Posts Tagged ‘natural scene’

Wallace Stegner: The Wilderness Idea

September 29th, 2014

Steamboat Rock, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, 1955 by Philip Hyde. Made on Philip Hyde’s second trip to Dinosaur National Monument. In the book, “This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers” with Forward, first chapter and editing by Wallace Stegner and photographs by Philip Hyde, Martin Litton and others, the Sierra Club used this horizontal photograph and cropped it to less than square, nearly a vertical. There was a vertical version of the photograph but it was not used in the book. This is still today Philip Hyde’s most widely published black and white photograph.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Any photographer of the natural scene is wise to care deeply about the preservation of wilderness, otherwise some day he or she could wake up some bright “magic hour” morning to discover there are no natural places left to photograph. Maybe it will not happen that rapidly, but many who have been exploring the outdoors for decades have already noticed the shrinking of the wilderness and the changing of places that were once somewhat wild.

In today’s society, appearances would have us believe that we have learned to live without nature. However, scientific evidence links much of our society’s dysfunction to lack of contact with the natural world. Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner wrote the forward and helped compile and edit the first book published for an environmental cause, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers with photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. Wallace Stegner was also an advocate for wilderness on many other fronts throughout his writing life. He worked on several books in the groundbreaking Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series and many of the campaigns that defined modern environmentalism. Edward Abbey was Wallace Stegner’s student at Stanford. Here is a quote from Wallace Stegner’s famous letter–statement called The Wilderness Idea excerpted from A Sense of Place by Wallace Stegner:

The wilderness idea has helped form our character and has shaped our history as a people. It has no more to do with recreation than churches have to do with recreation. Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed, if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases, if we drive the few remaining species into zoos, or to extinction, if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country, from the noise, the exhaust, the stinks of human and automotive waste, and so that never again can we have the chance to see ourselves single, separate, vertical and individual in the world, part of the environment of trees and rocks and soil, brother to the other animals, part of the natural world and competent to belong in it.

Without any remaining wilderness we are committed wholly, without chance for even momentary reflection and rest, to a headlong drive into our technological termite life, the brave new world of a completely man-controlled environment. We need wilderness preserved, as much of it as is still left and as many kinds because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed. The reminder and reassurance that it is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in 10 years set foot in it. It is good for us when we are young because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly as vacation and rest into our insane lives. It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there. Important that it is, simply as idea. The frontier was necessary. For an American, insofar as he is new any different at all, is a civilized man who has renewed himself in the wild.

For a tribute to Philip Hyde’s landscape photography and its role in wilderness preservation see the blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.”

(Originally posted Nov. 4, 2010.)

Why do you think we need wilderness? Is it important for landscape photographers and others who hike, travel or enjoy other outdoor activities on wild lands to care about wilderness preservation?

My Favorite Photos Of 2010

January 7th, 2011

Mirror Lake, Mist, Winter, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

For the next 10 or more years, in some ways the rest of my life, I have my work assignment: representing my father, prominent Western landscape photographer Philip Hyde. Also, you may or may not notice from this blog, but I consider myself a writer first and a photographer as a sideline, at least for quite some time to come.

Edward Weston’s Darkroom, Wildcat Hill, Carmel Highlands, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

My secret to making it into print in the past was to edit several more times than I do when I write blog posts. However, I haven’t made any print or online magazine submissions recently.

Fall Color, Summit County, Rocky Mountains, Colorado, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Even though I am still interviewing people for my book, I hope to get a chance to do more regular magazine writing this year. Perhaps I will even write about other interests besides my father, his photography and life, as is my focus here and during the majority of days.

Mission San Miguel De Arcangel, Paso Robles, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Meanwhile, I have been inspired by photographer and fellow blogger Jim M. Goldstein, who seems to have instigated nearly every photo blogger in the photo blogosphere to post their “Best Photos of 2010.” To see more “Best Photos of 2010” from all around the web see Jim M. Goldstein’s blog post, “Top 10 ‘Top Photo Lists.'” Also, the Nature Conservancy just posted a great slide show of its, “Best Nature Photos of 2010.”

