Posts Tagged ‘nature photography’

Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part Two

April 2nd, 2014

Dinosaur National Monument 2013

Part Two: Across The Misty Ranching Highlands

Jones Creek In Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde.

Jones Creek In Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde. Archival Chromogenic Prints Available.

 Arrival In Vernal, Departure For Dinosaur

(Continued from the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part One.”)

Even with sporadic rain and spring virgas dotting the horizon, the high open mountain passes of Rocky Mountain National Park, shining with stark beauty, already felt dry like the deserts of the interior and Western side of Colorado. Coming from the drizzle of a wet summer on the Colorado Front Range in Boulder, the high desert plains north and west of Steamboat Springs were warm and welcoming with the smell of sage and sun cracked earth all the way to Vernal, Utah.

After arriving indestructible at Randy Fullbright’s house at 4:00 am, I followed his previous instructions for where to catch a few hours of sleep. After waiting as long as he could, Randy woke me up somewhere between 7:00 and 8:00 am, and I found I was no longer indestructible. Indeed, with the night’s caffeine worn off, I was bone tired. Not only did I have very little sleep that night, I had just spent two weeks with minimal sleep moving all of my belongings. Weariness finally caught up with me here, in Vernal, the very morning I was supposed to rise to the occasion for a long hike in Dinosaur National Monument.

Well, I couldn’t exactly drive all that way, show up on Mr. Fullbright’s doorstep and then try to explain why I was too tired to go, especially with excitement in the air and him already well into his coffee that was making him increasingly indestructible by the minute, not that he wasn’t tough as nails even in his sleep. Everything I began to say about being tired sounded like a feeble excuse on the way out. So, I abandoned that line for the time being. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have reasoned that there might be opportunities for complaining later, but fortunately that would prove not to be the case.

Just then it was all about gathering my hiking boots, socks, camera gear, day pack and other items for our outing that seemed determined to rock on whether my body was ready or not. Randy and I had been talking on the phone about exploring Dinosaur for weeks, if not months, and the day had arrived. It was overcast so far. We wrestled our gear into Randy’s Ford 4×4 pickup, made lunches, reshuffled my cooler and other food into a cool place in the house and jumped in the truck ready rumble.

The Approach: Diamond Mountain Road

Dinosaur lies east of Vernal. You can take the road to the Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side before you get back into Colorado, or take Highway 40 across the Colorado border, turning left on the Harper’s Corner Road near the park headquarters and Colorado side visitor’s center, or enter the national monument on dirt roads that cross the prairie ranch lands just east of Vernal. We took Diamond Mountain Road. It jarred us around here and there with a few rough spots, but generally was smooth graded gravel that turned to pothole-riddled pavement in the national monument. Diamond Mountain Road meandered through dry washes and over low mesas that melted together as one open mesa top and faded into the mist in the distance. The sun nearly broke through in a few places, but mainly the clouds kept the sage-dotted sparsely grass-covered earth draped in mystery.

This land stage is battleground not only to the interests of Dinosaur National Monument, wealthy ranchers, developers, speculators and miners in a new energy boom. It is a battleground for idealists wishing to grow wealthy as Vernal develops as a mecca for fracking and other dirty mining approaches. Some special interests believe the only obstacle to Vernal’s rise to economic stardom and wealth would be Dinosaur becoming a national park and thereby imposing higher air quality standards on the area, limiting industrialization. Tourism interests and others on the other side of the issue believe the opposite. They argue that it is exactly Dinosaur’s conversion to national park status that would bring more new prosperity to the region than any other short-lived or even long-lived mineral or oil and gas extraction boom.

Randy and I had discussed many of these issues in the weeks and months leading up to my arrival in the area. Randy had also told me stories about photographing many of the remote and little known parts of Dinosaur, some that my father, pioneer wilderness photographer Philip Hyde had also photographed in 1951-1955, many that he had not. Randy spoke of places like Island Park, Echo Park, The Chairs, Jones Hole, Harper’s Corner, Mantle’s Ranch, Old Roundtop, Split Mountain, Whirlpool Canyon, Gates of Ladore, Hell’s Canyon, Yampa Bench, Rainbow Park, Douglas Mountain, Blue Mountain, Cub Creek, Deer Lodge Park and many others in the canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers. For more on remote places to photograph see the blog series beginning with, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.”

Many Ranchers And Other Groups Are Against Dinosaur Becoming A National Park

“Many of the ranchers, who also happen to be old friends of mine, are against Dinosaur becoming a national park,” Fullbright said. “They are afraid that they will lose their rights to grazing on the national monument if it becomes a national park.” This has happened over time in several national parks of the west. In Canyonlands, for example, grazing rights and leases were written to run out after 100 years. Randy said that in contrast the National Park Service in Dinosaur would be willing to offer grazing rights in perpetuity. “It wouldn’t be that hard for the National Park Service to give each of the old ranching families a grandfather clause for running livestock as long as their blood lines last, but they don’t trust that.”

Later, after I returned home to Northeastern California, Randy suggested I contact Dan Johnson, Dinosaur’s Chief Interpretive Ranger, to hear more about the potential for a change in Dinosaur’s park status. More on the issues involved in the next blog post in this series…

As we crossed the high plateaus approaching the canyons of the Green River, the signs of grazing were apparent and an occasional lonely fence angled off into the distance to join others. The mood of austerity was accentuated by washed out skies, white mists and lands colored by a limited palette of grays and beiges. Even in these drab conditions, the desolate wind-swept near-raw land had a presence and nature that only brought joy rather than loneliness to the heart of long-time desert travelers and dwellers like Randy Fullbright and me. The ceiling began to lift as we drove. By the time we came up over a hill and could look down on the fish hatchery and see ahead the impressive 10-15 mile long escarpment of Diamond Mountain. The skies remained gray overhead, but we could see as far as the land allowed in every direction.

I made a few photographs before we plunged down toward Diamond Gulch on the road that began to wind sharply with the contours of the hillsides. We stopped once again before a longer stop for more photographs where the road turned to parallel Diamond Mountain. At that spot, the views up at the eroded sculpting of the strata of Diamond Mountain in subtle reds, oranges, tans and beiges, were well worth photographing.

Randy drove us on down just a little ways to the Fish Hatchery, where we parked, talked to the park ranger for a while, then hoisted day packs and set off down the fishing trail into Jones Hole along Jones Creek. More on the story of our hike, some of it’s highlights and surprises,  conservation photography, spiritual experiences in nature and more in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument, Part Three”…

Are you a desert lover? Why?

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?

Living The Good Life 3

February 21st, 2013

Living the Good Life, Part Three

The Change Of Seasons

(Continued from the blog post, “Living The Good Life 2.”)

“When I hear people say they have not found the world, or life so interesting as to be in love with it, I am apt to think they have never seen with clear vision the world they think so meanly of, nor anything in it, not even a blade of grass.”  –W. H. Hudson

“I have moments, in these days of national gloom, financial depression, ‘hard times’, when I feel it my duty to be sad, or at least cynical—but cannot be—not in spring.”  –David Grayson, 1936, from The Countryman’s Year.

Looking Back

Oak Trunks, Maples, Fall Snow On Ardis Hyde's "Ornamentals" Garden, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2012 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Featured in the upcoming David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.

Oak Trunks, Maples, Fall Snow On Ardis Hyde’s “Ornamentals” Garden, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2012 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Featured in the upcoming David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.

Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, provided much of the basis for how Ardis and Philip Hyde lived at home. In the blog post, “Living the Good Life 1,” guest blogger Nancy Presser and I introduced Helen and Scott Nearing and looked at how they led the back to the land movement of the 1950s. We also looked at how my parents, Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail of a photography project, in their own quiet way adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.” In the blog post, “Living The Good Life 2,” we reviewed Ardis and Philip Hyde’s upbringing and how this brought them eventually to the country and to their own land. In the following third episode, I write about the seasons on that land and unravel how my parents ensured they would have freedom in life.

