Posts Tagged ‘nature photography’

Save The Historic Olsen Barn: Campaign by Feather River Land Trust

August 13th, 2015

Olsen Barn and Meadow Campaign

A Number of Photographers and Other Local Artists Including Jan Davies, Betty Bishop, Sally Yost, Sally Posner, David Leland Hyde and Many Others Have Donated Rights to Use Photographs, Originals and Prints to Feather River Land Trust to Help Save A Northern Sierra Legacy

September 17, 2015 Update:

Individual donations are now up to $379,447 as of 9-17-15. This leaves only $18,553 remaining to be raised by September 25, 2015 to complete the land transaction.

The Imminent Demise of the Olsen Barn, a Plumas County Cultural Treasure

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near Chester, California, Sierra, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This photograph has been actively used by Feather River Land Trust in the Olsen Barn Campaign.

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near Chester, California, Sierra, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This photograph has been actively used by Feather River Land Trust in the Olsen Barn Campaign. (To see large click on image.)

Barns die in many ways: they are crushed by falling trees, blown down by high winds, dismantled for wood, demolished, set on fire and sometimes pushed over by bulldozers. However, the majority of barns don’t burn out, they just rot slowly away.

More barns give up the ghost each year than people build in the US. Around the West and Midwest dismantling barns is big business, but fortunately for historic barns there are also many friends of barns who are in the business of preservation.

One historic structure already falling apart is the Olsen Barn on the East edge of Chester, California on the shores of Lake Almanor where the Northern Sierra meets the Cascade Mountains. This cultural and community icon is one of the largest barns in Plumas County and the surrounding counties. For many years it has been restored in fits and starts, but mainly left to decay and crumble away if significant reconstruction does not occur soon.

Olsen Barn, Chester and Mt. Lassen Near Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large, click on image.)

Olsen Barn, Chester and Mt. Lassen Near Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large, click on image.)

Besides stunning views of Lake Almanor and Lassen Peak, the 107-acre Olsen Barn property includes lush stands of trees and a riparian creek corridor where the North Fork of the Feather River flows through from Chester into Lake Almanor. Norwegian pioneer settler and carpenter, Peter Olsen, originally built three barns for his dairy farm, of which today’s Olsen barn is the last one standing, but it is getting more shaky all the time. One major beam has fallen destabilizing one end of the structure. Also, many windows and doors are open and in other places the wooden walls are wearing thin, disintegrating and in danger of collapse.

Feather River Land Trust Tour Group, Interior Olsen Barn Near Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large, click on image.)

Feather River Land Trust Tour Group, Interior Olsen Barn Near Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This photograph has also been used in the Olsen Barn Campaign. (To see large click on image.)

Still, several owl species continue to live in the barn. The meadow around the barn provides habitat for many species of wildlife and wildfowl, including a number of endangered species. Collins Pine owns an old railroad grade that runs through the property West of the barn and connects the fields around the barn to other areas of Chester Meadow. Collins Pine plans to restore the old railroad trestle crossing the North Fork Feather River and convert the railroad grade into a walking, hiking and possibly a biking trail. This will improve public access if the property owner is cooperative to such land use. A developer could wipe out the barn and fill the land with houses, as has been done so many times all over the west.

Fundraising Video Shows Historic and Natural Values

In a YouTube video raising funds to acquire the property for preservation, Paul Hardy, Executive Director and Founder of Feather River Land Trust said:

The property and barn are for sale on the open market and the right to public access could be lost forever. The barn has survived fire, floods, heavy snows, but most of all, development. Feather River Land Trust will keep the space open to everyone who wants to enjoy nature right outside their door. We also want to ensure that the Olsen Barn is standing for another 150 years.

Olsen Barn Across North Fork of Feather River and Riparian Area, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Olsen Barn Across North Fork of Feather River and Riparian Area, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large click on image.)

Since before the arrival of White settlers, the Chester Meadow has been a resource for people of the community to fish, picnic, explore and enjoy access to the shore of Lake Almanor. Originally the open grassland around the barn was part of the Maidu settlement now under Lake Almanor called Big Meadows. The area is now the last remaining remnant of Big Meadows, a Maidu trading and cultural center.

“Development of the Olsen Barn property would permanently erase an important village site of the Mountain Maidu people,” said Kenneth Holbrook, Maidu Summit Consortium Director, also in the Olsen Barn Campaign fundraising video.

Lenticular Clouds, Mt. Dyer and Chester Meadow Near Olsen Barn, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see larger click image.)

Lenticular Clouds, Mt. Dyer and Chester Meadow Near Olsen Barn, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see larger click image.)

The property is for sale for $798,000. The total Save Olsen Barn Campaign with pre-acquisition costs, restoration and management of the property will total about $1.2 million. Partly by meeting an early fundraising deadline, the project received $400,000 from Plumas County through California Proposition 50 on behalf of the Chester River Parkway. The current total fundraising from Feather River Land Trust private donors, as of August 4 is $243,108. This amount added to the $400,000 from the Prop 50 Grant makes a grand total to date of $643,108, leaving $154,892 needed by September 26 to successfully complete the purchase.

