do not notice is inaccurate or wishfully driven memory. Here in the Northern Sierra, we are generally ok with winter being less harsh. It means less work and less hardship. It makes life in the winter easier. In a dimming room, we may be happy with the room darker. Memory is an elusive critter and what it consists of is often distorted by what we want or what we like. This means that one of the main reasons we do not notice the room is darker is that we do not remember how bright it was. We do not notice or remember that the first spring flowers, snowdrops, daffodils and lupine, have been blooming steadily earlier every decade. We tend to delight in signs of spring coming earlier, even though when we pause and reflect, we know something is systemically wrong with Mother Nature. We also do not notice or remember when we have no specific markers for comparison. The particular muscle memory I have of pounding away at ice with a shovel, when I performed the act again many years later, made me realize I did not even miss doing this task. I did not ever think, “Wow, I haven’t had to chip ice off the front walkway for 20 years.” The memory was gone and with it, the awareness of any of it ever having happened.

Without the marker or any other specific records or information, I could easily have forgotten how much winter has changed. My mother’s home logs and father’s weather records kept for over 40 years tell us that in the mid-1960s the snowdrops bloomed in the second week of April. Going through the logs, over the years the bloom dates gradually shifted until, by the time I moved back home here in 2002, the snowdrops came out at the beginning of March. The last couple of years it has moved to the end of February. Thanks to logbooks and records we can circumvent our own mistaken memories. Thanks to science, we do not have to rely on our own often mistaken faculties, but we can rely on solid facts.

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!

Living The Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel

March 26th, 2015

Living the Good Life, Part Four

Failure In Carmel

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Rental Homes

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

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

First Publishing Credits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing, The Marketplace and Making a Living

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

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

Loss and New Travels To Morocco

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

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

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

Coming Home, Finding Home

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

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

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

(Learn more about family, friends and community gardening, farming and ranching roots in “Living The Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences.“)

Have you ever lived in or near wilderness?

Best Photographs Of 2014

December 18th, 2014

2014 The Year In Review

The Year 2014 was one of my most prolific since I started photographing 39 years ago when my father, American wilderness photographer Philip Hyde, gave me a Pentax K1000… Many people don’t realize that I have two of my own portfolios of images on Philip Hyde.com at the bottom of the dropdown menu after 26 portfolios of drum and flatbed scans of Dad’s classic color transparencies, as well as black and white prints, originally captured on medium and large format film. For a brief background on my travel and adventures in childhood and after read, “About David Leland Hyde.” A big thank you to Jim M. Goldstein for founding and again hosting this showcase every year since 2007. See details for participation and enjoyment, “Blog Project: Your Best Photos From 2014.”

The year 2014 also proved fruitful for me in words, both spoken and written. Besides working on longer projects and posting two feature length blog posts a month, I began writing for magazines again after a hiatus of more than a decade. My feature article, “The Art of Vision: Learn to Connect with the Landscape Like the Great Masters Ansel Adams, Minor White, Philip Hyde and Others,” appeared in the march print issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and under “Locations” on the website. Many expert photographers and writers praised the article for its emphasis on craft and seeing rather than technical concerns and equipment. Read the conversation and insight by these industry leaders in my blog post announcing the feature story, “The Art of Vision: Outdoor Photographer Magazine Article By David Leland Hyde.” I also gave the Keynote Speech at the Escalante Canyons Art Festival in October, which drew the largest attendance of all keynote speeches in the 11-year history of the festival. I also gave or planned for 2015 a number of other smaller speeches at Colleges and Universities.

All “lucky 21” of my top photograph picks this year were single image capture, though I do blend images to capture highlight and shadow detail when necessary. However, this year I have used no blends so far, no HDR, only a few masks, did not move or remove objects, except for detailed retouching and otherwise optimized the photographs only with curves and a few other minor layer adjustments. This is essentially how the classic straight photographers printed in the darkroom, but in the digital workflow I make editing adjustments with much more precision than possible with any film process.

