Posts Tagged ‘John Muir’

Book Review: Sacred Headwaters By Wade Davis And Carr Clifton

March 12th, 2019

Book Review of The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save The Stikine, Skeena, and Nass by Wade Davis with Principal photography by Carr Clifton, Foreword by David Suzuki and Afterword by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Including Other Leading Conservation Photographers such as Paul Colangelo, Sarah Leen, Claudio Contreras, Gary Fiegehen, Brian Huntington, Tom Peschak, Joe Riis and Florian Schulz.

Landscape Photography Reader Note on Process, Life and Persistence:

Graystone Books released the first US Edition of The Sacred Headwaters in March 2012. In June, I wrote a rough draft of this review and by December I had written over five completely different drafts. Carr Clifton asked me to publish what I had on Landscape Photography Reader, but I told him I did not want to put up a blog post of the review as I still wanted to submit it to newspapers and magazines. Most publications of any significance will not publish work that has been previously published in any form elsewhere. I began work on a sixth draft in early 2013, but by then I decided it was too late to submit to newspapers or magazines. Most of them only accept reviews of books that have been out for less than six months. With life and other concerns and obligations intervening in the meantime, I also began reading a much larger body of books on the world water crisis and books about saving rivers. I have collected over 70 volumes about water and rivers to date, over 20 are large format coffee table style, and nearly a dozen are books with photographs by my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde.

My idea was to someday publish a large review for a major publication. While that dream still exists in one form or another, it has simultaneously turned into a book-length project about books that have saved rivers to potentially include the work of such greats as John Muir, Wallace Stegner, David Brower, Edward Abbey, Ansel Adams, Dad, Eliot Porter, Martin Litton, Ken Brower, Wade Davis, Carr Clifton and many others. Please pray, do a dance, send good vibes and think supportive thoughts for me that life, death, or hard times will not intervene first. Despite external factors getting in the way and myself getting in the way, from time to time I am happy to find that my skills are improving. While I struggled with this review for more than a year the first time I tried to write it and abandoned that sixth draft only a bit over half finished, when I came back to it this week, all the disjointed, jumbled pieces either discarded easily or flowed together surprisingly well in just a few days. Sometimes once the old karma is worn out, the obstacles just melt away. My sincere apologies to Wade Davis and Carr Clifton for the delay in getting this in front of the world. Blessings and a thank you to my readers. Please enjoy the review and email or comment with any questions or thoughts you may have…

Threats to the Native Homeland and the Salmon Headwaters ‘Yosemite of the North’

Cover of The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena and Nass by Wade Davis and Carr Clifton. (Click image to see larger.)

Harvard trained anthropologist-ethnobotanist and bestselling author Wade Davis represents National Geographic in up to 50 countries a year studying vanishing indigenous cultures. Indicators such as a decrease in the usage of the native language or loss of home through displacement signal the decline of a culture. Davis has seen the loss of a few houses in a native village, the loss of a whole village, or even a people’s entire homeland, but he never thought that his own home would be threatened.

Besides his house in Washington DC and his residences during research abroad, for 25 years Davis has considered his true home a fishing lodge on Ealue Lake at the edge of one of the World’s largest remaining intact wildernesses called the Sacred Headwaters in Northern British Columbia. Born in British Columbia, Davis also worked as a park ranger and hunting guide in the Sacred Headwaters during the 10 years before he built his fishing lodge. The native tribes of the Sacred Headwaters, the Tahltan First Nations, refer to their hunting and fishing lands as hallowed ground because by a wonder of geography three of the greatest salmon rivers of the Pacific Northwest, the Skeena, the Stikine and the Nass all are born in remarkably close proximity to each other in a land of jagged peaks, verdant valleys and forests abundant with wildlife and rushing water. In 2006, IBM Business Consulting sponsored an independent study that found the value of the salmon industry in the Skeena River alone to be $110 million annually.

The Tahltan could still lose this homeland to any of 41 different industrial proposals including large-scale fracking, open-pit mining and coal mining. Wade Davis’ fishing lodge on Ealue Lake lies just under Todagin Mountain, which would lose it’s top to Imperial Metals’ proposed Red Chris Mine. This open-pit copper, gold and silver mine would process 30,000 tons of rock ore per day for 28 years and pour toxic mine tailings directly into Black Lake, one of the nine lakes that form the headwaters lake chain of the Iskut River, the principal tributary of the Stikine. Besides the Red Chris Mine threat, Royal Dutch Shell’s exploration of coal bed methane gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, with gas wells, access roads and pipelines, would criss-cross approximately 10 million acres. Also, Fortune Minerals’ open pit anthracite coal mine on Mount Klappan is currently in the environmental assessment process for a three million ton per year operation. Anthracite is an extra dense, extra hard, rare and energy rich type of coal. Because of these threats, the Sacred Headwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine is number one on British Columbia’s Most Endangered Rivers list.

A National Geographic Explorer Unites With the Voices of the Tahltan Elders and Conservation Photographers

Woodland or Osborne Caribou on the Upper Slopes of Klappan Mountain, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Fortune Minerals seeks to locate an open-pit coal mine here to produce between 1.5 and 3 million tons of anthracite a year. (Click image to see larger.)

To protect their common home, Wade Davis gathered the voices of the Tahltan elders, his own moving narrative and photographs by some of the world’s leading conservation photographers today to publish The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save The Stikine, Skeena, and Nass. While Davis has authored dozens of books, a handful of which have been bestsellers, he had never before produced a photography book, let alone a large format conservation book. To plan his book Davis researched the most significant coffee table landscape photography books.

Large format nature photography books became popular after 1960 when photographer Ansel Adams, conservationist David Brower and curator Nancy Newhall launched the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, which they intended to serve as “battle books” to defend US wilderness and help found national parks. The idea for the book series began in 1955 with This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, the first book published for an environmental cause with two chapters by Pulitzer-winning novelist and conservationists Wallace Stegner with photographs by journalist Martin Litton and my father Philip Hyde. In the 1960s, my father, Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter became the primary illustrators of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that brought the beauty of America onto coffee tables around the world, helped advance the momentum of modern environmentalism, saved the Grand Canyon from dams and helped establish Redwood National Park, Everglades National Park, North Cascades National Park and many others.

Many proponents including photographer Eliot Porter and David Brower, the Sierra Club’s first Executive Director, said that the large format books were largely responsible for the massive increases in the club’s membership. Other Sierra Club leaders, including Ansel Adams, worried that the Sierra Club might go bankrupt if it continued to publish such extravagant volumes. David Brower was asked to resign for overspending on publishing and other endeavors deemed reckless by a slight majority of the Sierra Club Board. The books were downsized and all but discontinued. Few volumes of similar quality were mass published until the digital era.

Today, 20 years into the digital revolution, photographic reproduction and book production quality have both advanced dramatically since the 1960s. With the right combination of participants, The Sacred Headwaters now shows it is possible to produce a book of similar quality to the classics in the genre from the 1960s.

The Need for A Large Number of Sweeping Landscape Photographs to Match the Terrain

Black Lake, Kluea and Todagin Lakes in Distance, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Three of the nine lakes that form the headwaters lake chain of the Iskut River, principal tributary of the Stikine. If the Red Chris mine went forward, the entire valley would be buried beneath a mountain of toxic tailings and waste rock, which would leach into one of the world’s most pristine and productive salmon watersheds below. (Click image to see larger.)

Wade Davis knew he could write a good text. He had done it before. He had also made good photographs for National Geographic before too, but he knew that to make the strongest statement possible, he would be wise to obtain help. He turned to the International League of Conservation Photographers, also known as the iLCP. The iLCP is a collection of leading photographers with a mission to “further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography.” Trevor Frost, iLCP photographer and home office staffer, helped Wade Davis raise funds for and organize a multi-photographer team to go to the Sacred Headwaters on what the iLCP calls a R.A.V.E. or Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition. R.A.V.E.s aim to achieve a full visual assessment of a threatened ecosystem in a short period of time.

The photographers represented in The Sacred Headwaters who initially joined the RAVE included Paul Colangelo, Sarah Leen, Claudio Contreras, Gary Fiegehen, Brian Huntington, Tom Peschak, Joe Riis and Florian Schulz. Most of these photographers are well known. They made a good number of high-quality images, but the project was still short on enough strong, cohesive photographs for a book, not to mention that it was heavy on wildlife and short on the giant, open and sweeping landscapes that characterize the Sacred Headwaters more than almost anywhere else on Earth.

Wade Davis decided to call on landscape photographer Carr Clifton, who had learned the art of the large format photography book as a protégé of my father and had produced a dozen photography books of his own, not to mention more magazine covers than any other living nature photographer. Most importantly large landscapes have always been Carr Clifton’s specialty. He has been photographing nature for over 40 years. He was one of the primary photographers during the heyday of the Sierra Club Desk Calendars that helped to popularize nature photography. He is also the primary illustrator of nearly a dozen books including Wild By Law, The Hudson, New York: Images of the Landscape, Wild and Scenic California, Justice on Earth, Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature and others. Clifton is now one of the all-time most published landscape photographers.

In The Sacred Headwaters, Carr Clifton’s work from the helicopter, in particular, produced giant scenes that explode with color and show off Clifton’s awareness and mastery of how to capture light. The viewer of these pages is awakened to new possibilities in beauty, beginning with the cover photograph. These images depict the proverbial land of plenty, perhaps the last of its scope on Earth. The way Clifton uses unusual camera angles shows more of the land and more of the sky when it is interesting. Even in his Caribou image, he is not at their eye level, he is down at the height of their flanks…

Wildlife is not my forte. I was looking for landscapes when I saw those Caribou. I thought to myself that I had to photograph them as part of the story, but they are not something I would have gone after because I do not believe in bothering wildlife just for my own sake to get pictures. They are already pushed enough. Probably I crouched to hold the lens steady. It was a long lens. With landscapes, it’s not like I do it as a trick or a method. It’s just the way I see. Sometimes I get down really low and close to the subject. Otherwise, with a wide angle lens it looks like the object is down below the picture. When I get down low I can include more. I can get more of the sky and maybe something interesting in the foreground. With the Cotton Grass to show it properly you need to get close. If I shot it standing up, the grass heads would all be the same size. By getting down low and close to the nearest ones, you’re filling the frame with the Cotton Grass. If you are far back you are not going to have as much converging perspective. Still, I don’t think about all of that when I’m doing it. I’m just feeling. Just paying attention and tuning in to what surrounds me. At the same time, I don’t want the subject to take over the image, which is what happens a lot in wildlife photography. I like the design of the rectangle and that’s my art form. Just what is going on in the rectangle. I’m not trying to tell a story, though in this project the combination of the photographs as a grouping and the writing do together tell a story. But with individual pictures, I’m more concerned  with the composition and the makeup of the rectangle, the deisgn of the whole, the feeling it portrays.

