Posts Tagged ‘Modern Environmentalism’

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3

August 26th, 2014

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Three

Continued from the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2.”

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capital Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in "Drylands: The Deserts of North America" by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in "Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah" with Edward Abbey.

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in “Drylands: The Deserts of North America” by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” with Edward Abbey.

Drylands: The Deserts of North America with photographs and text by Philip Hyde, developed out of nearly 60 years of exploring and defending western North American wilderness, with special emphasis on the five deserts of the continent. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Mountain Light by Galen Rowell and other foundational landscape photography titles, recently donated its archive to Stanford University, where Drylands and its production can be viewed. Drylands is now out of print, but can be found at various online booksellers including Amazon under Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde.

The previous blog article in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2,” tells the story of the making of the book. The first blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1,” contained the beginning of the first chapter of the text of Drylands itself. We continue now where that blog post left off…

 

Passing through vast expanses of land that appear to be nearly bereft of any living thing, I wonder at the sight of a small plant braving the harsh environment. Its difficult circumstances do not evoke sympathy; I wonder that the plant grows in spite of difficulties, that it conserves what little moisture it gets and responds to the slightest moisture by blooming exuberantly.

Still another delight feeds the photographer within: the light. Desert light is crystalline and brilliant, making deep shadows and sparkling highlights. This is at least partly a result of the scarcity of moisture in the air—and, until recently, the scarcity of humans and their activities. When there were fewer people, the light everywhere must have had the clear quality that is still to be seen in some of the more remote quarters of the North American deserts.

As a mountain lover, I especially appreciate a characteristic that our deserts share with most of the country from the Rockies west: the deserts of North America are uncommonly mountainous. The two snowiest mountain chains in the country, the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades border the northernmost deserts on the windward sides. Scattered throughout all of the deserts are a large number of lesser mountain ranges that cast their own rain shadows on the adjacent areas. Some of these lesser ranges are high enough and wet enough to support forests on their upper slopes. Rising high above the parched plains and valleys below, they may be snow capped in winter, like the higher ones to the west. The White Mountains, Toiyabe, Snake, Ruby, and other ranges in Nevada, along with the high plateaus of Utah and Arizona and the Sierra Madre in Mexico, create their own microclimates: islands of plenty surrounded by desert.

Nowhere in the world is there as much diversity of desert weather as there is in western North America. In western Oregon, California, and Nevada precipitation occurs mostly in winter, in summer only rarely. In the eastern and southern parts of the Mexican deserts, summer is the rainy season. Where rainfall records are available for desert locations, they show radical irregularity. Downpours may occur at random intervals and locations, sometimes exceeding the year’s average in a few minutes or hours. In some places droughts can last several years, with no rainfall at all. The North American deserts are second to none for intensity of summer heat, but the dryness of the air makes the heat more bearable. Death Valley can be as hot on a summer day as any place on earth, while at higher elevations a sweater may be necessary when the sun sets and the air cools.

The great diversity of the vast desert landscape of North America suggests natural divisions that coincide with most scientific classifications. But the actual boundaries of these divisions are not so easy to draw within those of the larger desert region. In most cases, one desert shades into another, so boundaries must be somewhat arbitrary and indefinite, as are all attempts by humans to circumscribe nature. As I write this I think of Sir Francis Bacon saying: “Nature is a labyrinth in which the very haste you move with may make you lose your way.”

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 4.”

Which is your favorite desert?

North Cascades And Mt Jefferson Historical Travel Log

August 13th, 2014

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ken Brower Speaks At “This Land Is Our Land” Philip Hyde Exhibition Opening

January 30th, 2014

250 People Attend The Opening For The Largest Exhibition Of Philip Hyde In Northern California In 20 Years

Ken Brower And David Leland Hyde Speak About The Collaboration Between Their Fathers, David Brower And Philip Hyde, On Behalf Of Wilderness

“This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness,” will run through March 1, 2014

David Leland Hyde, Ed Cooper And Debby Cooper At The Opening of "This Land Is Our Land." Ed Cooper was another mainstay photographer for the Sierra Club, his work appearing in the famous Sierra Club calendars of the 1970s and 1980s that contained the who's who of landscape photography at the time. He is a well-known mountaineering large format photographer. His latest book, "Soul Of The Rockies" came out in 2008.

David Leland Hyde, Ed Cooper And Debby Cooper At The Opening of “This Land Is Our Land.” Ed Cooper was another mainstay photographer for the Sierra Club, his work appearing in the famous Sierra Club calendars of the 1970s and 1980s that contained the who’s who of landscape photography at the time. He is a well-known mountaineering large format photographer. His latest books are, “Soul Of The Rockies” (2008) and “Soul of Yosemite.” (2011)

Stefan Kirkeby, gallerist of Smith Andersen North Gallery, said over 250 people attended the Philip Hyde exhibition opening this last Saturday evening, January 25, 2014. Included in the crowd were Ken Brower–history making editor of Sierra Club Books and National Geographic writer and author of several books, Sierra Club Calendar and mountaineering photographer Ed Cooper, Golden Decade photographers Stan Zrnich, Gerald Ratto and David Johnson, who each have significant accomplishments of their own, Jack Fulton department head and associate professor of photography at the San Francisco Art Institute, Jeff Gunderson co-author of The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, black and white architecture and landscape photographer Mark Citret, contemporary landscape photographer Gary Crabbe–protegé of Galen Rowell, a Sonoma County winery owner and other collectors, photographers and fans of photography.

