Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico’

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3

August 26th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is your favorite desert?

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

September 25th, 2013

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

How We Lost Glen Canyon

Resurrection Book Cover, Photograph copyright 2009 James Kay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canyon Photography On Par With The Best Ever

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

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

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

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

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

The Desert, Progress, Jobs, Money And Other Myths

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

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

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

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

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

A Dying Motor Tourism Industry And The Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21st, 2012

Happy Holidays 2012…

Dried Native Corn Bundle, Adobe Wall, Santa Fe, New Mexico, copyright 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Outside the wind roars and the rain drums on the roof and the decks. Inside I sit in the warmth of the stove, cozy, listening to the fire hum with the wind outside and watching the flames dance through the glazed stove door casting a faint glow that flickers around the room.

Today it was dark and gloomy, lonely and a bit sad here. The seasons march on into the night, into winter and into the past. The past that hovers just beneath the surface, that still holds a candle for the future. A past enriched by love and laughter. We were wandering in the wilderness with open hearts. The people we were, are only here in memory now. Yet perhaps they are still here in some other form, they must be. They feel very close, yet very far away.

Tomorrow, the rain will stop, the weather report promised. The sun will come out. Everything will glisten wet, fresh and clean, washed by time and the weather. I do not have to become addicted to technology to believe in the future. The future will be here, whether I believe in it or not. Will I be here? If I am here, in what form will I appear? Will I be like the rain? Will I change into the wind and roar over the mountains and down the canyons? Will I sweep out to sea and not come back until I blow out the lights in New York City? Perhaps.

Perhaps I will be changed by the sun. I will grow soft and kiss a new baby’s cheek. I will sit by the stove in the firelight and play the guitar with my friends. I will bring a salad and an offering to the Thanksgiving feast. I will give thanks for the many blessings I have. I will think about the Pilgrims and what they went through to find their rock. I will share with the native people and not take advantage of their generosity this time. I will celebrate my culture and many other cultures without bending them to a colorless mix of media, advertising and globalization. I will stay small and happy by the fire, happy in my local ways, eating well, close to the land, warm while I know I am ready for the storm. I don’t fear the rain or the water because I am their brother. I am the wind. I am Giving Thanks.

New David Leland Hyde Portfolio Prints

February 2nd, 2012

Unveiling 24 New Archival Digital Prints Added To The David Leland Hyde Portfolio At Philiphyde.com

To begin this exciting announcement, from the blog post, “Best Photos Of 2011,” four new Lightjet archival fine art digital prints are now part of the David Leland Hyde Portfolio:

Fountain, Main Courtyard, Sauk Institute, La Jolla Shores, San Diego, California, copyright 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

– “Curved Shadow On Cliffs, Drakes Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore”

– “Thistle Heads And Pines, Northern Sierra Nevada,”

– “Tents, Dutton Hall Financial Aid, Fountain, Occupy UC Davis, Davis, California”

– “Grain Processing Plant At Night, Great Central Valley”

Additional NEW IMAGES added to the David Leland Hyde Portfolio at Philiphyde.com are:

– “Juniper Tree Skeleton Near Eureka, Nevada”

– “Panamint Mountains Near Panamint Springs, Approach To Death Valley National Park”

– “Granite, Pool And Maple Leaves At Indian Falls, Northern Sierra Nevada”

– “Daisies, Cracking Adobe Wall, Carmel Mission, Carmel”

– “Bicycle Church, Barrio Anita, Tucson, Arizona”

– “Historical Mansion, Downtown Santa Cruz, California”

– “Graffiti And Wall Art, San Francisco, California”

– “Self Realization Fellowship, Pacific Palisades, California”

– “Fountain, Main Courtyard, Sauk Institute, La Jolla Shores”

– “Wheelbarrow, Adobe Wall, Fall Leaves, Santa Fe, New Mexico”

– “Bell Tower, San Juan Bautista Mission”

– “Tokopa Falls, Kaweah River, Sequoia National Park”