A Wildlife Garden of Eden or ‘Serengeti of the North’

Paul Colangelo, besides his also unusually arranged frames of moose, bear and other wildlife, also photographed the landscape and water features from the chopper. “The land has one of the largest intact predator-prey systems in North America,” said Colangelo. He said this earned the area the nickname, ‘Serengeti of the North.’ Canadian also call the large remote and roadless part of British Columbia simply, “’The North.’”

Canoeing, rafting and of course backpacking for miles were needed to access other locations, but the newest method for me was traveling by horseback. I stopped into a cabin to ask directions to a fishing camp and the next thing I knew I was joining the cabin’s owner on an eight-day horseback trip.

Todagin Creek, Todagin South Slope Provincial Park (right side of creek), Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Todagin Creek flowing beneath the south slope of Todagin Mountain down valley toward Tatogga Lake and the Iskut River. (Click image to see larger.)

Carr Clifton logged thousands of four-wheel-drive miles on an old railroad grade that is the only ground access to the Sacred Headwaters. By air, on foot and in his truck, he covered a vast roadless wilderness of approximately 150,000 square miles. He not only participated in the summer 2011 RAVE, but also drove from California back to Northern BC in the Fall of 2011 with no compensation besides reimbursement for his expenses.

For perspective, Wade Davis compared the Sacred Headwaters to wilderness in the US:

In the lower 48, the farthest you can get from a maintained road is 20 miles. In the Northwest quadrant of BC, an area the size of Oregon, there is only one road, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, a ribbon of asphalt that goes along the side of the coastal mountains to Alaska. It is a region where distances are measured by numbers of boots worn out, and on the roads in terms of the number of axles broken during the journey.

Wade Davis wrote that in the US only one river flows more than 600 miles uncompromised by dams, whereas the rivers of the Sacred Headwaters all run free. Davis opens The Sacred Headwaters with beautiful descriptions of the country supplemented by select observations from John Muir’s 1879 voyage up the Stikine River on his first journey to Alaska. By the end of his side trip, Muir was so moved by the country that he named his dog after the Stikine. He also gave the name to his most well known semi-autobiographical short story. In his smooth effortless prose, Davis vividly summarized Muir’s observations of hundreds of glaciers a day, eagles gathering by thousands to feast on salmon runs so rich they colored the sea, immense hemlock and Sitka spruce forests, mountains dazzling with waterfalls and ice, and how Muir climbed one rocky crag, Glenora, that rises 7,000 feet directly above the river. Muir’s journals described the Stikine River valley as a Yosemite 150 miles long.

Wade Davis sprinkles his text with concrete and entertaining statistics, his writing easily rising into the tradition of such greats as Marc Reisner, Aldo Leopold or John Muir himself.

The biggest canyon in Canada, the Grand Canyon of the Stikine, which most Canadians cannot even name, less than 100 people have gone through in all written history. No raft has ever made it. The first Kayakers survived it in 1985. Nobody has ever walked the rim of it. It is far less known than Utah’s Glen Canyon, ‘the place no one knew.’

Shell Used the Standard Ploy of Promising Jobs, but Coal Bed Methane Extraction is Nearly All Automated

Cascade Falls on The Iskut River, Natadesleen Lake, Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Beyond and out of sight are Kinaskan, Tatogga, Eddontenajon, Kluachon, Ealue, Kluea, Todagin, and Black Lakes. (Click image to see larger.)

The corporations proposing the development of the Sacred Headwaters, as well as other mines and natural gas fracking elsewhere, often claim keeping oil development in North America is good for jobs. Davis disagrees:

Shell’s coal bed methane extraction proposal of over 10 million acres, would result in hundreds, probably thousands of wellheads connected by multiple pipelines. That system, once in place, would be virtually automated. This is not about job creation. That’s just a red herring. Even if you look at the Golden Bear Gold Mine owned by Goldcorp, Inc, that is now exhausted, but operated in Tahltan territory for a decade, they extracted $25 billion worth of gold and silver. In the Iskut community, none of the infrastructure improved. A few people have hockey rinks or swimming pools, but there is still no fund for the kids to go to school, no health center and so on.

Shell used the jobs ploy to help obtain approval in the U.S. for the lower half of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The company represents itself in the media as becoming more socially conscious, but spends millions annually to defeat clean energy legislation, said a Natural Resource Defense Council press release. In 2002, Shell moved toward being greener by buying Siemens Solar, the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the world. Rather than staying involved in the solar industry, Shell sold its solar manufacturing division in 2006. Shell is also presently suing 12 environmental groups including NRDC and Earthjustice over proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Shell has never commercially produced coal bed methane in British Columbia, not to mention in salmon-bearing ecosystems or vulnerable alpine environments,” said Shannon McPhail, Executive Director of Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. “I don’t think the Sacred Headwaters and our wild salmon should be their guinea pigs.”

Tahltan Nation Briefly Divided, but Ultimately Standing United in Evicting Shell, Fortune Minerals, Imperial Metals and All Other Industrial Development

Davis tells the story of how a split in the Tahltan Nation led to the threats of mining and fracking on tribal lands. A construction company called the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation, founded in 1985 by Jerry Asp, stood to gain from industrial development by building the necessary roads and other improvements. Jerry Asp through deception got himself elected chief of the Tahltan and welcomed in Shell and other corporations. The Tahltan had to withstand lawsuits by Shell, remove Asp from office and set up a blockade to keep Shell out of their lands. The Tahltan have been largely alone in the fight, but because of the continued efforts of iLCP photographers, Davis and groups such as the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, Big Wild, Forest Ethics, the Suzuki Foundation and many others, momentum shifted before time ran out.

Sunrise and Rainbow Over The Headwaters of the Skeena River, Skeena Mountains, in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. (Click image to see larger.)

Spearheading the campaign’s momentum, The Sacred Headwaters remained on the Canadian bestseller lists for over a dozen weeks, a remarkable result for a $50 large format photography book. Davis is known in Canada as a “real-life Indiana Jones,” though he is less of a swashbuckler and more a poetic writer, humanitarian, researcher and naturalist. He speaks to sold-out venues wherever he tours to support his most recent bestsellers. His meticulously researched Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest also came out in 2011 as Sacred Headwaters did. The Everest account also quickly became a national bestseller both in Canada and the US.

A reader of Davis’ Sacred Headwaters narrative does not so much begin to read, as dive into the fast-moving current of a river of ideas already established in his other bestselling books including The Serpent and the Rainbow, One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rainforest, The Lost Amazon, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, Light at the Edge of the World, Passage of Darkness, Rainforest, The Clouded Leopard: Travels to Landscapes of Spirit and Desire, Nomads of the Dawn, River Notes and many others. In his research and reporting on native cultures around the globe, he had already excavated a rich channel of knowledge and stories about the loss of native languages, herbal medicines, healing and customs under the advance of cultural domination. In Into the Silence, about the British first attempt to conquer of Mount Everest, Davis obtains a certain redemption by both chiding imperialism and making the compassionate realization that it is still within him, that it came from a less evolved self, his forefathers, our ancestors. In The Sacred Headwaters, he gave the Tahltan natives an opportunity to raise their own voices against economic imperialism as well, in addition to the many photographers and other collaborators he brought on board.

The combination not only worked as a book project, it also became the linchpin of a successful conservation campaign. By the end of December 2012, the Canadian Government, Shell Oil, and the Tahltan Central Council announced protection of the Sacred Headwaters from all oil and gas prospecting and drilling. In 2013 the British Columbia Liberal Party included a “Protection Plan for the Sacred Headwaters” in its election platform. Once the BC Liberal Government won the election, they succumbed to pressure and allowed Fortune Minerals a permit to continue coal exploration in the Sacred Headwaters. However, in July 2013, the Tahltan Central Council passed a unanimous resolution to protect their homeland from all industrial development. In August of that year, Tahltan community members gave Fortune Minerals an eviction notice from their exploration camp and blockaded their road access. In 2015, the Tahltan also blockaded Imperial Metals’ Red Chris Mine access on Todagin Mountain above Ealue Lake. Wade Davis’ lodge home and the sacred earth of the Tahltan are safe for now, but the threats will continue. My father, Philip Hyde, once said, “Environmental battles are never victorious. They have to be fought and won over and over and can be lost only once.”

For the announcement of Carr Clifton’s largest Sacred Headwaters Exhibition see the blog post, “Carr Clifton at Mountain Light Gallery.”

To read a guest feature by Paul Colangelo about his work in The Sacred Headwaters, the original iLCP RAVE and how NANPA, or North American Nature Photography Association honored him with the prestigious Philip Hyde Grant in 2010 see the guest blog post, “Big Wild, iLCP RAVE Sacred Headwaters by Paul Colangelo.”

Art, Earth And Ethics 3 – A Photographer’s Code of Ethics

October 3rd, 2017

Art, Earth And Ethics 3 – A Photographer’s Code of Ethics

Art, Earth And Ethics, Part Three

Photography and Ethics in General and My Code of Ethics for Photography

(Continued From the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 2 – Climate Change, Religion, John Muir and Leave No Trace.”)

“The self-indulgent man craves for all pleasant things… and is led by his appetite to choose these at the cost of everything else.” ~ Aristotle

Cloudy Sunset and Runner on Dirt Road Near Oslo, Minnesota, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. #HeartlandUSA #Midwest (Double Click Image to See Large.)

Aristotle wrote extensively about ethics. He argued that the best reason to study and develop a sense of ethics is not to avoid punishment from God, the church or some other ethics watchdog, but to feel the best we can about ourselves. In a number of writings, Aristotle recommended the study of ethics, not as a pathway to righteousness, sainthood or rewards in the afterlife, but as the best path to happiness.