“It was our largest show opening since the Golden Decade,” said Stefan Kirkeby.

The Golden Decade in West Coast photography refers to the first 10 years of Ansel Adam’s photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute when Minor White was lead instructor and other teachers included Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange and Lisette Model. The Golden Decade exhibit at Smith Andersen North drew over 500 people and exhibited the work of over 20 of Philip Hyde’s contemporaries.

“This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness” exhibition will run through March 1, 2014 and consists of vintage color dye transfer and Cibachrome prints, original vintage black and white silver gelatin prints, contemporary black and white darkroom prints from Philip Hyde’s original 2 ¼, 4×5, 5×7 and 8×10 negatives, and photographer authorized archival chromogenic lightjet and inkjet digital prints.

Stefan Kirkeby opened the evening’s talk by recognizing the commitment and dedication of Philip Hyde to preserving wilderness through conservation photography. He introduced David Leland Hyde, who first recognized Stefan Kirkeby’s dedication to art and artists. Then Hyde spoke about his father’s various campaigns and what it was like growing up with a father who was on the road 100 days out of every year for nearly 60 years. The young Hyde spoke of his good fortune to have traveled with his mother and father on many of their outdoor adventures. He told the story of traveling to a small wild island in the Caribbean as part of an assessment of whether or not to protect the island and it’s unique native species and endangered species in their home habitat, or to maintain the island as a US Navy bombing range.

David Leland Hyde described landing in a small plane in a grass field on Isla Mona, the island off Puerto Rico, driving through the jungle, staying in small beach bungalows, snorkeling in shallows filled with multi-colored fish that stretched for miles, backpacking across the hot desert interior of the 10-mile across island, hiking along the beach, camping near a Korean War era plane crash, befriending a four foot iguana, visiting a bat cave and getting up in the middle of the night with his parents and naturalist Frank Wadsworth to see the Southern Cross gleaming overhead in the clear milky way decorated night sky.

Ken Brower spoke next about the collaboration between his father, environmental leader David Brower, and his “go-to” photographer, Philip Hyde. Ken Brower told the story of David Brower and Philip Hyde having traveled to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir together in 1955 to photograph and motion picture film the low water that revealed the devastated dusty field of stumps as depicted in Philip Hyde’s famous photograph of the same title. Ken Brower also talked about other conservation campaigns and how art ultimately can make a big difference in the world.

The atmosphere in the gallery during the opening was festive and lively with plenty of refreshments including a selection of several types of white wine. You have never before seen gallery opening finger food cuisine like this: toothpick strawberries, kiwis, raspberries, grapes, cantaloupe, brie and three other types of cheese, four types of crackers, raspberries, cantaloupe, Shrimp Spring Rolls and sauce, both made on location, as were fresh Pico de Gallo with two types of chips and much more.

Besides being the first large photography exhibition of Philip Hyde’s work in nearly 20 years in the Bay Area, “This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness,” will run through March 1, 2014 and display the various regions in which Philip Hyde photographed and helped to protect wilderness.

For more on Philip Hyde’s career and “This Land Is Our Land” Exhibition, see the blog post, “Major Northern California Philip Hyde Exhibition.”

Smith Andersen North Gallery
20 Greenfield Ave
San Anselmo, California
415-455-9733

Tuesday – Friday: 10AM – 6PM, Saturday: 12 – 5PM, and by appointment.

Major Northern California Philip Hyde Exhibition

January 16th, 2014

This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness

Smith Andersen North Gallery

San Anselmo, Marin County, California

January 25 – March 1, 2014

Opening Reception: January 25, 6 – 9 pm

Special Talk By David Leland Hyde

Announcement by Lynn Meinhardt and David Leland Hyde

Grand Canyon From Point Imperial, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Primary publicity photograph for This Land Is Our Land Exhibit.

Grand Canyon From Point Imperial, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Primary publicity photograph for This Land Is Our Land Exhibit.

Philip Hyde (1921-2006) dedicated his life to photographing and defending the western American wilderness, working with the National Audubon Society, Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, and other environmental organizations during a career that lasted more than 60 years. His studies at the California School of Fine Arts under Ansel Adams and Minor White gave him an introduction to the technical expertise and aesthetic sensitivity necessary to later make some of America’s most respected landscape photographs, many of which were key elements in campaigns to protect the Grand Canyon, Point Reyes, California coastal redwoods, North Cascades National Park, and other sensitive lands.

Hyde was born and raised in San Francisco. In 1938, he visited the Sierra Nevada for the first time on a Boy Scout backpacking trip and took his first photographs with a Kodak camera he borrowed from his sister. He borrowed the camera to photograph his friends, but he found that he pointed his lens more often at the natural wonders around him. By the early 1940s, he spent most of each summer with his camera in the backcountry of Yosemite and other national parks.

In 1942, he volunteered for the Army Air Corps and served as a gunnery trainer for three years during World War II. After he was released from the military in 1945, he became one of the first students to study photography at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). The instructors included Ansel Adams, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, and other major figures in West Coast photography. Not long after completing his studies, Hyde made a commitment to live and work in the mountains. Inspired in part by John Muir, he said that his mission was “to share the beauty of Nature and encourage the preservation of wild places.”