How You Can Make A Difference

Olsen Barn Through The Willows Across The North Fork Feather River, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. The Mountain Maidu used willows to make baskets that were unique in all the world. (To see larger click on image.)

Olsen Barn Through The Willows Across The North Fork Feather River Near Lake Almanor, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. The Mountain Maidu used willows to make baskets that were unique in all the world. (To see larger click on image.)

Time is running out on this gem of the Sierra. Here are some ways you can be part of this historical restoration project and support the Feather River Land Trust Olsen Barn Campaign:

Help Out By Check: Please make checks out to FRLT or Feather River Land Trust and Mail to: FRLT, P.O. Box 1826, Quincy, CA 95971 or take to the Chester branch of Plumas Bank.

Online Contribution: Go to Olsen Barn Fundraising page, scroll down, click on the large orange link button and under Donation Type choose Olsen Barn Campaign.

Stock or Mutual Fund Donation: Call Karen Klevin at 530-283-5758. It’s easy to make a stock donation and it is particularly beneficial if you have appreciated stock.

FRLT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

To find out more about the Olsen Barn Campaign and the Feather River Land Trust directly from Paul Hardy, Executive Director and Founder, attend The Common Good Community Foundation hosted talk and dinner (optional).

Almanor Legacy, a Talk by Paul Hardy
August 13, 2015
Lake Almanor Tavern (Next to Dollar General)
384 Main Street, Chester, CA   96020
Hors d’Oeuvres, No Host Bar: 5:00 pm
Talk: 5:30 pm
Dinner: 6:00 pm
(Call to make reservations for dinner by August 11, 2015)

Monday Blog Blog: Mark Graf Up Close, On Ice Or Underwater

March 16th, 2015

Mark Graf: Notes From The Woods PhotoBlog

Lessons On How To Make Captivating Nature Photographs Almost Anywhere

Coral Reef, Little Cayman, Caribbean, Nikon D700, Nauticam underwater housing, dual Inon Z240 strobes. This photograph represents a lot of what I enjoy about the underwater world. Everything you see is animal life. Animals familiar, and some very foreign to land dwellers. All of which make the ocean a fascinating place to explore, and deserving of our attention to preserve the highly complex chain of life that exists within it.

Coral Reef, Little Cayman, Caribbean Sea, Nikon D700, Nauticam underwater housing, dual Inon Z240 strobes. “This photograph represents a lot of what I enjoy about the underwater world. Everything you see is animal life. Animals familiar, and some very foreign to land dwellers. All of which make the ocean a fascinating place to explore, and deserving of our attention to preserve the highly complex chain of life that exists within it.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

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

Learning about photography online is richest and most rewarding not in attending tutorials, photo schools, forums or other large blog or magazine sites, but in finding talented single photographers who have a distinct voice or a specific niche, something in common with you, or the type of advice or specialty you seek, or something different you admire, then developing a blog relationship with them.

One photoblog I discovered five years ago in my first month of blogging was Mark Graf’s Notes From The Woods. Not only do I admire the way Mark Graf approaches photography and blogging, he is one of the best at encouraging discussion and creating community, yet he appears to do it nearly effortlessly, with nonchalance and a lack of blowing his own horn that is pleasant and surprising in today’s often ego-driven photo social media world.

Graf makes his home in Detroit and has photographed and specialized in the natural places and wildlife of Michigan, Alaska, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, as well as other states and bodies of water since the year 2000. His photography has been widely published in magazines and books and used by a long list of commercial clients in the financial, travel and education spheres. He specializes in placing large fine art prints in hospitals and other medical facilities to provide a calming, tranquil atmosphere for patients. Part of his core philosophy as an artist is the idea that everything is connected in the web of nature. Mark’s short biography and artist’s statement are well worth reading.

One day a few years ago I visited the New York Times Opinion Pages Dot Earth online and suddenly there was a photograph by Graf called “Fracked,” as well as a commentary on the image and his other photographs he makes by photographing mineral laden rocks up close. Abstract photography is one of his specialties. To learn more about the photograph from the artist’s perspective see Mark’s blog, Notes From The Woods and the original blog post about “Fracked.” Also, take a Google at some of the many other blogs and websites that published articles about the innovative image “Fracked,” including StateImpact a reporting project of NPR, National Public Radio.

Fracked, Nikon D800, Nikon 105 f/2.8 Macro lens, cross-polarized lighting. "This abstract of Cherry Creek Jasper was photographed during a time when natural gas fracking was fresh on my mind from a number of news stories. The red cracks symbolized the wounds we are creating in the Earth. The appearance of them above and below a horizon symbolized what we do below the Earth can have an impact on the atmosphere above. This image was referenced in the New York Times Dot Earth Blog.