In light of what Aristotle had to impart about the pursuit of an ethical life as a worthwhile practice and because there is an online trend toward ethics statements by photographers and other artists, I have been pondering my answers to some ethical questions, as well as considering what questions are worthwhile answering. My questions run from basic to esoteric. My first question relates to my first ethics feature post, “Art, Earth and Ethics 1 – The Abuse of Nature and Our Future.

  1. Can a person who destroys a unique rock formation by vandalism feel good about him or herself after such an act?
  2. What if the destruction of a formation is done not for the sake of mere vandalism, but for the sake of profit, performing a job, or building a company to feed your family?
  3. Do nature photographers have an ethical responsibility to the natural places they photograph?
  4. Do artists whose artworks publicize natural places have any ethical obligations?
  5. Do artists have obligations to the law?
  6. When photographers know they are one of many who will photograph an area, do they have any obligation to those who may come after them whether artists or non-artists?
  7. Do artists have an ethical responsibility to show nature in a natural state?
  8. What is Art? Is a work of art just like any other widget in any industry?

To better understand yourself, consider your answers to these questions. Also consider developing more questions of your own.

Here are my short answers…

  1. This person is motivated primarily to seek attention, good or bad. This person may be angry or expressing other negative emotions that trigger the acting out of childhood traumas. This person may feel ok about himself or herself because of denial. On further self-examination odds are this individual will admit to self-loathing, especially if projecting arrogance.
  2. Same answer.
  3. Photographers seem to be more motivated after they experience the destruction of one or two of their favorite places, or they become inspired by an energetic leader.
  4. I act to protect the places I love, the water I drink, the soil that produces my food and food I eat, as well as the air I breathe. I will minimize my impact by photographing primarily in my own geographic region.
  5. Myself and other artists can guard our peace of mind in the short and long term by abiding by the law, asking permission, getting signed releases, watching for and obeying all “No Trespassing” signs, paying taxes, reporting sales tax and otherwise running an honest business and kindly encouraging others to do the same.
  6. I follow the philosophy of Leave No Trace. Read more on the psychology and benefits in my feature blog post, “Art, Earth and Ethics 2 – Climate Change, Religion, John Muir and Leave No Trace.”
  7. I like photography and other art that shows nature naturally, but I also like photography that changes nature. I feel the sky is the limit in altering images, but it is unethical to present an image as unaltered when it is. I believe in honesty and lack of deception regarding camera work and post processing. In my opinion, photographers are wiser to disclose alterations or not say anything, but not to fabricate.
  8. I will answer this in a post to come…

What are your answers? What other questions do you suggest?

Continued in the future blog post, “Art, Earth and Ethics 4 – Challenges of the 21st Century.”

Only A Little Planet by Philip Hyde

May 10th, 2017

Only A Little Planet

The Plumas Lantern Newspaper, Greenville, California, March 1973

Opinion Column by Philip Hyde on Behalf of Nature with a Call to Action for Public Lands

Buckskin Gulch, Paria River Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, 1969, from Drylands by Philip Hyde. Now in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, which is under threat from the Trump administration. When Philip Hyde made this photograph, Buckskin Gulch was relatively unknown. Today it is a very popular destination for canyoneers and photographers, as are other locations within Vermillion Cliffs National Monument boundaries. “The Wave” is considered one of the top photography destinations in the world. (Click image to see large.)

“It is only a little planet, but how beautiful it is,” wrote the acclaimed poet Robinson Jeffers from Big Sur. His lines expressed the basic theme of this column: the inter-relatedness of all things. “The greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken.”

Our purpose here will be to communicate the love of Planet Earth that underlies every effort to conserve it. We are here to share the surpassing beauty and the relationship between all things on “this green ball that floats us through the heavens,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson called our home.

Our subject matter in this column will be the ever-expanding range of environmental problems and concerns, which we will explore through commentary, book reviews, related experiences and essays about natural beauty.

The “little planet” theme is at once a shrinking, and an expanding concept. While some exploiters are hurtling through space to make a revolution of our planet in minutes, others are looking into inner-space more deeply than ever before, studying its intricacies more carefully, and not a moment too soon. We need to know all we can about our only home, to learn again what John Ruskin knew two hundred years ago, that “there was always more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly.” We need to sense this one world we have in its wholeness, and to see our own wholeness in it. It can be no longer logical – if it ever was, to suggest that a problem of Earth’s is someone else’s. This is too much like saying to a fellow passenger, “Your end of the boat is sinking.”

History, we believe will record that the most important thing achieved by the epochal moon-walks of our times was not so much that man then first walked on the moon, but that he looked back from the moon to his own planet and saw it complete, a beautiful brown, blue and white ball sailing through the immense depths of space. Man looked back at Mother Earth from enough distance to see her perfection and isolation and to sense as well, even though nearly unseen, the presence of his own umbilical cord of dependence stretching to connect to Earths life-support systems.

It is good to remember when thinking of the sophisticated technology so widely extolled these days, that the spaceship that put those men on the Moon was not so much a result of inventive genius as it was a conscientious, but rather crude imitation of the naturally contrived life-support systems evolved through millions of years of life on Earth, which, though assaulted by many of men’s activities still continue to make possible our lives here. This has brought a dawning recognition that we need to do more to preserve and protect these life-preserving systems to continue to survive.

There is an absurd charge made by some who would like to ignore the magnitude of this recognition, that those who view nature as necessary to survival are an “elite” who want to keep it for themselves. Such a fantasy would be ludicrous, if it were not tragic. The ranks of conservationists are filled with people with a large experience of nature. Were they indeed selfish “elitists” they would not be getting the word out as widely as possible and encouraging more and more people to go on trips and wilderness outings. Conservationists are not keeping it to themselves.

When I was growing up I tried, sometimes in vain, to lure my friends into the mountains by citing John Muir’s invitation, “To climb the mountains and get their glad tidings.” Muir published his invitation widely, and since my earliest pilgrimages, my work has consistently proclaimed to all who would look and listen, the beauty and joy of life close to nature. Nature enthusiasts’ advocacy and willingness to share with anyone is widely confirmed by the heavy and growing use of natural areas in all parts of the country. Many of these early friends, now in their middle age, are today joining the young to walk the old trails. If I had been an elitist wanting to keep it to myself, I would have been better off to never publish any photographs, or write a line in praise of nature, and admonish my mountain friends to refrain likewise.

Invariably, those who make the “elitist” charge are unwittingly speaking of themselves, for without exception, the nature they would make available to all is a nature plundered and maimed after the extraction of something translated into material wealth. These practical industrialists would convince us that we should choose the forest of a Weyerhaeuser ad over the real thing, or a dug out pit in raw earth filled with poisoned water and called a lake, rather than a natural mountain meadow. These are the economic elitists of the country working in the realm where the dollar is king, and there are no reservations for any lesser loyalties. Buckminster Fuller called them “The Last of the Great Pirates.” Fortunately for Earth and its other inhabitants this breed is dying out, and being replaced by those more responsible who can better read the signs of the times.

Landscape Photography Blogger Call to Action for Wilderness Public Lands:

Currently a long list of national monuments are under review of their status as national monuments and for possible sale, oil drilling, coal mining and other exploitative one-time uses rather than the ongoing lower impact, more profitable, more enduring and fun tourism use by we the owners. The US Department of interior has released the following list of Antiquities Act Monuments under review and announced a formal public comment period starting May 12. Be sure to make your voice heard and your plea made, either short or long, in favor of keeping our national heritage as it is: Interior Department List and First Ever Formal Comment Period.

Photography, Spam, Social Media and My Letters to Ken Burns Films Regarding The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

March 17th, 2017

Behind the Scenes in Photography, Spam, Email, Social Media, Mistakes, Misunderstandings, Films, The National Parks, World Class Quality, Wins, Losses and Reconciliation: A Film Review of Sorts and A Business Lesson Learned

How Philip Hyde Handled Correspondence

Redwood Giants, Sunlight on Trunks of Coast Redwoods at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California, 1962 by Philip Hyde. Published in the book The Last Redwoods that spearheaded the campaign to establish Redwood National Park. (Click on Image to See Large.)

When I was a boy, my mother Ardis rushed at all times of day and evening to answer the phone that was both the home and business line. She would call for Dad through the house announcing each caller, or run into the studio or outside to find him. She helped with his correspondence and kept in touch with our local friends. She managed our social life. She replied to all letters that were not requests for photographs. Dad had a policy of replying to all correspondence, a practice he adopted from one of his mentors, Ansel Adams.

Now that I carry on his photography business, I continue the same approach to correspondence. More than 90 percent of serious inquires come through email, but between the inbox, texts, phone, voicemail, Twitter and Facebook, communications can be a full-time job. On top of all these channels, well-meaning friends, even sometimes well-informed friends recommend looking into this or that. It all can be overwhelming at times. Replying to everything means I sometimes inadvertently waste time answering spam or at least have to take extra time determining borderline cases. My spam filters do a lot of the work, but a certain amount of stuff that crosses my desk every day is off mission, off-topic or is distracting in some way. Regularly I get strange inquiries that show people would rather write me first than start with their own Internet search to find the most relevant source to contact.

How to Judge Away an Opportunity

When I first started helping Dad in 2002 and took over Philip Hyde Photography in 2005, the year before he passed on, I was new and even a bit naïve as to what incoming information was worth paying attention to and what was not. Until you are in photography for a while, you don’t know the players, or even how a photographer successfully gets his message and photographs out to the world. I still discover new channels all the time. I also am inundated with the same old ones that don’t work for me trying to get my attention. In a short amount of time you begin to develop a healthy skepticism, even cynicism, about every idea, every inquiry that comes along. After this short time when you have become freshly cynical, you still have not heard of all of the good, legitimate opportunities that might possibly make your entire career. Even after you have been around for a long time, you may have heard of most of them, but not all, because new legitimate ones emerge all the time.

