Posts Tagged ‘landscape photography’

Book Review – Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks

May 18th, 2018

Book Review

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by Q. T. Luong

The Ethics of Protecting and Promoting Our National Parks

Cover of Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by Q. T. Luong. (Click to view large.)

Americans invented National Parks and in return, National Parks and other wild lands of the new continent shaped Americans. Yet the influence of cities and automobiles has eclipsed that of the national parks in all ways except through our collective imagination and grandest vision of all that makes up an ideal civilization. We must be careful to perpetuate these fragile image ties to our wilderness past, or forever lose our identity as part of nature. Maintaining this vision will also ensure our national parks remain wilderness untrammeled. Otherwise, we lose the piece of our core selves closest to our heart.

The age-old debate still rages over whether to invite more people out to enjoy nature and thus develop a larger fan base, or keep quiet and try to stop people from increasing the wear, tear, vandalism and man-made infrastructure necessary to simultaneously maintain access and protect our national treasures.

“For every place there will always be people that want to exploit it,” my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde said. “And, there will always be people—hopefully—that want to save it and keep it as it is. Even with the risk of inviting the 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.” Later in life, in the early years of the millennium, after hearing how overrun and trampled certain locations had become, Dad said he still wondered whether his books benefitted or harmed nature.

The Advantages of Large Format Film and of a Well-Written Text

Grand Teton from Schwabacher Landing, Midday, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see large.)

If this best in class large format book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, with text and photography by Quang-Tuan Luong were a film, it would win multiple Academy Awards as one of the best efforts ever for recruiting new national park fans and encouraging old fans to renew themselves through new visits. My impression is that Mr. Luong accomplished such a masterpiece through sheer will, discipline and diligence.

When you open Treasured Lands for the first time you revel in the sublime realism and beauty that can only be achieved by large format film or a $40,000 digital camera rendered through the subtle, well-balanced color palette of a well reproduced photography book. To accompany this colossal collection of effective and moving illustrations, Q. T. Luong wrote a text that flows and delivers just as well as the images. His punchy prose keeps your interest. It is loaded with facts, but not everyday facts, novel, captivating facts, figures and surprising observations that give you the feeling of having smartly and efficiently obtained the essence of each place. Just starting at page one and turning a few pages to the contents showing all the parks, I felt like I had already embarked on an adventure. I was learning, absorbing and celebrating our national heritage. I held in my hands all the parks in one fat volume.

Art, Propaganda and Photograph Location Disclosure

Cannonball and Badlands at Night, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

But is it art? Critics and others might ask. I would say the book itself is a work of art, the photographs are mainly documentary but contain artistic elements, some of them more than others. Some art critics might say the book is propaganda. They might perceive it as a kind of glorified guide book because Luong provides specific directions to each of his compositions in each park. Some art connoisseurs, gallerists and museum curators consider any art that is not solely for the sake of art itself is propaganda. This traces back to critics John Szarkowski and Nancy Newhall, as instigated by Ansel Adams and Beaumont Newhall around the time they co-founded the first museum photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ansel Adams in workshops and his student and teaching associate Philip Hyde in a number of places both in writing and in interviews spoke against giving directions to image locations. Both photography mentors felt the practice inhibited student resourcefulness and creativity, as well as hobbling the development of individual vision. I usually tend to agree with Dad and Ansel and believe these details are a flaw in Treasured Lands.

However, times have changed and photography in many cases is self-taught or no longer taught with the same rigor. Many photographers today find location specifics an asset and have praised Treasured Lands most of all for this reason. Either way, still today the best guidebooks offer suggestions and ideas, but do not give exact specifics. Nonetheless, even for purists like me, Luong somehow gets away with providing specific directions because the sheer scope of his undertaking and achievement force us to take him seriously as more than a mere tour guide. To go with the directions, I would have liked to see an outdoor ethics statement, or the Leave No Trace Principles. However, between the photographs and text, Luong portrays and describes these natural places with such reverence and admiration that his readers will hopefully take on at least some his tone and outlook, which will cause them to treat our amazing national treasures with respect.

With new adventures on every page turn, my resistance to location disclosure fell away almost immediately under the sheer power of what I was seeing and reading. Unfortunately, I did find the maps a bit hard to read due to their tiny type font. However, I enjoyed reading how to reach a smattering of the photo locations. Meanwhile for the most part I became caught up in reading other content, which while obviously extensive and geologically rich, came accessibly served up in one to two page bytes. These are rewarding and satisfying because each section acts in part like a mini-tour of the park it covers. The text is well thought out, well-organized, captivating, diverse and packed with actionable instructions and tips to make your travels more enjoyable and photographically productive.

The Many Reasons Treasured Lands Is Not Propaganda

Haleakala Crater from White Hill, Midday, Haleakala National Park, Hawaii by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Regardless, I have other reasons not to dismiss Treasured Lands as mere propaganda. At face value, rather than feeling commercially viable at all, Treasured Lands feels so heavy in weight, so chock full of striking imagery and so bulging with smart information that once you have it in your hands you feel that you have made a great deal to have it for under $100. The publisher’s retail is $65 for an autographed copy from TreasuredLandsBooks.com. Currently you can even get it for as little as $44.19 with free shipping from Amazon.

Large two-page evening panoramas sprinkled across the pages bring the parks depicted into vivid awareness while taking us partially into abstraction with the extreme light and shadows of dusk. Sweeping vistas throughout the book give a sense of place and overwhelm us with the vastness and remoteness of wilderness. Luong visited many of the parks multiple times, which translates to years of hard work, days and nights of grinding travel in all conveyances and over all manner of terrain, which also translates into daunting logistics and planning.

By no means did Q. T. Luong make the expected photographs of each or even many of the national parks. In Lassen Volcanic National Park, as one example of many, he skipped the most popular views, especially of the mountain, but with the exquisite detail and texture of large format film he captured frames that showed the character of the park just as well without being cliché. In discussions with other photographers, I found most of them said that the book has a good balance between more innovative images and what some might call “the obvious shots” that are all but required to identify certain landmarks in some parks. Besides, in the visual arts people are drawn to at least a nuance, if not a good amount of familiarity, as Atlantic editor Derek Thompson points out in his book, Hit Makers. Hits are made from images that look new, but also remind us of other images before in some way.

Some of the Best Illustrative Landscape Photographs Ever Made

Cove of Arches and Cove Arch at night. Arches National Park, Utah by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Speaking of hits, in some of the national parks, Luong managed to make what I consider some of the best photographs ever made of certain areas. This was true in a number of unexpected places such as in Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite, where Luong shows us the only photograph I have ever seen that lives up to the early 1900s Bureau of Reclamation vision of what the reservoir would look like, as sold to the American public. Pinnacles National Park is challenging to photograph. Perhaps his many visits enabled Luong to do something extra special there by knowing the most striking compositions and capitalizing on the best possible light. In the Sierra, he photographed snow caked on Giant Sequoia trunks, but did it better than it has been done before, with more majesty and more mood. I love Luong’s photograph of Alabama Hills. It is more about the Sierra Crest and the terrain, than any gimmicky cliché pseudo-arch foreground window framing the distant peaks. Luong omits the Merced River altogether in Yosemite, except in the higher elevation roaring cascades below Vernal Falls.