This year I kept 21,154 images as opposed to only 8,142 in 2013; 10,525 saved in 2012; 5,783 in 2011; 3,684 in 2010 and 8,877 in 2009 for a grand total of 60,178 since I went digital. Part of the increase is due to exposure bracketing for images that may need it. Totals are not easy to find before 2009, except in some years when I made no photographs. By comparison, my father in his 60 +/- years actively photographing full-time, made an estimated 50,000 large format film photographs, approximately 80,000 medium format images and another 20,000 tests or family snapshots with 35 mm film. While Dad would make at most 10-16 images a day in a subject rich area with the expenses and limitations of large format, I sometimes make as many as one or two hundred images on a big day. I am highly selective at times, but I also like to work the angles. I’m not usually shooting away hoping to get a few good pictures by sheer odds, an approach my father poked fun at, the majority of my photographs are potentially saleable. That is what I plan to focus on doing more of with my own work in the next several years. I already sell as many of my own prints as Dad’s, but his darkroom vintage gelatin silver prints, Cibachrome and dye transfer color prints blow my little ol’ chromogenic or digital prints away in dollar volume.

See many of the photographs below larger in Portfolio One and my Sierra Portfolio on philiphyde.com now. Later you will see that I am just beginning to build my own website. To see more David Leland Hyde photography, see the blog posts, “Best Photographs of 2013,” “My 12 ‘Greatest Hits’ Of 2012,” “Best Photos of 2011,” and “My Favorite Photos Of 2010.” To find out more about limited edition archival prints see the popular blog post, “David Leland Hyde Archival Prints Pre-Launch,” or for sizes and prices go to Portfolio One or Sierra Portfolio.

Please help me improve by sharing in comments which two or so you like best and two or so that you like least…

1. Sunrise Sierra Wave Cloud Over Lone Pine, Sierra East Side, California. I drove six hours to Lone Pine arriving at 2 a.m., but awakened energized only four hours later, looked out and saw the entire sky was blazing red with a huge Sierra Wave Cloud directly overhead. I immediately drove East toward Death Valley enough to include Mt. Whitney, the mountains and the Sierra Wave Cloud in one frame.

1. Sunrise Sierra Wave Cloud Over Lone Pine, Sierra East Side, California. I drove six hours to Lone Pine arriving at 2 a.m., but awakened energized only four hours later, looked out and saw the entire sky was blazing red with a huge Sierra Wave Cloud directly overhead. I immediately drove East toward Death Valley enough to include Mt. Whitney, the mountains and the Sierra Wave Cloud in one frame.

2. Clearing Sunset Near Vista Encontada, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. I exceeded the national park speed limit to get to this unnamed stop after photographing Point Imperial with the sun still above the horizon. I set up my camera and tripod as quickly as possible as the light was fading to dark fast. The howling strong wind required me to make a number of exposures before I got a sharp one.

2. Clearing Sunset Near Vista Encontada, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. I exceeded the national park speed limit to get to this unnamed stop after photographing Point Imperial with the sun still above the horizon. I set up my camera and tripod as quickly as possible as the light was fading to dark fast. The howling strong wind required me to make a number of exposures before I got a sharp one.

 

3. Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pines, Lake Tahoe, Tahoe National Forest, California. This place is hard to find and a significant hike, more than two miles, from the highway. The interesting rock arrangements and opportunity to capture near, middle and far away scenic elements, kept me photographing here nearly all day.

3. Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pines, Lake Tahoe, Tahoe National Forest, California. This place is hard to find and a significant hike, more than two miles, from the highway. The interesting rock arrangements and opportunity to capture near, middle and far away scenic elements, kept me photographing here nearly all day.

4. Sun Rays Through Cloud Layers, Pacific Ocean, Cardiff-By-The-Sea, California. My friend Ralf and his daughter Mia and I were photographing her cousins and brothers surfing, when the sun, clouds and sunlight began to put on this epic show. I was using shutter priority to keep the surfers sharp, but shifted into manual, low ISO, small aperture settings for a series of landscape photographs.