– “Summit Sunset, Loveland Pass, Rocky Mountains, Colorado”

– “Sunrise And Volcano Along US Highway 6, Nevada”

– “Reflections Detail, Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park”

– “Hay Bales, Pacific Ocean, Santa Cruz County North Coast”

– “Foothills Of The Rocky Mountains Front Range Near Eldorado Canyon State Park, Boulder County, Colorado”

– “Ghost Ranch In Snake Valley, Snake Range, Near Milford, Utah”

– “Sierra Wave Cloud Over Bodie, Eastern Side Sierra Nevada, California”

– “Tufa, Mono Lake, East Side Sierra Nevada Near Lee Vining, California”

– “Tide Pool Rocks, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California”

– “Tokopah Falls, Sequoia National Park, Southern Sierra Nevada, California”

– “Bell Tower, San Juan Bautista Mission, California”

– “Foothills Of The Rocky Mountain Front Range Near Eldorado Canyon State Park, Boulder County, Colorado”

– “Snow And Grass Detail Near Angel Fire, Sangre De Christo Mountains, New Mexico”

View the photographs: “David Leland Hyde Portfolio.”

Please share which new photograph(s) you like best of the group and which you like least…?

Living The Good Life 1

October 11th, 2011

Living The Good Life, Part One

Reflections by Nancy Presser and David Leland Hyde on the book that launched the 1950s Back to the Land movement, Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing, and how Ardis and Philip Hyde implemented the book’s philosophy…

Lower Lawn, Japanese Maples, Aspens, Raised Beds, Apple Orchard, Part of Gardens At Rough Rock, Spring, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 by David Leland Hyde.

Nancy Presser is a California Certified Massage Therapist and Certified Yoga Instructor. A California native, she grew up camping in Yosemite National Park and exploring the tide pools of  the Isthmus, now Twin Harbors, on Catalina Island, California. In 2002, she self-published a cook book called “Fun To Be Sugar Free” and has had her poetry and articles published off and online. She took graphic design classes and majored in Theatre Arts at Tulane and Cal State Long Beach, obtaining further art education by working for Martin Lawrence Galleries and Wyland Galleries. Since 1998 she has been a Massage Therapist and Tai Chi practitioner. Since 2008 she has taught Radiant Health Yoga and Yang Style Tai Chi classes. She now operates a massage practice in the Indian Valley town of Greenville, California.

Living The Good Life With Ardis And Philip Hyde, Part One

By Nancy Presser and David Leland Hyde

The first day I met David Leland Hyde, he introduced me to the life and work of his late mother and father, Ardis and Philip Hyde. David explained his father’s life long dedication to wilderness conservation through landscape photography of the American West. David also shared how his father designed, drew the plans and built the family home.

Even though David was fighting off a mid-winter flu, he still took the time to lead me through the Hyde house and Philip Hyde’s photography studio. David said that his father built the place himself over two years beginning in 1957. Ardis Hyde helped in the evenings and taught kindergarten during the day. They acquired 18 acres and built what was originally a 1200 square foot home plus garage and studio, all on Ardis’ school teaching salary. Quite a feat I think even in the 1950s.

After I knew David better he shared with me that everything around us in the home, the flat roof, the solar hot water panels, the clarestory windows, the raised bed vegetable garden, the fruit trees and the whimsical stone lined pond and flower garden were all ideals of self reliance and low impact living that his parent’s adopted back in the 1950s. The foundation of the Hyde’s living philosophy came from the book Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. This Amazon link goes to the original version which is now out of print and only available used. The new version, The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living, contains the Nearing’s first book Living The Good Life and their second book Continuing The Good Life all in one volume for one low price. Recently, David happened to have his mom’s personal copy of Living The Good Life around and loaned it to me to read.