One of Hyde’s strongest collaborations was with the Sierra Club. Hyde began to photograph for the organization in 1950 when he became the official photographer for the summer Sierra Club High Trip with David Brower. Soon afterward, Hyde became the first photographer ever sent on assignment for an environmental cause when Brower sent him to Dinosaur National Monument to photograph canyons threatened by two proposed dams. Brower called Hyde his “go-to photographer,” because when the Sierra Club needed to explore and display an area’s natural attributes, Brower sent Hyde to capture them on film.

Hyde was one of the main illustrators of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, conceived of by Adams, Nancy Newhall, and Brower. The Sierra Club books were the public face of the environmental movement. Color photography became an important feature of the series when Hyde and Eliot Porter began to produce color photographs and envision their projects in color. They established color landscape photography as an art in its own right. Hyde’s color scenes inspired a generation of photographers, both directly and indirectly, and his techniques are still evident in current landscape photography.

Hyde continued to tirelessly capture America’s unspoiled and endangered lands for decades, averaging 100 days a year in the field for nearly 60 years. He stopped making photographs only after he lost his sight toward the end of his life.

Hyde’s work has appeared in more than 80 books and over 100 other publications, including Aperture, New York Times, Life, National Geographic, Fortune, and Newsweek. Hyde received many awards and honors throughout his career, and in 1996, the North American Nature Photography Association honored Hyde with a lifetime achievement award. His work has been shown in major museums and galleries throughout the nation, including the Smithsonian Institution and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Smith Andersen North is pleased to announce that David Leland Hyde, Philip’s son, will speak at our reception on January 25. David is an accomplished photographer in his own right and an enthusiastic supporter of his father’s legacy.

This Land Is Our Land

Philip Hyde And The Wilderness West

January 25 – March 1, 2014.

Opening Reception January 25, 6 – 9 pm

Presentation At 7 pm

Smith Andersen North Gallery
20 Greenfield Avenue
San Anselmo CA 94960
415 455 9733

Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part One

December 5th, 2013

Dinosaur National Monument 2013

Part One: Introduction And Setting

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Early Travels To Dinosaur

When I was a boy of about nine, I visited Dinosaur National Monument with my parents. Later, in my early teens my father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, and I stopped through Dinosaur on the way back from a Fastwater Expeditions Sportyak trip down the Green River with famous river guide Bill Belknap.

The second short visit, I do not remember much. From that trip, besides the vivid memories of the river run, the only memory I have of the Dinosaur area is of looking down on Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming upstream on the Green River. From the earlier trip with my parents, I recall only the visitor’s center and Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side of the Colorado-Utah border that runs through Dinosaur National Monument. This is what most travelers to Dinosaur remember too, because it is all that most travelers see. However, there is much more to Dinosaur than fossilized bones or an interpretive building. The national monument consists of over 209,000 acres of sandstone bluffs, monuments, rolling hills, outcroppings, shale, slate and the most diverse and interesting feature of all, the labyrinthine canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers. The highlight of these canyons is an oasis called Echo Park, where the two rivers come together and the canyons open up into a small valley between 1,000-foot cliffs. In the center of Echo Park rising straight out of the rivers at the confluence is a gigantic sandstone rock fin that on the near end looks like the cut off end of a loaf of bread. This 900 foot tall sandstone loaf end is called Steamboat Rock because from the side angle it looks like a steam ship.

Stories Of Our Fathers

Steamboat Rock figured prominently in discussions I had with my father after my mother passed away in 2002. After she was gone, I left a high paying job and moved from Upstate New York back home to Northern California. I moved in with Dad in the house I grew up in to help him out because he had not only lost the first love of his life, but had also lost his eyesight two years before and thus lost the second love of his life, photography. Dad explained how Steamboat Rock had become a symbol in the 1950s and 1960s of the then fledgling modern environmental movement and its first big success in defending Dinosaur from the invasion of dam builders, who wanted to erect two dams within the national monument, thereby flooding 96 out of 104 river miles of the Yampa and Green Rivers. For more about the battle over Dinosaur as well as conservation leader David Brower and photographer Philip Hyde’s roles in it, see the blog post series, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism.”

We talked much about Dinosaur and I poured over the maps and photographs. The series of blog posts above I originally wrote as a chapter in a book about my father’s life that I am still interviewing people for who knew Dad. By 2005, I could not wait to get up to the remote northern border of Utah and Colorado and see the place for myself. On the way back from a visit to Boulder, Colorado, I took the road less traveled, US Highway 40, and rolled across the open desert. A description of the approach and entry into Dinosaur can be found in the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 2.” In summary, I traveled the long pothole infested paved road out to Harper’s Corner, stopping at overlooks along the way and ending with a one mile hike out on a thin slice of sandstone 2,000 feet above the Green River at Harper’s Corner, where a large portion of Dinosaur’s geology and canyons can be seen all at once. I also took a risk going into Echo Park, made a tribute to my father at Split Mountain and had all sorts of other adventures, all fueled and inspired by my first listening to Jack Kerouac’s quintessential Beat Generation novel, On the Road. Kerouac’s lyrical, poetic prose lifted me and put a lilt in my step and my writing. For more on my journey as well as Dad’s explorations of the same territory and much more in the dusty, wild past of 1951, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 3” and “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4.”

Randy Fullbright And A New Dinosaur Campaign

I came back from Dinosaur changed, more on that and my profound experiences in future blog posts. The sad irony is that I did not have my camera with me in 2005 to record it all. Needless to say, this irony has been poking at me ever since I bought a Nikon D90, my first digital camera, in 2009. I have been hankering to go back, but never had the chance. Enter artist, goldsmith, gallery owner, gem and fossil expert, photography collector, photographer and impromptu wilderness guide Randy Fullbright.

