Posts Tagged ‘John Muir’

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?

Official New Release: Sierra Portfolio

May 29th, 2013

Announcing David Leland Hyde’s All New Sierra Portfolio

“The Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light… the most divinely beautiful of all mountain chains I have ever seen.” –John Muir

New Sierra Portfolio By David Leland Hyde On PhilipHyde.com

Half Dome From Mirror Lake Trail, Winter, Yosemite National Park, Sierra, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

Half Dome From Mirror Lake Trail, Winter, Yosemite National Park, Sierra, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

John Muir wandered and celebrated the Sierra for more than a decade inspiring thousands of artists and lovers of wilderness to “climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” My father, American landscape photographer Philip Hyde, was one artist so inspired. His last book, published in 1992 and titled, “The Range of Light,” featured quotes from John Muir to go with his color, as well as black and white photographs.

When Dad was 16 he first visited the Sierra and labeled his map of Yosemite National Park, “Home.” Twelve years later in 1950 he and my mother moved to the mountains in the Northern Sierra. Another 15 years later a doctor friend helped them give birth to me at home in the wilderness of the Sierra. I grew up in the woods along Indian Creek and have been “haunted by waters” like Norman Maclean ever since. The Sierra could also be called the “range of shimmering water” as it is more abundant in rivers, lakes and streams than any other mountain range.

The house I was born in is situated on an ancient granite rockslide that originated from Grizzly Peak. The peak itself is not visible from our home directly below the mountain. We see Grizzly Ridge, rising precipitously up 4,000 feet to 7,600 feet elevation, from Indian Creek at 3,600 feet elevation just below the house. Nonetheless, this northern end of the Sierra is mild, softly rounded and much lower than the high Sierra of Yosemite, Kings Canyon and the John Muir Trail.

As a child of the mountains, they raised me just as much as my parents. My mother knew I would learn many of life’s most important lessons by wandering around in the woods, fishing and hiking along Indian Creek, Spanish Creek, Greenhorn Creek, Ward Creek, Red Clover Creek, Montgomery Creek, Lights Creek, Hinchman Creek, Peters Creek and many of the other streams of Plumas County and the Feather River region.

These local names are telltale signs of my focus on local photography for the last four years since I forged into digital photography; and for many years before that while carrying a film camera off and on, sometimes going whole decades without a camera too. Here I learned to walk, talk, run, swim, fish, ice skate, drive in the snow, jump off of big rocks into deep waters and all the fun a boy could ask for without any need of television, video games, cell phones or portable computers.

I understand the need, in some cases, for landscape photographers to travel. During his more than 60-year career, Dad traveled an average of 99 days out of every year. Yet even Dad’s travels were almost exclusively regionally limited to the Western United States, primarily in Arizona and Utah canyons and California mountains. Is it necessary that all photographers go to Machu Picchu, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, or even Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, Tunnel View in Yosemite Park, or Zabriski Point in Death Valley National Park? Sometimes photographers traveling to Iceland might help save the ice sheet, photographers traveling to far northern British Columbia might save a vast wilderness like the Sacred Headwaters. However, generally, I feel more and more that I am a proponent of photographic bioregionalism. In other words, bloom where you’re planted. Considering that Edward Weston said he could look at his boot and find a great photograph, amazing images are everywhere, if the photographer looks, or rather sees closely enough. There is no need to travel great distances to find beauty. It can be found right in the backyard as locally focused well-known photographers like William Neill, Michael Frye, Gary Crabbe, Richard Wong and Guy Tal prove over and over, day in, day out.

I was born in the Sierra, here is where I live and here is where I photograph. This new portfolio is a collection of a small slice of my personal expression through the lens, very often one single rudimentary lens, a Costco special Nikon 18-55 mm that came in a kit with my Nikon D90, a Nikon 55-200 lens, a camera case, an SD card and camera manual. Sure, some day I hope to break out Dad’s large format Deardorff view cameras and his two medium format Rollei SL66 film cameras to try out some black and white film, but for now, I’ll stick to the easy to use and versatile Nikon D90. I am lucky to have Dad’s nearly indestructible Bogen #3028 tripod with handy pads on the legs for comfortable carrying over the shoulder for long distances or while free rock climbing with one hand down into some canyon in these fair mountains of home.