David is a voracious reader and has loaned or recommended many books to me to read in the time I have known him. However, intuition told me that reading this book was a priority. He first presented Living the Good Life to me in a way that made a lasting impression. He said:

In the 1990s I planted a garden at my place in Pecos, New Mexico. My mother gave me advice regularly and a local green thumb friend also taught me quite a few tricks to gardening in that area. For example, if you plant Marigolds around the perimeter of your vegetable garden it greatly decreases pesky bugs and slugs. As I delved back into gardening, I thought back on the vegetable gardens I had planted with my mother and on the gigantic 40X60 foot plantation that she tended in various years. I also realized that she was probably one of the foremost experts on gardening for butterflies in the Northern Sierra Nevada of California. At the same time some friends of mine had bought land outside Santa Fe, New Mexico and were building and farming. One day while visiting my parents in California, I interviewed my mother about vegetable gardening and gardening for butterflies. I recorded the interview, which turned out to be a delightful discourse between us and illustrated very well my mother’s deep knowledge and love of plants, insects and other aspects of pesticide-free gardening. I wish now that I had made dozens of tapes of her because she was an expert in canning, freezing, preserving, making her own soap, bread, cheese, butter, tofu and many other household items and foods. At the end of our session, she pulled me close and said very seriously, “David, here’s the basis of your mother and father’s philosophy and what we based our home lifestyle upon,” as she handed me her copy of Living The Good Life. She passed on not long afterwards. Ironically, I have only read the first few chapters. Living The Good Life has been on my list for a long time, ever since her passing in 2002. I regret that I did not get a chance to read it and discuss it while she was alive.

Because I now had a key into the insight of Ardis and Philip Hyde, I opened this crucial book to see how I could get to know the Hyde’s better and to learn more about growing a life close to the land. Being a city girl from Long Beach I never lived on the land and I wanted to learn how people did it. The closest I’ve ever come was when I helped create a cooperative organic garden outside San Diego, which we called the Edible Village. We cultivated structures out of plants. We made a dome from collected branches that became a bean and herb garden. We also built a corn maze for the kids and a labyrinth out of plants and rocks. Each participant picked out his or her own stone along the perimeter. We also had chickens and practiced biodynamic composting. I will share more about all of this in blog posts to come in this series. The introduction to Living The Good Life, written in the 1930s, and preface, written in the 1970s, are all about how crazy and chaotic the world was then. What struck me was that nothing has changed. Meanwhile, I have been working to simplify my own life over the last 10 years.

David noticed that I continued reading Living The Good Life more than most of the other books he had shown me. He asked me if I would like to write about my reflections as I read the book and how it relates to what I am discovering about the lifestyle of the Hydes. Helen and Scott Nearing, as well as Ardis and Philip Hyde in kind, had approaches to life that serve as examples that can guide us today toward living more happily and sustainably. What I find most fascinating about reading The Good Life now is that although the first publication of the book was in 1954 and the sixth printing was in 1971, we still have the same, if not worse, chaotic, degenerating society.

Helen and Scott Nearing wrote Living The Good Life after coming out of the Depression of the 1930s:

We had tried living in several cities, at home and abroad. In varying degrees we met the same obstacles to a simple, quiet life—complexity, tension, strain, artificiality, and heavy overhead costs. These costs were payable only in cash, which had to be earned under conditions imposed upon one by the city—for its benefit and advantage. Even if cash income had been of no concern to us, we were convinced that it was virtually impossible to counter city pressures and preserve physical health, mental balance and social sanity through long periods of city dwelling. After careful consideration we decided that we could live a saner, quieter, more worthwhile life in the country than in any urban or suburban center.