I first started talking to Randy Fullbright via e-mail and phone in July 2011 when he introduced himself through comments on my blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 9.” Ever since then we have talked from time to time about his extensive photographic explorations of Dinosaur and about my dad’s work there too. Randy has two goals: 1. To photograph all of Dinosaur, no easy feat, and 2. To help Dinosaur become a national park. To these ends he has worked tirelessly and become well acquainted with many of the park rangers and management of the monument, as well as the local politics of air quality, oil and gas exploration and drilling, mining, tourism, recreation, ranching and the boom time explosion of the population of Vernal, Utah. Randy operates Fullbright Studios in Vernal, is active in the community and knows just about anyone who is anyone in town and all over the West.

While I spent this last summer in Boulder, Colorado for the first time again after a two year absence, I began to talk seriously about taking Randy up on his offer to take me into Dinosaur to some of the places few to no one else has photographed and locations my father photographed in the 1950s. Isn’t that a great offer? Again on my way home to Northern California, I took Highway 40, the road less traveled, and raged across the desert to Vernal, where I arrived at Randy’s house behind his gallery at 4:00 am. I did not see him until the morning when we embarked on a dirt road romping, camera carrying trip in to Dinosaur and an unforgettable hike into Jones Hole. Stay tuned for the whole story in blog posts to follow in this series, plus more about the mystical canyons, people, politics, fishing and simple freedom of Jones Creek and the Green River in Dinosaur…

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part Two.”)

Glen Canyon Book Review: Resurrection By Annette McGivney With James Kay

September 25th, 2013

Book Review on the Biggest Conservation Story of All Time and New Solutions… Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West by Annette McGivney with Photographs by James Kay and Foreword by Bill McKibben (Braided River, 2009)

How We Lost Glen Canyon

Resurrection Book Cover, Photograph copyright 2009 James Kay.

Resurrection Book Cover, Lake Powell at Hite Marina, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, Photograph copyright 2007 James Kay.

In the mid 1950s, David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, led a coalition of conservation groups in an effort to permanently banish industrial development from national park lands. The primary battle defending the sanctity of the national park system was over two dams proposed inside Dinosaur National Monument. The proposed dams in Dinosaur would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument on the Yampa and Green Rivers.

David Brower in Congressional testimony used 9th Grade math to prove that if Glen Canyon Dam were higher, it could hold back and store more water than both proposed dams in Dinosaur. Congress removed the two dams in Dinosaur National Monument from the Colorado River Compact and passed the bill approving the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Having never seen Glen Canyon, David Brower and many others did not know the extent or nature of the sacrifice made to protect the national park system. Looking back, especially after he floated through Glen Canyon on the Colorado River for the first time in 1958, David Brower mused that he and the coalition might have pushed on and possibly succeeded in saving Glen Canyon. (For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.”

Ironically, before World War II, Glen Canyon had been part of a proposed national park that would have encompassed more than two million acres spread across much of Southeastern Utah including most of what are now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park and all of Glen Canyon. The attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted these discussions and turned the attention of Congress to preparations for war.

Drought, Distortions, Glen Canyon Dam And A New Dream Of The West

The Bureau of Reclamation closed the gates on Glen Canyon Dam in 1964, but “Lake” Powell did not reach full capacity until 1980. The reservoir water level ebbed and flowed until the last time it was full in 1996, then drew down over 100 feet by 2003 and has remained nearly half empty or more than half empty ever since. It turns out that the Colorado River flow calculations that justified the building of Glen Canyon Dam in the first place were exaggerated, as were the rainfall estimates on which expansion and development interests based the entire settlement of the Western US plains and Southwestern desert. Tree ring studies and other climate measures show that the 20th Century was one of the wettest ever in the Western US. Today’s much lower rainfall and river flow rates are more characteristic of the region, though big dam proponents are officially calling the present conditions a drought. Nonetheless, scientists project that “Lake” Powell may never be full again. Odds are that both “Lake” Mead and “Lake” Powell will both remain as they are now, roughly half full or less for the foreseeable future.

Annette McGivney, in Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West, tells the story of the loss of Glen Canyon, but more importantly the rebirth of life in the side canyons since the reservoir has subsided. Glen Canyon today is the poster child for watershed recovery for both Glen and Grand Canyon, as well as for the resilience of nature in general. McGivney’s easy-flowing text accompanies the photography of James Kay, who for more than three decades has photographed the Colorado Plateau, the seismically uplifted high desert that the Colorado River cuts through in Utah and Arizona. James Kay knows this land and these canyons. His sensitive, artistic eye finds for us the devastation that was, and the haunting, unparalleled paradise that is Glen Canyon.

McGivney and Kay explored many of the tributary canyons together for this project, either by boat, by kayak, but most often on foot, backpacking from the reservoir up canyon; or from the rims of the sandstone tablelands above, down into narrow, winding passages and rock alcoves. These slot canyons, often hundreds of feet tall and in places only a few feet wide, are already verdant with newly rooted cottonwoods, willows, and grasses, as well as teaming with wildlife just as they had been for centuries before everything drowned under the full reservoir.

Annette McGivney quotes Richard Ingebretsen, co-founder with David Brower of Glen Canyon Institute, who asked, “Why keep two reservoirs half empty?” Glen Canyon Institute, founded for the ultimate purpose of reclaiming Glen Canyon and turning it into a national park, is working on a current campaign called, “Fill Mead First.” The idea is to keep “Lake” Mead full because it supplies many cities of the Southwest with water and generates their electricity. If “Lake” Powell were then drawn down, Glen Canyon could be restored and even made into a national park. Many who saw Glen Canyon before the reservoir say that it rivaled the Grand Canyon in beauty.