Nearly all of my photographs are single exposure, single image capture, though now that I’m learning to blend, I usually make at least two, sometimes three exposures of most high contrast photographs. The only photograph in this new Sierra Portfolio that is a blend is #3 “Oaks, Grizzly Ridge, Fall.” It is not a blend for contrast, but for the purpose of lightening the California Black Oaks and shifting color temperature of part of the image and not another. Many of these Sierra Nevada photographs involve very little Photoshop work at all, except where obvious. Color saturation was rarely increased with the saturation slider. I usually only increase saturation as a byproduct of working with the curves to attain the look of the original scene. People who don’t use Photoshop and claim their images are more pure because they for the most part use their RAW file, are generally producing images that are less true to life than those who use Photoshop because the RAW file rarely match any scene the way it looked originally. For more on this and related subjects see also the blog post, “David Leland Hyde’s Portfolio One Revisions And New Releases.” Please keep in mind that I create these photographs in limited editions of only 100. When they’re gone, they’re gone. Enjoy browsing: Sierra Portfolio… and please share which you like best…

(Originally posted for soft release May 29, 2013.)

Announcing An Honest Silence: A Celebration Of Wilderness

October 12th, 2012

Greg Russell, PJ Johnson And Ann Whittaker Release Their New E-Book, An Honest Silence: A Celebration of Wilderness

E-Book Cover For An Honest Silence by Greg Russell, PJ Johnson and Ann Whittaker with Foreword by David Leland Hyde.

Announcing An Honest Silence: A Celebration of Wilderness, a new e-book of essays and photographs by Greg Russell, PJ Johnson and Ann Whittaker. It might be conflict of interest to review it here because I wrote the foreword for it, but I will give a taste of what the new e-book has to offer readers and why advance reviewers, landscape photography blog writers and nature enthusiasts are excited about it.

Greg Russell mentions in his blog post pre-announcing An Honest Silence: A Celebration of Wilderness that at $5.00, the book is ultra affordable. Besides, Greg Russell points out that a portion of proceeds will go directly to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, of which my father pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde was an active and prominent member for many years, and I’ve been a member for close to a decade. Check them out too. You will be glad you did.

But why another book, or e-book in this case, about wilderness? I believe Greg Russell answers this question best in his Preface:

Everyone who lets their imagination wander into open space should be lifting their voices up to be heard in support of wilderness.  If not now, when?  When it’s all gone, it will be too late. These essays are reminiscent of our own experiences and thoughts about wilderness; we are passionate about the places we spend time in the outdoors, and feel that they need to be protected and enjoyed.

In the Foreword I review the wilderness literary tradition and how this new e-book by Greg Russell, PJ Johnson and Ann Whittaker honors the tradition well:

Fiction and non-fiction anthologies, novels, short stories, magazine articles, editorials, and book after book centers on or dabbles in wilderness… We are blessed with a voluminous tradition of written pages on wilderness, yet today in the computer age, as far as I know, there has yet to be even one single e-book written about wilderness, until now.

From there I go on to express other reasons why we all need wilderness and in addition why it can do anyone much good to read An Honest Silence, closing with:

The early pioneers of wilderness writing would be happy to join me in welcoming three fresh talented voices to the wilderness tradition. Some day, they too may be seen as pioneers in their own avenue of expression.

The essays by Greg Russell passionately connect you to the land through his eyes. The writings by PJ Johnson will make you think and provide a wake-up call regarding how we treat wilderness. Ann Whittaker’s lyrical prose will move you to see yourself more deeply through wilderness. All in all, An Honest Silence is an excellent read and will bring more meaning to your own experience of wilderness. Don’t wait. Go download it now. You will be glad you did.

Buy Now

Tuolumne Meadows Parsons’ Lodge Caretakers Hugh Sakols And Mara Dale

March 20th, 2012

Photographer Hugh Sakols And His Wife Mara Dale Work As Summer Caretakers Of Parsons’ Lodge And The Historic McCauley Cabin In Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park…

Environmental Educators And Back Country Mountaineers Hugh Sakols and his wife Mara Dale, Each Summer Since 2008, Have Honored And Educated About Early Conservation Leaders, While Acting As Volunteer Docents, Leading Interpretive Walks, Caretaking The Sierra Club Parsons’ Memorial Lodge And Staying In The Rustic McCauley Cabin, Much As Ardis And Philip Hyde Did In The Summer Of 1949. On This Land, Next To Soda Springs In Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, John Muir And Other Pioneer Conservationists First Conceived The Sierra Club.