For further reading see also Helen Nearing’s latest book, Loving and Leaving the Good Life, written after Scott Nearing passed on at age 100. Here’s Wilda Williams’ Library Journal description:

This quiet and reserved memoir is a tribute to the “good life” and the ideals of self-sufficiency, simplicity, socialism, and pacifism that Helen and Scott Nearing shared for 53 years. Helen was 24 years old in 1928 when she met Scott, a married 45-year-old economics professor who had been blacklisted by universities and publishers for his radical views. In 1932, the Nearings left New York City for a Vermont farm, beginning the homesteading life described in their Living the Good Life (1954), the bible of the back-to-the-land movement. Later, they moved to Maine where, during the 1960s and 1970s, they played host to 2000 visitors a year. For Scott and Helen, old age was a “time of fulfillment. Scott kept his strength and bearing all through his last decades.” But as he neared his 100th birthday in 1983, he chose to leave the good life peacefully by fasting. Helen is a modest narrator, at times so self-effacing that she switches into third person as when she discusses her relationship with the Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. Still, her eloquent chapter on death and old age and her loving portrait of a remarkable man makes this a recommended purchase…

Both the Nearings and the Hydes managed to find and implement the Good Life. For a lively discussion on creating the Good Life on a larger scale through building a sustainable world and the issues related to it see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”

How would you define The Good Life?

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

Monday Blog Blog: Derrick Birdsall

September 26th, 2011

Monday Blog Blog: Derrick Birdsall of My Sight Picture Lands A Book Deal To Photograph North Texas Frontier Forts And Lives For A Week In A Historical Log Cabin

Sunset, Log Cabin, Farmer's Branch Historical Park, Farmer's Branch, Texas, copyright 2009 Derrick Birdsall.

(See the photograph large here.)

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

Some photographers have no problem with singing their own praises or even over-blowing the merit of their own work. In contrast, many photographers and other creative people hesitate to promote themselves because either they doubt their own work, feel self-aggrandizement is tacky or any number of other reasons. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, fit into the second category and architectural, historical, street and landscape photographer Derrick Birdsall does as well.

When I proposed doing a Monday Blog Blog on Derrick Birdsall and his popular blog My Sight Picture, he said something about the caliber of photographers I feature, how short a time he had been “serious” about photography and that he felt highly honored to be the subject of such a blog post. My reply was that my father liked to support and encourage those who were the most dedicated to the craft and the most accelerated in their development. Besides, Dad was always egalitarian in his association with all levels of photographers. I added that even though Landscape Photography Blogger exists to honor my father, it is my blog, doggon it, and I will feature who I want, which essentially in time will be a wide variety of landscape photographers from all over the world that I haven’t even met yet, but to start with I will feature those who I like and who support this blog the most.

Derrick Birdsall began his participation on this blog by asking in a comment if I thought that the current period was another Golden Era for photography. See comments on the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 2.” Ever since, he has shown a knack for asking pithy, discussion sparking and often difficult questions. I have always been amazed at his prolific volume of photography. This month, for example, he made over 20,000 exposures. Also, he puts up blog posts more frequently than any other blog I follow.

Just five years ago, Derrick Birdsall began photographing with a small Hewlett Packard “point-and-shoot” that came with a printer he bought. Because it was convenient to keep in his pocket, he took it everywhere he went. At first he had mainly an “I was here” style, but once he was out exploring around the Gila River in New Mexico and a storm blew across the canyon. Derrick “snapped” a few pictures and found that one of them had an “Ansel Adams style to it and something just clicked in my head, that I could do this.” He now photographs mainly with his Canon 7D, with his earlier Canon 50D as a backup. For post processing, he uses only Adobe Lightroom and Idealab/Google Picasa, no Photoshop.

Right away Derrick made an impression on me with his polite, Southern manner sprinkled with “please” and “thank you, Sir.” He was born in Virginia and has lived in Texas since the 4th Grade. His distinct photography in some ways is best exemplified by his photographs from his visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Rather than going for the landmarks: the adobe, Native Americans on the Plaza, or other typical Santa Fe clichés, his images on Smug Mug are of the land and not even of the most prominent features. He explained that this was partially circumstantial as he had attended a museum conference, took a walk and photographed what looked good to him. “A lot of times we miss something right under our noses because we’re too busy trying to put tripods where someone else already has. Part of my uniqueness is that growing up, I never spent much time looking at, or learning about art or photography. Even now, I don’t look to others’ photographs to guide what I do.”