Neighbors, San Francisco, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

I am discovering that I greatly enjoy the photography blogosphere. The community is diverse yet generally friendly and helpful to each fellow blogger. Each photo blogger benefits from the network and contributes as well. Each blogger has something to teach and something to learn. Like minds tend to come together and those who differ widely also cross-pollinate methods and ideas and friendships develop. Through the process I am catching a more serious case of the photography bug all the time. I make photographs in my spare time, about five minutes a month.

Reflection Detail, Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

I photograph a combination of subjects and do not limit myself to a certain genre or type of photography like many “experts” suggest. My father knew how to specialize. His type of landscape photography was ideal for him. His work was also part of one of the biggest changes in photography to come along, besides perhaps what is happening now and when negatives changed from glass plates to film. Digital photography today, besides being much easier than film, is also more freeing, providing the flexibility and opportunity to pursue various branches of photography and often combine them in new ways.

Fast Food Traveling Band, Travel Stop On Interstate 5, Northern California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

The Road To Mt. Hough, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

I was fortunate to grow up in the wilderness. I find because natural surroundings are my roots that I naturally photograph the natural scene. However, I also notice that I am drawn to photograph people, and people in nature. I am attracted to social activism as well as environmental activism. If I were to pursue photography full-time rather than writing, or more than writing, the ideal life for me would be as a freelance photojournalist. I would be on the plane as soon as news broke of the BP Oil Spill, down there right in the oil slick with the workers and dead birds. Or I could see photographing inner city poverty and homeless people, or the dot com collapse, hurricanes, earthquakes, environmental disasters, as long as I wasn’t sensationalizing other people’s misfortunes, but doing something to help them.

Colorado Cleanup Demolition, Downtown Denver, Colorado, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

These photographs show where my vision is at this time after making digital photographs for just under two years and film photographs off and on for most of my life. Most of the images here are camera raw or close to it with only a few minor adjustments. One of my favorite photography quotes not by my father is, “To see color as form means looking at the image in a new way, trying to free oneself from absorption in subject matter.” –Cole Weston. This quote is part of what I’m about in my photography and will substitute for my own artist’s statement until I write one.

Summit Sunset, Loveland Pass, Rocky Mountains, Colorado, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. I remember the evening I made this photograph. I had just that morning been commenting that sunsets are cliche and voila: one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen was waiting for me just as I emerged from the Loveland Pass Eisenhower Tunnel. I was in the fast lane and literally skidded to a stop in about a foot of snow and flying powder on the center median to make this photograph. Fortunately I was in my 4X4 truck or I would not have made it back onto the pavement without a tow.

“Freeing oneself from absorption in subject matter,” is nearly the opposite of what my father was doing with a camera. His photography was primarily about place and as Emerson put it, “the integrity of natural objects.” I would expand my statement to include the integrity of all objects, as well as the breakdown, disintegration and rearrangement of all objects. Not to mention the celebration of place without attachment to place or to subject matter in the photograph.

Another photographer, I don’t remember who, said something else I like that applies, “Photography is not about what objects look like, it is about what objects look like when photographed.”

Snow Cornice Detail Along Highway 50, Nevada, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Sometimes it pays off to be out driving across several states after a fresh snowfall. Amazingly, even though I drive back and forth from California to Colorado a few times a year, I still drive fewer than 8,000 miles a year, significantly less than the average American at just over 12,000 miles a year.

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Something about fast food, the Catholic Church and all those electric wires powered by San Francisco’s electricity grid set me onto going for an apocalyptic sky look.

As long as I’m borrowing phrases from other photographers I will quote my favorite pioneer landscape photographer and hero, my father, from his Artist’s Statement to close this post. To me this is one of the wisest statements he ever made and part of what drives me, “A mind at peace may be found in any individual or people who have kept touch with what the land is saying and who lack the benefits of instant dissemination of the human troubles that make news. After reading Gandhi, I see that what we need now is a peaceful environmental revolution. The Earth will survive, but will man survive on the Earth?”