"Lenticular Clouds and Lembert Dome," Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada High Country, California, copyright 2010 by Hugh Sakols.

(View the photograph large: “Lenticular Clouds and Lembert Dome.”)

Hugh Sakols first started exploring Yosemite National Park on a backpacking trip when he was seventeen years old. He started seriously photographing the Park after working as a Yosemite Institute instructor teaching environmental education. He later assisted photography workshops taught by Michael Frye through the Ansel Adams Gallery. Today he continues to explore the Yosemite back country, whether in summer or winter. He now lives just outside Yosemite National Park in El Portal, California, where he teaches elementary school during the school year. Hugh Sakol’s photographs have been used by the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite Institute, and have appeared at the Yosemite Renaissance. He has converted almost entirely to digital photography, now using a Nikon D300, whereas before he often used a Bronica SQA medium format film camera and a Horseman VH-R large format View Camera.

Summer In Tuolumne Meadows By Hugh Sakols

Over the last four summers, starting in 2008, my wife Mara, and I have worked as National Park Service Volunteers. We are summer caretakers for Parsons’ Memorial Lodge and the historic McCauley Cabin in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. We are lucky enough pull this off and continue working at our “real jobs” as Educators in Yosemite National Park.

Just like the Southern Miwok people have done for thousands of years, Mara and I migrate upslope, where at 8600 ft the meadows are green, the temperatures are generally cool, and the views are striking.  Tuolumne Meadows is a glacially scoured sub alpine landscape that is the heart of Yosemite’s high country and part of what John Muir referred to as the Range of Light. To learn more about John Muir and the Sierra Nevada, see the blog post, “Philip Hyde’s Tribute To John Muir.”

It was here at Soda Springs that John Baptist Lembert, namesake of Lembert Dome, spent his summers on a 160 acre homestead where he raised Angora goats and became an expert on local butterflies. John Baptist Lembert’s only friends in the summer were sheepherders, many of whom were Basque. At this time Tuolumne Meadows was essentially a land grab. Reportedly, in the late 1860s there were thousands of grazing sheep that later John Muir described as “hooved locust.” After John Lembert’s death (he was murdered in El Portal), the McCauley brothers acquired the land where they grazed cattle and built a log cabin. The McCauley Cabin now is a park service residence, where Mara and I live come summer.

Honoring The Place Where Western Conservation Began

Hugh Sakols And Mara Dale In Front Of The Historical McCauley Cabin, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 by Hugh Sakols. Self portrait.

While at the McCauley Cabin, Mara and I have some big shoes to fill.  It was here that the western conservation movement began. John Muir saw the commercialism that was taking over Yosemite Valley and dreaded what would happen to Tuolumne Meadows. In 1889 Robert Underwood Johnson convinced John Muir to write two articles for a popular East Coast magazine. In one article John Muir described the beauty of Yosemite, and in another article John Muir proposed the need for Yosemite’s preservation. Only a year later, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill to establish Yosemite as the country’s first national preserve. Soon after Yosemite became a national park.

In 1912, the Sierra Club bought the McCauley brother’s land in hopes that it would be saved from the building of hotels, stables and other improvements. The land around Soda Springs with Parsons’ Lodge and the McCauley Cabin on it, the Sierra Club eventually seeded to the National Park Service in 1973. During the Sierra Club’s ownership, this remarkably beautiful spot brought club members together for mountain adventures and a place to discuss the protection of wild lands, many of which are now national parks. The most famous early battle was probably over the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley inside Yosemite National Park. Sierra Club leaders such as Edward Taylor Parsons, William E. Colby, and John Muir fought tooth and nail, but eventually lost the battle. Interestingly, the man Forest Service people call their first environmentalist, Gifford Pinchot, was in favor of damming Hetch Hetchy. Gifford Pinchot opposed John Muir in the ongoing public debate over building a dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley within Yosemite National Park around the turn of the century. In 1915 Parsons’ Lodge was built as a mountain headquarters and a place to reflect the work of forward thinking Sierra Club leaders.

A year after Parsons’ Lodge was built, Ansel Adams made his first trip to Yosemite National Park. After that he quickly became part of the Sierra Club where he first worked as a custodian at the LeConte Memorial and later served on the board of directors. The Sierra Club over time indoctrinated Ansel Adams to Yosemite’s High Country and the importance of preserving wilderness. This was the beginning of a close relationship between landscape photographers and conservationists.