The differences between documentary and art photography are blurring anyway, but Luong is perhaps one of those who push the two definitions inward toward each other. His photographs for Treasured Lands overall are documentary, but even the most representational and least creative works are artistically strong and well seen from a design perspective with luscious forms and beautiful lines. It is quite evident that Luong has studied the great works of photography and art and applied what he has observed. Documentary, almost standard issue images that essentially say, “Ok, here we are at Joshua Tree,” are the best working basis for a large book on all of the national parks. However, Luong keeps his book fresh by mixing in nighttime photographs, ridge silhouettes, a few wildly tilted horizons and other Pictorialist effects such as slow shutter speeds for silky water, movement blurs and wind blurs. Luong also puts in the extra effort and expense to provide variety in other ways by getting up in airplanes, scaling mountain peaks, climbing walls, swimming underwater, chartering various boats horses, burros and other unusual transportation. Meanwhile, he also mixes in enough expected imagery such as the lava dripping into the ocean in Hawaii, Tunnel View from Yosemite, the Teton Barn, Mt. Denali and Wonder Lake and the circular petroglyphs on Signal Hill near the Tucson Mountains in Saguaro National Park.

Realism, Hard Work, Diligence, Feedback, Revisions and Quality

Margerie Glacier from Tarr Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Another significant reason large format film was the ideal medium for this national parks project lies in how the high fidelity gives reflections, textures and details a much more interesting and realistic look. With large format, a nature photographer can go after and make ordinary objects extraordinary. The resulting photographs also work better when they contain flaws and extra grit, rather than having to be sterilized by over retouching in Photoshop. For example: I love that Luong left the house in his Zion photograph of Towers of the Virgin. Many digital photographers take it out of their images of this iconic location. The large format color is also so lush and true without any false-rendering of tones or over-saturation.

Part of what lifted up the text and images to far above average, was the amount of advice and feedback Quang-Tuan Luong asked for along the way. He was wise to get Gary Crabbe to help him edit the photographs and to get advice from many other experts at each stage in the production process. The first time Tuan and I met in San Jose, he asked me for ideas on how he could come out with yet another national parks book and make it different from any that had been done before. This was a smart question to ask about such a book and a good place to start in attracting my interest and participation. My first answer was that we do not need another book on the national parks. However, as I began to think about how Tuan opened himself up to input and ideas, I felt I had to offer more. Besides, when he asked me about making it a guidebook for photographers as well as a picture book for everyone else, I told him I did not like guidebooks. Some help I was. Yet he patiently and gently persisted in asking more questions and asking me to read some of his text. I agreed to do so, somewhat reluctantly. It took me a long time to offer much feedback, but as I began to, I saw that Tuan had put a great deal of thought and effort into the project, the text no less than the photography. As the book took shape and began to emerge from the realm of ideas, the quiet strength of what he was doing became evident. Let this be a word of caution to all aspiring creative people out there: never give up on what you love or on your big idea just because it has been done before. Do it better. Q. T. Luong certainly did and the world and the field are far richer for it. However, he did it not by force of will or ego, but through good listening. Remember that too, above all else. He also did it with kindness and generosity. My copy of Treasured Lands is the limited edition version that Tuan personally sent me. He numbered it by hand 77 of 150, signed it and wrote me a personal note. How cool is that?

A Tribute to the American Land, the Art of Place and Our National Heritage That Will Live On

Cypress trees Reflected in Cedar Creek from Canoe, Congaree National Park, South Carolina by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

It may be due to the large format camera, or perhaps Luong and his sensibilities, or all three, regardless an outstanding sense of place permeates every page of Treasured Lands. Many are close behind, but the national park depictions deserving the most recognition in establishing place in my opinion are Cuyahoga Valley, Death Valley, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier Bay, Great Sand Dunes, Guadalupe Mountains, Haleakala and Yellowstone. In Yellowstone, Luong includes Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs and a fairly unique framing of Yellowstone Falls, but also shows us many locations with which we are not familiar. In Death Valley, Luong gives us perhaps more of the usual images than in other places, but the additional images show us so much more as to render the place very well overall. Luong exhibits a certain flair for Alaska as his images in each of the parks there for the most part are both unexpected and extraordinary in the lexicon of all landscape photographs.

Q. T. Luong’s massive work consists of not so much a single unity of style, but of several style themes that run throughout the book. This cohesiveness is quite an accomplishment for a project that took so many years to complete. With all of the elements that went into making the book creating a synergy that lifts it above other work in the genre, it also transcends its minor shortcomings, or perceived structural flaws that we readers bring to it based on our own biases.

The sheer volume of work, in and of itself is impressive, but the consistent quality and exemplary execution make Treasured Lands a truly monumental achievement. Even as the son of Philip Hyde, or perhaps especially as the son of Philip Hyde, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Treasured Lands is one of the greatest large format landscape photography books ever published. It will live on and influence photographers for years and perhaps even generations to come. These statements, considering what has been accomplished in the genre before, hopefully transcend anything else I could say, or have said above, whether critical or supportive.

Living the Good Life 6: Search for the Good Life

February 27th, 2018

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Six: Ideas From and Review of Chapter One—We Search for the Good Life

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences.“)

“Such is the superiority of rural occupations and pleasures, that commerce, large societies, or crowded cities, may be justly reckoned unnatural. Indeed the very purpose for which we engage in commerce is, that we may one day be enabled to retire to the country, where alone we picture to ourselves days of solid satisfaction and undisturbed happiness. It is evident that such sentiments are natural to the human mind.

~ John Loudon, A Treatise on Forming, Improving and Managing Country Residences, 1806

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Lower Lawn, Raspberries, Apple Orchard, Raised Beds, Midsummer, Rough Rock, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. After return from Midwest travels.

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I interviewed her for possible magazine articles about her locally popular organic gardening, preserving and food preparation. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living. They lived a low impact sustainable lifestyle long before “sustainable” became a word or a trend.

Because Mom passed on suddenly, I only ever made one tape recording of me interviewing her. I regret not having started sooner and filled a cabinet full of tapes of her. After that first recording session on a bleak January day, she gave me her personal copy of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. She first paused to hold the book to her heart, put it in my hands with weight and gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

This series of blog posts looks at how Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail in pursuit of flora, fauna and photographs, adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.”

Part Six: Searching for the Good Life—Based on Chapter One

After the Hydes experienced a series of setbacks and mishaps while attempting to make a life and a living in Carmel, they first moved to Casablanca, Morocco, where they worked for an American company that planned and built military bases. Stay tuned for more on Morocco in future blog posts. Working in Morocco with little overhead helped them get ahead financially and rebuilt their confidence as Dad had great success at work mentoring another photographer. Don’t miss the earlier blog post in this series, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.” Also for more about the Hydes’ early career, rising to meet life challenges with mentoring from Ansel Adams and touching briefly on their adventures in Morocco, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 5,” and “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 6.”

The blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel,” ends with Mom and Dad returning to the mountains and finally acquiring land where they could build a home. However, before this became possible, they did a great deal of soul searching, home location research, and made a study of various gardening approaches, building methods and house designs.

In Living the Good Life, Helen and Scott Nearing described how they lost their livelihood in the Great Depression and grew weary of the worsening conditions and limitations of city life. By the time the Back to the Land Movement gained momentum on the West Coast after World War II, the Hydes and their like-minded contemporaries wished to escape the city and “Live in the country, in a decent, simple, kindly way,” as the Nearings put it.

In an interview by the now defunct Darkroom Photography Magazine, more recently republished in the blog post, “Philip Hyde at Home in the Wilds,” Dad disavowed the idea that he and Mom lived “too far” from any cities or even large towns.

“I don’t think it’s isolation, I think it’s insulation,” Dad told the Darkroom Photography interviewer. “We’re insulated from a lot of urban influences that I’m not all that interested in. Don’t get me wrong… I like people… But I guess I like them in small quantities… What’s most important to me is to be able to look out the window and see the changes of the seasons, or the rain pouring down, or the stars at night…”

While livelihood stood out among other considerations in looking for the Good Life for the Nearings, Dad had a sense, even a kind of faith, that if he lived in the wilderness that he wished to defend with photography, prosperity would follow. Mom and Dad made their exodus from the San Francisco Bay Area during the boom just after The War, while the Nearings left New York City during the Great Depression twenty years earlier. The Nearings’ observations at the time apply just as much today, now eight decades later and certainly applied during the cold war when Mom and Dad were settling in the mountains.

If profit accumulation in the hands of the rich and powerful continued to push the economy toward ever more catastrophic depressions; if the alternative to depression, under the existing social system, was the elimination of the unmarketable surplus through the construction and uses of ever more deadly war equipment, it was only a question of time before those who depended upon the system for livelihood and security would find themselves out in the cold or among the missing. We disapproved of a social order activated by greed and functioning through exploitation, acquisition and accumulation.

The Nearings explored Europe, Asia and much of North America before deciding to remain in the Northeastern U.S. for the seasonal aesthetic beauty of big snow in the winter, budding greenery in the spring, heat and swimming in summer and the “burst of colors in the fall.” Physically they discovered that “the changing weather cycle is good for health and adds a zest to life.” As can be read about more in the blog post, “Living the Good Life 3: The Change of Seasons,” Mom, Dad and myself in my time, all have loved the change of seasons.

The Nearings had a threefold purpose they sought in the ideal life:

  1. “A life based on the values of simplicity, freedom from anxiety or tension, an opportunity to be useful and to live harmoniously.”
  2. To make a living in conditions that “enlarge joy in workmanship, give a sense of achievement… promote integrity and self-respect… assure a large measure of self-sufficiency… and make it easier to guarantee solvency…”
  3. “Leisure during a considerable portion of each day, month or year, which might be devoted to avocational pursuits free from the exacting demands of bread labor, to satisfying and fruitful association with one’s fellows, and to individual and group efforts directed toward social improvement.”

“I’m not really trying to play the money game,” Dad said. “Photography has provided a living, not a bad living at all, but when I left the city… I knew that I was leaving behind the opportunity to make lots of money. I think that when I first chose photography, I knew I was choosing the pleasures of creativity over the consolations of wealth. I define success for myself in terms of lifestyle. Success is freedom and opportunity to do what I want to do.”

For the Nearings the “road from New York City to the wilderness was short in miles but far-reaching in social consequences.”

We were leaping from the economic and social sophistication of a metropolis to a neighborhood in which few of the adults and none of the youngsters had ever visited a large city, in which every house was heated with wood and lighted with kerosene. In the first year of our stay we piled the children of several neighbor families in the back of our truck and took them to get their first glimpse of the ocean, to see their first train, to attend their first movie and treated them to their first ice cream soda.

The Nearings started as “summer folk,” who are disliked by the local population because they “do not intend to stay long or work much.” “Summer residents do no great harm if they occupy abandoned land, or marginal land unfit for agriculture. However, many of them let their pastures go back to woodlots, which is detrimental to the agriculture of the state when the land goes out of production. The more summer people the more demand for factory goods and specialties in stores shipped in from out of state. “Summer folk,” for the most part, obtain their dollars out of state and exchange them for canned goods in the local market rather than growing their own produce.

The social consequences of turning the countryside into a vacationland are far more sinister than the economic results. What is needed in any community are individuals, householders, villagers and townsmen living together and cooperating day in, day out, year after year, with a sufficient output of useful and beautiful products to pay for what they consume and a bit over. This is solvency in the best social sense. Solvency of this nature is difficult or impossible except in an all-year-round community.

Therefore, the Nearings soon became all-year-round residents of Vermont. The Hydes also started as summer residents in the mountains. Their first residence in Plumas County at Lake Almanor was at the Fox Farm, a small community where they knew the Kurtzes and the Kurtzes knew most of the others. The summer of 1948, when Dad worked in the Cheney Mill in Greenville, was Ardis and Philip’s first summer after their marriage in June 1947 and their first summer in the mountains. The next summer they also spent in the wilderness. Ansel Adams helped the Hydes obtain a job at the Parson’s Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. They were to live in the renowned McCauley Cabin for two months and act as caretakers of the Sierra Club owned Parson’s Lodge for the summer, talking to visitors about the Sierra Club’s work and making photographs. Dad sung the praises of mountain life:

Went out this afternoon in the late low angle light and made more negatives of rocks, trees and Cathedral Peak, a photogenic, but difficult scene. We’re really beginning to realize what we have here in Tuolumne Meadows. We have no clock or watch. We eat when our stomachs announce the time for it and go to bed when it seems like the thing to do. We get up when we’ve had enough sleep. We feel no strain toward getting something completed by a certain span of time—it just takes until it’s done. This is altogether a wonderful way to live. We’re busy now laying plans for making it a permanent way of life. Why strain for security in the city when you can live in the mountains each day to the utmost—never seeking for tomorrow because you’re busy living today? Living is a full-time job—why relegate it to the leisure hours left after a hard day at the office? Why slave for retirement at 65 when all you mean by retirement is freedom to live. You can live now, live today. These Tuolumne days seem to bring out ever more clearly the things hinted at in our Greenville days and these sojourns in the mountains bring us into increasing contact with those who have found ways to live in the wilderness.

The Nearings 20 years earlier in Vermont were also looking for ways to live in the mountains full-time. They laid out their garden to produce a year around crop that more than fed their family. Another piece of the income puzzle turned out to be saving and buying properties in the neighborhood to operate as wood lots for firewood. Land was still very cheap at a handful or two of dollars an acre. The forests were good sources of income for many rural towns.