To read an introduction to what else I learned from my father see the blog post, “Memories Of Finally Working With Dad.” For more of my photographs see the blog posts, “David Leland Hyde Archival Prints Pre-Launch” and “Best Photos Of 2011.”

 

Breaking New Ground With Digital Photography Creations

April 2nd, 2010

Art derives a considerable part of its beneficial exercise from flying in the face of presumptions.”    – Henry James, 1888

Calathea #2, 2003 from the Photo Synthesis Series by Huntington Witherill. Photoshop creation from a Canon 10D original made in Huntington Witherill's Studio in Monterey, California.

Though this blog is primarily about landscape photography, it will cover other forms of interest. Landscape photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Brett Weston, and Philip Hyde were known for their landscapes, yet it is well-known that they practiced other forms. Philip Hyde, like the others above made portraits and a significant portion of his work is considered documentary. He avoided commercial work for advertising but made a large body of architectural photographs for corporate and government clients. Today no genre of photography has more merit than any other, as long as the work is produced with the same artistic rigor as taught by the early masters. (For context, see the series of blog posts, “Photography’s Golden Era 3,” “Photography’s Golden Era 4” and others in the category “History of Photography.”)

Calathea #2, 2003, original digital capture with a Canon 10D by Huntington Witherill in his studio in Monterey, California. (Before Photoshop "Digital Transformation" process)

In the blog post “Photography’s Golden Era 2” I drew from several authorities to address a question asked in a comment on “Photography’s Golden Era 1” about the current time period and whether it is also a “Golden Era.” The discussion heated up, but several landscape photographers pointed out that because the current conditions are not conducive to making a living from photography, the period is not liable to incubate as much great art. However, even though photography is going in a million directions and what we see now is chaos, we may be in the beginnings of a new Golden Era. See the blog post “Man Ray On Art And Originality.” Also relevant to this discussion, are the words of discretion by Paul Strand in the blog post, “What Makes A Photograph Art?”

After some looking around, I found a few striking examples of fine art photographers that are doing truly new and innovative work. One of these is a young lady, Natalie Dybisz, who calls herself Miss Aniela. Her tastefully exotic digitally re-constructed self-portraits have reportedly developed a record-breaking following on Flicker. Another fine art photographer, Huntington Witherill, has practiced straight photography for 35 years but is now breaking new ground in creative digital photography with a series he calls Photo Synthesis.

“Absent the proper self-restraint,” Huntington Witherill said, “Working with Photoshop can be a bit like using a chainsaw to make Christmas tree ornaments. Photoshop is a marvelously powerful tool. But unlike a chainsaw, Photoshop is also capable of extremely intricate and detailed work when used with finesse.” Huntington Witherill has made some remarkable creations that measure up artistically to his earlier film photography.  The steps he takes in the process of one creation can be viewed in a video by Clicking Here.

“The perpetuation and validity of straight photography has already been well established,” Huntington Witherill said. “Edward Weston’s photographs remain every bit as valid as they were prior to the digital age. However, in my opinion, it is the aesthetic quality of the work itself which will tend to perpetuate and continue to validate the practice of straight photography.” Huntington Witherill and my father, Philip Hyde, both taught photography workshops at the University of California Santa Cruz Extension, along with other luminaries such as Ruth Bernhard, Cole Weston, Morley Baer, Wynn Bullock, Al Weber, Steve Crouch, Dave Bohn, Ralph Putzker, Glenn Wessels, Milton Halberstadt, Pirkle Jones, Dick Garrod, Henry Gilpin and others. Philip Hyde and Huntington Witherill were roommates once at a workshop teachers gathering and also spent time together at the Rendezvous, a meeting of photographers organized by Al Weber. Huntington Witherill recently had more to say about my dad’s landscape photography and how people see it today:

Were I to feel it necessary to argue the validity, importance or relevance of your father’s work, I would be doing so on the basis of the overall aesthetic quality and visually unique character and style of his photographs, and to a certain restrained extent, upon the context in which they were made. I would avoid the old “us” versus “them” argument which pits “straight” photography against all other types of photography (an argument which largely centers upon the chosen tools, materials, and methods, and the relative level of perceived manipulation used to produce the work). First, I think it’s beneath the dignity and importance of your father’s work to be forced into such a seemingly shallow argument. And second, I think the argument itself is completely unnecessary. Your father’s work was made at a time when few others were producing similar work. It could be superficially categorized as “straight” photography, yet aesthetically, it stands on its own even today, regardless of the specific kind of photographic characterization or classification one wishes to apply to it.