Ardis Hyde’s Bookshelves

Besides what she once called “our Bible,” Helen and Scott Nearing’s Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, Ardis Hyde had many other books on gardening, living on the land and country living philosophy on her bookshelves. One of them of particular inspirational content was The Countryman’s Year by David Grayson.

In The Countryman’s Year, David Grayson, while placing his experiences and observations within “the magic circle of the seasons” described his own “Good Life”:

Many years ago I came to the hillside in the town of Amherst where I now live. I bought a few acres of land and built a house. I planted trees and cultivated my garden. I kept bees. I made good friends among my neighbors. Here I have known the best, I think, that comes to any man—times of sight that is also insight.

The Change of Seasons As A Rite of Passage

My mother Ardis reveled in the change of seasons. I learned from her and my father to joyfully anticipate the subtle indicators of change in nature. My mother kept a written log of our family experiences and events, which could easily also be organized around the four seasons. When living close to the land, the seasons are telltale mile markers to keep you awake and aware of your progress or lack thereof, and to remind you that your progress or lack thereof is only fleeting, eventually immaterial in the big scheme of all life. Your own work and life are kept in perspective and relevance to the life around you by the disappearing and returning of life with the time of year.

This Year The Seasons Are All Mixed Up

This year, 2012 into 2013, summer lingered long with Indian summer blue skies and white, puffy unicorn-rainbow-dreamy clouds flitting and skidding merrily around the heavens. Autumn or fall, as we always called it, took a long time to arrive and segued out of summer without much effort. It was hard to distinguish summer from fall and they both carried on much longer than usual. Some tree leaves such as those from the Maples and Aspens turned yellow, orange and red on schedule, while the Black Oaks were late and the Alders, Willows and Cottonwoods hardly changed yellow or orange, but way behind schedule mainly went straight to brown. Finally in November, fall acquired a little of its usual bite and the leaves, having taken a long time to shed their green for brighter colors on many species of trees, suddenly began to blow free in the gusts of wind and drift to the ground.

Just as the leaves started to fall, while the fall color show was still in full swing, suddenly winter blasted in from the Arctic and the Gulf of Alaska with over a foot of snow. We had been swimming in Indian Creek two weeks before the snow began to fly. I had been feverishly photographing the fall color because I had almost completely missed fall in 2011. As a result, my portfolio was a bit thin on fall color photographs. I made up for it fall of 2012. I had been photographing four to five hours a day for months. The arrival of snow brought, I thought, an anticipated break. However, I discovered that snow over the top of fall colors offered a whole new range of possibilities that screamed to be photographed thoroughly. I set to work on this, but found that snow while adding great glory to the cloak of fall, also stripped the cloak away and hastened the march into the barren days of dead winter.

Winter And Spring March On

Last year and the year before, winter seemed to drag on forever, but this year though it hit hard early and stung deep with unusual cold and ice, it seems now to be flying right by. After all, we are just a few weeks away from the first flowers, the snowdrops, which are regularly scheduled to appear within the first week of March. In the early 1960s my mother wrote that the snowdrops were appearing in early April, but for the last 10 years I have observed them arriving in early March. In The Countryman’s Year, David Grayson began his narrative “with the first shy touches of spring” on April 1, when the land is locked in “Endless winter, raw and cold.” New England loosens its grip on winter less easily than the Northern Sierra of California.

For my mother February meant fertilizing. March began preparation for the planting of vegetable starts. This year in February we were doing fall’s leaf raking because fall offered no time to rake the fallen leaves before the snow buried them. The first original snow stayed on the ground for three months until mid February because it froze in place and turned to pure ice while more snow piled on top.

The Nearings’ Philosophy On Seasons And Livelihood

The only mention of seasons by Helen and Scott Nearing in Living The Good Life is in regard to the maple syrup season:

People brought up on a money economy are taught to believe in the importance of getting and keeping money. Time and again folk told us, “You can’t afford to make syrup. You won’t make any money that way.” One year a neighbor, Harold Field, kept a careful record of the labor he put in during the syrup season and of the sale price of his product, and figured that he got only 67 cents an hour for his time. In view of these figures, the next year he did not tap out because sugaring paid less than wage labor. But, during that syrup season he found no chance to work for wages, so he didn’t even make the 67 cents an hour. Our attitude was quite different. We kept careful cost figures, but we never used them to determine whether we should or should not make syrup. We tapped our trees as each tap season came along. Our figures showed us what the syrup had cost. When the season was over and the syrup on hand, we wrote to various correspondents in California or Florida, told them what our syrup had cost, and exchanged our product for equal value of their citrus, walnuts, olive oil or raisins. As a result of these transactions, we laid in a supply of items at no cash outlay, which we could not ourselves produce. Our livelihood base was broadened as the result of our efforts in the sugar bush and the sap house.

The Nearings were interested in self-reliance and setting up their own “self-contained household unit,” independent from the money economy around them:

The Great Depression had brought millions of bread-winners face to face with the perils which lurked for those who, in a commodity economy based on wage-paid labor, purchase their livelihood in the open market. The wage and salary workers did not own their own jobs, nor did they have any part in deciding economic policy, nor in selecting those who carried policy into effect. The many unemployed in 1932 did not lose their jobs through any fault of their own, yet they found themselves workless, in an economy based on cash payment for the necessities, necessaries and decencies. Though their incomes had ceased, their outgo for food, shelter and clothing ate up their accumulated savings and threw them into debt. Since we were proposing to go on living in this profit-price economy, we had to accept its dread implications or find a workable alternative. We saw this alternative in a semi-subsistence livelihood.

Self-Reliance Versus Making Money

The Nearings raised their own food, bartered for what they did not produce, used wood for fuel, built their own buildings from materials gathered from their land, made their own tools as much as possible and kept down their use and acquisition of tools and gadgets made by “the assembly lines of big business.” If they had to have any of these, they rented them for short periods of time. They did not focus on making money, but produced enough cash crop each year for their livelihood and then beyond that turned their efforts “toward social activities, toward avocations such as reading, writing, music making, toward repairs or replacement of our equipment.” They kept all of their operations on a cash and carry basis, incurring no debts or mortgages. The Hydes applied much this same philosophy. They agreed with the Nearings stance on money:

Ideas of “making money” or “getting rich” have given people a perverted view of economic principles. The object of economic effort is not money, but livelihood. Money cannot feed, clothe or shelter. Money is a medium of exchange, a means of securing the items that make up livelihood.

Employing this outlook toward making money did not bring Philip Hyde fame in the traditional sense. He became known for defending wilderness, but he spent more of his time working on conservation campaigns than approaching photography galleries or arranging large exhibitions with major museums, unless they came to him. He and my mother lived life on their own terms, beholden to no one. They were not slaves to tight schedules for workshops, speaking engagements, touring exhibitions and book signings. A few of these events went a long way. Mom and Dad were then free to sit out on their deck and observe the birds arriving in the spring, or to enjoy the dropping of the air temperatures in the evening that signals the approach of fall.

What Is Freedom? Who Is Free?

Walt Whitman offered some guidance:

After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on—have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear—what remains? Nature remains: to bring out from their torpid recesses the affinities of a man or woman with the open air—the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.

While I’m here and not at my place in Colorado, I often look out at the same scene that my parents looked at most of their lives, living here in their paradise on earth. I realize that I have become too much a slave to the dollar, too much a cog in the machine. I see that the internet has in some ways given me freedom, but in others has made me much more dependent on the system and stolen my time. I would much rather read a good classic than yet another article on why I need to “maximize my social media presence.” At least I have the seasons and nature to remind me of what is real, to help me recall who I am and why I am here.