Conservation, The Environmental Movement And Landscape Photography

Beginning in the late 1930s and 1940s, Ansel Adams and wilderness photographer Cedric Wright both contributed photographs to conservation campaigns. However, it wasn’t until 1951, when the Sierra Club sent photographer Philip Hyde on the first photography assignment ever for an environmental cause. The Sierra Club sent Philip Hyde, who had been a photography student of Ansel Adams in San Francisco, to Dinosaur National Monument to help prevent the building of two dams, again within the National Park System. The battle over Dinosaur, many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement because it combined the conservation ideals of John Muir and other turn of the century conservation leaders with the hard hitting tactics of David Brower and other environmentalists of the 1950s and 1960s. For more about David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1.” The Dinosaur battle redeemed the loss of Hetch Hetchy to the extent that it reversed the precedent set for such development within a national park. Read about the first photography assignment for an environmental cause in the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.” Activists are still working to remove Hetch Hetchy Dam and restore Yosemite Valley’s sister valley to its original pristine state.

In the decades that followed the Dinosaur battle, Philip Hyde, worked with the Sierra Club, National Audubon, Wilderness Society and other environmental groups, contributing his photographs to more environmental campaigns than any other photographer of his time. David Brower, Sierra Club Executive Director and head of the publishing program, used Philip Hyde’s widely published photographs in Sierra Club Books to help save such places as the Grand Canyon, the California Redwoods, the North Cascades and many other national treasures. The Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, not only popularized coffee table photography books and the modern environmental movement, but paved the way for photographers to be able make a living from such publications. Photographs from this time period helped spark the 1960s interest in getting back to nature and helped instigate a backpacking boom in the 1970s.

Philip Hyde’s first exposure to vast wilderness also occurred in Yosemite National Park in 1938. Philip Hyde at age 16, joined a Boy Scout backpacking trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley. To read this history see the blog post, “Lake Tenaya And Yosemite National Park.” For some years afterward, Philip Hyde visited and backpacked in Yosemite National Park until World War II. After the War, Philip Hyde studied photography under Ansel Adams. For more on Ansel Adams’ innovative photography department, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 6.” During the summer 1949 break from photography school, Ansel Adams helped Ardis and Philip Hyde land the caretakers job at Parsons’ Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows. Ardis and Philip Hyde stayed in the rustic McCauley cabin while Ardis Hyde studied for her teaching credential and Philip Hyde gleefully photographed. Future blog posts will share more about the Hyde’s Summer in Tuolumne Meadows. That summer Philip Hyde met David Brower briefly in Tuolumne Meadows, as the Sierra Club leader brought a Yosemite High Trip through the Soda Springs area. Philip Hyde and David Brower were more formally introduced later by Ansel Adams, which led to David Brower inviting Philip Hyde to act as official Sierra Club photographer for the 1950 Summer High Trip, one year before the battle over Dinosaur National Monument began to take the national stage. Read about the Sierra High Trip in the blog post, “Cedric Wright And Philip Hyde On The 1950 Sierra High Trip.”

Tuolumne Meadows And Landscape Photography Today

"Golden Reflection, Gaylor Lake" Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada High Country, California, copyright 2008 by Hugh Sakols.

(See the photograph large click: “Golden Reflection, Gaylor Lake.”)

Understanding the history and traditions of Tuolumne Meadows has helped me to realize why I am so intrigued by landscape photography.  First I have always felt the need to venture into wilderness. Second, I hope my photography advocates the importance of wilderness preservation and the complexity of nature. And third, I want to uncover Yosemite National Park as a place I have spent years exploring and observing.

While at the McCauley Cabin, some of our tasks include taking care of Parsons Memorial Lodge and assisting presenters who come each summer.  Also, I lead weekly photography walks while my wife teaches Junior Rangers.  Together each Sunday we serve coffee in the campground where we are able to talk with a very diverse group of visitors. It is not uncommon to have gritty looking backpackers who are passing through on their way along the Pacific Crest Trail, a computer geek from the Silicon Valley, and a family looking for the falsely posted church service, all together around a single camp fire.The one thing we all have in common is our love for Tuolumne and of course, caffeine. It is during these informal programs that Mara and I try to instill the values of our predecessors. We remind the visitors of the challenges Yosemite National Park faces in finding a balance between preservation and access. Furthermore, we celebrate Yosemite’s timelessness by enjoying the rustic nature of places such as Tuolumne Meadows.