4. Sun Rays Through Cloud Layers, Pacific Ocean, Cardiff-By-The-Sea, California. A friend of mine and his daughter and I were photographing her cousins and brothers surfing, when the sun, clouds and sunlight began to put on this epic show, while it was also getting dark fast. I had been using shutter priority to keep the surfers sharp, but shifted into manual, lower ISO, smaller aperture settings for a series of landscape photographs. That’s when the daughter started asking me about what tripods do for photographs…

 

5. Twilight, Mist Patterns, Round Valley Lake, Greenville, California. This photograph I made near dark and lightened it some in Photoshop. Images made around the dusk hour often exhibit shades of translucent blue like this.

5. Twilight, Mist Patterns, Round Valley Lake, Greenville, California. This photograph I made near dark and lightened it some in Photoshop. Images made around the dusk hour often exhibit shades of translucent blue like this.

6. Clay Rainbow Near Old Pareah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. No trip to the wilderness Southwest is complete without getting stuck in the sand and mud. I had to get stuck and unstuck by myself many miles from pavement to earn this photograph. Besides that, making the image was straightforward with just a little saturation added for spice, though I actually de-saturated the red after curves contrast made it a bit overdone.

6. Clay Rainbow Near Old Pahreah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. No trip to the wilderness Southwest is complete without getting stuck in the sand and mud. I had to get stuck and unstuck by myself many miles from pavement to earn this photograph. Besides that, making the image was straightforward with just a little saturation added for spice, though I actually de-saturated the red after curves contrast made it a bit overdone.

7. Logs And Reflections, Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California. This photo was among many I found walking around Manzanita Lake during the evening sun angle when the lake surface appeared to catch fire and glow with the most intensity.

7. Logs And Reflections, Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California. This photo was among many I found walking around Manzanita Lake during the evening sun angle when the lake surface appeared to catch fire and glow with the most intensity.

8. Lower Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. I wanted to get into Coyote Gulch, but did not want to backpack overnight. This slot canyon and two others near it, including the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch, provided plenty of interesting sandstone canyon sculpture without fighting the crowds at Antelope Canyon or The Wave in Arizona.

8. Lower Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. I wanted to get into Coyote Gulch, but did not want to backpack overnight. This slot canyon and two others near it, including the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch, provided plenty of interesting sandstone canyon sculpture without fighting the crowds at Antelope Canyon or The Wave in Arizona.

9. Dawn Mist And Canoe On Millpond, Graeagle, California. Woke up in the dark to make this one. The mist accumulating on the surface of the Millpond peaked just as I began to see and decreased with the progression of daybreak. I made a few exposures when it was darker with more mist, but the mist patterns in this were more interesting, while less lightening and noise reduction is needed on this image.

9. Dawn Mist And Canoe On Millpond, Graeagle, California. Woke up in the dark to make this image. The mist accumulating on the surface of the Millpond peaked just as I began to see and decreased with the progression of daybreak. I made a few exposures when it was darker with more mist, but the mist patterns in this were more interesting, while less lightening is needed on this image.

10. Old Mission, San Juan Capistrano, California. I made this one, as I do many photographs, from the tripod platform Dad built on the roof of our family Ford 150 Econoline travel van. You cannot see over the mission wall from street level.

10. Old Mission, San Juan Capistrano, California. I made this one, as I do many photographs, from the tripod platform my father built on the roof of our family Ford 150 Econoline travel van. You cannot see over the mission wall from street level.

11. Bicyclists Rejoice, Murals, Balmy Alley, Mission District, San Francisco, California. I agree with Nina Simone that an artist’s responsibility is to reflect the times. I show the general mood and place where the murals are, without recording any of them specifically, but rather, transforming their combination into a telltale scene. I intend to draw attention to the neighborhood and encourage people to go see this incredible, often political art. I clicked one frame before the bicyclists came happily along and idealized the composition. Riding bicycles will become more and more a sign of the times in the future.