Recommended Reading (Please Show Your Appreciation And Help Us Out By Ordering Through These Links)

Busting Loose From the Money Game: Mind-Blowing Strategies for Changing the Rules of a Game You Can’t Win by Robert Scheinfeld

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa

The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy And Environment by Chris Martenson

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems by Van Jones

Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender by Thomas H. Greco

The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered by John Michael Greer

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience by Rob Hopkins

Love Is the New Currency by Linda Commito

The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality by Richard Heinberg

The Growth Illu$ion: How Economic Growth Has Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet by Richard Douthwaite

(Continued in the blog post, “Living The Good Life 4.”)

Does nature help you remember who you are? How do you celebrate or observe the change of seasons?

The History Of Photography Collecting 1

November 29th, 2012

The History of Photography Collecting 1

Photography Has Proven One Of The Most Profitable And Satisfying Of All Art Forms To Collect…

While Photography as an art form has matured and found substantial space in most major museums, more people make and share photographs than ever before with the proliferation of digital cameras and camera phones. Interest in collecting photography has also grown dramatically, not to mention the value of some photographs. The art of collecting photography has followed the medium in an upward climb in popularity throughout its existence. But how did photography collecting begin? Who were the first collectors? What types of photographs were the first collected? Why were daguerreotypes so popular?

>> Read More >>

 

Living The Good Life 2

March 14th, 2012

Living the Good Life, Part Two

By Nancy Presser and David Leland Hyde

(Continued from the previous blog post, “Living The Good Life 1.”)

Rough Rock Lower Lawn, Maples, Fall, Shoulder of Grizzly Ridge, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 by David Leland Hyde.

Back to the Land movement leaders, Helen and Scott Nearing in Living the good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, share a living philosophy based on self-reliance and living a simple life sustained by farming the land. Ardis and Philip Hyde studied many such books and ways of life and found Helen and Scott Nearing’s model most relevant to the Hyde’s home lifestyle, including daily pace and schedule, food preservation and organic gardening. In the previous blog post, “Living The Good Life 1,” Nancy Presser and David Leland Hyde wrote about how Helen and Scott Nearing led the Back to the Land movement of the 1950s and how Ardis and Philip Hyde in turn implemented the Nearings’ philosophy.

While delving into the first chapter of Living the good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, Nancy found that Helen and Scott Nearing were writing for someone just like her, a city person that had ideas of living a simpler life. Helen Nearing wrote, “…A couple, of any age from twenty to fifty, with a minimum of health, intelligence and capital, can adapt themselves to country living, learn its crafts, overcome its difficulties, and build up a life pattern rich in simple values and productive of personal and social good.” Nancy wondered about Ardis and Philip Hyde. Were they from the city or the country? Why did they choose to adapt to their own situation, Helen and Scott Nearing’s lifestyle and philosophy?

David explained that his mother, Ardis, grew up in the suburbs of Sacramento, California, when Sacramento was a small town that couldn’t even be called a city. About 15 miles from downtown, in the rural countryside lay the Van Maren Ranch. The Van Maren Ranch House sat in the center of the Van Maren Ranch on a small hill that was later removed and is now a shopping center in the town called Citrus Heights, California. Ardis visited the ranch often with her family. David’s grandmother, Ardis’ mother, Elsie Van Maren King, had grown up on the ranch with her three sisters and no brothers. The four Van Maren girls learned to do all of the chores that boys usually do, and when Ardis came along, and later her brothers, grandma taught her all the ranch chores that boys usually did too. David’s mother from a young age was very competent around animals, farm equipment and anything outdoors. Ardis’ father, Clinton S. King Jr., loved the outdoors and loved to go camping. All of the Kings grew to love camping in the Sierra, except grandmother, who went along, but never liked it much.

David’s father, Philip, was born in San Francisco in 1921, but by 1925, the Hyde family moved to San Rafael. In those days Marin County was rural countryside. The Hydes lived in a house in the woods near the train station at the end of the train line in San Rafael. At age four to five little Philip learned to love to play in the woods. When Philip’s older brother Paul died and the family moved back to San Francisco, Philip joined the Boy Scouts and continued the outdoor adventures that he loved. Leland Hyde took his wife Jessie, Philip and his newborn little brother Davy and their older sister Betty camping also. At age 16, Philip first backpacked in Yosemite National Park with the Boy Scouts. After the second year’s annual backpack in Yosemite, Philip wrote “Home” across a map of Yosemite Valley. Philip considered the mountains his spiritual home from this time forward. David discussed in Guy Tal’s interview of him, how during World War II while stationed in flat Kansas, Philip used to ride two days on the train to Denver, Colorado just to get a glimpse of mountains.”

Philip and Ardis Hyde were both from the city, but both had an affinity to the country. Both had roots in camping, farming and wilderness. They both developed a love for the outdoors and even though their experience was somewhat limited then compared to later, they felt at home enough in nature’s company to seek more of it. Many people of all walks of life with much less experience easily learn to thrive in the country, but some connection to nature and the value of being close to nature, lends them the desire that carries them on to further learning and becoming accustomed to country life.

After their marriage in June 1947 at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, California, Philip and Ardis Hyde began taking steps to achieve their dream of living in or near the mountains where they could cultivate a bit of land and sow a garden. Helen and Scott Nearing, for example, considered many places to live: the United States, abroad or in a commune. They settled on Vermont because, as they wrote:

Aesthetically, we enjoy the procession of the seasons. In any other part of the country we would have missed the perpetual surprises and delights to which New England weather treats its devotee… The land that has four well-defined seasons cannot lack beauty, or pall with monotony. Physically, we believe the changing weather cycle is good for health and adds a zest to life… Geographically, we found New England in closer contact with the Old World, from which we did not wish to sever connections.

Ardis and Philip Hyde kept their sights on the United States as well, though they did go abroad for a one year stint in Casablanca Morocco, French North Africa. See future blog posts for their adventures in 1953-1954 French Morocco. The Hydes found and fell in love with the Sierra Nevada first through childhood camping trips, then through Philip’s teenage backpacks, but later Ardis and Philip together connected to the Northern Sierra through an unlikely series of events. As fate would have it, they were on the train to Sacramento to visit Mom’s family one time and they ran across one of Ardis’ old Principia College friends, Patricia Lindren Kurtz and her new husband Cornell Kurtz on their way to their new home in Plumas County in the heart of the Feather River region. The train at that time traveled on from Sacramento up the Feather River Canyon. The Hydes were looking for good paying jobs for the summer of 1948. Pat Kurtz said she knew the owner of Cheney Mill in Greenville, California and that she could get Philip a good job there. How ideal, a chance to be in the mountains for the summer and a good job. There was even a vacancy in one of the cabins at the Fox Farm where Pat and Cornell Kurtz lived at Lake Almanor. The Hydes moved in for the summer and fell in love with the area. In a letter, Ardis described their first drive from Greenville over to the other end of Indian Valley one day. She wrote, “With Grizzly Ridge above Indian Creek lined by trees, this is by far the most beautiful end of Indian Valley.”

Though they did not realize it fully at the time, Philip and Ardis Hyde had found their mountain paradise. Nonetheless, it took nearly 10 more years and many more twists and turns, including attempts at settling in Carmel, California and in French Morocco, before their dream of owning their own wilderness land became reality. Watch as this story of the Hyde’s home life unfolds in upcoming blog posts in this series. Read about the Change of Seasons in the next blog post, “Living The Good Life 3.”

What Urban Exploration Photography Learned From Nature

March 5th, 2012

What Did Urban Exploration Photography Learn From Nature?

Is nature glossy? Is nature always beautiful? My father Western American landscape photographer and conservationist, Philip Hyde, said “Nature is always beautiful, even when we might call a scene ugly.” Is he correct?