One piece of property the Nearings bought from Frank Hoard. He had licensed his land to Floyd Hurd and his wife and 11 children to harvest the maple syrup under a share agreement when the sap ran in the spring. The Nearings continued the same share agreement, ended up with half of the maple syrup harvest, and discovered that “maple syrup in Vermont is better than cash. It sells readily and does not depreciate.”

Here was something on which we had not counted. In a syrup season lasting from four to eight weeks, owning only the maple trees, the sugar house and some poor tools, and doing none of the work, we got enough syrup to pay our taxes and insurance, to provide us with all the syrup we could use through the year, plenty to give away to our friends and to sell. We realized that if we worked at sugaring ourselves, syrup would meet our basic cash requirements. We were surprised and delighted to learn that here might be the answer to our problem of making a living amid the boulders scattered over the green hills of Vermont… The possibility of sugaring for a living answered the second question: how to finance the good life. Our next job was to determine the way in which the good life was to be lived.

The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living The Good Life 9.” The next two blog posts, Parts 7 and 8 in the series, will cover the ins and outs of various plans and designs for Living the Good Life. Part 7 will further examine the similarities and differences in methods and lifestyles between the Hydes and Nearings.

(Read more, “Living the Good Life 7: Nearings’ vs. Hydes’ Design for Living.”)

Happy Thanksgiving From Hyde Fine Art and Philip Hyde Photography…

November 23rd, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!!!

Fall Indian Rhubarb in Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Double click on image to see larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am grateful for warm wood stoves on cool Fall days.

I am grateful for a good, reliable roof,

For a strong, well-made house that my father designed and built.

I am grateful for and to all of my friends,

Those far away and those who have sat at my table, shared a meal and raised a glass with me.

I am grateful for rain, snow, lakes, rivers and the whole water cycle on Earth that sustains life.

I am grateful for the wilderness around me, home to my animal and plant friends.

Thank God we live in a country with a Constitution and where the spirit of the law keeps us free.

I am grateful for the internet, as much as I like and dislike it, it gives power to the people,

It helps us communicate, show photographs, organize and keep our rights and freedoms.

I am grateful that people here and everywhere are willing to fight for our way of life.

Thank Heavens we are willing to fight to have economic equality, clean water and air.

I am grateful that in this country so far, I do not have to fight all the time,

I am fortunate to have peace of mind, quiet and a place away from the worst troubles of the world.

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.”

The New Golden Decade by Steidl – Book Review

September 25th, 2017

Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-55

By William Heick, Ira H. Latour and C. Cameron Macauley, edited by Ken Ball and Victoria Whyte Ball

Book Review

The New Cover of The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-55.

Cutting Edge of World Art Then, Publishing Today

A completely new, redesigned, re-edited and revised version of the Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-55, published by renowned photography book publisher Steidl based in Gottingen, Germany, has been selling steadily in the United States for close to a year. The new Golden Decade has already sparked glowing reviews by many major newspapers and magazines, instigated book signings at some of America’s most prominent bookstore venues and catalyzed a handful of exhibitions at major museums, galleries and art centers.

This year, Steidl, the book, or the photographers have been featured in USA Today, the New Yorker and many other prominent publications. Mainstay European newspaper, The Guardian, hailed the Golden Decade as the book about “the school that turned photography into art.” Beyond the Curtain, touted as Southern California’s premier art and society magazine, extolled the Golden Decade photography exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum as “not for the eye to miss” and “a special glimpse into California’s progressive cultural history.” The Beyond the Curtain review revealed the influential ties between Golden Decade photography and the world art scene, as well as the East Coast art establishment. The article in Beyond the Curtain showed how the West Coast, specifically the California School of Fine Arts, renamed the San Francisco Art Institute, between its painters and photographers, at the time became the world’s cutting edge expression of modernism.

Only five of the 35 photographers with portfolios in the book are still living, while none of the original authors William Heick, Ira H. Latour and C. Cameron Macauley are still with us. As a result, the book editors, Ken Ball and Victoria Whyte Ball are all but worn out by an extended season of bookstore events that launched at the end of last October with a book signing at The Strand in New York City and continues throughout California and other major art markets. For more about the development of the new Golden Decade at Steidl and a list of all 35 photographers see the Landscape Photography Blogger article, “The Golden Decade Book to be Published by Gerhard Steidl.

The New Golden Decade Book Versus the Old Book

Steidl’s new design for the Golden Decade is less folksy and not as loaded with memorabilia, but more artful, chic, streamlined and clean, though the book still weighs in at 416 pages. The book is far from sleek, but the design on each page is sleek, spacious and crisp. The book overall is less busy and more pleasing to the eye than the earlier self-published version. A section in the beginning now tells how the book came to be, followed by the feature essay in which Ira H. Latour, in easy-reading prose tells the story of the founding of the photography department by Ansel Adams and California School of Fine Arts director Douglas MacAgy. For more on how the Golden Decade began see the blog post, “The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts.

From obtaining funding through the Columbia Foundation, to securing facilities, the radio announcement, the first classes, launching the full-time program, abstract expressionism and much more, Latour’s essay informs, but does not overwhelm. Ansel Adams modeled the school on a rigorous piano conservatory approach to hands-on practice and set up the curriculum based on his famous Zone System. Early on a few students complained that the advertising promised courses by Ansel Adams just as he had become scarce at the school while working on his Guggenheim project photographing the national parks. The complaining faded when Ansel Adams hired Minor White, who in turn brought in prominent photographers to teach including Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, Lisette Model, Eliot Finkels, Frederick W. Quandt, Jr., Clyde Childress from the Art Center School, Robert McAllister, Homer Page, Rose Mandel and others. Beaumont and Nancy Newhall even gave a few lectures. The most anticipated student outings were to visit Edward Weston and Brett Weston at Wildcat Hill in Carmel, as well as photography field trips with Edward Weston out to Pt. Lobos State Reserve.

Minor White taught his, at the time somewhat confusing, but later much lauded Space Analysis. Benjamin Chinn, Philip Hyde, C. Cameron Macauley and others who wrote or talked about Space Analysis each had different understandings of it, but in June of 1952, the American Annual of Photography published an article by Minor White that defined Space Analysis as simply “The Use of Space in Defining Pictures.” C. Cameron Macauley’s essay in the Golden Decade also has provides readers with an understandable summary. Space Analysis brought the photographer’s awareness to vacant space, filled space and the relationships between objects and space, with more emphasis on the space than the objects. Students applied Space Analysis both before exposure while looking at the ground glass and after the production of a finished print.

Besides teaching portrait and landscape photography with large format cameras, White encouraged the study of motion by studying rush hour and doing street photography using “mini cameras,” that is, medium format and 35 mm. He also promoted the photographic interpretation of other arts including sculpture, plays, various other forms of performance and festivals. Students photographed the lively Fillmore District, the coast along Highway 1, industrial and architectural subjects with real world assignments by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Stanford University, the City of Mendocino, the Gold Country, ghost towns and many other locations and clients all over Northern California.