11. Bicyclists Rejoice, Murals, Balmy Alley, Mission District, San Francisco, California. I agree with Nina Simone that an artist’s responsibility is to reflect the times. I show the general mood and place where the murals are, without recording any of them specifically, but rather, transforming their combination into a telltale scene. I intend to draw attention to the neighborhood and encourage people to go see this incredible, often political art. I clicked one frame before the bicyclists came happily along and idealized the composition. Riding bicycles will become more and more a sign of the times in the future.

12. Farm Workers, Strawberry Fields Near Oceano and Guadalupe, California. I stumbled upon this field of workers and others picking strawberries and cabbages on the way to the Oceano Dunes, some sections of the dunes are called the Nipomo Dunes and Pismo Dunes in each respective town the dunes reach across. By seeking out the wildest part of the Oceano Dunes I also discovered several other subjects I had been thinking of photographing in the future. The vantage point of the top of my van came in handy again here.

12. Farm Workers, Strawberry Fields Near Oceano and Guadalupe, California. I stumbled upon this field of workers and others picking strawberries and cabbages on the way to the Oceano Dunes. Some sections of the dunes are called the Nipomo Dunes and Pismo Dunes in each respective town the dunes reach across. By seeking out the wildest part of the Oceano Dunes, I also discovered several other subjects I had been thinking of photographing for some time. The vantage point of the top of my van came in handy again here.

13. Broken Windows Detail, Abandoned School, Mare Island, California. I’m seeing abandoned buildings and homes all over the West, in cities and in rural areas. I made this image from the public roadway, as the condemned school was on property owned by a private corporation who bought it from the US Navy. The school was on part of the defunct Mare Island Naval Base.

13. Broken Windows Detail, Abandoned School, Mare Island, California. More signs of the times. Watch your step in ruined buildings. Watch out above too. I have been dive bombed by birds, charged at by ferrel cats and made to jump by mice and rats. I notice abandoned buildings and homes all over the West, in cities and in rural areas. I made this image from the public roadway, as the condemned school was on property owned by a private corporation who bought it from the US Navy. The school was on part of the defunct Mare Island Naval Base. To see the photograph large

http://www.philiphyde.com/#mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&s=3&p=27&a=0&at=0

14. Freeway Curves, Vallejo, California. I like the curves and shapes found in many of the giant concrete bridges, ramps, columns, buttresses and beams of our interstate highway system. Photographing freeways is dangerous and sometimes tough on the lungs in rush hour. Often high contrast separates the shadowy under sides of roadways from bright surroundings, yet shadows add curves and other interest.

14. Freeway Curves, Vallejo, California. I like the curves and shapes found in many of the giant concrete bridges, ramps, columns, buttresses and beams of our interstate highway system. Photographing freeways is dangerous and sometimes tough on the lungs in rush hour. Often high contrast separates the shadowy under sides of roadways from bright surroundings, yet shadows add curves and other interest.

15. Oakland Harbor From Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco Bay, California. This side of Yerba Buena Island is a challenging place to make photographs as there is no place to park and the construction crews for the new Bay Bridge want to keep people away from the construction zone. However, I managed to squeeze out a few images of Oakland across the Bay receding into the mist.

15. Oakland Harbor From Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco Bay, California. This side of Yerba Buena Island is a challenging place to make photographs as there is no place to park and the construction crews for the new Bay Bridge want to keep people away from the construction zone. However, I managed to squeeze out a few images of Oakland across the Bay receding into the mist.

16. California Highway One From Above, Big Sur Coast, Pacific Ocean, Los Padres National Forest, California. The color version of this is beautiful with a sapphire blue ocean and gold illuminated plants on the cliffs, but I feel the black and white version somehow transports us to another time with the help of winding two-lane State Highway 1. Climbing several hundred feet above the highway also gives this a unique perspective. I had to watch out for Poison Oak, which is prolific in Big Sur. In the end I was not careful enough and drove home with the rash on my face, forearm, ankle and calf.