Red Canyon at Hance Rapid, Boulders in Dunes, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1964 by Philip Hyde. First Published in "Time And The River Flowing: Grand Canyon" by Francois Leydet, in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. The book that helped defend the Grand Canyon against two dams.

(See the photograph large: “Red Canyon At Hance Rapid, Grand Canyon National Park.”)

Nature surprises us with patterns we might not have noticed or thrilling textures and colors, but nature also at times presents us with drab or even repulsive sights so ugly they smell, such as a road killed skunk or a field spread with cattle manure. My mother, Ardis Hyde, often repeated the old adage, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I also remember her saying, “Wow, what a beautiful field of manure,” on more than one occasion when we were hauling cow manure for the garden in “Covered Wagon,” a 1952 Chevy Step Side Pickup, see the blog post, “Covered Wagon Journal 1.”

Dad’s photographs of proposed wilderness areas and national parks documented the natural features of the land. He said he was not interested in “Pretty Pictures for Postcards.” This attitude came partially from his having studied and taught with Ansel Adams. Dad also espoused the straight photography and documentary principles of his other mentors Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham. These principles included keeping compositions simple and maintaining the camera’s focus crisp throughout the image, as was only attainable with a large format view camera.

Like Edward Weston, Dad presented his black and white photographs with minimal darkroom manipulation. He said, “There is no need to add drama to nature. Nature is dramatic enough.” However, when he printed dye transfer color prints and Cibachrome color prints, Dad found more color adjustment necessary, to meet his goal of making the final color print look more like the scene as he remembered it, than the film.

Today the trend in much of what is called landscape photography is toward heavy saturation, dramatic weather, unusual lighting, sunlight effects and the most dramatic cliffs, mountains or other land features. Making pictures today is in truth often two arts: Photography, defined as what occurs in camera, plus the art of post processing using Adobe Photoshop or other photo editing software. Post Processing is much like dodging and burning in the darkroom, except that in the world of digital prints and photography art, the alteration of images is easy to overdo because it takes no more effort to move the slider to 80 percent than to take it only to 10 percent. In contrast, when darkroom processing ruled, greater alteration took more work.

Landscape photography today displays magnificence. Big scenes of striking beauty possess the viewer, exhibiting an abundance of what photography galleries call, “Wow factor.” In contrast, my father’s photography grunge rocked: gritty, clear, raw and most importantly imperfect. The imperfections were minimized in the darkroom, but certainly not removed or cropped out of the photograph as they are today.

Nature is very rarely perfect. Neither is any kind of photography. While many produce sub-standard photographs, many landscape photographers thrive with quality work and high standards for maintaining a “natural look.” I have looked at much current landscape photography. In my opinion the best work continues to become better.

Nonetheless, much of landscape photographers today could re-learn, or learn back a lesson from Urban Exploration, Urb Ex or Urban Decay photography. The lesson Urban Exploration photography learned from nature. The best way to understand the lesson is to read one of the master lesson teachers in Urban Exploration Photography, Chase Jarvis. Chase Jarvis recently wrote a blog post called, “The Un-Moment: Why Gritty Beats Glossy & the Deceit of Perfection.” I recommend repeated reading of this post for landscape photographers who want to find their own voice and connect more deeply with nature. Any photographer, for that matter, who wants to have an authentic connection with his or her subject matter could learn from Chase Jarvis.

What do you think? Can the beauty of imperfection improve landscape photography? Does gritty make sense in photography genres other than Urban Exploration?

New Portfolio: Yosemite And Sierra Black And White Prints

August 30th, 2011

New Portfolio Added To PhilipHyde.com: Yosemite, Kings Canyon And Sierra Nevada Vintage Black and White Prints

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.  –John Muir

McClure Meadow, Evolution Valley, Kings Canyon National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1970 by Philip Hyde. Deardorff 5X7 Large Format Camera. Widely exhibited and published including in “The Range of Light” with quotes by John Muir. Still available as an original vintage darkroom black and white print. Three 8X10 vintage prints left available for sale at this time. Other original vintage black and white prints in the “Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sierra Portfolio” also available in limited quantities. Please inquire for details.

(See the photograph larger: “McClure Meadow, Evolution Valley, Kings Canyon.”)

In his preface to The Range of Light, with Selections from the Writings of John Muir, my father pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde wrote about choosing photographs and John Muir quotes for his book. To read more about The Range of Light see the blog post, “Philip Hyde’s Tribute To John Muir.” Philip Hyde described his process in the Preface to The Range of Light:

It was a labor of love rereading John Muir some fifty years after my first reading. In searching for quotations to use with my photographs, I found the same inspiration and delight I recall feeling in the past—more, really, since my love for the mountains has only increased with the familiarity experience has given me… I wanted to go out again, to go in further, to explore all the places I had missed, and I wanted to improve on the pictures I had made to illustrate the heightened savor I was finding in his words. In nearly a lifetime of returning again and again, I began to feel I had barely scratched the surface. But over the life of the project, my view began to shift from unfulfilled desire to gratitude. I was coming to see that I would never satisfy my thirst for wildness and mountains. I could never make all the definitive photographs of them. But hadn’t I already had more than most men’s share of them? In general, the matching of quotations with pictures should be understood as equivalents—some descriptive, some expressing an experience of feeling that seems to parallel in some way one which John Muir describes. Others are visual equivalents of the words in less direct, more personal ways. There was a basic purpose in all this: my hope to somehow discharge a little of my debt to John Muir for his keen observation that informed and sharpened my own; for his words that amplified my feeling and experience, and colored them both brighter; for his boundless enthusiasm for Nature; for his clear vision that it would not be enough, living in an exploitive culture just to love Nature, but essential for Nature’s continued existence unimpaired, that one work to carry those “good tidings” to others who would, in their turn, work to protect Nature.

In 1938, just before he turned 17, Philip Hyde first visited Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. On that trip he made his first photographs with a Kodak Readyset 120 camera that he borrowed from his sister. He brought the camera along thinking he would photograph his Boy Scout friends, but when he had the film developed, he discovered that most of the photographs were of nature rather than people, a tendency that stayed with him throughout his career. For more on Philip Hyde’s early trips to Yosemite National Park, see the blog post, “Lake Tenaya And Yosemite National Park.” His wilderness photographs participated in more environmental campaigns than any other photographer of his time and helped to establish the genre of landscape photography as a recognized art form while his photographs served as the backbone of the groundbreaking Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series. The Exhibit Format Series, invented by Ansel Adams, David Brower and Nancy Newhall, became known for popularizing the coffee table photography book and helping to establish many national parks and wilderness areas of the Western U. S. Beginning with participation in the first book in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, This Is The American Earth, Philip Hyde went on to publish more photographs in more volumes in the series than any of the other photographers, including Eliot Porter, who was known for illustrating the best selling book of the series, In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World with quotes by Henry David Thoreau. To read more about these photographers and the development of the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series see the blog post, “How Color Came To Landscape Photography.”

Though the various book projects influenced a generation of photographers and brought his work acclaim, Philip Hyde himself said, “I didn’t want to be distracted by fame.” He was more apt to spend his time working on any of many local environmental campaigns around the West, rather than talking to photography galleries, museum curators or photography agents. Although the best art museums and collectors did take interest in his work, often through recommendations from mentors such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White; Philip Hyde, until recently has been less well-known than some other leading landscape photographers. Now for the first time in more than a decade, Philip Hyde’s vintage black and white prints, as well as his original dye transfer and Cibachrome prints are offered by a select number of the world’s best photography galleries. To read more about the galleries who carry Philip Hyde’s work see the blog posts in the category “Galleries for Philip Hyde” or go to “About Vintage And Black And White Prints.” A limited number of his vintage and original prints are still available for viewing and acquisition on the Philip Hyde Photography website. As we scan Philip Hyde’s original vintage black and white prints and film, a few new images, and on a few rare occasions a whole new portfolio is added to PhilipHyde.com. The selection of photographs chosen for the new “Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sierra Black and White Portfolio” were carefully reviewed by many experts in the art world, in photography galleries and by other professional photographers. Please enjoy and write me as you have questions.