And so it was that I passed up one of the best and most important opportunities that I might have ever found. There is an important moral to this story that emerges by the end of this blog post article. It may sound silly to some people and natural to others, but there was a time when I had not heard of PBS filmmaker Ken Burns. Regardless how famous he may be, I did not know who he was. My editor, who I generally trust as a well-connected and knowledgeable man, gave me Ken Burns’ phone number and said I needed to call him regarding a new National Parks project he was working on. Not knowing the scope, audience or respect that Ken Burns Films usually garner, one day I picked the number out of a tall stack of calls I needed to make. With a dismissive attitude I dialed the phone.

My First Call to Ken Burns Films

A lady named Susanna Steisel answered the phone, but I subsequently forgot or mixed up her name with someone else and did not realize that she was the same lady I wrote to and conversed with later. Mixed in with some small talk, I explained who I was. I said that my father was one of the primary photographers for the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that originally popularized the large coffee table photography book and were known as battle books for making national parks. I explained that Dad’s work participated in more campaigns than any other photographer of his time, that he was one of just a few West Coast photographers who have ever had a solo Smithsonian exhibition, his in particular covering the national parks and monuments. Ms. Steisel told me about all the well-known people they already had in the film. Many of them related to the 1800s or early 1900s, or were more current interviews of National Park Service personnel.

“It sounds like this project is mainly focused on the earliest days of the founding of the parks, not the later days in the mid 1900s, around the 1950s, 60s and 70s, is that right?” I stopped her in the middle of her explanation and asked. Taken slightly aback, she agreed. We talked just a little more, I wished her well on the project and then got off the phone. I checked off that task and moved on with other calls.

What One Fool Loses Another Wise Man Will Find

Later, after I learned more about Ken Burns Films and what an opportunity I lost by not listening more and jumping in with a snap judgment, I was angry with myself and angry with Ken Burns Films. I felt especially bad after I met QT Luong, a contemporary landscape photographer who Ken Burns featured in one segment of the film series. QT Luong’s claim to fame was that he was the only photographer known to have photographed all 59 national parks. QT Luong’s photographs are exquisite and serve the purpose of showing the beauty of the parks with a contemporary aesthetic, much the way Dad’s photographs had for their time during Mid-Century Modernism. QT Luong also writes an excellent photoblog and it was through blogging that we became friends. Look for my review of QT Luong’s late 2016 book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, a book that I helped edit. When I got to know QT Luong a little, he confided in me that significant income came from involvement in the 2009 film series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. However, he said recently that inquiries resulting from the film were fewer than he expected. Back in 2010, he wrote about this and other aspects of his involvement in a blog post, “QT Luong in Ken Burns National Park Series,” which might have cleared it up except that I didn’t see the post until after I wrote this article.

I like to think of myself as a good person, but hearing of the income that QT Luong earned  did not bring out the best in me. It sounded more substantial to me back then, but he explained recently it was not as large as I imagined. Either way, I became jealous of his success on Dad’s behalf, though I never told him. I even got mad at QT Luong, though I did not express it to him because he certainly did not deserve it. I also got angry with Ken Burns and even angrier with the poor lady I talked to in his office, whose name I did not remember. I blamed her even though I had cut her short and dismissed the project as not quite relevant for Dad’s photographs. Why wasn’t she more forceful in telling me the importance of the film? The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. This is the other side of snap judgements. When you make a snap judgement, by definition you don’t have much information. As a result you go off on all sorts of mental tangents, scenarios and imaginings that vilify those you made the judgement about, only increase your own animosity and are not factual, merely illusion. At the end of February 2014, when Susanna Steisel wrote me through the Philip Hyde Photography website contact form about a follow-up national parks book project they were researching, I did not realize she was the same lady to whom I had spoken several years before. I replied to her in early March:

Hi Susanna,

Did you get my voicemails? I returned your calls, but have heard nothing back from you.

Ken Burns is a very talented filmmaker and I hear he did a great job on his National Parks film. However, there is one aspect of his work that I am very disappointed in, well, not in him specifically, but in a lady on his staff in his office who made it seem like the Ken Burns documentary on the National Parks was only about the earliest founding days and not about the era when the most parks were formed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Due to a miscommunication and misunderstanding my father’s work did not make the film, while other photographers both contemporary to Dad and those who came after, were in it. This reflects badly on Ken Burns and his film. Why? Because my father helped make more national parks than any other photographer and is widely known as having been the backbone “go-to” photographer for more of the Sierra Club led national park campaigns than anyone else. My father was the first photographer sent on assignment for an environmental cause in 1951 to maintain the integrity of the national park system by helping to keep dams out of Dinosaur National Monument. Dad’s book, Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, also was part of the core of the campaign to save the Grand Canyon. Dad had a solo show that opened at the Smithsonian in 1956 and was nationally toured to major museums during 1956-1959 called, “America’s National Parks and Monuments.” Dad’s national park related resume is one of the strongest. I hope at some point to have a friendly creative talk with Ken Burns about how Dad’s much deserved recognition, heretofore supplanted by other photographers, could come to fruition. It is high time Dad receive the recognition he deserved. When I say ‘supplanted by other photographers,’ I’m not referring to Ansel Adams, who belongs in any National Parks film. Ansel was a mentor, teaching associate, promoter and friend to Dad. I’m referring to other photographers covered in the film who happened to have photographed National Parks after Ansel Adams for their own benefit. Dad dedicated over 60 years of his life to exploring and defending wilderness. His story needs to be told “writ large” by someone like Ken Burns with real filmmaking talent.

Please let me know if and how I can help you.

David

How To Treat Irate Customers: Business 101

To this message, Ms. Steisel to her credit replied with “sincere apologies.” She mentioned that she had run across Dad’s photographs and “thought they were as beautiful as any I have seen of the parks… If we can talk perhaps I can make up for past transgressions. I don’t know how these photos got missed.” She asked for a number where I could be reached to talk about it. She had already begun to melt my heart, but I was still disappointed by the opportunity lost, knowing that the film would stand as it was for all time without Dad’s photographs in it.

My next message a month later had a more amicable tone:

…Thank you for your conciliatory remarks. I hold nothing against Ken Burns or his organization, though I was shocked to find out that the film was the quintessential film on the national parks and somehow the research did not discover Dad to be a key creative player. Anyone doing a project on the National Parks, is completely remiss to not cover the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, David Brower, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde… Dad’s work not only suffered by not being in Ken’s film, but Ken’s film suffered by its omission…

Covering mainly Ansel Adams in such a film, is of course necessary, but is only the low-hanging fruit. Also, merely plucking contemporary photographers out of the air to be the token photographers in the film, without researching who actually deserved credit for making the national parks, is a disservice. In all other aspects, I hear the film is a moving tribute and one of the best ever made on the subject. As a highly talented and top notch filmmaker, I would hope that Ken Burns might be interested in righting these omissions and errors by considering doing a film on my father. Someone will sooner or later and it will have a wide audience. I have already had other filmmakers express interest, but I want a major player like Ken Burns to do it… call me any time.

The Power of a Gift and of a Sincere Review

When she called, we had a good, friendly conversation. She said Ken Burns was backlogged for years on film projects, but that his brother also made PBS films and perhaps I might talk to him. In a later conversation in 2015, it came out that I had The National Parks: America’s Best Idea saved in my Amazon favorites, but had still never seen it. I had never seen any Ken Burns films. After learning this she offered to send me The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and a number of others. From the list she gave me I picked out The Dust Bowl and Thomas Jefferson. Once I received the package of DVD’s from Ken Burns Films, I opened it right away and started watching The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Early on it moved me to tears. I cannot overstate how impressed I was with the cinematography, the level of research, the quality of the story telling, the strength of the interviews and many other aspects of the film. It was one of the best non-fiction movies I had ever seen. I watched the whole first episode that evening. The next morning I sat down to write a thank you:

Hi Susanna,

Please share this with Ken if you at all can. Certainly you’ve heard countless rave reviews of the National Parks film, though with my background, I hope mine will still carry some weight. I am also a big fan of documentaries and have watched far more of them than the “average bear.” This one I have to say is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I agree with those who say that Ken and your team have a gift for storytelling. I loved all the detail and powerful intimate stories you all found and presented so well. I like the idea of telling “the bottom up stories,” rather than the top down ones, though there was plenty of that too with all the presidents. My father’s work and story would have been perfect for your approach because, as is widely known, he was the people’s photographer, the approachable guy, the hard-worker whose accomplishments to recognition ratio was one of the lowest. Ansel was the ambassador and entertainer of movie stars and politicians, while Dad had his boots on the ground in so many of the campaigns, sharing photographs with local leaders and going to many places way ahead of anyone else’s interest curve.

Speaking of which, in your film you mention a man going to Dinosaur in 1952 and making snapshots that influenced David Brower to get interested in saving the place. Actually, Martin Litton started writing about Dinosaur in the LA Times in 1951. Brower and Richard Leonard sent Dad to Dinosaur the same year. Dad’s photographs from four trips 1951-1955 and Litton’s were what made the book, This Is Dinosaur, though of course attaching Wallace Stegner’s name at the time is what put it on the map. With the bottom-up approach, it would have been perfect to tell the story of Litton and Hyde, more than Stegner, the Pulitzer Prize winner, especially since they did most of the work on the campaign. You can’t ever tell all the stories. I mention this not to say you got the story wrong, but as an example because there were other places where Dad’s involvement would have been interesting to your audience and added much more depth.

The whole time I was watching the film, I was incredibly moved and also kicking myself, for not having listened longer when we first talked on the phone. I remember the conversation and it was actually more my fault than yours that you did not find out more about Dad. Though obviously my whole life I was around Dad and the family part of his story, I was fairly new to telling his professional story. Also, we talked not long after Dad had passed on and I was still reeling. I was not sure how or what I was going to do with any of it.

Seems like the film contained a great deal about John Muir, but not as much about the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, National Audubon, etc. Some of those names unfortunately have a stigma to some people, so I suppose I can see why they were not emphasized. I like how most of the stories were personal anyway, rather than about organizations. Yet, that coin has two sides. Reality is that nearly all the parks were all out battles just to bring into existence. Your film covered a smattering of that, but relatively little compared to how much of it occurred. In this sense, as pure journalism, it might not be considered as accurate by some, but the flip side of that is that your team told a story that was universal and could be related to by all. It was uniting, rather than divisive, which is exactly what the parks themselves were after they were formed. Getting them formed, however, created huge controversy, divisions and disagreements that continue to this day. You de-emphasized this, which I can see in the final analysis was for good reason.