16. California Highway One From Above, Big Sur Coast, Pacific Ocean, Los Padres National Forest, California. The color version of this is beautiful with a sapphire blue ocean and gold illuminated plants on the cliffs, but I feel the black and white version somehow transports us to another time with the help of winding two-lane State Highway 1. Climbing several hundred feet above the highway also gives this a unique perspective. I had to watch out for Poison Oak, which is prolific in Big Sur. In the end I was not careful enough and drove home with the rash on my face, forearm, ankle and calf.

17. San Juan River Canyons From Muley Point Overlook, Utah. Muley Point was one of Dad’s favorite photo stops. The dirt road and remote location weeds out many travelers. However, the views are great of Monument Valley and into the San Juan River canyons, offering all kinds of photographic possibilities.

17. San Juan River Canyons From Muley Point Overlook, Utah. Muley Point was one of Dad’s favorite photo stops. The dirt road and remote location weeds out many travelers. However, the views are great of Monument Valley and into the San Juan River canyons, offering all kinds of photographic possibilities.

18. Leaning Alders Abstract, Indian Creek Near Taylorsville, California. I made a number of variations on this, a few closer in, some including the shore, a few horizontals. This version stands out the most. The color version of this same composition looks nearly identical to the black and white, except for the large floating stick in the lower right that is brown in the color image. The Alder tree trunks are dark gray either way, as well as the water being the same slate gray in either color or black and white.

18. Leaning Alders Abstract, Indian Creek Near Taylorsville, California. I made a number of variations on this, a few closer in, some including the shore, a few horizontals. This version stands out the most. The color version of this same composition looks nearly identical to the black and white, except for the large floating stick in the lower right that is brown in the color image. The Alder tree trunks are dark gray either way, as well as the water being the same slate gray in either color or black and white.

19. La Jolla Caves, La Jolla Shores, California. A friend of mine’s kids were doing flips off rocks into the ocean at a place called Deadman’s, to the side and above La Jolla Caves. I photographed boys doing flips and a couple flops. Photographed the cormorants on the cliffs as well as the beautiful and frightening cave entrances at cliff base.

19. La Jolla Caves, La Jolla Shores, California. A friend of mine’s kids were doing flips off rocks into the ocean at a place called Deadman’s, to the side and above La Jolla Caves. I photographed the boys doing flips and a couple flops. I photographed the cormorants on the cliffs as well as the beautiful and a bit spooky cave entrances at the cliff base.

20. Burney Falls, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, California. I have wanted to visit Burney Falls for a long time to see if I could photograph it significantly different than my father did. He photographed it in all seasons, but his most known image of the falls he made in winter with the foreground deciduous trees bare and few leaves on any other shrubs. I was happy to find that there are many viewing areas and many angles from which to photograph the waterfall, including from downstream, from front, side and from several different levels above the 129-foot drop.

20. Burney Falls, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, California. I have wanted to visit Burney Falls for a long time to see if I could photograph it in a different way from the many my father did. He photographed it in all seasons, but his most known image of the falls he made in winter with the foreground deciduous trees bare and few leaves on any other shrubs. I was happy to find that there are many viewing areas and many angles from which to photograph the waterfall, including from downstream, from front, side and from several different levels above the 129-foot drop.

21. Spring Showers, Table Mountain, Sierra Foothills Near Oroville, California. Many of my best images I drive right by and then turn around to go back and make the image. This photograph was located on a part of the highway with narrow shoulders and steep drop offs on either side of the road.  This meant the nearest place to park was a good half-mile down the road. I felt this one was worth hiking a mile, but I also had to watch for some time the sun going in and out of the clouds to pick the best moment when the trees would be lit, but also when they cast at least some shadow, which I feel adds interest.

21. Spring Showers, Table Mountain, Sierra Foothills Near Oroville, California. Many of my best images I drive right by and then turn around to go back and make the exposure. This photograph was located on a part of the highway with narrow shoulders and steep drop offs on either side of the road. The nearest place to park was more than half-mile down the road. I felt this one was worth hiking a mile round-trip, but I also had to watch for some time, the sun going in and out of the clouds to pick the best moment when the trees would be lit, but also when they cast at least some shadow, which may add interest.