What writers, artists or other influences helped you connect to a place?

Nature Magazine: East Of Zion 2

July 21st, 2011

East Of Zion By Philip Hyde, Part 2

Continued from the blog post, “Nature Magazine: East Of Zion 1.”

Originally published by Nature Magazine, March 1957

(Nature Magazine was published by the American Nature Association and taken over by Natural History Magazine in 1960.)

Mission of Nature Magazine: “To stimulate public interest in every phase of nature and the outdoors, and devoted to the practical conservation of the great natural resources of America.”

A Glimpse of the Geology of Zion National Park:

Celebrating The Divine Artistry Of Falling Water Through Deep Canyons

By Philip Hyde

Cascade, Tributary To Clear Creek, Zion National Park, Utah, copyright 1978 by Philip Hyde. From "Drylands: The Deserts of North America." 4X5 Baby Deardorf Large Format View Camera. Original dye transfer prints, Original Cibachrome prints, archival digital prints by Carr Clifton.

(View the photograph large, “Cascade, Tributary To Clear Creek, Zion National Park, Utah, 1978.”

The great architect of this beautiful landscape is moving and falling water, and to this builder and remover of the landscape can be attributed the deep canyons of the region. The violence and power of moving water is often forcefully demonstrated during a summer thunderstorm. One of the writer’s earliest and most vivid recollections of travel in this area stems from a summer visit to Zion Canyon, when he arrived in the midst of a cloudburst. The violence of the storm was enough to justify repetition of Chicken Little’s oft-quoted exclamation: “The sky is falling!” I still have a vivid mental picture of the brown torrent that was the Virgin River, gnawing great chunks from its banks, ripping out trees, carrying debris before it in the surging current. After the climax of the storm passed, the raging water quickly abated, and within a few hours the brown flood disappeared, to be replaced by the river’s normally quiet murmurings.

Even during its quieter periods, however, the river is actively working on the confines of its bed. The low resistance of sandstone to erosion, combined with the steep gradients of the streams in this region, result in a rapid deepening of the stream canyons. Because of these two factors, the stream plays a lesser part in the process of widening the canyon. Seepage of ground water, direct action of rain water, and frosts produce the curves and crenelations that add so much to the sculptured beauty of the canyon walls.

The east side of Zion National Park displays progressive steps in the erosion cycle. In the beginning of this cycle, the land is relatively flat, illustrated by the present tops of plateaus. Where a stream gathers its waters from a small area, the stream remains small, probably runs only in response to rainfall, and manages to cut only a small canyon. The east Zion area contains many examples of this phenomenon; they are within walking distance of the highway, and can be more closely studied. In many respects these small streams are miniatures of the larger ones. They demonstrate processes and effects similar to those evidenced on a larger scale by their bigger brothers.

Another most interesting feature of the Zion region is the frequent occurrence of rock pedestals on the broad stone pavements near the highway. A closer examination of such pedestals reveals that they are capped by a material differing from the soft sandstone of the base; a layer of iron oxide that geologists believe was intruded, in solution into the sandstone. Since this material is harder, and therefore more resistant to erosive forces, it has protected the softer material directly beneath it while the surrounding material was being eroded away. So, when you look at these pedestals, you are really seeing a remnant of the layers of stone that formerly covered the presently exposed surface. The balance of this material has been carried away, either as wind-borne sand, or by stream action, to be deposited as part of a sandbar somewhere downstream. Or, perhaps it will find its way eventually to the sea, to be laid down as part of a delta at the Colorado River’s mouth.

In these pedestals, as in the rest of the landscape, can be read one of the grand lessons of geology—that Nature is not at rest, but is ever active, ever changing the face of the Earth; that even the stones, cold and dead to our eyes, have their own inner life and being. In the slow passage of geologic time, the surface we look at today will pass away to join its predecessors, each succeeding layer following in its turn, until Nature decrees a major change—such as has occurred we know not how many times past—to commence the cycle again at what men are pleased to call the beginning.

Interview of Gary Crabbe Part 3

July 12th, 2011

Landscape Photography Blogger Interviews Photographer Gary Crabbe

Last Part of A Three Part Series

(Continued from the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 2.”)

On Photography For Books, Publishing, Rebuilding After An Injury And Stock Photography

Interview Conducted By Phone May 25, 2011

Cloud Rising Out Of The Owens Valley At Sunrise, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph full size, “Cloud Rising Out Of The Owens Valley, Eastern Sierra Nevada.” For the story of Gary Crabbe’s transcendent experience making this photograph see his blog post, “Spirits In The Air.”)

DAVID LELAND HYDE: We continue with the conclusion of an in-depth interview of one of the leading landscape photographers working today, Gary Crabbe of Enlightened Images. Gary is also the author of an award-winning and highly acclaimed photo blog. In the first part of this series Gary and I talked about how the arts in general are relevant to landscape photography, his famous mentoring by the late landscape master Galen Rowell and the development of your own personal style. In the second part we developed the discussion about personal style, delved into the making of photography books, photo editing and selection and a bit more about Galen Rowell and how he worked. We are talking now about a few of Gary Crabbe’s photography books.

GARY CRABBE: The rest of the Voyageur Press books were in a pre-existing series. With Backroads of the California Coast: Your Guide to Scenic Getaways & Adventures, Voyageur Press put on a huge marketing campaign like they’ve done with other subjects like agriculture, trains, race cars and  basketball. If it’s kitsch, they’ve done it. They are a regional publisher so they’ve done books from Colorado to Chicago. They knew I was near San Francisco, so they asked if I wanted to do their San Francisco book and I said sure. They also said, “We’ve got this Back Roads series: Do you want to do Backroads of the California Wine Country: Your Guide to the Wine Country’s Most Scenic Backroad Adventures?” The writer that I had teamed up with on the first book project got together with me on four titles. She would say, “These are the places I’m going to be writing about.” I’d go out and photograph and the publisher would match my photos with her text.

HYDE: About your brand new release, Greetings from California: Legends, Landmarks & Lore of the Golden State: You wrote a blog post not long ago saying that when you told people your book was about history they were not enthused. You concluded that history is boring, but I find people are eating up the history. It may be the way history is presented. On my blog I’m mixing the history of conservation and the history of landscape photography. I find, to my dismay, that the history of conservation causes some yawns on a photo blog, but there aren’t as many dynamic leaders as in the history of photography. I’m finding that when history is presented with an emphasis on the interesting personalities, then people are interested. Although, I know your blog has much more traffic than mine because my traffic spiked significantly when you linked to my blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?” So what gave you the impression that history is boring?

GARY CRABBE: My blog post was more specific regarding the people I contacted to get permission or access to photograph. When they heard it was history, it didn’t mean much to them because they were thinking more about business and promotion. From the publisher’s perspective, this was to be part of a new series for which they had already published a few books they sent me like Twin Cities Then and Now (Minnesota) and Philadelphia Then and Now. My book was originally to be called, California: Then & Now comparing historical and modern photographs. That was the premise under which I did all my shooting though I didn’t need to be standing in the same spot as the historical photograph. Then someone did a book about Colorado using his grandfather’s photos. He took his modern photos in the exact same spot. He called it “Colorado: Then & Now.” After I turned in everything to Voyageur Press, they said, “We’re scrapping the series.”

HYDE: My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, had a lot more stories like that than like your other book where everything went smoothly. . .