Essays By Star CSFA Students

The essays by William Heick, C. Cameron Macauley, Ira H. Latour and others illuminate all aspects of student endeavor, both the day and night classes, student social gatherings, the striking philosophical differences between Minor White and Edward Weston and between Minor White and Ansel Adams. The latter at times brought on heated classroom discussions. Latour’s essay in particular offers an insightful, incisive dissecting not only of technical, creative and academic aspects of the photography program, but of the philosophy and character of both instructors and key innovative students.

Separate essays, all rearranged for better flow in this new Steidl version of the Golden Decade, also cover student print exchanges, a student print-based fundraising event, the world-famous 1954 “Perceptions” show at the San Francisco Museum of Art and the founding of Aperture magazine with several students including Philip Hyde, Benjamin Chinn and William Heick, being featured in early issues. Another essay described the students hanging out and later mounting a show at Vesuvio’s Bistro in the bustle of San Francisco’s North Beach District, which soon after became the home neighborhood of the Beat Generation poets. “Vesuvio’s is usually crowded with painters, photographers, craftsmen and sighseers,” wrote C. Cameron Macauley.

An essay by Pat Harris, “A Woman’s Perspective” explained that though most of the men had just come out of Word War II and were going to art school backed by the G.I. Bill, the primarily non-veteran women enrolled in the classes had to scrape and pay for school on their own. People kept saying to Pat Harris that science was not for women at each school she attended previously, but Ansel accepted her into the photography program and with mentoring from Imogen Cunningham she thrived.

Similarities, Differences and Influences in Student Photographs

Students at the school came from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, but the similarities that ran through many of the photographs do not end at the often-evident influence of Adams, Weston and White, but begin with it and go beyond it. Emerging from World War II, the country, the world and San Francisco in particular, had tremendous creative energy and productivity, while at the same time civilization carried the weight of what it had seen and endured, moving past it with transcendence and new purpose. Aspects of all of this are evident in the photographs, as well as meanings beneath the surface in most of the images. Edward Weston said, “To photograph a rock, make it look like a rock, but be more than a rock.”

The student portfolios exhibit a quiet intensity with clean lines, a new take on the modernist aesthetic, with room around subjects, objects well-placed in space, whether through space analysis or by emulating the quiet balance conveyed by Edward Weston. Many of the students’ photographs exhibit a strong design element. All are carefully conceived. For more about the contemporary exhibitions of the photographs starting in 2010 see the blog post, “Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening.

Ansel Adams spoke of photographs representing a spiritual experience. The Golden Decade nature photographs exemplify either subtle or more obvious post-war transcendence. The landscape photographs contain some kind of spiritual quality, either through the use of light, or the arrangement of the subjects. Symbolism, ironic juxtaposition and the careful handling of negative and positive space around objects is as important as the objects and people themselves. The influence of Minor White also shows in the patterns and psychological emphasis, sometimes on humor, sometimes on tragedy, but always giving added meaning to the images. Metaphysics often shows or is alluded to in the street and people photographs as well. Pirkle Jones, William Heick, Gerald Ratto, David Johnson and many of the others expressed their greatest artistry in their photographs of people.

The first photograph in the student portfolios, “Nun and Child” by Ruth-Marion Baruch, like many others in the book, was clearly best expressed in black and white rather than in color. The nun’s habit with it’s black and stark white oversized collar contrasted with various grays and off-whites of the surrounding children all framed in a dark doorway. Baruch’s “Benicia” also juxtaposed innocence, optimism and the liveliness of youth in the foreground with the disappointment, unfairness and misfortune of life in the background. The images of Philip Hyde, Stan Zrnich and the other landscape photographers tended to speak of timelessness and at the same time remind us that we are here by either grace or accident and that this moment, this vivid now is fleeting. ‘Gather ye photographs while ye may.’ The Golden Decade shines on forever and glows golden for only one bright decade. It continues on and ended just yesterday: a book worth learning from and keeping safe for studying over and over; a time in history worth struggling to grasp and hold onto whether you are a historian, collector, photographer or artist in another medium.

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.

Favorite Photographs of 2016

January 2nd, 2017

David Leland Hyde’s Personal Favorite Photographs of 2016

Jim Goldstein at JMG Galleries Blog first started this group photoblog project in 2007. The blog project has run every year since. I have participated each year since 2010. The concept is simple: each photography blogger who wants to take part, near the end of each year, puts together his or her “best” or “favorite” photographs from that year. Once each respective photoblogger posts a blog post of his best photographs of the year, he then fills out a small form on Jim Goldstein’s blog. After a certain date, Jim then makes another blog post containing a list of all of the “best of the year” blog posts along with a link to each of them.

During the year 2016, while I concentrated on writing and other projects, I made fewer exposures than in any other year since 2009 when I switched to digital. I made about 10 percent or less of the number of images I made in 2015. Not only did I photograph less often, I made far fewer images each time I went out. Still, I discovered that not only did the overall quality go up, I made a much higher ratio of portfolio worthy or near portfolio worthy images than ever before when I was less selective. My hard drives and extra disk spaces are thanking me. It is satisfying and confidence building to know you do no have to make hoards of images to “get the shot,” or to make meaningful photographs, whichever of the two you prefer.

The below photographs are all single-exposure, no bracketing, no HDR, no blends. I am not against these processes per se, but I find I do my strongest work without them. Particularly when photographing people, in the field I work intuitively, more often quite slowly with faster lurches when necessary. My nature images come from a deeper, tranquil place, both outside and within, but even with landscape photography, I like a less-perfected, rougher and quicker approach to post-processing. I do bracket for exposure, but rarely end up using the resulting files in combination. I often find a single image within the bracket works just as well in much less time, or I end up using a different photograph.

I replace the traditional film darkroom methods of dodging and burning, that is, lightening and darkening certain areas, by using Photoshop for post-processing. I control contrast, shadow and highlight intensity with Photoshop levels, curves and a hopefully tasteful limited application of vibrance and saturation. In this way, I use the tools of the digital darkroom for similar purposes as film photographers use traditional post-processing. However, I generally have much more control over all areas of the image and the resulting archival chromogenic and digital prints than even the old large format masters like my father, conservation photography pioneer Philip Hyde. For more information about each image and to see them even larger visit my new website: Hyde Fine Art at http://www.hydefineart.com/ . Not all of these “Sweet 16 for 2016” photographs are up on the site yet, but they all will be soon.

Mt. Lassen From California Highway 89, Winter by David Leland Hyde. I have always wanted to make a photograph from this spot, but this was the first time I could get up there after a fresh snow and under the right conditions for a decent image. I was on my way to a meeting and stopping to make a few exposures made me late, but it was a “now or never” situation.