Canyon Photography On Par With The Best Ever

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

James Kay’s photographs in Resurrection certainly provide the proof of this claim to canyon beauty. Traveling by Kayak, powerboat and most often on foot, Kay has shown us as never before, the side canyons and back alcoves of Glen Canyon reborn. His style is both effectively documentary, yet artistically strong. Kay’s experience in the canyons of the Southwest has given him not just an eye for form; he has an eye for gracefully capturing the forms of canyons. His understanding of natural light and how to use it to best portray the curves, edges, near and far, contrasts, shadows and indirect illumination of layers on layers of weather-sculpted sandstone.

Some of Kay’s compositions are simple. For example, one photograph in Resurrection depicts a massive wall of rock that juts out into “Lake” Powell like the prow of a ship. The vantage point of the image is from a boat close to water level. At the bottom of the wall that is about 200 feet tall, we see a small boat dwarfed by the immensity of stone above. The photograph is a work of beauty, while at the same time it accomplishes the practical task of dramatizing just how far the reservoir has receded from the high water line marked by a gray-tan mud stain, or “bathtub ring,” as people call it. The top half of the cliff is the beautiful red-brown of native rock, while the bottom half of the cliff is coated with ugly mud stain.

Other images give us the haunting, far away longing of luminous reflections or newly sprouted grasses, shrubs, cottonwoods and other lush greenery. Some photographs are purposely ugly, some are otherworldly and nearly abstract, while still others incorporate hikers in soaring walled narrows or show us intimate rushing water. If you love the desert and canyons, this is a book and a place different. Yet despite how unusual this place is, those who see it as nothing more than a holding tank, a cash register or a recreation area for motorized tourism, have seemingly never stopped to see it the way James Kay shares it.

The Desert, Progress, Jobs, Money And Other Myths

Despite US Bureau of Reclamation and pro-development rhetoric, the only two justifiable reasons Glen Canyon Dam was ever necessary, and remotely remains necessary, were the Politics surrounding the agreement between the seven Western states that share the water; and the Income from recreation on “Lake” Powell. The viability of Hydropower generation has nearly run out with low water levels often not providing enough gravity water drop to turn the turbines at sufficient speed. Besides, the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act no longer allows the fluctuation of water levels caused by increased dam releases during peak power usage.

Politically in relation to water use, the three Upper Colorado River Basin states: Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, for good reason mistrust the four lower basin states: California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. The lower basin states have all along taken more than their share of Colorado River water. Glen Canyon Dam provides a physical obstruction by which the upper states can regulate the flow to the lower states and keep them from taking more than their allotment, if and when the upper states catch up with the lower states in their land development and thirst for water.

Even though the desert does not inherently provide the water to support the building of industry and commercial buildings, suburbs, golf courses, and abundant water features, the seven Western states of the Colorado River system have been in a race to develop as fast as they can to be sure they obtain as much Colorado River water as possible in relation to the neighboring states. John Wesley Powell, whom the reservoir was named after, warned against developing the West beyond its water capacity. He recommended a number of water saving approaches that have been implemented by a few wise communities, but ignored by most.

Indeed, McGivney reminds us that the cities of the desert tend to flaunt the image of the manufactured oasis. The Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2005 adopted the slogan, “The Desert is a Myth.” A July hike in any direction beyond the edge of a Phoenix suburb like Anthem, for instance, and it becomes readily apparent that the desert is real and it is the lush golf courses that perhaps are already, or soon will be a mirage. Land development in the West has achieved similar temporary high profits and blindness to long-term consequences as recent Wall Street derivative speculation and the banking system near meltdown.

Nonetheless, it is less the cities that would run dry without “Lake” Powell than the farming of water-intensive crops like alfalfa, hay and cotton, grown not to supply market demand, but to take advantage of government subsidies and tax breaks. Dams are portrayed as symbolizing progress and economic growth, but special interests are the primary benefactors. In Utah, for example, mining, ranching and industrial agriculture represent less than 3% of the economy, but they use 85% of Utah’s water. Even though industrial agriculture comprises a decreasing portion of the Western economy, the industry is one of the largest contributors to political campaigns. Thus, even though dam projects, expanded water pipelines and other water infrastructure will not sustain society long-term, these outdated public works continue to garner support of those in political power.

A Dying Motor Tourism Industry And The Future

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century.

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. James Kay used this photograph side-by-side with his own like this in the book Resurrection too.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point, with the Cathedral almost fully recovered as only a few feet of water were left in the bottom.

The motorized brand of tourism that thrived on “Lake” Powell in the 1980s and 1990s, has generated significant income for concessionaires and boat operators, who also provide proportionally large support to politicians and boost the local economy. In 1992, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area hosted a record 3.5 million visitors, nearly as many at this peak as visited the Grand Canyon. Yet today with the shrinkage of the “lake” area, the closure of two out of five of the marinas and high gasoline prices area hotel stays and other tourism has dropped by 40 percent. Nearby national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Zion each increased visitation in the last decade. Indeed, the economy is playing a major role in the dying of motorized tourism nearly everywhere. Less disposable income, especially among the upper-middle class and upper class has led to less motorized lake recreation. In the past many high earning tourists have spent discretionary money on Jet Skis, Houseboat shares and other expensive water toys, but in the last 10 years public lands hiking and camping has grown, while motor boating has decreased significantly. Local jobs in Page, Arizona and elsewhere around “Lake” Powell have depended almost entirely on motor tourism. Most local people, including the Native Americans in the area, want to prolong a dying industry to maintain their livelihoods. While denying that their way of life is dying, they are likely missing the opportunities and shift in perspective that could bring them a far more sustainable, Earth-friendly and perhaps most importantly, a more permanent security.