He photographs landscapes, motorcycles, shooting competitions, airplanes, animals, architecture and many other subjects. Here’s his explanation for wide variety over specialization:

If I had my druthers, I’d be out working the Texas deserts and canyons every day with a camera. Unfortunately for me, I can’t get out there all the time, so I take images of what I have access to. There’s beauty to be found everywhere—whether that’s in a majestic desert landscape, a nice macro that you walk by every day, your dog laying out in the sun, or whatever you might pass by.  My rule number one is that to take a good picture, you’ve got to have your camera with you everywhere you go.  That way if you see something that catches your eye, you can take the time to stop and capture that moment. That being said, I think that to really capture the essence of something, you have to know it, and the images I share with folks are of things I know and love.  Basically, it’s all about ‘seeing.’  Once you start hunting for the light, you see it everywhere you go. I also use every photo opportunity as a way to become more skilled with the camera across the board. For example, I can learn something from taking an image of a hot rod and apply it to capturing reflections of a pool of water in the desert. In the short time I’ve been working at this, I’ve learned that photography is often about trial and error. Every time you hit the shutter button it’s a learning experience. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and the more images you take, the better you get at being able to bend the camera to your will so that you can capture the image you visualized.

The big news recently was a book deal with TSTC Publishing for a coffee table book featuring Derrick Birdsall’s photographs of the Texas Frontier Forts. Derrick Birdsall has a background in history and has been photographing the Texas Frontier Forts seriously since 2009. He earned an MA in History from Sam Houston State University and since then has been working in museums for over 20 years. He learned from a competitive shooting mentor that if you want to succeed, “you have to let other people know what your goals are and they will help you reach your goals.” Derrick Birdsall has had the goal to produce a coffee table book on the Texas Frontier Forts for some time. At one point, he collaborated with Margaret Hoogstra, who manages a cultural tourism trail centered on the Texas Frontier Forts called Texas Forts Trail. She was at a meeting with a representative from TSTC Publishing and they started talking about potential book projects. Margaret Hoogstra mentioned Derrick Birdsall’s photography of the forts. Subsequently the publisher set up a meeting in which they agreed to do the book. Derrick called it a “networking success.”

The forts project hits so many buttons for me. For starters, I am a historian by trade… I love history, always have. Secondly, the bulk of the forts are well off the beaten path and in some truly beautiful country. Thirdly, they are some of the only places you can get to anymore where you can not only see things the way they were, but you can feel it too. Standing inside some of the old buildings and hearing the wind whistling through the cracks in the walls without the interruption of modern noises is just magical to me… I can get my history fix and my landscape fix in the same breath.

The city of Farmer’s Branch, Texas has a historical city park with 28 acres of grounds and 12 structures dating from the 1840s to the 1930s. Derrick Birdsall, park Superintendent for 12 years, slept in one of the log cabins for a week this last March in commemoration of Farmer’s Branch Historical Park’s 25th Anniversary. The Dallas Morning News article shared how Superintendent Birdsall wore period clothing and cooked over an open fire to help bring frontier days to life. See the YouTube video here. The Farmer’s Branch Historical Park, with over 80,000 visitor’s a year, is an outdoor museum, special event venue and educational facility sharing the heritage of North Texas and Dallas County.

I enjoy being able to teach people… and there are definitely perks associated with the museum world. From time to time I can flash my “museum card” and get access to places that I otherwise would not have…. My museum is… not your usual gallery type setting. One of the things that just flat drives me nuts is that quite a few of the folks who work in a gallery setting are elitist snobs. It’s my belief that the objects in our care are to be shared with as many folks as possible and that visitors should have reasonable access to the artifacts. A lot of the gallery types keep everything behind glass if it’s accessible at all and more often than not you can’t even see the items because they are hiding back in the stacks. How can you educate and teach your visitors if all of your tools are locked up behind closed doors? The other thing that I notice about some folks in more traditional types of museums is that while they are often times highly educated, they only know what they’ve read, and not because they have any experience in their subject matter.  Those are the folks that talk about the rules in art and photography but if you put a paintbrush or camera in their hands they wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to use it.