Fall on Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California by David Leland Hyde. I love roaming Spanish Creek and Indian Creek with or without camera in the autumn of the year. Fall in Plumas County in the headwaters of the Feather River is like no other place on Earth. Certainly there are no other “California rivers” quite like Spanish and Indian. As much as I love it, my life is usually in high gear coming out of the summer and I often miss the peak Indian Rhubarb moment, which lasts just a few days and varies as much as a week or two on arrival each year. This year I caught it a little past the peak, but the bright colors were still going strong and worked well with the dogwoods, willows and alders that were already turning. This year more than others, everything seemed to peak at different times, so this idyllic blue sky day on tranquil Spanish Creek represented the happiest medium possible. If there was ever a place to get lost in time and drift away to another world, this was it and will hopefully long be it. It has changed little since the days of the California Gold Rush.

Empowered at the Waterfall on Ward Creek, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde. One of my best friends I grew up with and two of his boys and a friend of theirs went on a secret hike near my home. I say “secret” because it is on gated, fenced private property that nobody else can enter, unless you know the owner. We hiked past a spooky old falling down mine we used to visit as kids to the waterfall on Ward Creek, a tributary of Indian Creek. I photographed the group standing in front of the waterfall, the waterfall by itself and the boys in various poses and clowning around. At one point Landon stepped up onto that rock in the center and made a pose facing the camera, then turned and faced the waterfall. Though the falls were so loud in the narrow gorge that none of us could hear each other, Landon clearly had a feeling come over him as he faced the falls. His pose here was the spontaneous result.

Yoga-Like Poses, Bonneville Salt Flats, Great Salt Lake, Utah by David Leland Hyde. Towing a U-Haul trailer loaded to the gills with fire safes and stuff from Colorado to Northern California, I stopped for a much needed rest from the road at this rest stop on Interstate 80. At first I had my camera on my tripod photographing the salt flats and the distant mountains. However, I soon got more interested in the people who kept walking out on the jagged rough salt and making all sorts of stretching and other strange motions. This group was off to the far side, but started doing exercises like pilates or yoga. I panned back and forth making a series of images of the various tourists against the white lake bottom background.

Wild Mustangs, Hazy Morning, Tall Grass, Central Wyoming Open Range II by David Leland Hyde. Somewhere in Central Wyoming this herd of wild horses grazed peacefully along the freeway. I stopped and walked back toward them with camera off my tripod and ready for action photographs. At first they were skittish and ran a little ways away, but slowly and seemingly curious, they came back toward me as I waited in silence. I made my best attempt at horse whispering to get them to walk toward me. After a little time went by, they were playful in front of the camera and acted as though they were familiar with being photographed. I was able to make some exposures of them walking, standing, grazing and on the run. Thank you Wyoming and my new four-legged friends. This was a special gift because throughout my summer 2015 17-state, 10,000 mile trip to the Midwest photographing farms, I came back with only a few photographs of horses. Though these Wyoming wild mustangs’ coats were a little scrappy and their tails had burrs, they were big and lean and more muscular than most domestic animals.

Storm Surf, Point Pinos, Pacific Grove, Monterey County, California Beaches by David Leland Hyde. With only an afternoon left in Monterey, a local large format photographer recommended I check out Point Pinos. The surf turned out to be larger than usual, which made for a number of interesting frames.

Fall Alders, Indian Creek and Grizzly Peak From the Taylorsville Bridge by David Leland Hyde. One afternoon coming home from Quincy and having photographed fall color on Spanish and Indian Creek most of the afternoon, as I crossed the Taylorsville Bridge, I saw what could be a keeper image. This is probably one of the most, if not the most photographed place in Indian Valley. My father made a number of large format photographs here in different seasons, going back as far as the early 1950s. If I was going to stop, it had to be good. I still would like to get a lot of snow on the mountain with fall color sometime, but the timing here turned out well with the interesting light and shadow in the middle distance and the lines and shapes that echo from the foreground beaver dam, beach and reflection to the distance.

Fields of Flowers With California Poppies, Mokelumne River Near Jackson, California, Sierra Nevada Foothills by David Leland Hyde. Though my father was crazy for photographing wildflowers, I have not been big on it so far, though flower photography is growing on me. This year a photographer friend in Jackson who helped me scan some of Dad’s collection, also showed me the wildflower mother lode near town. People say this type of photograph makes good wallpaper or large wall decor. Maybe this could even work for a matted and framed fine art photography presentation as well…

Olsen Barn and Meadow, Evening Sierra Mist, Winter, Lake Almanor, Chester, California by David Leland Hyde. This photograph has special meaning to me because I am a member of the Stewardship-Management Group for this Feather River Land Trust property. I made this photograph as a plume of smoke or Sierra mist came in low across the meadow just after a cloudy sunset several hours after a meeting of our committee at the barn. I made several images over the space of about 10 minutes and suddenly the mist or smoke was gone.

Wall Murals, Detour Sign, Carpet Warehouse, Oakland, California by David Leland Hyde. One morning driving out of Alameda I saw this wall mural on a carpet store and had to stop because of the vivid colors. I made quite a few exposures of details and from different angles, but this one stood out most. I wonder if a certain photographer friend who lives in Alameda has photographed this store…?

Fund Raising, Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood, San Francisco, California by David Leland Hyde. I love street photography. Here I just roamed up and down the Haight and surrounding streets at night with camera hand-held, photographing whatever I liked. This young hippie couple had obviously just eaten. He was reading the Bible and she was rocking the electric guitar… and I do mean rocking. She started out very slow with acoustic-like finger picking and gradually built up energy until she was standing up and blasting the neighborhood with her bell-clear voice and grungy bar chords. What a great smile too. All the time I was connecting with her and making a lot of photographs, her companion hardly moved, but just kept his head down reading away.

Hippie With Coffee and Phone, Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood, San Francisco, California by David Leland Hyde. This man had a warm smile and agreed right away to let me make his photograph. What a scene with the cafe windows, colors, coffee, red chairs, his backpack and the gray, spot stained sidewalk. I wish I had talked to him more. He seemed as though he had great tales to tell, like a Hobbit, Elf or some other traveler from distant lands.

Sunset Clouds, Carmel Mission a.k.a. Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California by David Leland Hyde. This trip I arrived at the Carmel Mission less than half an hour before closing. By the time I got in, made a donation and started photographing I had 15 minutes to catch what I could of the Basilica interior and grounds of the Mission. I thought to myself that I could chose to get stressed out, cry, moan, complain, swear a lot, leave without trying or think of it as an exercise. Ok, 15 minutes, go… I was off. I made quick decisions, photographed the key subjects and most important angles. Surprisingly enough, all of my images were strong with few throwaway frames between. All in all a good exercise. Try it sometime. It is important to note that this approach is the exact opposite of what I typically use or recommend. However, mixing it up now and then, shaking up the routine, breaking all rules, including your own, builds not only photographic skills, but character and a sense of humor as well.

Sunset, Barn Skeleton and Playground Equipment, San Mateo County Coast, California by David Leland Hyde. I saw this rundown barn silhouetted against the setting sun, but there was no place to stop or turn around. I had to jog back over half a mile while the sunset was in motion. Still, all turned out ok. I even made it further down the coast to San Gregorio for more photographs before daylight faded all the way to night. Anyone who believes online jpegs do photographs justice compared to prints is probably looking through the wrong end of the kaleidoscope of history, or at the very least the distorted viewpoint of a throwaway device. Possibly they are being fooled by new screen technology on a computer with a perpetually outdated updating agenda.