When I am scheduled in the Yosemite Guide, I lead a Monday morning photography walk for the general public.  During the walk I quickly go over the basics of composition, exposure, and quality of light.  Along the way I will pull out prints I have made that illustrate these concepts and show views from the trail that I have collected over the past summers. It is fun to pass them around and not worry about people handling them.  I’ve even dropped a few on the trail. I explain that for me the end product of an image is the print, and it is always fun to carry a few in a box to share with others.

Imparting Landscape Photography’s History And Significance To Yosemite National Park’s Visitors

Beyond the basics of photography, it is more important to help visitors understand what landscape photography represents today and how it co-evolved with the creation of national parks and organizations like the Sierra Club. Early photographs have documented changes in the landscape over time whether it be a sandstone tower that is now covered in water in Glen Canyon, a 1860s view of Yosemite Valley that shows a greater abundance of black oaks, or an 1870s view of thousands of sheep grazing in Tuolumne Meadows. Hopefully modern landscape photographs will someday represent our successes, failures and our human need to connect with nature.  I think understanding this tradition will help fellow photographers be more cognizant of their own impact in the park.

I also take the opportunity to discuss our increasing detachment from the natural world which could have alarming effects on the future of our natural heritage. Today our new generation of young people spend more and more of their free time glued to a monitor and show little interest in the out of doors. In fact many children do not know how to play outside unless they are playing organized sports.  Today most Yosemite visitors walk a quarter mile or less from the road. Increasingly I find visitors who don’t quite know what to do in a place like Tuolumne Meadows. For these visitors photography is a perfect way to have fun, become observant, and connect.

I am not sure how long we will continue to live in Tuolumne Meadows during our summers. At some point Mara and I want to have more time to explore areas of the park that take more than a long weekend to find.  However, having had this experience makes my photography all the more meaningful.

June 2, 2012 Exhibition At The Ansel Adams Gallery

Local artists including Hugh Sakols will show their work at the Ansel Adams Gallery on June 2nd.  All proceeds will go to Yosemite Park El Portal School.

What makes your photography more meaningful? Have you been to Yosemite or explored its back country? In what place or places do you enjoy getting off the beaten path?

Toward a Sense of Place by Philip Hyde 1

February 9th, 2012

Marble Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park, 1964, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands, Sierra Club Books. Two miles from proposed Marble Canyon Dam site.

(See the photograph full screen: “Marble Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.” To view other photographs from the same Exhibit Format book see the photographs: “Stormlight, Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Arizona” and Navajo Wildlands Photographs In The Deserts Portfolio.)

From Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run, Text by cultural geographer Stephen C. Jett, Photographs by Philip Hyde, with Selections from Philip Hyde, Willa Cather, Oliver La Farge and Navajo Myths and Chants, Edited by Kenneth Brower, Foreword by David Brower, Sierra Club—Ballantine Books 1967–Exhibit Format Series

*Landscape Photography Blogger Note: Clarence Dutton was like the ‘John Muir’ of the Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau. As you look to explore the Colorado Plateau yourself, please be aware that the areas where people are allowed and the approaches to them have changed since 1965, especially in Canyon De Chelly National Monument. Also note that the politically correct term for the native people now is their own word, “Dineh,” in its various spellings, rather than the Spanish word “Navajo,” in common practice then.

Toward a Sense of Place By Philip Hyde

When Clarence Dutton explored the Plateau Province a hundred years ago, he saw that a visitor conditioned to the Alps, if he stayed long in this new country, would be shocked, oppressed, or horrified. While in Dutton’s days emotion about scenery was still all right, today, indifference is popular, and we tend to take someone else’s opinion about what is beautiful and flock to the recommended places. Noting this, Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac has identified the “trophy recreationist,” and urges that recreational development is “not a job of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the…human mind.” Indeed, a great increase in individual sensitivity might be achieved if park authorities spent as much effort on interpretation as on road building.

Dutton lead the way, and his insight about what would happen to a traveler in the Plateau Province certainly worked for me in the Navajo Country. The traveler needs time enough, he wrote, and: “Time would bring a gradual change. Someday he would become conscious that outlines which at first seem harsh and trivial have grace and meaning, that forms which seem grotesque are full of dignity, that magnitudes which have added enormity to coarseness have become replete with strength and even majesty. The colors which had been esteemed unrefined, immodest and glaring, are as expressive, tender, changeful and capacious of effects as any others. Great innovations, whether in art or literature, science, or in nature, seldom take the world by storm. They must be understood before they can be estimated. They must be cultivated before they can be understood.”