When Derrick Birdsall studied museums, he attended graduate school. When he learned competition shooting, he took classes from the best marksmen in the world (See a YouTube video of the “Three Gun” type of shooting he does here). However, with photography he has been largely self-taught. He took one class online with master landscape photographer William Neill, but the rest of his training has been through trial and error in the field. He chooses photographs and guides his photography with the help of pre-visualization. In shooting competition, he made a sight picture, aligning the front and rear sight of his gun with the target. He also learned to fire between breaths, during what is called the respiratory pause. He sometimes uses this technique while photographing. As a result of his training, he can often defy the rules about when a tripod is necessary. He wrote about the parallels between both types of “shooting” in an excellent blog post appropriately called, “Sight Picture,” similar to the name of his highly visited blog My Sight Picture. Take a sight along his photo blog for yourself. You will see the work of a new voice in photography, traveling at a high velocity toward his target.

Memories Of Finally Working With Dad

March 8th, 2010

When I Was Young, I Traveled With Dad, But Never Worked With Him Until Much Later…

This blog post is partly based on an e-mail I sent to the Philip Hyde updates list in May 2009. (Read more about the Hyde’s 1971 trip to Alaska and see the photograph below full size: Click Here.)

Lake Near Susitna River, Alaska Range, Alaska, 1971, by Philip Hyde. David was with his father when he made this photograph. Ardis, David and Philip Hyde spent June, July and August in Alaska. The Hydes celebrated David's sixth birthday in their Avion Camper.

Someday I would love to start a foundation for the archives of photographers. Many have died and their name and work just fades away.

Only the photography of the few who are the most recognized continues to be seen by the public. Even many of those who are well-known have their works locked away in some climate controlled vault, never to be seen again. There should be an organization that continues to circulate exhibitions and promotes the work of photographers who had an impact.

I will eternally regret that I didn’t get more interested in my dad’s photography earlier. The main obstacle was that he never thought his work was worth extra promotional effort, or that it would be profitable. Isn’t that silly. I talked to him about it several times but he never thought his work could earn more than a living for he and my mother. Hard to imagine now, he actually said it was not worth my time. I never had anything as worthwhile going in my life, even when I made a lot of money.

Because he spent his whole life working hard to develop his own voice as separate from his father, Leland Hyde, who was a painter, Dad thought I would want to do the same…and I did. However, while I was growing up, somewhere along the trail I learned to love the natural world and the western landscape as much as he did. For years I went in a completely different direction, but I carried a love of the mountains and the desert latent inside me. Eventually one day in 1992, when I was living in Los Angeles, during the Rodney King Riots, I just threw everything in my Mercedes and headed out of town. I did not stop driving until I made it to New Mexico. In the pinon smoke and pueblo dust of New Mexico, I reconnected with the land.

Around that time I started writing again. I wrote often and much. I wrote in my journal. I wrote about my youth. As I developed as a writer I realized that photography and writing are complementary. Dad and I could work together. I wrote a short book that I wanted to have Dad’s photographs illustrate. I do not know why I never tried to publish that little book. I even picked out photographs and Dad made me 4X5 contact proofs. Maybe it was not time yet. I still have it.

He and I did have the chance to spend more time together again in the last four years of his life. I am grateful that we did finally work together starting in 2002. I interviewed him for a book about his life and work. We made nearly 40 tapes. The interviewing gave him a reason to get up in the morning after he had lost his eyesight and my mother, the two loves of his life. He was very happy I was going to write a book about him. He was glad he did not have to do it. He loved the sections I read to him. We had a great time talking about his life as he answered my questions on tape.