Twilight, San Gregorio State Beach and Lagoon, San Gregorio, California by David Leland Hyde. I arrived at San Gregorio Beach with little more light than an orange glow on the horizon. I kept going for longer and longer exposures as I photographed the beach and lagoon from different angles into complete darkness. The people on the beach were the biggest challenge and asset to the images. I tried to catch them while standing still, but some exposures show them in motion on the whole spectrum from slightly blurry to transparent ghost figures.

“You Are Beautiful,” Central Wyoming by David Leland Hyde. Somewhere in Central Wyoming off Interstate 80 there is a lonely service exit with some road building materials and a good wide gravel area to park for a nap when tired on a long drive. I slept for a few hours from around 4:00 am to daybreak. I photographed the sunrise over a corrugated shed and saw this scene behind my van just before getting back on the road. It reminded me of the beautiful cinematography and hand-held imagery of a plastic bag blowing in the wind in the film American Beauty. To me this scene contains warmth in coolness, humanity in loneliness and beauty in the mundane. It is a reminder to find beauty in yourself and in even the most plain or “ugly” of places. Ugly is only in the eye of the judge. It is not “real” in any sense, except that given to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Project Posts From Years Past:

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

Best Photographs of 2014

Best Photographs of 2013

My 12 “Greatest Hits” of 2012

Best Photos of 2011

My Favorite Photos of 2010

Announcing New David Leland Hyde Website – Hyde Fine Art

December 1st, 2016

Pleased to Present a New Home for My Own Photography…

Hyde Fine Art

Economic, environmental and social evolution through fine art photography of the urban, rural and natural landscape…

http://www.hydefineart.com/

Please visit and give me your opinion… are there any typos or aspects you don’t like?

Indian Creek Below Indian Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2009, by David Leland Hyde, Nikon D90. Prints of this photograph have outsold all other David Leland Hyde prints and Philip Hyde prints since 2009.

Dad gave me my first camera at age 10. At that time in the mid 1970s, my father conservation photographer Philip Hyde’s career, western outdoor recreation and the modern environmental movement were reaching new heights. Dad’s book Slickrock with Edward Abbey was also selling well, especially in California, the Southwest Desert and the Colorado Plateau states. Visit David Leland Hyde CV for more about what I was doing during this era.

My camera was a simple Pentax K1000 35 mm film camera. It was all-manual with no automatic settings. Dad gave me a good foundation for learning photography by teaching me basic camera operations and how to understand the relationships between aperture, shutter speed and film speed. I liked making photographs well enough. I made quite a few images on a number of different trips, but while growing up, to me photography was always Dad’s specialty. He had it covered and I had other interests. As a result, I went whole decades without ever making a photograph. I used my camera in high school a few times, but for school sports I needed a camera that could shoot on partial or full auto at many frames a second.

On a photographic trip with Mom and Dad, I made some good photographs in Yellowstone National Park, on the way home to California from my boarding school graduation from Principia Upper School near St. Louis, Missouri. On that trip, Dad and I photographed a number of national parks together.

In college at the University of New Mexico I tried to photograph the Albuquerque music scene and published a few decent images, but most turned out blurry or dark. One time I went to Arkansas for Spring Break and all of my photographs came out too dark because I used the wrong ASA shutter speed setting.

More than another decade later, after Dad passed on, I spent a great deal of time looking through his collection and talking to photography experts about what to do with his lifetime of work. While immersed in talking about images and selecting images with some of the best editors in the industry, my eye began to develop like never before. I started seeing photographs everywhere I looked outside of the studio: on drives, on walks, in unexpected places and in obvious places. I did some asking around about digital cameras and got a bit of guidance. One day in 2009, I just walked into Costco and bought a Nikon D90 kit with two lenses, a camera bag and an SD card. One photographer told me that it would make a good pro-consumer package to get me started. To see some of my early images and how I chose photographs for early versions of my portfolio, see David Leland Hyde’s Portfolio One Revisions and New Photographs.

My enthusiasm and diligence for making images grew in leaps and bounds. I have now made over 70,000 images since 2009. In the process learned quite a bit about Photoshop, but have just scratched the surface of what is possible with software, by choice keeping my workflow as simple as possible. I have made and plan to make more experimental work, but by far the majority of my images, certainly all but a few of my landscapes are single image capture, with only a few blends ever, no HDR, minimal masks, and only very small objects removed or altered in detailed retouching.

I use Photoshop for much the same purposes and to a similar extent that film photographers have traditionally used the darkroom. I do some dodging and burning, a.k.a., lightening and darkening. I increase saturation and vibrance in small doses and make minor layer and curve adjustments, much the way Dad used to balance the color when he handmade color dye transfer and Cibachrome prints. For more on how I work with images and the capture counts for each year, visit Best Photographs of 2014 and Favorite Photographs of 2015.

For an early version of my Artist Statement go to David Leland Hyde Archival Prints Pre-Launch. I plan to revise and update this statement some in the near future. Stay tuned for my blog project post in the next few weeks of my Favorite Images of 2016. In the meantime, please visit http://www.hydefineart.com/ and let me know what you think of it. Please let me know if there are any navigation problems, typos or anything else you don’t like. Enjoy browsing the various portfolios and watch for the new additions I am adding every week. Currently the site has just a few dozen images on it, but I plan to post at least 10,000 or more images in the coming months and years.

Enduring Images: Interview of Jack Dykinga for Outdoor Photographer Magazine

September 15th, 2016

Enduring Images: An Interview with Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist, Celebrated Nature Photographer and 2017 NANPA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Jack Dykinga by David Leland Hyde

Including Previously Unpublished Interview Sections and Materials

Cover of Outdoor Photographer September Special Issue - Photography with a Purpose

Cover of Outdoor Photographer September 2016 Special Issue – Photography with a Purpose. (Click Image to see larger.)

Jack Dykinga won the Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism while documenting the turmoil of 1960s Chicago. In 1970 he read a Backpacker magazine interview of my father, conservation photographer Philip Hyde. The article by environmental photographer Gary Braasch inspired Dykinga to move West and begin photographing landscapes. He eventually met and became friends with Dad, who mentored him in the ways of conservation photography. They even photographed together on a number of trips, some with a few other photography friends around the Southwest U.S., as well as on mainland Mexico and Baja California.

Jack Dykinga over the years also became a pillar of Western nature photography, working with the acclaimed International League of Conservation Photographers, National Geographic, Arizona Highways and other renowned organizations. The North American Nature Photography Association plans to honor Dykinga with a Lifetime Achievement award this year, much as they did Philip Hyde and David Brower back in 1996.