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, you know it. I was sitting there with this huge knot in my stomach. Then they came back and said, “The publisher liked your work so much that we’re going to try to re-package this book as something a little bit more fun, like a scrapbook.” They still used all the same photographs and text, but instead of making it like the original layout, that even my mom had noticed from the sample copy was dry and stagnant, my book was to be the test guinea pig for repackaging. Three other photographers had their states’ Then & Now projects pulled. Whether their projects get repackaged will depend on how well my book goes over. One of the things you sign on the dotted line is that the publisher has complete and exclusive control over the design, layout and format of the book. When I saw the first layouts, I was blown away. They took this dry, dull and academic look and turned it into something that was exactly what they said: fun. They kept all the history, but they picked out pieces of my text and put in little scrapbook-like post-it notes to highlight the information instead of putting it all into one or two paragraphs of text. In my opinion it worked out perfectly, but I empathize with the three other photographers whose projects got shelved. I hope that my book does well and they can get their projects.

HYDE: Did your images cover the whole state?

GARY CRABBE: For the most part, yes. In fact I was scheduled to go off on my first shoot, down to Edwards Air force Base, when I fell off a cliff several years ago. I hadn’t even taken the first frame before I wound up in the hospital and shut down my business for half a year.

(See the photograph full size, “Morning Light, Badwater From Dantes View, Death Valley.”)

Morning Light And Clouds Over Saltpan At Badwater Basin From Dantes View, Death Valley National Park, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

HYDE: Wow. How did you fall off a cliff? What did you injure?

GARY CRABBE: I was going to meet someone to do a couple days of photography in Death Valley. I had bought a cheese burger, in the town of Ridgecrest, 100 miles away and I pulled off on the side of the road. I think I was going to go off-road somewhere, but I just climbed in the back of my Toyota 4-Runner, laid the back seat down and  went to sleep. On trips I have my sleeping bag and I lay down right behind the passenger seat. Behind the driver seat is all my gear, equipment, food containers and my backpack of film. I live like a turtle when I’m the road. I just as often sleep in the back of my truck as in a hotel. Apparently I woke up to answer nature’s call and in the darkness walked off a 40 foot cliff. I didn’t remember the fall at all. I woke up in the middle of the desert floor in the middle of the night. It took minutes for my brain to say uh, uh, where am I? Why am I lying in the dirt, face down in the middle of the night? Where’s my truck? Why am I at the bottom of the cliff? OK, now I know I hurt. I have no idea how long I was unconscious. At some point in the middle of the night I woke up again. I didn’t have my truck keys. The only thing I had was a lighter. I sat there and made myself a little camp fire in the middle of the night, in the desert, by myself. Maybe an hour, two hours later, I said, “Alright, I want to get back to my truck. I know the main road is that way. I know that my truck is up there.” I worked my way down this desert wash and then finally found a place on the hill where I could scramble up. I made it back to my truck and climbed back into my sleeping bag. The next morning I got checked out by the Park Ranger of Death Valley. I had a broken wrist, bruised ribs, a yanked nerve in my back, but I managed to get all the way home to the Bay Area. My wife Connie took me to the hospital that same evening. They put me in a cast, gave me medicine and sent me home. Two days later I was lying on the couch in the fetal position, barely coherent, throwing up. My wife took me back to the hospital and they found out I had a subdural hematoma, which is the same injury that killed the actress Natasha Richardson in just about the same window of time.

HYDE: So you hit your head, is that what that means?

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, bleeding was going on in the brain. One of the guys I have coffee with in the Bay Area is a retired surgeon from the Children’s Hospital in Oakland. When I told him this story he said, “You were lucky that you even woke up. Given your injury it was just as likely that you could have climbed back in your truck and never woke up again.” It is eye opening when someone who is a surgeon says something like that. I wound up spending a week in the hospital, recovering from the trauma and the next 3 months recovering from the physical injury. I couldn’t even hold a camera. As soon as I recovered, I had to start this book project, which was supposed to be done in a year. I had to do it in about four and a half months. It was challenging. It has taken me 18 to 24 months to get my business back up to speed because my business completely shut down.

HYDE: Wow. What does your wife do for a living?

GARY CRABBE: She’s part of the reason why I get to do what I do. She’s a senior business manager at AT&T. She has the full AT&T benefit package.

HYDE: That’s nice, yeah.

GARY CRABBE: I complain about big corporations, but I got to admit. You know… I originally thought she was the type of girl that working in the big corporation in the big city would chew her up and spit her out in no time flat. Instead, she’s now been there 10 years. They were so impressed by her work that they hired her during a hiring freeze. The benefits help make our family. She has been probably one of the biggest support factors I could ever imagine.

HYDE: How many kids do you have Gary?

GARY CRABBE: Two: a nine-year-old daughter named Alyssa and a 12-year-old son, Brandon. Both of them act like teenagers or four year olds, depending…

HYDE: I’m trying to piece the chronology together in my mind. Starting out, you didn’t know much about photography. Most of the time working for Galen Rowell you didn’t want to be a photographer. Was it while you were still working for Galen Rowell that you decided that you did want to be a photographer?

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, I knew nothing and was suddenly thrust into the top level of the industry. Trial by fire. All I had was a one week vacation for my first few years of working there. The first year’s vacation my wife and I went to Crater Lake. Wow. I had just switched to using color film and trying slides, as part of my job.

HYDE: Were you still using the same original camera?

GARY CRABBE: No, once I started working for Galen Rowell I bought my first Nikon 8008 S and some Nikon lenses. As part of my job at Mountain Light, I had to work with Galen in his workshops. Staff would help the students edit their work. We would be there while Galen was doing critiques and we’d be out in the field helping the photographers. It was like osmosis. Photography was coming at me even while I was asleep. One day I was out taking a photo at local Lafayette Reservoir when a guy walked right by me and said, “I’ll buy that.” I hadn’t even taken the photo yet. I had just put the tripod and camera in place. I said, “Do you want to at least look through the lens?” He said, “Why don’t you just call me when you get your film.” I didn’t think he was serious, but I called him when I got the film. He came over to my apartment and bought a 20X24 print. It was my first print sale. I made several hundred bucks and I thought, “Wow, this is pretty cool.” I established with Galen right away that I was completely up front. If something came up involving me doing photography, I always ran it by him first. I did not want to cross the line or create more stress than he already had. One day after I had been working for him for a number of years and been on several trips, as my photography was improving by the nature of being where I was, I don’t recall where he was, maybe the Himalayas, Galapagos Islands or South America. Forbes Magazine called the office and said they needed, “Ugly, trashy images of Yosemite Valley. They’re changing concessionaires and we want to show all the negative impact.” I said, “We don’t really have much of that.” They asked some question about what Yosemite Valley looked like right at that moment. By coincidence I was scheduled to go up with my wife to Yosemite Valley that weekend. So I said, “I’ll let you know on Monday.” They asked, “Can you shoot it for us?” They never even bothered to ask if I was a photographer. “I have to ask Galen.” Galen called the office and somehow he said OK. So I called the woman at Forbes back and said I could do it. I spent three days in Yosemite National Park for Forbes Magazine running around taking pictures of gas stations, garbage cans, lines of people at the hotel, the cafeteria, the messes. It was the first editorial assignment that gave me a chance. As I got further down the road and started making more images that were salable, it started to creep into my mind that I could be a photographer. I liked it, but I wasn’t going to step on Galen’s feet to do it. I could do my own print sales if I found my own clients without doing anything in conflict with Galen. What finally made me take the leap, was my wife getting pregnant. We knew we wanted one of us to stay home with the kid and she had all these major company benefits. If I stayed home maybe I could sell a few photos. I became a photographer by nature of choosing to be a stay at home dad.

HYDE: Is it a nice fit for that?

Morning Mist Along The Mendocino Coast Near Elk, California, copyright 2010 by Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph full size, “Morning Mist, Mendocino Coast.”)

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, except I don’t get to spend weeks and months traveling. I do know people that sacrifice their family to follow their photographic passion. That wasn’t going to be part of my consideration. I stayed close to home and fortunately all of the subsequent book projects were in California. I can be anywhere in the state within 8 ½ hours. That’s a day there and a day back.