Ultimately the film is a smashing success. I was nearly in tears at some points from the sheer beauty of the scenery and cinematography. The narrative too, had good pacing in that it snapped right along and engaged me deeply. I loved hearing from so many of the rangers.

Thank you again so much for sharing it with me.

David

Sounding the Human Note: Learn This Lesson Well

Susanna’s response:

David,
How completely touched I am by your letter. I will pass it on to both Ken and Dayton Duncan.
It is a really fine line between telling the actual whole story in detail and making a film that will be accessible to a wide-ranging audience. We really do try to do our best.
I lost both my parents early in life, and I have to say that I am envious of how proud you are of your father, and how much you know about his life, and appreciate his life. It is a gift that not many of us have.
Looking back, I wish we could have done better by him. I really do. Maybe I didn’t quite know what I was doing either.
Take good care and stay in touch if you want.
With great respect,
Susanna

I wrote her back and told her I appreciated her heartfelt response. I said that I was also touched by the gift of the films. I wrote, “A good lesson I have learned, I sure hope, is to listen more and not jump to conclusions. You all are doing wonderful, important work.” Ken Burns himself also wrote me to thank me for writing, to share how moved he was by my message and to say he was grateful to hear my story.

In this day of media sound bites, over-filled inboxes and the constant barrage of social media news feeds, I, like many of my peers in this civilization, have learned to skim through everything very quickly. I see people from all walks of life making snap judgements all the time that are way off the mark and lead to all kinds of problems. Someone misjudges someone else when they meet and an opportunity is lost. Someone makes comments on a Facebook post that are insulting or irrelevant merely because they didn’t take the time to read the conversation before they added to it. Now that my misunderstanding with Ken Burns Films is cleared up and a connection has developed, it may lead to something professionally interesting, but even if it doesn’t, the significance of the positive goodwill and mutual respect should not be underestimated. This experience and the loss to my father’s work and his legacy have taught me that I must slow down and review each contact or suggestion carefully. In particular I must beware not to take any conversation or meeting for granted because my next big career break might be lurking somewhere in the pile of messages, spam and irrelevance.

Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill

March 30th, 2016

Celebrating Wilderness by William Neill

Reposted Today in Honor of the 10th Anniversary of the Passing of my Father, Philip Hyde.

Written by William Neill for the July 2006 Issue of Outdoor Photographer. Read more at OutdoorPhotographer.com and visit WilliamNeill.com or William Neill’s Photography Blog at WilliamNeill.com/blog/. This article was originally posted to Landscape Photography Blogger as my first guest post. I am grateful to Dad’s good friend master photographer William Neill for sharing it with the world again through Landscape Photography Blogger. Coincidentally, just a few days before I originally posted this Bill Neill tribute, Guy Tal wrote a tribute on his own blog journal to William Neill called, “Inspiration: William Neill’s Yosemite Volume One.”

New Tribute to Philip Hyde by Outdoor Photographer

The current editor of Outdoor Photographer, Wes Pitts, today also wrote a must-read tribute to Dad, “Remembering Philip Hyde, Visionary Landscape Photographer and Conservationist.”

Celebrating Wilderness by William Neill

Sunset From Mt. Hoffman, Yosemite National Park, California, 2006 by William Neill.

On March 30, 2006, Philip Hyde passed away at the age of 84.  The community of photographers and nature lovers lost a true friend and pioneer. (See the June 2006 issue of Outdoor Photographer, A Voice for the Wild).  I count myself as being very blessed for having known him.

 

Many years before meeting Philip back in the early 1980s, I discovered his work in the Sierra Club’s famous “Exhibit-Format Series” of books.  His images opened my eyes, along with those of thousands of other photographers and wilderness enthusiasts, to the beautiful and endangered landscapes he had explored.  He helped us see the great potential use landscape photographs could have for environmental protection.  Philip’s images spoke to me quietly yet forcefully of wild nature’s value, and showed me the impact hard work, dedication and selflessness can have.

Philip’s sphere of influence has expanded outward far and wide, quietly and profoundly.  Hyde was the workhorse for the Sierra Club book series, providing images for nearly every battle of theirs in the 1960s and 1970s.  When David Brower, the director of the Club and creator of the book series, needed images to help preserve an endangered landscape, Philip and camera went to work.  Books in which his photographs are instrumental include The Last Redwoods, Slickrock, Island in Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula, Time and The River Flowing, Navajo Wildlands, The Wild Cascades: Forgotten Wildlands, and This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers.

I have little doubt that every published nature photographer of my generation has been inspired by Philip’s efforts.  The large number of photographers, professional or not, working today to use their imagery to help preserve wild places, both locally and on national issues, owe Philip a great debt.

When I looked at those Sierra Club books as a college student, my wildest dream was to use my images in such books and other forums to further the cause of conservation, and to make photographs for a living.  The success of the Sierra Club books not only gave a great boost to its own membership, but also showed publishers that such books had commercial value, thus spawning the publication of thousands of books modeled after them.  The resulting nature book industry allowed many photographers to develop careers, and brought to light many issues of preservation.  Even those not familiar with the full extent of Hyde’s accomplishments can trace their roots to his efforts.

Beyond his environmental contributions, Hyde has earned an honored place for his art.  His photographs have a quality of serene reality.  His choice of camera is a 4×5 for revealing the landscape in sharp detail.  The color is not amplified.  The light he preferred was understated, and he did not favor the “magic hour” that seduces most of us.  He has a disdain for the redundant sunset motif.  He chose Ektachrome film, over Kodachrome or Fujichrome, for its more neutral reproduction of nature’s colors.  In similar fashion, Philip’s compositions and use of lenses are simple and direct.  Rarely do you see a photograph where camera position or lens exaggerates any aspect of a landscape.

Commenting on his evolution from being a black and white photographer to predominantly using color, Philip wrote in his book The Range of Light, “Black-and-white lends itself to manipulation that can dramatize a subject.  Color tends to record what is seen, so it is no coincidence that I use color for that purpose.  I don’t feel nature needs to be dramatized: it is dramatic enough! …Color photographs that…rely too much on the shock value of color alone will not sustain interest.”

Philip’s approach, which seems at first to show the landscape in ordinary descriptive terms, is his attempt to make us realize nature’s profound beauty is always there for us to see, not just during a monumental performance of light or color.  There is selflessness to this approach.  In his images, his own importance recedes in the face of nature’s beauty and need for protection.  He once wrote to me, “There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care who gets the credit.”

Many years ago, I hiked up Mt. Hoffman in Yosemite.  I walked slowly upward, alone in my thoughts. I carried all my 4×5 gear to the summit, planning to photograph the sunset and then hike down in the twilight.  At the top, the views of Yosemite’s wilderness stretch out all around.  There was virtually no sign of human life below.  The sunset light warmed the surrounding peaks, and the Sierra Nevada displayed why it is called The Range of Light!  The serenity I felt was powerful.

Thanks to far-sighted pioneers, this rare form of sanctuary exists for millions to enjoy.  The initial preservation of Yosemite by President Lincoln in 1864 and subsequent the formation of the National Park System, the inspiring words and energetic crusading of John Muir, the monumental photographs of Yosemite by Ansel Adams have all contributed to the cause of wilderness preservation.

At times like this, when a great person in our field or our life is lost, we might wonder who could ever replace them?  It is an important time to stop and remember the impact each one of us can have.  John Muir saw threats to the wildness of Yosemite, and fought to preserve it.  Ansel Adams felt deeply moved by the beauty of Yosemite and the Sierra that Muir helped preserve, and used his photographs to fight further for wilderness preservation.  Philip Hyde, learning from the example of Muir, Adams and David Brower, worked tirelessly to photograph threatened landscapes. Many photographers have followed Hyde’s example.  As a ripple expanding outward in a circle, more will follow those who have followed him.  We must all acknowledge our mentors, and I am proud to count Philip Hyde as one of mine.  We honor their legacy by following their example.  Let the circle be unbroken. — William Neill

I am interested primarily in what Emerson called “the integrity of natural objects.”  They express wholeness and individuality, and it is this sense of place that is the foundation of my work.  My life in photography has been taken up in exploring natural places for their beauty and uniqueness.  It has been a labor of love, and nature has provided me the perfect object. — Philip Hyde

William Neill’s Note:  The North American Nature Photography Association offers a grant in honor of Philip Hyde.  See http://www.nanpafoundation.org/hyde_grant.html for more info and for applications.

______________________

To sign up for newsletter updates, including info about his BetterPhoto.com online workshops, please see William Neill’s web page at WilliamNeill.com. For more about wilderness see the blog post, “Wallace Stegner: The Wilderness Idea.” For the story on how I learned more about my father’s work see the blog post, “Memories Of Finally Working With Dad.”

Originally posted August 26, 2010

Ed Cooper: Mountaineer, Rock Climber And Large Format Photographer

January 22nd, 2015

Rock Climber And Mountaineer Ed Cooper Packed A Large Format Camera To The Top Of Many Of North America’s Highest Peaks

Now He Speaks Out About His Explorations, First Ascents, Sierra Club Books, Conservation And Philip Hyde’s Contribution

Short Bio of Ed Cooper

Ed Cooper, author and photographer, working with a newly acquired 5x7 Gundlach Bundschu view camera, top of Mt. Reynolds, Glacier National Park, Washington, copyright Ed Cooper Collection 1964.

Ed Cooper, author and photographer, working with a newly acquired 5×7 Gundlach Bundschu view camera, top of Mt. Reynolds, Glacier National Park, Washington, copyright Ed Cooper Collection 1964. Cooper nearly always carried all of his own medium and large camera equipment to the tops of many of North America’s highest peaks. The only exception Cooper could remember was once on a pack trip into the Ramparts where grizzly bears were plentiful and a horse carried his view cameras.

Ed Cooper is a pioneer mountaineer and fine art photographer who lives in the California wine country. At age 16, he climbed Mt. Rainier, 14,411′ (4392 meters), one of Washington’s most formidable peaks and photographed the experience. He has climbed and photographed mountains ever since, nearly always with a large format camera. His collection of summits includes Mt. Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska (20,320) the highest peak in North America and the 3,000 foot vertical face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park.