McGivney’s “Step-by-step guide to saving Glen Canyon and then, perhaps the world” offers the kind of forward thinking solutions that thought leaders have begun to discuss in recent years. While these innovative resolutions will become requirements, rather than options in the near future, as a civilization we have a big leap to negotiate before we are ready to leave our self-serving short-term approaches behind and move into a mindset that is more conducive to sustaining our society and all life on Earth. This is perhaps the text’s only flaw, or perhaps it is more of a challenge: the leap from where our watershed management and environmental stewardship are now to where they need to be to sustain life in the Southwest and on Earth long range may be too big. Are we up to the task? Perhaps an even better question is: can we learn to cooperate with, listen to, find new ways to meet the needs of and educate those who have a vested interest in business as it has been for far too long?

For more on Glen Canyon and Philip Hyde’s photography of the lost paradise see the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1,” or “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

The Quabbin Reservoir And The Spirituality Of Place By James Hunt

July 22nd, 2013

How A Man Made Reservoir Created A Wilderness

Short Biography of James Hunt

James Hunt has been an environmental and fine art photographer in Worcester, Massachusetts for about 12 years. He graduated from the professional photography program at Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts. You can see more of his photography at jameshuntphotography.com and read his blog at jameshuntphotography.wordpress.com. James Hunt’s photography has been exhibited a number of times including in a show called, “Boston’s Water, Quabbin Memories” at the Jewish Community Center of Worcester, Massachusetts, a major venue in New England’s second largest city. His photographs have been involved in significant projects on urban trees and parks. James wrote, “My work explores the link between human needs and their actions in relation to the natural environment. In particular, I’m interested in the experience of ‘being there’ in the natural or man-made environment.” James is also an award winning associate professor of management at Babson College where he has chaired his department, teaches leadership, organizational behavior and most recently, sustainability. He designed and co-founded Babson’s Coaching Inside the Organization Program at Babson Executive Education and also co-founded and co-Faculty Directed Babson’s Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program. Babson College is one of the top colleges for entrepreneurship in the world.

The Quabbin Reservoir And The Spirituality Of Place By James Hunt

The Bridge at Gate 30. On the road to the lost town of Dana. Built in 1866 by a wounded civil war veteran for $55.00. Surrounded now by the accidental wilderness. Dana.

The Bridge at Gate 30 Near Dana, Massachusetts, copyright 2010 by James Hunt. On the road to the lost town of Dana. Built in 1866 by a wounded civil war veteran for $55.00. Surrounded now by the accidental wilderness.

Philip Hyde typically opposed building dams on rivers, but ironically in the case of the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts, the damming the Swift River has resulted in the kind of spirituality of place with important tangible and intangible benefits that he drew our attention to in his writings. I am grateful that I have had the chance to immerse myself in this story for the past six years and for the opportunity to share it here.

Seventy-five years ago this spring, four towns in the center of Massachusetts, ceased to exist by an act of the state legislature. The citizens of the farming towns of Enfield, Prescott, Greenwich and Dana were all put off their land for minimal compensation, to make way for the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir. Two large structures, the Winsor Dam and Goodnough Dike, along with several minor dams were erected to contain the three branches of the Swift River that flowed into the valley.

The Quabbin Reservoir that resulted is one of the largest on the East Coast of the United States covering 39 square miles with over 180 miles of shoreline. It provides fresh forest filtered water to two million residents of Greater Boston. In order to filter that water, the custodians of the Reservoir helped to create, an “accidental wilderness” by planting millions of trees. Soon, wildlife, which had largely disappeared from the valley returned in force: bear, turkeys, coyote, deer, moose, and a host of other species including Bald Eagles by the 1980s.

This development occurred in the larger context of widespread Farmland abandonment throughout the Northeast and into Quebec for economic reasons. By the beginning of the Twentieth Century, thousands of square miles of what once had been fields were naturally reforested. These “new” forests were doing yeoman’s work in creating habitat and absorbing Carbon Dioxide. But, there is yet more to the story.

The Intangible Benefits Of Wilderness

As Philip Hyde probably would have appreciated, the intangible, spiritual benefits of this wilderness have become increasingly clear. To go there, just two hours from downtown Boston gives you the opportunity to be alone if that is your choice. However, you are not truly alone. The forest is there with you, and you know it. You can feel it. You can also feel the presence of those who were put off the land. Signs are everywhere, from the few remaining structures to numerous cellar holes, to strategically planted but ancient shade trees and the occasional broken dish or other artifact. It is relatively easy to walk for miles by yourself, but occasionally you do run into fellow travelers. Often it strikes me that these fellow travelers are seeking a kind of spiritual tranquility, like myself.

Hanks’ Meadow Near Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2010 by James Hunt. Site of the Hanks’ farm and the Quabbin Reservoir Beyond.

Hanks’ Meadow Near Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2010 by James Hunt. Site of the Hanks’ farm with the Quabbin Reservoir Beyond.