HYDE: Well, now that you’ve developed a little more success, do you think you’ll go a little further afield, maybe, for future books projects?

GARY CRABBE: My kids are getting older. As of January, they are now old enough to walk home on their own and spend a few hours on their own during the day. That’s freeing me up much more than when someone needed to be there to pick them up.

HYDE: When the stock photography industry imploded, how much did that affect you?

GARY CRABBE: That was about the time of my fall. The changes in stock did have an emotional pull on me, not so much in my business personally, but in the broader sense. I couldn’t believe that photographers themselves were devaluing their work to commodity status. That was the part that I’ll still continue to say was difficult to see. I know the market shifts, you can’t stop the market, supply and demand and all. Digital did make the world much more accessible. It used to be with slide film, you had to get it right. If you were more than ½ a stop off, it was a disaster. I was always a proponent for photographers valuing their own work. Watching people think it was no big deal to sell unlimited commercial use of their images for say 10 bucks. That was the sad part. I still don’t sell my work royalty free. I don’t have a negative reaction to the sales model of royalty free. My main objection is to the rate people charge. If a national company wants to use one of my images royalty free, I want to see at least four figures for that. I want them to pay what I think is an appropriate value.

HYDE: Royalty free means selling the rights to an image forever for any use at a one time fee, right? And it is becoming more and more prevalent, correct?

GARY CRABBE: Yes, correct. Originally royalty free first came on the scene in the mid-90s as a reaction to regular stock photography, which was value based on use. It became price based on file size. You turned your work into a widget. Then suddenly photographers were offering widgets for 1/10th the cost of what the widgets were originally selling for, which became micro stock.

HYDE: Did your income mix change like many other full-time photographers during that time period—that is, the mix between stock photography and fine print sales, what would you say the ratio is and was?

GARY CRABBE: The ratio has remained relatively consistent, maybe around 70/30, 60/40, sometimes 80/20, somewhere in that neighborhood. But in a down economy, I still sell my work as only rights managed, value based on use. I may have fewer sales, but I’m still insisting on what I consider is a fair value for the use of my work. In a down economy, the first budget to go is an arts budget. People will still buy jewelry before they’ll buy something to put on their walls. As the economy ebbs and flows, sales tend to ebb and flow in relation, but in a down economy, prints may relatively dry up for a while and  then come back as people think, “Oh I have a little more expendable income.”

HYDE: My business is nearly 100 percent prints and I noticed that I was starting at the wrong time, but it is starting to pick up again.

GARY CRABBE: I will say, since the beginning of the year, I’ve had a considerable number of print sales.

HYDE: Is there anything else that you feel people ought to know about you Gary that maybe they couldn’t read somewhere else?

GARY CRABBE: All I can say is that I chose my company name, Enlightened Images, because I consider myself spiritual, especially in terms of nature and the universe. I have this big interconnected picture of how we as a species on a planet are in the universe.

HYDE: I really like the name. Thank you so much for your time Gary.

GARY CRABBE: My pleasure. David, have yourself a wonderful day and thank you.

Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 2

June 27th, 2011

Landscape Photography Blogger Interviews Photographer Gary Crabbe

Part Two of a Three Part Series

(Continued from the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 1.”)

On Personal Style, Book Projects, Photo Editing And Working With Galen Rowell

Interview Conducted By Phone May 25, 2011

Rural Highway Below Mount Shasta, Northern California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(View photograph large: “Mt. Shasta.”)

HYDE: You also said that one important lesson in landscape photography you learned from Galen Rowell had to do primarily with responding to the light.

GARY CRABBE: That lesson originated with Galen Rowell and ever since I’ve become hyper-sensitive and in tune with what the light is doing and what the light is hitting, versus the subject I set out to photograph. Now I say to my student’s, “A boring subject in great light will always make a better photo than a great subject in boring light.” I may have a subject in mind, but if I see the light happening somewhere else, I am willing at a moment’s notice to drop any preconceived idea.

HYDE: That flexibility strikes me as not only the similarity between you and Galen Rowell, but also between Galen Rowell and my father, Philip Hyde. Many landscape photographers have this philosophy that they go out, scout out a location, then literally set up camp and wait for the right light, sometimes for as long as several days. My dad never did that. He would photograph in the middle of the day rather than wait. Part of it had to do with limitations of budget and time. He had to cover certain territory because he had his itinerary planned. He had obligations. He was often on assignment and someone else was paying his expenses. Certain landscape photographers like Jack Dykinga, for example, take the exact opposite approach. Jack Dykinga is sometimes on a loose assignment from a group like the iLCP, International League of Conservation Photographers. He may be setting the direction and parameters of the assignment, maybe he picks his own. He’ll wait days for the right light or weather conditions. Do you do that?

GARY CRABBE: No, I wish I could. I know a friend who does and he returns with some gorgeous images. He also has the patience to wait for something better. I don’t get it. (Laughter) I make the best of what I can because I can’t wait with my book projects. Plus I’m also a stay at home Dad. I’m the one that drops my kids off at school and picks them up in the afternoon. When I’m out photographing, I have to turn tail and get back. My time is limited. I did double back one time on my way to Lava Beds National Monument up in Northern California on my last book project. I cut from Weed over to the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and then on to Lava Beds. I looked in my rear view mirror and said, “Wow, there’s a great shot of Mount Shasta,” making a note to come back for sunrise. I circled around through Alturas into Susanville, back over to Lassen Volcanic National Park and then up again toward Mt. Shasta, making a 500 mile loop. I can’t recall many occasions where I’ve made that choice, but it was my time to make something work. That’s why I’m here.

HYDE: So looping back 500 miles was more the exception than the rule for you?

GARY CRABBE: Absolutely, and it was one nice sunrise morning. Sure, I could have said, “I wanted more clouds in the sky, or the moon setting,” but I didn’t have the luxury to do that. In that regard I’m more of an editorial photojournalist. I’m out there to document the place. I need to get this, this, this and this for my book project. I work myself to max out a set schedule. Landscape photography art does not always happen like it did at Lava Beds National Monument. Two mornings later I also shot a wonderful sunrise in Susanville, but, the morning in between was crap. (Laughter) Nothing came out. It wasn’t the right weather. I couldn’t just stay there and hope that the next day was going to get better and miss all the other photographs I needed. In that regard, it sounds trite, but it’s a job. My work dictates my schedule and then my creative instincts guide what I do within the confines of that schedule. I just spent two days in Yosemite National Park. I had to get Vernal Falls for my next book project, Where to Photograph in Northern California. I’ve rarely ever tried to take, for lack of a better word, cheesy, iconic photos like the rainbow and Vernal Falls. But it’s the kind of photograph that provides the reason to go up to Yosemite National Park and face the crowds. It’s ironic to dread Yosemite Valley, but that’s summertime. In the text I’ll explain that to photograph the rainbow your best chance of seeing it is at ‘this time’ and ‘this time.’ Sure, my photograph was of Vernal Falls from the Mist Trail, but I am always happier as in this case when I came back with my own personal vision of the scene as opposed to the same image that has been on a post card for the last 35 years in every gift shop in Yosemite National Park.

HYDE: Speaking of waterfalls, I really like your “Sunlight on Berry Creek Falls.” You know my dad made a well-known photograph of Berry Creek Falls. Your photograph makes it look even more picturesque now. Berry Creek is a really nice waterfall. The way you framed it, that’s one of the best waterfall photographs I’ve ever seen.

GARY CRABBE: Wow, I’m beyond flattered. I just wrote about it. I put up an article at a place called Pro Photo Resource. It was called, “Seeking Out Definitive Moments In Outdoor, Nature And Travel Photography.” Berry Creek Falls was one of my examples.