A woman we met at the gas station in Newcomb volunteered that she and her husband had just driven through the Navajo Reservation and that, “there’s nothing there but little round shacks. We’re headed for Colorado!”

We had reached Newcomb, about halfway between Shiprock and Gallup, crossing the Chuska Mountains on a magnificent little dirt road. It wandered in the pine forest on top, discovered little aspen-ringed ponds, and found us a superb view of Shiprock, fifty miles to the northeast. It also climaxed our afternoon with an enormous thunderstorm we watched from an eminence above Two Gray Hills. I wanted to tell the couple something about what our old road had let us see, but they were off with their tank full of gas, to collect place names in Colorado like a good trophy recreationist should, ever hurrying over the ever-increasing highways that penetrate lovely country and either lacerate it or pass it by unseen.

John Ruskin said, with the invention of the steam engine: “There will always be more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly. He will see no more by going fast, for his glory is not in going but in being.”

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Mitchell Butte from Mitchell Mesa, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah-Arizona, 1963, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands, 1967.

Do you see Monument Valley now by whizzing past its monuments on a paved road, taking lunch in Tuba City or Kyenta, and spending the night in Moab? Or are its greatest rewards still reserved for those who take the dusty little dirt road that goes down among the great buttes and who feel the rocks and sand under their wheels and feet? I recommend especially the great reward of winter time, when there may be a light skiff of snow in the dune shadows. This reward is even greater if you have also experienced Monument Valley in the heat haze and dust of mid-summer. The crisp winter air is then a special elixir.

To me, Canyon de Chelly is another scenic climax of Navajo Country, and at its best in the fall. The cottonwoods lining the canyon’s fields and sandbars glow with their own inner light, and the sun arrives with that low-angled brilliance that drives photographers into ecstasy and exhaustion. Canyon de Chelly is perhaps the most Navajo of all the park areas on the Reservation. It speaks eloquently, in the present tense, of the Navajo and Anasazi past. Here is probably the Reservation’s most spectacularly beautiful combination of colorful rock, canyons, and ancient ruins. You can drive on pavement to its fringe and soon will be able to drive the rims on high-standard highways; but travel in the canyons, where the most exciting visual action is, is subject to nature’s whims. High water, or sand quicker than usual, can stall the most ingenious mechanical substitute for feet.

There is still a lot of foot travel in the canyons. The White House Trail that drops over the rim from an overlook on the rim road crosses the wash and leads to the area’s best known ruin, perched on a ledge above the canyon bottom, with a great wall sheer above it.

In the Spring of 1965, when heavy runoff in the canyons kept even the Park Service vehicles out…

(Originally posted January 17, 2010)

(CONTINUED IN THE BLOG POST, “Toward a Sense of Place 2“)

RELATED POST: “A Sense of Place and A Changing World.”

Many museum curators, gallery owners and photo buyers consider the image all important and often overlook the significance of place, even in landscape photography. Do you feel a sense of place is important in landscape photographs? If so, why?

New Official Philip Hyde Short Video

November 17th, 2011

The Official Philip Hyde Short Video

Bob Yellowlees, proprietor of Lumiere Gallery in Atlanta is a genius for hiring Tony Casadonte as gallery manager. Tony Casadonte also builds the Lumiere Gallery search-friendly website on WordPress, presents and sells vintage prints and digital prints, oversees matting and framing, coordinates events, activities and a lecture series with the High Museum of Art, Atlanta… and… oversees the recording of videos. He directed the NEW 3:18 MINUTE PHILIP HYDE SHORT VIDEO…

Philip Hyde from Lumière on Vimeo.

The Making Of The New Video

One day Tony Casadonte told me I would receive a recorder in the mail. Seemed a bit strange, but everything is strange these days when it comes to technology. Sure enough, one day this box about 6″ X 10″ X 8″ arrived in my mailbox. I opened it up. Tony explained the contraption, “It’s only a couple hundred dollar recording machine, but we shipped it FedEx to be sure it arrived safely.” It was digital. No tapes. OK, I know I am hopelessly stuck in the 1980s when I remember my father picking up the first tape recorder commercially available from Sony. Anyway, no moving parts, amazing. Just press a button and start talking.