In December 2003, the film, In the Shadow of the Chief: The Baldwin and Cooper Story came out telling the tale of Ed Cooper and Jim Baldwin’s unusual scaling of the Grand Wall of the Stawamus Chief near Squamish, British Columbia, Canada in 1961. The climb was sponsored by the town and the film features vintage footage of the original ascent, as well as new footage of a re-enactment.

Clouds wreathe Mt. Robson, 12,972', 3954m, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies in Mt. Robson Provincial Park. Original is an 8x10 black and white negative using Tr-X film and a red filter, taken 8-18-1968 about 10 am. An 8x10 Eastman view camera and a 36" Dallmeyer lens, weighing over 10 pounds, were used in a set-up requiring two tripods. Some burning and dodging was required to bring this print to completion. Copyright Ed Cooper, British Columbia.

Clouds wreathe Mt. Robson, 12,972′, 3954m, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies in Mt. Robson Provincial Park. Original is an 8×10 black and white negative using Tr-X film and a red filter, taken 8-18-1968 about 10 am. An 8×10 Eastman view camera and a 36″ Dallmeyer lens, weighing over 10 pounds, were used in a set-up requiring two tripods. Some burning and dodging was required to bring this print to completion. Copyright Ed Cooper, British Columbia.

His new book, Soul of Yosemite: Portraits Of Light And Stone (2011) consists of a selection, from his collection of Yosemite images dating back to 1962, which best represents the area and fits into the organization of the book entering Yosemite National Park from El Portal, progressing through Yosemite Valley on Southside Drive and on to Tuolumne Meadows, including a short section on the Hetch-Hetchy area, now a reservoir, once a valley flooded in 1914. It also includes a short section on the author climbing a new route on El Capitan in 1962.

His previous book, Soul of the Heights: 50 Years Going to the Mountains (2007) offers glimpses into mountaineering and rock climbing in the 1950s and early 1960s during the highly competitive era of first ascents, through his own experiences, photographs and exclusive firsthand accounts by climbers of the era about their first ascents of now top destination climbs. Ed Cooper’s 4×5 and 5×7 photographs include portraits of many of the best-known peaks in North America. His earlier books are Soul of the Rockies: Portraits of America’s Largest Mountain Range, The American Wilderness in the Words of John Muir, Grand Canyon: Shrine of the Ages and Early Mining Days – California Gold Country: The Story Behind the Scenery. Ed Cooper’s photographs graced the famous Sierra Club Desk Calendars for many years, as well as many other prominent publications including many of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series books and other Sierra Club Books and publications.

Climbing Mountains, Photographing For Sierra Club Books, Glen Canyon And Conservation

By Ed Cooper, March 2012

Date: Sometime in late 1956 or early 1957

Place: Washington State

Climber on cornice at about the 12,000' (3650m) altitude on Mt. Robson. Mt. Resplendent, 11,240' (3426m) is in the left background. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo 1961. British Columbia.

Climber on cornice at about the 12,000′ (3650m) altitude on Mt. Robson. Mt. Resplendent, 11,240′ (3426m) is in the left background. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo 1961. British Columbia.

Back then I was about 20 years old, busying myself with climbing the volcanoes and other peaks in the Pacific Northwest. These activities were carried on when I was not occupied with my studies at the University of Washington, or perhaps I should say, I went climbing when I should have been occupied with my studies. I had aspirations to visit other mountain areas also, such as the Sierra Nevada. One day I walked into a bookstore and spotted the following book: The Climber’s Guide to the High Sierrawritten by Hervey Voge and published by the Sierra Club. Immediately I purchased the book from the meager funds I had available at that time.

At the first opportunity, I sat down to look through the book and began to plan climbing objectives in the Sierra Nevada for the time when my financial situation would allow me to go there. At the front of the book were 17 black and white photographs. Six of the photos were by Ansel Adams, whose name I had heard only recently at that time. However, as I looked at all the images, my gaze quickly settled on one that was my favorite–the   now iconic black and white photograph of Lake Ediza and the Minarets with the rock slabs on the left side of the picture. All the elements fall into place perfectly. It turned out that the photographer was Philip Hyde. Years later I heard that Ansel Adams had remarked that he liked Philip Hyde’s rendition of the Minarets better than his own.

It was to be a number of years before I made it to the Sierra Nevada, but it was not nearly so long before I learned more about Philip Hyde and his outstanding contribution–through his photography–to the conservation movement.

I remember looking with fascination at This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers(1955) with an introduction and chapter by Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner and photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. Somewhat later I pored over Island in Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula(1962) by Harold Gilliam and Philip Hyde. Philip’s books were all aimed at protecting diverse wilderness areas in the Western US. He provided more photography for the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series than did any other photographer.

Igloo Camp at about 13,500' (4115m) at Windy Corner on Mt. Denali (was Mt. McKinley) 20,320' (6194m) June, 1958. Climber Fergus O'Connor is on the right. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo. Alaska.

Igloo Camp at about 13,500′ (4115m) at Windy Corner on Mt. Denali (was Mt. McKinley) 20,320′ (6194m) June, 1958. Climber Fergus O’Connor is on the right. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo. Denali National Park, Alaska.

In these years my climbs became increasingly difficult, but I found that I had a penchant for photography myself, progressing from an Ansco Panda box camera, to two 2 ¼ square folding cameras, and finally to my first 4×5 camera—a Speed Graphic in 1962. Later I progressed to actual view cameras, 4×5, 5×7 and 8×10. I found myself becoming more interested in capturing images on film than reaching summits or climbing large cliff faces.

I made what might be considered a pilgrimage about 1969 to meet Philip in his home in the northern Sierra Nevada. He was gracious; there was no air of pretentiousness about him. He wowed me by showing me his studio work area and many samples of his darkroom prints.

The Exhibit Format Series packed a powerful punch. How powerful it was I did not realize until February of 2012, when I received a letter from Bill Douglas in Annapolis, Maryland. I had done photography for The Alpine Lakes, a de facto wilderness area in the Cascade Mountains not far from Seattle. This book was published in a large format edition, similar to the Sierra Club Books, by the Seattle Mountaineers in 1971. The pressure by the mining, logging, and other interests to exploit this area was intense.

Bill described how President Ford had been persuaded to sign the bill to protect the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Washington’s then Governor Dan Evans had flown to Washington for an appointment with President Ford to try to persuade him to sign the bill, but had forgotten to take a copy of The Alpine Lakes book with him. Bill Douglas and Dan Evans were hiking buddies who had talked about the importance of this meeting. Bill ended up taking his own copy of the book to the White House, where Dan showed the book to President Ford. Words were not needed. Ford exclaimed something like “This is beautiful country – it’s gotta be protected,” and signed the bill. Bill still has that book with the inscription “To Bill Douglas, with warmest best wishes, Gerald R. Ford.” That is the power of conservation photography.

Photographer Ed Cooper with special telephoto set-up for large format. An 8x10 Eastman Kodak view camera was attached to a 36" Dallmeyer lens (former aerial spy lens). Two tripods were required to support this set-up. Ed Cooper installed a Packard shutter triggered by a red bulb. September 1970 in the White Mountains looking towards the Sierra Nevada. Copyright Debby Cooper Photo. California.

Photographer Ed Cooper with special telephoto set-up for large format. An 8×10 Eastman Kodak view camera was attached to a 36″ Dallmeyer lens (former aerial spy lens). Two tripods were required to support this set-up. Ed Cooper installed a Packard shutter triggered by a red bulb. September 1970 in the White Mountains looking towards the Sierra Nevada. Copyright Debby Cooper Photo. California.

While Philip’s books resulted in the protection of many wild areas, conservationists will always remember with regret the place that got away. I refer to Glen Canyon, flooded when Glen Canyon Dam was built to create what is now Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona. I am sure Philip felt this regret acutely, as he had spent time capturing one-of-a-kind images of this now flooded national treasure. On a visit there just recently in 2011, I saw large areas of ugly mud flats left behind by receding Lake Powell with the reservoir level at that time down more than 100 feet.

Philip Hyde said: “For every place there will always be people that want to exploit it, and there will always be people—hopefully—that want to save it and keep it as it is. Even with the risk of inviting crowds into Paradise, better to publish your photographs and rally the troops. What’s in the frame of the photograph matters artistically, to be sure, but what’s outside the frame can destroy it.” Truer words were never spoken.

We are fortunate to have David Leland Hyde, Philip’s son, continuing to bring his father’s legacy to us in digital restorations of many of Philip’s images that were crucially important to the conservation movement, as well as the stories behind them. Both the stories and images might otherwise be lost.

North Cascades And Mt Jefferson Historical Travel Log

August 13th, 2014

Conservation Photographer Philip Hyde And Naturalist Ardis Hyde Look Deeply Into Proposed Wilderness And A Possible National Park In The North Cascade Mountains Of Washington And The Oregon Cascades…

 

Mount Jefferson, Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area, Oregon Cascades, Oregon, copyright 1959 by Philip Hyde.

Mount Jefferson, Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area, Oregon Cascades, Oregon, copyright 1959 by Philip Hyde.

In July 1959, Ardis and Philip Hyde drove their Covered Wagon pickup leisurely through Oregon and Washington past Seattle into the North Cascades Mountain Range…

Cascade Pass was closed, but Steven’s Pass proved nearly as direct to Lake Chelan. After arrival at Lake Chelan, Ardis and Philip woke up about 5:00 am on July 9 to arrange their gear and catch the Lady of the Lake, a small passenger liner ship, which would take them 55 miles from Chelan at the lower end of Lake Chelan to Stehekin at the upper end of the lake.

In Stehekin they ate a “delicious lunch in a coffee shop and met Phil Berry, Sierra Club Pack Trip leader.” The pack trip into the North Cascades started up the Park Creek trail by around 3:30 pm. Participants in the pack trip included David Brower and his sons Bob Brower and Ken Brower, as well as Kathleen Revis from National Geographic. Spring was just reaching the high country and the trail of nearly six miles was all in the shade in the late afternoon. The hike was “frigid,” Ardis Hyde wrote in the travel log.