It is of course not the spiritual nature of the place that protects it from development. Economic conditions are such that there is little commercial urge to develop the area. The over 38 square miles inside the Reservoir perimeter is protected by two state agencies Boston’s source of drinking water.  Only passive recreational activities are allowed inside the perimeter. That is not to say, however, that the Reservoir and the larger region do not face challenges. Commercial logging has supposedly only been allowed inside the Reservoir perimeter for the purposes of forest management, in other words, to protect the filtration of the water. However, much of the forested land outside that perimeter is private property.

Threats To The Quabbin Reservoir Wilderness

A brief bio fuels push a few years ago threatened the Quabbin and other forests of the area with aggressive wood harvesting until regulatory changes ceased to encourage the large scale burning of wood as an alternative fuel, at least in Massachusetts. Climate change is a significant concern however, as the forest must continually fight off a variety of invasive species that challenge the viability of the area as tolerable habitat for wildlife.

Over the past two years the Red Pine Trees planted at the creation of the Reservoir to provide a natural filtration system have been under attack from Red Pine needle scale. Pine needle scale has no known treatment and can decimate a stand of trees in just a few years. Bittersweet, the vine with which many of us in North America have become familiar, is visible everywhere. The evidence, though tentative, is growing for a direct relationship between climate change and the spread of such invasive species. Regardless, the message is clear: the tangible “wilderness” resource that emerged from the farmlands of the 1820s is fragile and its protection requires vigilance.

The intangible, spiritual benefits of the area are not widely known, except by the people of the towns surrounding the Quabbin Reservoir. Most people I ask in Boston do not even know where their water comes from. At least they did not know until a couple of years ago when there was a catastrophic leak along the tunnel that brings water into Boston necessitating a boil water order from the authorities. Suddenly the water could no longer be taken for granted. People then took notice, at least for a time.

The lessons from this story are complex. The Quabbin’s creation required the forced sacrifice of thousands of homes. It occurred, in that place on the Swift River, in large measure because those communities were without much political clout. The good news is that the Quabbin Reservoir and the resulting wilderness nourish body and mind, as well as even our, souls, if we so choose. It is an incredible resource now, but one that we cannot take for granted.

Nature Photography And The Quabbin

Pine Plantation, Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2011 by James Hunt.

Pine Plantation, Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2011 by James Hunt.

I began my photographic relationship with the Quabbin in 2008. The nature of that relationship evolved over time. Initially, I had thoughts of taking a documentary approach to the project but I found that somehow, I was not capturing that intangible quality that is so critical to understanding the Quabbin. Inspired by artists such as Philip Hyde, I have tried to create compelling artistic images that can communicate something of what it feels like to go there. Perhaps, if we can create art that gets people’s attention, we can inform at the same time. In that regard, I have two simple messages in my work on the Quabbin: First, people should be aware of where their water comes from, and second, I hope that through my work, people will become more aware of, and appreciate, the intrinsic values that other great photographers have portrayed so well.

What intrinsic values do you look for in connecting to a place in the “natural or man-made environment”?

Ansel Adams On What A Mountain Means

June 13th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

David Brower wrote in the introduction:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relevant Blog Posts:

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

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

Aboutness by Guy Tal

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

Why Defend National Parks And Other Wilderness By Philip Hyde

May 7th, 2013

Why Defend National Parks?

By Philip Hyde Circa 1951

Landscape Photography Blogger Note: Philip Hyde wrote this unpublished 1951 magazine article while the controversy was heating up over two proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument. In 1951, Richard Leonard, who was on the board of both the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club, as well as David Brower, another board member who would soon after become the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club and the father of modern environmentalism, sent Philip Hyde on assignment to Dinosaur National Monument. It was the first time a photographer ever went on assignment for an environmental cause. The resulting book published in 1955, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers, edited by Wallace Stegner, was also the first book ever published for an environmental cause. Article edited by David Leland Hyde in November 2011. To read more about Philip Hyde’s travels to Dinosaur in his own words, see the blog post, “On The Road To Dinosaur.”
Tenpeak Range From Slopes Above Image Lake,  Glacier Peak Wilderness - North Cascades National Park, Washington, copyright 1956 Philip Hyde.

Tenpeak Range From Slopes Above Image Lake, Glacier Peak Wilderness – North Cascades National Park, Washington, copyright 1956 by Philip Hyde. The 4X5 large format version of this photograph helped make North Cascades National Park. It appeared on the poster for the campaign and in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book “Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland.” The printer for the book, Barnes Press, lost the large format film original. This photograph, drum scanned from the 35 mm version of the same image with nearly identical framing is now a popular lightjet print. Before the digital era, Philip Hyde did not print his 35 mm slides large. However, with the sophistication of digital technology, the image is again released to the world.

In a few wild places on the surface of the Earth, nature has reached a climax. The United States of America has been gifted with a bountiful supply of these places of peak expression. While many were actively trying to convert these places to some kind of material gain, a few were finding out that these places had an intangible resource, a spiritual benefit that made itself felt in these natural areas. Fortunately, the inspirational character of wild places is becoming more recognized, even as exploitative uses are also on the rise.

Now more than ever, it is time for a new emphasis on intrinsic values and non-commercial use of our national parks. We have argued for preservation on principle, but the principle is little understood. People need a clearer sense of the importance of wilderness preservation. Dinosaur National Monument is a good example of how the dam builders offer people only one use of the national park system, a use that displaces most other uses. In our materially minded society, the “what can I get out of it” approach commands powerful attention. Irrigation water and electric power are strong selling points for building dams and limiting the scope of uses in Dinosaur National Monument and other units of the national park system. Conservation organizations all over the country oppose dam construction in Dinosaur National Monument. Why? What alternative uses do they propose?