Tony gave me an outline of his interview points and I started speaking into the microphone to answer them. Every so often Tony interrupted and said, “Well, what about this?” or “That?” In a flash, seemed like, we had an hour and a half of me rattling on about my father pioneer landscape photographer and conservationist Philip Hyde and his work. I burned a copy of the recording right to my computer for backup, put the recorder in the box and done. Tony said he would have to edit it. OK, I agreed. He sent me several versions of the audio, cut down to three and four minutes. The editing shined in one version. Tony said, I’ll have my guy Neal go to work on this and cue up a video with music and your father’s photographs. Hopefully we will be able to make a video or two more out of the rest of the recording.

In a day or two Tony and Neal posted the newest version of the video on Vimeo and a slightly different version on YouTube. Take a look. I am amazed at the results. From my convoluted ramblings, they somehow cut a very focused, concise statement about my father that would have made him proud. Hats off to Tony Casadonte and his team, or is it Bob Yellowlees’ team? Anyway, great job gentlemen, thank you. Take a look yourself… and… don’t miss the current exhibition at Lumiere Gallery, “Messages from the Wilderness,” prominently featuring Dad’s conservation photography and the work of other great conservation photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edna Bullock, Peter Essick, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Tom Murphy, Bradford Washburn, Edward Weston and Brett Weston.

Messages From The Wilderness Exhibition

November 12-December 23, 2011

Lumiere Gallery
425 Peachtree Hills Avenue
Building 5, Suite 29B
Atlanta, GA 30305
404-261-6100

For more information about the exhibition see the blog post, “Messages From The Wilderness Opening At Lumiere Gallery.”

Messages From The Wilderness Opening At Lumiere Gallery

November 11th, 2011

Lumiere Gallery Opening: Photography as Propaganda

Messages from the Wilderness

Saturday November 12

10 am – 4 pm

Opening All Day

Exhibition: November 12-December 23, 2011

Now Extended through MARCH 31, 2012

Messages From The Wilderness Installation At Lumiere Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia, Copyright 2011 by Tony Casadonte. Note the 32X40 archival digital print of Philip Hyde's "Great Overhang, Moqui Canyon, Glen Canyon, 1964" in the center flanked by 11X14 digital prints of "Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra Nevada, California" and "Mt. Denali, Reflection Pond, Denali National Park, Alaska." Two Robert Glen Ketchum prints outside of that between the Philip Hyde prints with Philip Hyde's "Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah" and "Dogwood, Sequoia National Park, California," on the outside far ends of the main wall. Other areas of the show feature Philip Hyde's hand made vintage black and white prints of Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park and others.

Lumiere Gallery
425 Peachtree Hills Avenue – Building 5
Atlanta, GA 30305
404-261-6100

See the Lumiere Gallery website for a new video featuring David Leland Hyde talking about his father and the birth of modern environmentalism.

This exhibition features works deploying the visual power of photography to communicate and understand an appreciation of the great American Wilderness. These photographers have captured the beauty and form of nature using straight photography, documentary, pictorialism, abstraction and unusual lighting effect to communicate a story or to stimulate the viewer’s innate imagination. The work involved often has provided the foundation for major conservation campaigns.

The show includes photography by: Philip Hyde, Ansel Adams, Edna Bullock, Peter Essick, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Tom Murphy, Bradford Washburn, Edward Weston and Brett Weston.

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 1

October 20th, 2011

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series

The 2oth Century’s Biggest Advance In Landscape Photography

Part One: Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 2

October 7th, 2011

Martin Litton: Environmentalist, Conservationist, Sierra Club Director, Bush Pilot, River Guide, Hiker, Writer, Journalist, Visionary and Landscape Photographer

Continued from the blog post, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 1.”

Chiaroscurro, Sun Through Fog, Avenue Of The Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California, copyright 1964 by Philip Hyde. First published in "The Last Redwoods: Photographs And Story Of A Vanishing Scenic Resource," by Francois Leydet with photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton, in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series.

See the photograph larger here: “Avenue Of The Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California.”

After seeing Martin Litton’s feature articles in The Los Angeles Times protesting proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument, David Brower recruited the young journalist to join the Sierra Club and continue the fight against dam building and other wilderness degradation in earnest.