My interview with Mr. Dykinga touched on how he made the transition from a Midwest urban setting to photographing the wide-open wilderness spaces of the West. It also revealed the sensibilities he discovered were necessary to photograph nature and wildlife for conservation purposes. Our discussion ranged from his experience at various well-known magazines to the refinement of his approach over the years with input from Dad. Dykinga gave insights into a number of conservation projects and the making of a number of his successful books for various causes, including the upcoming new release of A Photographer’s Life: A Journey from Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer, in which Dykinga wrote an entire chapter about Dad.

My interview ran over 26,000 words, but I kept only 2,800 for the Outdoor Photographer piece. Some of the remaining 23,200 words will go into my book, but a few sections I will share with readers here. In one section I asked Jack Dykinga about Eliot Porter and Robert Glenn Ketchum. I specifically cut this portion from the Outdoor Photographer version because I did not feel the magazine article was the place to grind the axe about how Eliot Porter has received credit for a number of Dad’s and other’s accomplishments. At the right time and place, in the appropriate venue, a more detailed version of this discussion will be pertinent. For now, Landscape Photography Blogger is more appropriate than Outdoor Photographer for starting to bring some of it to light. The Outdoor Photographer audience is interested in learning from all of these greats of nature photography, not necessarily hearing why one or another have been over or under-recognized. In my opinion Dykinga’s response, while favoring Dad, was well-considered, balanced and tactful. Let’s see what you think when you read it below… In another section, Dykinga shared his experiences and impressions while working with National Geographic and while obtaining more personal, land and place oriented photographs.

David Leland Hyde: John Rohrbach in Regarding the Land: Robert Glenn Ketchum and the Legacy of Eliot Porter, made the exaggerated claims that Eliot Porter invented color nature photography and “almost single handedly saved the Grand Canyon.” Rohrbach also wrote that Robert Glenn Ketchum was the primary photographer carrying on Eliot Porter’s legacy. It was common knowledge among those who were there and widely known thereafter that Dad led the charge spiritually and produced the most photographs for the Grand Canyon campaign. Dad’s photographs illustrated three large format Sierra Club Books and were the cornerstone of Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, the one book specifically produced to prevent two dams above and below the National Park in the Grand Canyon. Eliot Porter’s Glen Canyon book enjoyed wide readership during this time mainly because the campaign to prevent the Grand Canyon dams took on global proportions. The book Time and the River Flowing landed on the desk of every member of Congress and other Washington leaders, as well as quickly fulfilling significant international demand and distribution. As Time and the River Flowing went out all over the world, it effectively advanced the momentum of the global letter writing campaign that ultimately swayed American politicians and stopped the dams. Not all of Philip Hyde’s books in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series sold as well as Eliot Porter’s In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, but Island In Time: Pt. Reyes Peninsula came out the same year. Several other photographers including Litton, Brower, Adams and others were nearly as prominent as Hyde and Porter in bringing color to landscape photography. As far as any photographer taking over Eliot Porter’s legacy, late in Porter’s life when he was ill before a Truckee Meadows Workshop, the organizers called in Hyde to take over Porter’s teaching position, not Robert Glenn Ketchum or anyone else.

Jack Dykinga: Eliot Porter was a great photographer. I will say that right off the bat. Right almost in the second line of his autobiography, without even taking a breath, it says he was a medical doctor who gave that up to be a photographer. Your dad was a self-made person who wanted to be a photographer. He wasn’t a doctor that wanted to be a photographer. He didn’t have either the baggage or the promotional ability that Porter did. A guy like Robert Glenn Ketchum had Ketchum, Idaho named after his family. He lives in Bel Air and Hollywood and he’s done a lot of good conservation work, but the hardship that your father had to go through, made him stronger. Your dad was the kind of person who had to really work for everything he got. I don’t think he had time to blow his own horn. He was trying to make a living. If I had it to do over again, I sure wish I had a lot more money. I wouldn’t have to worry about the next check. But, I think that lack of money also gives you an edge, I don’t mean a winning edge, I mean there’s a certain edge to your life where you’re really having to push pretty hard to get things done and it helps you. Porter’s work had a totally different look, whereas your father’s strength was that he gave you the monumental look of the American West. Your father did a lot more trail hiking than Eliot did and really showed us the land without showing himself.

Hyde: In the early 1960s, the whole direction of the large format books shifted. At first there was the big black and white sensation, This Is The American Earth by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall, but then suddenly everybody was really excited about color.

Dykinga: Your father was more of a documenter of wild places. He would look at things as more of a narrative and a project. That’s more akin to what I do. A lot of my friends that I go camping with are what I call single image photographers. They go out and want to get the most powerful shot that day, where I’m more likely to be wrapped up in a concept. That’s because I’m the journalist. You get publishable shots every single day. They may not be the art you want to hang on your wall, but you may want to put them in a book to tell somebody a story. If you try to submit only those that whisper, you’ll never get published, but you can hang them on the wall and live with them and love them.

Hyde: With National Geographic are you doing more or less what Joel Sartore does?

Dykinga: I am a contract photographer. He is a contract photographer on their first list. I used to be on their first list. I have a deep connection with the magazine, but their overall view of landscape is erratic. We have different opinions.

Hyde: Their idea of landscape is always putting a person in the frame.

Dykinga: There you go. You hit it perfectly. The classic example would be the last issue on Yellowstone National Park with people, butchering animals, traps and cowboys. There’s not one sense of place in the whole article. Here we are in this dramatic, incredible landscape that just gets really short shrift with the tact they have taken. The current editor is a journalist. She was the editor of Time Magazine.

Hyde: Would you say that National Geographic goes after the culture more than the place or the wilderness?

Dykinga: You could say that. That’s sort of subjective. I was there when Chris Johns was editor and he loved my approach to landscapes. That went away when he went away. It changes all the time. I still work for them occasionally. A full feature is a 100 day contract and it’s pretty good money, except when you have things blow up, it maybe not as good as you thought.

Hyde: You were in Stephen Trimble’s book, Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography. I don’t know that he necessarily found all of the “Who’s who” of Grand Canyon photography, but he included many.

Dykinga: I spend less and less time in cliché locations. They may be visual touchstones for most people, but they’re not interesting to me because even more than the place the solitude is important to me.

Hyde: Like Ansel talked about with the experience?

Dykinga: Yes, a deeper connection. You can’t do that if you’re on a crowded boardwalk in Yellowstone with about 30 Chinese guys with selfie sticks like I just experienced. People now are interested in showing “me there,” more than “there.” I think there’s a profound shift with people being more anthropocentric.

Hyde: We have less and less connection to nature as decades go by and more and more words and noise surrounding ourselves when we do get out there.

Dykinga: I see it all the time where people really go on and on explaining their work. Your father’s message and his voice came through the image. If you go on and on about divinity and God and everything else, that’s maybe what you’re reading into it. A lot of us are just very happy when people see the place and make their own decisions based on their own divinity or lack thereof. That’s as good as you can go. It’s more of a Buddhist approach.

To read the best published portions of the above interview pick up the Outdoor Photographer September Special Issue still on newsstands now for a few more weeks, or available online in October.