The group spent a week exploring the best scenery of the North Cascades including Huge mountain faces, glaciers rising thousands of feet out of green forests, tumbling mountain streams and meadows. “Progress was slowed by frequent picture stops,” Ardis Hyde wrote. “Highlights of the trip were the new spring chartreuse needles on the larch trees and the magnificent views across Park Creek to the Peaks: Mt. Agnes, Mt. Spider, Mt. Dome, Chickamon Glacier and a glimpse of Glacier Peak. Each of these unveiled themselves in succession from behind a veil of clouds that gradually all disappeared. By afternoon the sky was clear.”

On another day of the trip they had more than a glimpse of Glacier Peak as they climbed to Image Lake and looked across the deep glaciated valley for a dazzling view of the huge mountain. When they returned on foot to Stehekin they took a plane ride to view from the air some of the country they had hiked. They visited Sierra Club leader Grant Mc Connell’s famous homestead cabin, as well as Hugh Courtney’s perhaps more locally famous homestead cabin that had been built in 1906. Hugh Courtney had arrived in 1917 and added onto the cabin.

Saturday, July 18, 1959: We stopped at Hugh Courtney’s Cabin to take a picture of it in morning light. He showed us old photos of Lake Chelan and the town of Stehekin with lake boats in the early 1900s. We drove the Avery truck into Stehekin and talked at length to Harry Buckner about park and development proposals for the area. We boarded Lady of the Lake and arrived at the far other end of the long, narrow Lake Chelan. The heat on the lake from here to Wenatchee was disagreeable, but we spent the night in an air-conditioned motel.

Sunday, July 19, 1959: During the morning until 11:00 we worked on reorganization, laundry and re-loading film. The drive from Wenatchee to Timberline Lodge was scorching hot all the way. Crossed the Columbia River at the Hood River Bridge. It was 107 degrees Fahrenheit in Hood River. We reached 6,000 feet in elevation around 7:15 pm on the slopes of Mt. Hood, where we had a good view of Mt. Jefferson. Bear Grass was in bloom. After dinner in the lodge we spent the night in our pickup parked on the dirt road leading into the timberline trees just below the lodge. It looked light like a forest fire was burning to the South.

Monday, July 20, 1959: In our pickup we headed past Olallie Lake to Breitenbush Lake where we made a base for tomorrow’s backpack into Jefferson Park. Breitenbush Lake is especially beautiful, shallow with grassy irregularities in the shallows, bordered with bear grass at one end under a mountain peak. Breitenbush Lake is set in a large, open meadow with an almost groomed park like appearance under the full moon.

Tuesday, July 21: Off for a six-mile hike into Jefferson Park. It started out as an easy climb, but the trail traversed much snow near the top of the ridge overlooking Jefferson Park. Deep red paintbrush grew in patches and the pink and white heather were abundant. An impressive number of small lakes and puddles of snow water are forming near the top of the ridge. The entire area was inviting and lovely as mounds of snow melted into the forming water depressions. We made a long, one-mile descent into Jefferson Park, which was filled with snowmelt depressions all over, with one large lake. Dirty campsites had marred the water. So we picked an open place on the heather for sleeping bag sites. We made our own fireplace on a patch of dirt near the trail and took water from a pothole. Mosquitoes were so abundant we could never relax. We were grateful we had brought netting, which we mounted over our heads during the night. Our campsite was in full view of Mt. Jefferson, which rose in the North and towered over us.

Wednesday, July 22: Up at 5 am to get an early start for it is a hot day and night on the trail at 6:30 pm going straight up ridge rather than by trail traversing the slope. We lingered on the other side of the ridge for more pictures of lively snow melt pockets. In retrospect these little water gems were the prettiest art we saw. We had the whole park to ourselves until on the way out we met a party going in. On the way out we also encountered a group of botanists from Oregon State. We reached Breitenbush Lake about 11 am. Last part of the trail was very hot over sunny open spaces. We packed up and left in the afternoon coming out to the Santiam Highway and then going onto a dirt road again at Clear Lake. We stopped at Sahale Falls for a look, but the light was gone. Went on to Koosah Falls. Decided to camp at Koosah Falls and get both falls in morning light. Across the road was well-framed ice cap springs. Clouds were forming too.

Thursday, July 23: Overcast and some sprinkles of rain. Philip photographed both falls, especially lovely in their red cedar dense and lush forest setting….

Still looking to scan the 4×5 film transparencies of Sahale and Koosah Falls. For more on the history of how Mt. Jefferson became a wilderness area, read the blog post, “Oregon Cascades Conservation: Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area. For more on how conservation battles in the North and Oregon Cascades became a grassroots blueprint for other conservation efforts across the country, read the blog post, “The Oregon Cascades Impact On Conservation.”

The beauty of waterfalls. Waterfalls sound a tone, strike a chord, ring a healing bell…

Art, Earth And Ethics 2 – Climate Change, Religion, John Muir and Leave No Trace

July 24th, 2014

Art, Earth And Ethics, Part Two

Climate Change, Big Oil, Politics, Walmart, God, Religion, St. Francis, John Muir And Leave No Trace

(Continued From the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”)

Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind. – Aldo Leopold
Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

(See the photograph large here in David Leland Hyde Portfolio One.)

Many people today would rather not discuss environmental issues. The environment is a subject that reminds people of thoughts and emotions they are often trying to forget. Bringing up such topics, some consider as taboo and as deadly to conversation as discussing politics or religion.

Along the same lines, when people are faced with, and allow to sink in a bit, some of the scientifically established facts of climate change, they respond with a wide range emotions: denial, rage, fear, grieving, indifference, resignation and others. If we do discuss climate change, it is with a dispassionate distance, as though it is not a matter of survival, of the life and death of our species, but something mildly in need of our intellectual attention and problem solving abilities, like an algebra equation. Some believe that an excessively hot planet with temperatures continuing to rise is something we can learn to live with. Meanwhile, many of the most credible sources say that just slight changes will bring about ongoing natural catastrophe, which in turn will readily destroy our economic system and our way of life.

Much of this can be debated indefinitely and is, but my intent in mentioning it here to begin with is to emphasize that these are serious, grown up problems that must be reckoned with, not forgotten about or avoided indefinitely. Each of us must start now to act in ways that have less environmental impact. We have to take responsibility and make changes ourselves, individually, regardless of what the US Congress, our president, or other world governments and corporations do. Regularly I see political slogans that say we need to keep Big Oil from causing climate change. True, we do need to stop subsidizing Big Oil, but we also need to remember they are in the business and we are all their customers. If we do not believe in their product, we need to gradually decrease our use of it, in all of its forms.

Climate Change through the refinement and distribution of fossil fuels is what Big Oil does for a living. It is what they have done for a living for a long time. Yet we must remember that it is the actual burning of the fossil fuels that is changing the climate. We are doing the burning. Meanwhile, we are asking them to change businesses, when we ourselves will not even change jobs to use less gasoline, or to do work that itself is more earth friendly. We will not change homes, change cars, or change other products we buy and use, yet we ask Big Oil to change the core of its livelihood. The picture will not change until we change. Major seed changes have almost always come from the people, from the bottom up, not from the top down. Top down management has brought us the world we have now, which is a calamitous train wreck about to happen. It would be easier to get off the train if it were moving more slowly, but as the train continues to gain momentum, we will begin to realize that jumping from the train is a better option than staying aboard. As a whole, the civilized world has doubled its energy use since 1980. This is a monumental trend in the wrong direction.

Most of it stems from short-term thinking, our own, as a people, and that of our leaders. The primary business of politicians on both the left and right is to kick the can down the road. As I listen to NPR or Democracy Now, I hear on a regular basis, politicians from California, or from the US, or from other countries, in the process of passing laws that set standards to be reached by a certain future year, usually 10 or 20 years from now. What is to stop the next batch of politicians in office from kicking the can farther down the road? Nothing. Which is why this kind of do-nothing, but appear-to-be-doing-something politics continues. We as a people rarely stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute, that law is not real. It is just a dog and pony show for the Television evening news.”

Examples of short-term thinking are abundant. When it comes to art, people would rather fill their homes with lots of cheap junk that will wind up in a landfill, than save and gather their resources to acquire a few quality pieces of artwork with provenance that will last and go up in value as a real asset to be sold at a profit or passed on to heirs. We have this same Walmart mentality about many items. We would rather buy a cheaper bike for $250 and have to buy a whole new one every four or five years, than save up and spend $800-$1000 on a bike that will last the rest of our lives. Even the $800 bike will no longer last a lifetime because planned obsolescence and lack of durability are built into the manufacturing system. Cheap is what people want, or is it?

Much of this comes down to education and how people are raised. Some parents teach their children to be racists, to hate people of other religions, or conversely, to be tolerant of all religions, to have empathy and appreciation for the diversity of cultures and myriad ways of living and worshipping on this planet. Some children rebel against whatever they are taught anyway, but Culture, environmental awareness, tolerance, open-mindedness or lack thereof are all teachings or programming, as are values, art, ethics and religion, which is man made. It’s all the same God, but some people try to claim that they have a different God, or that if you approach God any other way than by their approach, you are doomed and damned. I can see why some people don’t believe in God at all. Many others object to using the term, “God.” I certainly don’t believe in an angry, vengeful, insecure, spiteful God, the God forced down throats by Puritans and other fundamentalist extremists.

The early environmentalists and naturalists, sometimes called transcendentalists, such as Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others from the 1800s, believed God was in nature. This is also what Saint Francis of Assisi taught much earlier in the 13th Century. There is much debate as to when environmentalism started, though it could be argued that St. Francis was the first environmentalist. Moving forward into the 19th and 20th Century, one of John Muir’s main purposes for getting out into nature as often as possible, much like St. Francis, was to get closer to God and through immersion in the “works” of God, to have a spiritual, transcendent experience. A belief in God is not required to live a good life, but we must be careful of Godlessness and a lack of responsibility based on lack of faith in anything. Lack of faith in anything often blocks transcendent experience, which is part of what maintains our belief in existence and meaning in it. A belief in karma, what comes around goes around, or religious morality, even the threat of punishment has helped guide people toward fulfilling, thoughtful, sensitive and generous lives. It has kept people from living without regard for fellows or surroundings. When Friedrich Nietzsche said God is dead in the 1800s and people began to give up religion en masse, they no longer had an ethical basis for decisions or actions. People did not espouse any concept of consequences like the karmic law of cause and effect, which western civilization found in the East during that same time, but did not widely accept until much later. With religions often operating at the extremes and religious leaders acting in materialistic or perverted hypocritical ways, outdoor organizations, in many cases, actually now serve the purpose of educating people about God, Goddess, Great Spirit, Allah, Yahweh, All That Is, whatever you want to call It.