His short-term memory had become quite poor, though his long-term memory stayed solid for several more years. After that though, even the long-term memories started to get twisted up with each other and mixed up in time. One day he confused bike riding in his youth at Point Reyes with a bike ride he and my mother and I took at Point Reyes. After that I phased out the interviewing because the facts were no longer adding up. Everything was getting muddled. I wish I had kept interviewing right to the last day of his life, even when he did tell conflicting stories. It would have kept more wind in his sails.

For a long time I have been struggling with his life’s story and it’s incredibly productive story arc, but tragic ending. Yet as I am looking deeper now, I realize it was not a tragic ending except only on the surface. His was a story of triumph over adversity throughout and especially at the end. His spirit is one that anyone could be proud to emulate. He had his bad days, but most of the time he stayed cheerful even in the darkest times. He did have his days he did not want to get out of bed, but we all do. The point is that he did keep getting up. For a heartfelt tribute to Dad see the blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.”

In 2001, I remember thinking after he lost his eyesight, “Well it can’t get any worse.” Then we lost my mom in March 2002. I thought it could not possibly get any worse because he still had great memories of his incredible life traveling in and defending the wilderness, but by the end he could not even find his way around his own house that he designed, built and lived in for 50 years.

I still miss him more than anything, but I like to imagine that in some way he is perhaps still with me, watching as I am inspired again by his words and images. One of the most worthwhile endeavors in my life has been going through his photographs. It is a joyful, uplifting experience that no amount of challenges, setbacks and expense can blight. Making the transition of the work to digital is not easy but I feel it is important. Of course, I am his son. Yet I imagine that almost anyone in my position would feel as strongly as I do about the work getting out to the world. For more on how Dad helped to expand Canyonlands National Park and a tribute to his life, work and contribution to future generations see the blog post, “Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands.”

I greatly appreciate those who have contacted me through the website or blog and added their comments to the discussions, shared an anecdote about a trip they had with Dad, or related a story that happened on a workshop. I have done some of my best interviewing through e-mails written back and forth over months. Sometimes I hear the wind rustle the leaves and I can almost hear Dad’s laughter in his studio. Or I stop for a moment, breathe deeply and observe the warm sunshine flooding through the tall windows he put in by hand. In those moments I remember his whole face twinkling with enthusiasm as he tracked down the next “picher.” I look at photographs of our trips together and I think how lucky I was to have the childhood I did.

What are your favorite nature or childhood memories?

Photography’s Golden Era 3

February 18th, 2010

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Photography’s Golden Era 2“)

Straight Photography and Other Early Influences

5-26-09, rev. 1-23-10

The Steerage, 1921, by Alfred Stieglitz. More than his signature photograph, it is also considered one of the most important images of the 20th Century because it helped to transform photography and change the perception of what was considered fine art. It is also one of the earliest and best examples of "straight photography" as defined by Alfred Stieglitz. Public Domain Image.

Note: Future blog posts will expand on this overview and delve into Pictorialism, documentary, straight photography and especially Group f.64 and the west coast tradition.

In August, 1921, a little known but classically trained painter and furniture maker, Paul Leland Hyde and his wife Jessie Clemens Hyde of Howard Street in San Francisco, gave birth to their third child, a boy they named Philip Jean Hyde. The year proved auspicious for fine art photography, but not for wilderness, at least not until the boy grew up.

The twentieth century’s biggest threats to wilderness and the National Park System began in 1921 when seven western states formed the Colorado River Commission, U. S. Geological Survey teams made studies of Glen Canyon, Cataract Canyon, Grand Canyon and the San Juan River Canyon and Hydrologists proposed the first dam site on the Colorado River.