Your father used his heart and mind to produce images that met his own unique sensibilities. He saw the world in a way that others did not. Who cares how or in what style, or even when his photographs were made? To argue the “validity” or relative “importance” of a Philip Hyde photograph based upon the tools, materials and methods he used to produce that photograph, is beneath the dignity of the work. We’re all in the same photographic boat and we’re all working on differing forms of artistic self-expression. When your father’s work is considered in the context of photographic “art,” it must be compared with all other forms and manifestations of the art, not simply advocated because it happens to be “straight” photography. Edward Weston’s photographs are great because they are great photographs. It doesn’t matter to what style or method you compare them. Edward Weston’s photographs are not great simply because they are “straight” photographs. And… neither are your father’s.

All photographers and purveyors of photography working today are in the throws of negotiating the many changes in the medium brought on by digital cameras, Photoshop and other digital era methods. Everyone has a different approach. Some photographers have not only navigated the changes, they are thriving by leading the way. “Witherill has embraced the new technique and run with it,” Rick Deragon said in 1999. Rick Deragon is a painter of the natural scene, museum curator and art teacher. Rick Deragon also said of Huntington Witherill, “He’s run right into a new reality that he is able to define, unfettered by photography’s past, but still full of his reverence for the natural source.”

Railing, Fort Stevens, Washington, 2006 by Huntington Witherill. An example of his straight photography.

One look at Huntington Witherill’s photography and anyone can see it is not to be confused with much other photography today that suffers from heavy-handed Photoshop use that has somehow tainted and made the images look slightly overcooked. He himself describes the majority of the photography displayed on the internet today as low quality. The change to be feared is not the departure from straight photography through Photoshop. Nor is there harm in exploring new ways of making images that use methods or philosophies completely different from straight photography. The degrading of the medium lies in the vast quantities of aesthetically inferior work and the overuse of Photoshop to try to save otherwise tasteless images.

Photoshop is a wonder in the hands of talented creative artists such as Miss Aniela or Huntington Witherill. The problem lies not in new forms of photography, but in landscape photography that consists of what my father, Philip Hyde, called “pretty pictures for postcards.” In his artist statement he said, “Black and White is excellent experience for color work because it encourages sensitivity to form, texture, tonal gradations and the quality of light. Color photographs that lack these qualities and rely too much on the shock value of color alone will not sustain interest.”

In a 1979 letter to retired Outward Bound river guide and landscape photographer Chris Brown, Philip Hyde wrote that many landscape photographs tend to have too many elements in them and are “not tightly enough organized.” Philip Hyde went on to say:

Because it is big in scale does not mean that it can’t have impact as an intentional photograph. The camera only sees one frame at a time, and unless you get into some of the multiple-image techniques, you’ve got to rely on one image to make the impression. I tend to be careful in my own work, not to yield to the easy temptation to over-dramatize things just to make this impression—and as a corollary, I also tend to be less impressed with the group led by Ernst Haas, who make their point by highly romantic over-dramatics. They go too far, I think, but certainly something more than pointing the camera and making a snapshot is indicated. Snapshots have their place, but I assume at the outset that you want to make a deeper impression, create something that communicates a little more powerfully. The only recipe I know for it is a four-letter word: work (experience, practice).

Take a look at the following videos of Huntington Witherill, by Douglas Ethridge, posted on John Paul Caponigro’s blog. They show not only a new vision but also a depth of mastery of the medium, that developed through many years of experience and practice in straight photography, but that has now found a new direction through new methods and techniques that go way beyond those of the past. Welcome to the future, or at least one form of it…

To read more about cutting edge Photoshop methods see the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros.”