HYDE: I want to talk to you about each of your book projects, maybe a spattering of what was interesting about each project. It’s important for people to know that you have illustrated six coffee table books. Also, there is one more question about your experience with Galen and Barbara Rowell that I want to ask you. It is personal to me because of my process working with my father’s photographs. Carr Clifton helped me all along in choosing images and many other people helped too, various gallery owners and other experts. I had consulting work by Ryan Baldwin, who at one point ran Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery in Emeryville. Did you work there when he did?

GARY CRABBE: Yes. I know him very well.

HYDE: OK. He actually did a little consulting with me in the very beginning when I really didn’t know anything about anything. He helped me start choosing images. I feel like my vision and my ability to choose photographs grew exponentially over the years since then. Ryan Baldwin’s good advice was to choose images of my dad’s at first that no other photographer could have done. He suggested that later I could mix in some that my dad did first and everybody else has done since. My question to you is, in managing Galen Rowell’s stock department of 300,000 images, you must have learned a lot about photo selection from Galen and also from editors. You stepped into it with no idea of what makes a good photograph. Tell me a little about your learning curve, what was that like?

Stormy Sunrise Over Lava Beds National Monument, Siskiyou County, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(View the photograph large: “Lava Beds.”)

GARY CRABBE: Interesting question. I feel bad that at one point I fibbed to Galen, some people might call it a lie. I was so green, that when I first started working at Mountain Light and he asked me, “You know what a dupe is, right?” I said, “Sure.” (Laughter) I asked another employee later, “What is a dupe?” He said, “Oh, you know, a duplicate slide.” “Oh yeah,” I said. That’s how green I was. First I learned the basic technical points of what editors need. For a magazine cover, you need to have some negative space where your text can go, your subject needs to be centered in this area, you need to have space at the bottom of the frame where they can add the mailing label and bar code and so on. When you’re selecting a double page spread, be sure the most important part of the subject is not in the middle of the frame where the seam of the paper goes. I would go through slides and pull out what I thought might be appropriate and Galen would tell me what was good for what reason, “Yes this is good, this is good, no this one wouldn’t work.” Galen obviously had his own preferences. As part of the interview process, we started having people do light test submissions. You were put in a situation where an editor called you from National Audubon or National Wildlife Federation and you needed to send 20 images of polar bears or penguins. We would give the applicant the entire penguin folder or the entire polar bear folder and we’d see what they would choose to send. It was a great litmus test to see how people responded to what a photo editor wanted and how they responded to Galen’s images as well. Over time I got to where I could usually look at a sheet of 20 slides in approximately one second and know whether there were any images on that page worth taking a second look at for any given project. We’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of images. For example: you know you need a shot of the Marin County Coast. Galen didn’t have separate organized folders other than every shot from Marin County going into one folder. So I’d be looking at images of Point Reyes next to Mount Tamalpais next to Bolinas next to Fairfax, somewhere in that jumble of 35 mm frames was the photograph you needed. It always seemed that there was one or two images that would stand out. Those were the ones I found where the story and the light came together in the best way possible. That’s what I use to guide the editing of my own images. (For more about how Gary Crabbe edits photographs see his post on Jim M. Goldstein’s Blog, “Pro Tips: Photo Editing With Gary Crabbe.”) You want the viewer to instantly know what your photograph is about, if there is confusion, you’ve lost them. If something in the composition creates an emotional or bio-physiological hiccup, you’ve lost them. And this is what I said in this recent article I wrote is, you want every photograph you take to be a headline and an exclamation point for whatever you are photographing. You want the story to come across that quick, with no ambiguity whatsoever.

HYDE: Of course that is for editorial stock photography, but to play devil’s advocate, Paul Strand and my father even, at times, made images that when you look at them at first you have no idea what you are looking at, you can’t figure out what it is. (Find out more about the history of abstract photography and Paul Strand in the blog post, “Straight Photography And Abstraction.”)

GARY CRABBE: That’s true. That is where art photography is different. I love doing abstract photography myself, but that wasn’t the sort of work that Galen did. I used to judge local camera clubs. And they’d have a category that was called “Contemporary,” which meant it had to be some kind of abstract or manipulated photo. I would stand in front of 30 or 40 amateur photographers and say, “The faster I can figure out what you did the less I like it.”

HYDE: But it’s the opposite for magazine submissions or other types of stock photography, correct?

GARY CRABBE: Yes, but you are still trying to generate instant emotional impact, even from an abstract. You are trying to create some kind of subconscious emotional reaction. You don’t have to know what it’s about, but you need to know how it feels. And that’s where art becomes personal and subjective. Some people say, “That doesn’t do anything for me.” Others say, “I could spend a week looking at all the detail in that photograph.” All you can do as an artist is put out what you find interesting.

HYDE: When you first started working for Galen Rowell, your article said something like you had seen only two photography exhibitions, but was there an educational process for learning about the work of other landscape photographers?

GARY CRABBE: Looking through photography magazines, who pays attention to photographer credit lines? Other photographers. That’s how you learn. Every time I saw an image that made me say, “Wow,” I noticed the name. I began to recognize the names Galen’s work was published with right up through the evolution of outdoor photography. I certainly have developed my own personal preferences for the sort of work I like seeing.

HYDE: I’d like to hear how each of your book projects came about.  So how did Backroads of the California Coast: Your Guide to Scenic Getaways & Adventures published in 2001, which won Book of the Year 2002 from the California Outdoor Travel Writers Association, how did that book come about?

GARY CRABBE: Way back when, trying to get your work in front of people, you would buy these source book ads and they would be like $1000 or $2000 a page. And the publisher would send these big books out to all the advertising agencies and publishers and whatever. I went into one of those books my first year as an independent photographer. One of the images I put in was of a twisting road below the Grand Tetons. One day a publisher sent me a note, “Do you have more good road shots like that? We’re doing a book called, ‘The Back Roads of Northern California.’ We would like you to submit some photographs for the cover.” They already had the whole book photographed and written, they were just looking for a different cover. They went through my submission and they didn’t choose any of my photographs. They went with a photo by the photographer for the book, but the quality of the images I submitted stuck in their mind. From that one failed submission, when a well-published travel writer approached them to do a book on the California Coast, they asked, “We need a photographer for this project, are you interested?” That’s how it started. Voyager Press has been the publisher for five out of my six published books.

HYDE: So were Our San Francisco and Yosemite & The Eastern Sierra, similar books?

GARY CRABBE: All of them except for Yosemite & The Eastern Sierra, that’s the one that was published by a different publisher as its own stand-alone project. The editor for that book was Peter Beren, the foremost publisher for Sierra Club books. Peter knew me from Mountain Light. I worked with him as kind of a liaison. I had also done some freelance projects for him as a photo editor. I remember this vividly, it was my daughter’s first birthday, a Saturday afternoon, the house was packed with friends and relatives. My office phone rang. I was thinking I’m not going to bother answering. The phone rang once, twice, a third time, “Oh I can’t stand it.” I raced back to my office as fast as I could go, grabbed the phone, and I hear, “Gary, this is Peter Beren. You’ve got a bunch of Yosemite images, right?” I said, “Hi Peter, yeah.” “Great. I’m going to recommend your photos for a book project.” “OK, thanks.” “Alright, bye.” That was the entire extent of the conversation. A couple weeks later, the publisher called me from her office in New York, “Can you have images to us by next Wednesday?” “Sure.” I never needed to take another picture for that book. Every image came from my existing slides. I sent them 300. They did a beautiful job. Unfortunately the book is out of print now, but I remember approving all the color proofs. On their third or fourth go around, I said it was great, but they still went two more rounds with some of the images. They did an impeccable job with the printing. Peter did the editing of the book. He gathered quotes from Ansel Adams, John Muir and others, which they matched up with my images and boom, the book was done that fast.

Continued in the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 3.”