Fracked, Nikon D800, Nikon 105 f/2.8 Macro lens, cross-polarized lighting. “This abstract of Cherry Creek Jasper was photographed during a time when natural gas fracking was fresh on my mind from a number of news stories. The red cracks symbolized the wounds we are creating in the Earth. The appearance of them above and below a horizon symbolized what we do below the Earth can have an impact on the atmosphere above. This image was referenced in the New York Times Opinion Pages Dot Earth Blog.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

Graf has written about how Michigan, for the most part, has less dramatic landscapes than many Western or other states and countries. As a result he has developed his macro and underwater photography and diving. He also finds nature in small areas and preserves, often owned by the Michigan Nature Association, which he supports and works with. The Michigan Nature Association, Mark said, “Buys sensitive plots of land and prevents any development or recreational use other than hiking and education.” They are a non-profit working to protect Michigan’s threatened and endangered species through habitat preservation. Since 1952, they have established more than 170 nature sanctuaries, the largest network of such natural areas in Michigan.

When Graf writes for Notes From The Woods, he sometimes states his opinion, but he writes his posts in such a way as to leave plenty of room for other viewpoints. He shares the various sides of any given discussion or method and asks his readers for their thoughts. I will discuss certain aspects of blogging here because I feel Notes From The Woods is one of the most accessible and easy to relate to examples of how to run a photography weblog around.

There are subtle issues that come up in commenting on blogs and receiving comments. The two biggest complaints I hear from bloggers about comments are: 1. “Most of the people who comment only do so hoping I will return comment on their blog” or conversely, 2. “Some blogs I comment on never reciprocate by commenting on my blog.” As a photoblogger, if you comment right back each time anyone comments on your blog, you tend to get into a lot of “tit for tat” relationships. If one day you do not maintain the chain of exchanging comments, comments tend to dry up on your blog. If you never reciprocate by commenting on other blogs, you will not receive many comments on your blog either. There are a few blogs that are extraordinary exceptions to this pattern. Also, at least some comments come from those who truly appreciate the writing or photography.

Graf has found the happy middle between the two opposites of never reciprocating and constantly reciprocating. He comments back selectively and intermittently. Mark visits and comments on Landscape Photography Blogger when I write something that catches his interest, but there is no noticeable correlation to when I comment on his blog. Thus, with his lead, we have avoided the rut of an endless half-sincere comment trade. This alone sets Notes In The Woods apart in my mind and causes me to think of Graf Nature Photo in a favorable light. When I get very busy, his blog is one of those I visit first, while I may not get to many of the others I usually read. More fundamentally, I have been following and commenting on Notes In The Woods now for five years because I found Mark’s writing and photography intriguing and ideas provoking. His blog was also rated highly by blog ranking websites, which meant to me that he knew what he was doing and would be interesting to learn from. I was not disappointed.

Ice Sheets at Twilight, Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm lens. "Photographed on Lake St. Clair, Michigan - which is about a 25 minute drive from where I live.  I only photograph here in winter because of the dynamically changing conditions of the frozen lake.   I am always surprised at what the lake offers up to me in terms of compositional elements."

Ice Sheets at Twilight, Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm lens. “Photographed on Lake St. Clair, Michigan – which is about a 25 minute drive from where I live. I only photograph here in winter because of the dynamically changing conditions of the frozen lake. I am always surprised at what the lake offers up to me in terms of compositional elements.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

Graf has a way of sharing often small, yet vital photography pointers sometimes through his own mistakes and with a humility, friendliness and real-world insight that can be lacking in other photographers who have as much experience. I always look forward to reading what he has to say, or what I can learn, or be reminded of, in his blog posts. Many aspects of digital photography that were different from film, I discovered there.

Not only does Graf’s blog provide an excellent learning experience, but his photographs have much to teach those who care about nature and wish to capture it with integrity. At the same time, with many innovations that go beyond the literal image, we see in his work the cutting edge of artistic expression in digital photography today. Mark began this journey by using double exposures and other effects with film photography. See his article about it on NatureScapes called, “Departing from the Literal Image.” Today we see in Graf’s photographic art various blurs, pans, movement of objects and other effects, all executed with taste, often in camera rather than in Photoshop, giving natural places dignity. He still makes multiple exposures in camera, which is one reason he uses Nikon digital cameras: they make it possible. His use of special effects adds to and helps bring out the beauty around us, rather than supplanting it in a gimmicky way like much of the awkward pictorialesque imagery seen online today. To a number of his images he adds a circular blur either in post-processing or in camera. The images in which he chooses to use this whirl effect, or any other technique for that matter, help us see the details and patterns in nature, rather than covering them up. For an education in digital photography, be sure to study his online photography gallery of portfolios. You will be glad you did.

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?

Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Two

April 2nd, 2014

Dinosaur National Monument, 2013 Visit

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 Today, 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 to 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 next blog post.

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument Today, 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. Livelihood and economic issues make up an important component of change toward a more earth-friendly society. For a lively discussion on creating a sustainable world and related issues see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”

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?

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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. After they carved their dream home and paradise out of the wilderness, people visiting it learned by the Hyde’s example many aspects of what conservation and sustainability experts now teach. For a lively version of the larger discussion on creating a sustainable world and related issues see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.” Watch as the personal story of the Hyde’s home 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 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 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?