Martin Litton and Philip Hyde made the landscape photographs of Dinosaur National Monument that became the Sierra Club book, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers with introduction and chapter one by Pulitzer Prize novelist Wallace Stegner. The controversy over the dams in Dinosaur National Monument, along with the first quality images of the area brought home by Philip Hyde and eloquent arguments by Martin Litton in Sierra Club Board Meetings, prodded the Sierra Club Board of Directors to decide to expand the interests of the Sierra Club beyond California and the Sierra Nevada.

The battle over Dinosaur not only made the Sierra Club a national organization, but also brought the cause of conservation national recognition. A number of conservation groups including the Wilderness Society and others formed a coalition of organizations opposing the Dinosaur National Monument dams. The conservation ideals exemplified by visionaries such as Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir, were combined with new lobbying efforts, grassroots on location campaigning, full-page ads in national newspapers and other methods that became modern environmentalism.

The Dam Builders Reach For The Grand Canyon

“Post-War industrialists in league with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found their high water mark when they reached for the Grand Canyon,” Philip Hyde explained in a 2004 interview. “World wide citizen action prevented Big Dam Foolishness from getting a foothold in the Grand Canyon. Dam builder’s influence declined from then on.” Today, there is a world-wide movement to remove dams on major rivers, but in the 1950s and 1960s, conservation groups did not yet have much power. David Brower, leader of the new environmental movement and Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and Martin Litton hatched a plan to stop the Grand Canyon dams. They organized a river trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. The river trip participants included the who’s who of the day in landscape photography, geology, ecology and other sciences and disciplines. Martin Litton acted as lead boatman, Francois Leydet joined the trip as a writer, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde as photographers, David Brower as filmmaker, to mention only a few. Their creative efforts and scientific observations became the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book, Time And The River Flowing: Grand Canyon. The book went out to every member of Congress and with other written material circled the globe and caused a worldwide outpouring of support for saving the Grand Canyon.

Also on Martin Litton’s list of conservation successes was the making of Redwood National Park. The centerpiece of the redwoods campaign, the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book The Last Redwoods: Photographs And Story Of A Vanishing Scenic Resource with text by Francois Leydet and photographs again by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton, helped the Sierra Club establish its argument for a Redwood National Park between the California state parks along Redwood Creek where the largest redwoods remained rather than a Redwood National Park proposed by Save The Redwoods League that merely combined existing state parks. Read more on the Redwoods campaign and the making of The Last Redwoods with Martin Litton and Philip Hyde in future blog posts.

Martin Litton was the 185th known person to float down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1955 and founded the company Grand Canyon Dories in 1971. He ran commercial river trips using small oar-powered wooden boats originally used for fishing in Oregon and known as drift boats, but adapted by Martin Litton for use in whitewater and renamed Grand Canyon Dories. Martin Litton wrote the introduction to a number of noted books on the Grand Canyon and other environmentally sensitive wilderness areas and national parks, as well as working as managing editor for Sunset Magazine. During his work for Sunset Magazine, Martin Litton used various made up names in print for his photo credits because Sunset Magazine did not want him to actively participate in controversial environmental campaigns.

At Age 94 Martin Litton Is Still Fighting For Redwoods

Though history has not given Martin Litton as much credit as others, at the present age of 94 he continues to work on various environmental campaigns and fly his Cessna 195. He even rowed a Dory through the Grand Canyon at age 90. Martin Litton held a seat on the Sierra Club Board of Directors from 1964 to 1973. He helped found the American Land Conservancy and served on its executive committee for 10 years. In 2005 he ran as a write-in candidate for the Sierra Club Board of Directors, but he did not win the election. His current focus is preventing the logging of Giant Sequoia Redwood Trees in Sequoia National Monument. See an excerpt from the recent film on Martin Litton. He still speaks regularly on conservation, often with outrage at the logging of the Giant Sequoia Trees:

The mission of the Forest Service is to get rid of all the nation’s forests so they can start over. Under the guise of removing hazardous trees, they are taking out all the dead trees that are serving as homes for woodpeckers and owls. Their credo is to remove trees that are dead, dying, or in danger of dying. That’s every tree in the world… I feel sorry for my grandchildren. The only true optimist is a pessimist. You have to realize how bad things are before you can improve them.

Stay tuned for excerpts from my fiery interview of Martin Litton in the next blog post in this series, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 3.” Also in future blog posts read more stories of Philip Hyde and Martin Litton working or traveling together: a river trip up the Klamath River, down the Colorado river, flying over the California Coastal Redwoods, through Grand Canyon National Park.