John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892. The Sierra Club’s primary purpose was to educate people about how to live and take recreation in harmony with nature. The Sierra Club initiated the idea of national forest preserves that became our national forests. The early Sierra Club defended and helped maintain the sanctity of our national parks. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Boy Scouts of America and other groups began to talk about the concept of minimal impact that later became Leave No Trace, which is a sort of environmental Golden Rule, or outdoor law of karma. The US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service cooperatively produced a pamphlet in 1987 titled, “Leave No Trace Land Ethics.” In 1990, the Forest Service in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School established a national education program of Leave No Trace, to work with the Forest Service instructions for motorized recreation called Tread Lightly. Low impact education is now offered through the Leave No Trace non-profit group and many other organizations all over the world.

The basic summary of Leave No Trace is formalized into seven principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Visit LNT.org for an expanded explanation of each principle.

The Leave No Trace principles could even be extrapolated into a business philosophy, a way to create true sustainability on earth. If we could operate industries such as mining and logging using long-term Leave No Trace principles, this would accomplish sustainability, in fact, not just in name. Most sustainability advocates are working too gradually, offering proposals that make industry just slightly greener in baby steps, rather than rethinking from the ground up. Again, just like the issues with Big Oil, and in our own private lives, these changes are often easier said than made, but we need to step up the pace, if the changes are to do any good, or stave off the destruction that is already under way.

More on Leave No Trace, how children and grownups learn ethics, or not, and how to live responsibly, in future blog posts in this series…

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 3.”)

References:

Walking Softly in the Wilderness: The Sierra Club Guide to Backpackingby John Hart

The Sierra Club Wilderness Handbook edited by David Brower

The National Outdoor Leadership School’s Wilderness Guide by Mark Harvey

Leave No Trace: A Guide to the New Wilderness Etiquette by Annette McGivney

Wikipedia Leave No Trace Entry

The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by St. Bonaventure

Best Photographs Of 2013

December 23rd, 2013

Best David Leland Hyde Photographs Of 2013

The Year In Review…

Willow, Alder, Indian Creek, Fresh Snow, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Willow, Alder, Indian Creek, Fresh Snow, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Near the end of 2012, as I began to wrap up my new Sierra Portfolio, my mind sauntered off on a trail toward crafting a black and white portfolio. Since 2009, every so often I have made images that I thought might convert well to black and white. However, starting in late 2012, after I made a new image folder and began thinking about black and white art, more and more black and white subjects seemed to shown up in my life. (To see any of the photographs larger see my, “Portfolio One,” or “Sierra Portfolio.”

Sundown, Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Sundown, Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

On the morning of January 27, 2013 I woke before daybreak. An eight-inch blanket of heavy fresh snow turned my mountain hideaway into the proverbial winter wonderland. I shifted into high gear, grabbed some food for the road and my camera gear and ran for my 1980 King Cab 4X4 Datsun Pickup, the same truck I learned to drive in the snow when it was new and I was 16 years old. My old truck and I shuffled off down the half-plowed county road looking for adventure and photographs. With the quiet of the snow I slipped quickly into the receptive state of mind described in the blog post, “Imogen Cunningham, Minor White And Their Students On The Art Of Seeing.”

Indian Rhubarb Shoots In Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Indian Rhubarb Shoots In Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Just as I passed the road to Carr Clifton’s house, who was out of the country in Iceland, South America or somewhere else, I looked down toward “the river,” which is what we locally call Indian Creek of Plumas County in the Northern Sierra Nevada, California.

Big Horn Sheep, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Big Horn Sheep, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

The low slanting rays of the sun were just beginning to illuminate the water and surrounding forest in a way I had never seen before. I have driven by that spot thousands of times since age 16, sometimes noticing what the river looked like, sometimes not, eyes glued to the winding country road in all manner of weather and road conditions. Today, in a peaceful, open frame of mind, I quickly pulled over to look closer with the camera out. “Willow, Alder, Indian Creek, Fresh Snow” and an SD card full of other images seemed like the type that would make great black and white photographs, but with mist clearing to reveal a rich blue sky reflecting in Indian Creek, they make good color images too.

Storm Clouds Over Boulder III, Boulder, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Storm Clouds Over Boulder III, Boulder, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Even as more black and white suited subjects appeared before me in 2013, more wildly colorful scenes paraded into my vision as well. Lake Almanor, which is known for colorful sunsets, was the stage one evening for a beautiful, yet subtle pastel show. Because it had been partly cloudy in the afternoon, I expected a good sunset, but I was running late. By the time I was in position along the lakeshore, I missed the sunset, but the aftermath after sundown turned out to be even better.

Old Wall And Young Woman, Broomfield, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Old Wall And Young Woman, Broomfield, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

In making the editing cuts on my Sierra Portfolio, It became more clear than ever that I not only loved to photograph water, but apparently the Sierra is the ideal place to do so. To read more about what John Muir called the Range of Light see the blog post, “Official New Release: Sierra Portfolio.” In Colorado, I struggled at first in the Rocky Mountains because everything seemed dry after photographing only in the Sierra for two years. I did manage to find water at Walden Ponds in Boulder County, part of the Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve. Besides, it rained much more than usual in Boulder the whole summer.

Cattails, Willows, Reflections, Walden And Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve, Boulder, County, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Cattails, Willows, Reflections, Walden And Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve, Boulder, County, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

The skies were spectacular with some of the wildest, apocalyptic cloud formations I have ever seen. I made many cloud photographs that I plan to make into a cloud portfolio. Days after I left Boulder, the biggest rainfall on record slammed the Rocky Mountain Front Range and huge floods swamped the cities at the base of the Rockies. Average normal rainfall for the entire month of September is a little over one inch, but during September 11-13, 2013, over 17 inches of rain fell in Boulder County, with over nine inches in one day.

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

One rainy afternoon when the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds causing rainbows and dramatic lighting effects, I saw an old grain tower off of a main street in Bloomfield, Colorado. When I approached the old tower building, a group of three ladies were gathered on the train tracks nearby. One lady was feverishly wielding a camera, one was holding a deflector shield and the other made sexy poses on the railroad tracks. I asked if they minded if I made a photograph or two with them as the foreground and they agreed.

Rocky Shoreline, Taylor Lake, Fall, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Rocky Shoreline, Taylor Lake, Fall, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

On my way out of Boulder toward Dinosaur National Monument, I passed through Rocky Mountain National Park, where it rained in the distance forming picturesque early autumn virgas. Besides the black clouds and grayscale mountains, the highlight of my Rocky Mountain National Park visit was a sighting of big horn sheep. About seven or eight of these hoofed giants were grazing and moseying along parallel to Trail Ridge Road.

Signs all along the route say not to stop, but a long line of cars did, to watch the big horn sheep. Because I could not move forward anyway, I quickly reached over and put on my long lens, took the camera off the tripod and abandoned my car mid highway. The group of sheep followed the edge of Glacier Gorge, moving slightly away from the highway and over a knoll topped by jagged angular rock outcroppings. I saw that if I ran forward along the road and stayed low with the knoll between the flock and myself, I could sneak around the rock outcroppings and end up very close to the sheep before they could see me. Besides, up until I made this new plan, all my photographs of the herd of big horns were from behind. I needed some front view images.

Shadow Patterns, Crystal Lake And Indian Valley From Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Shadow Patterns, Crystal Lake And Indian Valley From Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

The big male leading the group foiled my plan. As I came partly around the knoll, there he already was, quite close and not looking jovial or friendly. He was not hostile either, just looking his experienced tough old self, keeping a close eye on me. He turned several different ways, as if to pose for the camera, and then wandered on down the slope away from my prying zoom lens.

In Dinosaur National Monument, Randy Fullbright, a local artist and jeweler and gallery owner, took me into Jones Hole. For more on my adventures in Dinosaur from 2013 and other years, see the blog post series, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013.”

After being gone from my home in Northeastern California for three months when I only expected to be gone three weeks, I only had two weeks at home, then I had to rush off to the Bay Area to deliver my father’s vintage prints for the upcoming Photography Gallery show at Smith Andersen North in San Anselmo, Marin County, California. For the big exhibition, we made contemporary gelatin silver black and white prints. More announcements will come about the show and about the contemporary darkroom prints. Between darkroom printing and the making of new archival digital prints at the Smith Andersen Lab, I stayed in Marin County two weeks and missed nearly all of the fall leaf color back at home in the Sierra.

11.-DHCA-CrysL-259-13-Shadow,-Rock-And-Snow-Patterns,-Crystal-Lake-(Vert)-BW-blog

Shadow, Rock And Snow Patterns At Crystal Lake, (Vertical) California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Once I returned, I did however make a few photography outings, one to Taylor Lake, where the rocky shoreline and fall leaf color reflections made striking subjects. The most appropriate black and white subject of the whole year turned out to be the rocks and melting snow patterns, shadow patterns and granite cliff faces at Crystal Lake earlier this month. We have had such light snowfall this year, that the road that would usually have three to four feet of snow on it by now, is still passable by four wheel drive.

I will save a more in-depth explanation about the last photograph for another blog post. In short, it is the continuation of a direction I began in 2009 because in my own photography I like to go beyond the genre of landscape photography, exploring street photography, abstract photography and experimental approaches. Also, while my father was the conservation photographer, as my work develops professionally I would like to explore social activism more than environmental activism. I also have some ideas and experience with mixed media and multi-media as well. Stay tuned…

Open Door At Blue Minnie's, San Rafael, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Open Door At Blue Minnie’s, San Rafael, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

For more “Best of” see the blog posts, “My Greatest Hits Of 2012,” “Best Photos Of 2011” and “My Favorite Photos of 2010.”

Please share which images you like best and which you like least and why, if you like. It will be helpful…

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?