To find the answer to this question, we must begin by taking a closer look at Dinosaur National Monument itself. This leads us to ask more questions: Why is Dinosaur a national monument? Why is the area set aside and its natural resources out of the reach of exploitation? The answers to these questions transcend solely material considerations. The canyons of Dinosaur National Monument were protected because they offer a benefit of greater value than can be obtained from the physical properties of the land. The labyrinthine canyons offer a place of inspiration where the integrity of nature is still intact, unaltered by the materialistic drives and desires of humans. It is a place where people can go to contemplate the works of a power greater than themselves, where they can transcend the destructive aspects of ego and lose some of their self-conscious thoughts.

That such an opportunity is a tonic to those who avail themselves of it is not sentimental wishful thinking, but has been demonstrated and proven. Preservation of an area because it provides such an opportunity is justified in and of itself alone, without any of the many other alternative uses to the industrial extraction of the natural resources.

In such a wild place as Dinosaur, where nature is at climax, the physical uses are transitory like elsewhere, but their transitory nature puts into perspective the sacrifice of other values necessary to obtain a fleeting benefit. The minerals are mined and permanently disappear when there are no more minerals. Even a great dam can become a monument to expediency by filling with mud in a region of erosion where rivers carry a heavy burden of silt. The advance of science may bypass the most foresighted means of exploiting nature, as when atomic power generates electricity, but will no place be left untouched? Will we cut down the last tree? Shoot the last mountain lion? Stone the last canyon swallow? Dam the last river and flood the last canyon? Is it not time to defend and stand by the official recognition of the spiritual benefits of setting aside at least some sacred ground where people can find much needed solace and renewal?

For an introduction as to why the battle over Dinosaur was pivotal to the conservation movement, how the Dinosaur campaign transformed the Sierra Club and brought conservation into the limelight, transforming it into modern environmentalism, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1,” and other blog posts in the same series. The Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series popularized the coffee table photography book. To read more about this ground-breaking book series, see the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 1.”

Monday Blog Blog: Tributes By Outdoor Photographer, QT Luong, G. Dan Mitchell And A New Grand Canyon Battle

April 15th, 2013

Monday Blog Blog: Philip Hyde By Outdoor Photographer Blog, Christopher Robinson; QT Luong; And G. Dan Mitchell

Grand Canyon Escalade: Jackson Frishman And Greg Russell Share A Grand Canyon Adventure To View A Proposed New Development Site At The Little Colorado River

(What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? See the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”)

View Up The Colorado River From Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1964 David Leland Hyde.

View Up The Colorado River From Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. This photograph appeared in the Sierra Club Book in the Exhibit Format Series, “Time And The River Flowing: Grand Canyon,” which helped in the campaign to prevent two dams in the Grand Canyon at either end of the national park.

Philip Hyde has had a long history of writing for, being written about and being interviewed for Outdoor Photographer Magazine. Recently, the Outdoor Photographer editor Christopher Robinson wrote a tribute about Philip Hyde for the Outdoor Photographer Blog. Read the tribute here, “Philip Hyde: Photographer, Conservationist, Artist.”

Also, in the last few weeks, QT Luong wrote an insightful, savvy, well-researched and thorough survey of Philip Hyde’s books and career defending wilderness with photography. See, “Philip Hyde Books.

G. Dan Mitchell is a prolific photographer and blogger about photography. A big thank you also to him for blogging about QT Luong’s book survey and on Philip Hyde in general. Read G. Dan Mitchell’s post here, “‘Philip Hyde Books’ – QT Luong.”

Besides appearing in more environmental campaigns than any other photographer and introducing color to landscape photography, Philip Hyde is also known for his photographs in Time and The River Flowing: Grand Canyon helping to save the Grand Canyon from two dams. Now there are new threats to the Grand Canyon. Jackson Frishman weaves a fine narrative of his visit to the Mouth of the Little Colorado River in which he discusses the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade. Here’s his own description of his blog post, “Pilgrimage To Solitude“:

Note: This is a big post on a big subject, and I appreciate your taking the time to read it through. But even if you can only look through the pretty pictures for now, I hope you’ll still find an opportunity to visit SavetheConfluence.com and read about the development threatening a wild, spectacular, culturally resonant and ecologically important corner of Grand Canyon National Park. You can see details of the proposal and hear the developers’ side of the story at GrandCanyonEscalade.com.

Greg Russell, who accompanied Jackson Frishman on his hiking adventure into Grand Canyon National Park, also wrote his own brilliant tribute to the Grand Canyon and story about their trek to Cape Solitude where they could overlook the confluence of the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River. Read Greg Russell’s blog post, “Through The Grama Grass.”

Also, I would like to mention James Hunt Photography’s Blog because he also wrote a tribute to Philip Hyde called, “Images That Change The World – Updated” that embedded the Philip Hyde Short Video back in 2011 when we released it. James Hunt is currently working to educate people about how climate change is impacting forests and wilderness in New England, in particular at the Quabbin Reservoir. The Quabbin is an “accidental wilderness” in Massachusetts two hours west of Boston, where invasive species coming up from the South, Red Pine Needle Scale and other impacts provide indications of change. You will have the opportunity to read more about James Hunt and the Quabbin in a future blog post.