Meanwhile photography thrived and took leaps forward thanks to an outspoken New York City proponent, the father of fine art photography, Alfred Stieglitz. In February 1921, Alfred Stieglitz sent shock waves through the art world by exhibiting a mixture of nude and clothed depictions of his lover, the rising painter Georgia O’Keeffe. The buzz created by the scandal and success of the show made the young Georgia O’Keeffe famous and solidified Alfred Stieglitz’ place in history both in America and Europe. Philip Hyde never met Alfred Stieglitz, but Alfred Stieglitz would indirectly impact Philip Hyde’s photography and that of all landscape photography. Alfred Stieglitz through his association with Paul Strand and Ansel Adams, influenced the west coast tradition of photography that was also born in the San Francisco Bay Area, as Philip Hyde grew up.

In 1932, an election year, Franklin D. Roosevelt ran against Herbert Hoover, whose popularity plummeted in the wake of the stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression. Roosevelt campaigned on the promise of his New Deal. He said its many programs and projects would reverse the economic collapse. In late 1932, even before Roosevelt took office his advisors started framing programs and began to employ photographers to add life to their reports. The nearly 100-year-old medium of photography conveyed the need for each program more memorably and dynamically than solely written documents. The photography originally used by government organizations such as the Farm Security Administration or FSA in the Great Depression came to be known as documentary photography and was characterized by crisp, sharp and unadorned images.

In previous decades photographers who wanted their work to be considered art, had been moving away from the plain representation of documentation. They experimented with soft focus and print manipulation in many forms including the changing of tone by various methods and printing on cotton and a variety of other art papers. These painterly forms came to be called Pictorialism and dictated what sold in galleries in New York City and the museums and art markets of the Eastern US until 1930 and beyond.

A few photographers bucked this trend, but none successfully until Alfred Stieglitz. Alfred Stieglitz produced a magazine called Camera Work in which he eventually began to encourage “Straight Photography.” When Alfred Stieglitz originally started a society he called Photo-Secession, he was still practicing many of the techniques of pictorialism, but in time he began to take the view that photography was an art form, in and of itself, and did not need to imitate other art forms to warrant public appreciation. He coined the term Straight Photography to refer to images that were sharp and printed just as they were captured by the camera on glossy non-painterly papers that brought out detail. One of the photographers Alfred Stieglitz featured in Camera Work was Paul Strand of Chicago, whose work was stark, simple and straightforward, yet possessed creative depth.

In 1930, a young pianist and photographer named Ansel Adams traveled to New Mexico to finish a book he had started on the Taos Pueblo. No rooms were available at Los Gallos Inn but the Innkeeper introduced Ansel Adams to Becky and Paul Strand who invited Ansel Adams to stay in an extra bedroom of their adobe guest cottage. Ansel Adams knew of Paul Strand from reading Camera Work and was delighted when Paul Strand offered to show him his negatives since he had no prints on hand. Ansel Adams described the negatives as “glorious… with perfect, uncluttered edges and beautifully distributed shapes that he had carefully selected and interpreted as forms—simple, yet of great power.” Ansel Adams was so inspired that he decided that afternoon, “the camera, not the piano, would shape my destiny.”

In 1932, a group of West Coast photographers met informally at photographer Willard Van Dyke’s home in Berkeley, California. Van Dyke’s guests Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Henry Swift, Sonya Noskowiak, John Paul Edwards and Ansel Adams found they were on a similar journey. When Ansel Adams described his new direction in photography inspired by Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, he discovered that the others were already at work on this new approach. All present agreed to pursue what they would call “pure photography” and work to reverse the trend of art photography toward Pictorialism. At a subsequent meeting they agreed to call themselves Group f.64, after the smallest aperture or lens opening setting that allowed for the greatest sharpness and depth. Later after World War II, Philip Hyde would study under three of the members of this group that redefined photography, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham.

(Continued in the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 4“)

References:
O’Keeffe and Stieglitz: An American Romance by Benita Eisler
Two Lives, Georgia O’Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz: A Conversation in Paintings and Photographs by Alexandra and Thomas West
Seeing Straight: The F.64 Revolution in Photography by Mary Street Alinder, Therese Thau Heyman and Naomi Rosenblum
Ansel Adams: An Autobiography by Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams: A Biography by Mary Street Alinder