Posts Tagged ‘Nikon’

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.

Best Photographs Of 2014

December 18th, 2014

2014 The Year In Review

The Year 2014 was one of my most prolific since I started photographing 39 years ago when my father, American wilderness photographer Philip Hyde, gave me a Pentax K1000… Many people don’t realize that I have two of my own portfolios of images on Philip Hyde.com at the bottom of the dropdown menu after 26 portfolios of drum and flatbed scans of Dad’s classic color transparencies, as well as black and white prints, originally captured on medium and large format film. For a brief background on my travel and adventures in childhood and after read, “About David Leland Hyde.” A big thank you to Jim M. Goldstein for founding and again hosting this showcase every year since 2007. See details for participation and enjoyment, “Blog Project: Your Best Photos From 2014.”

The year 2014 also proved fruitful for me in words, both spoken and written. Besides working on longer projects and posting two feature length blog posts a month, I began writing for magazines again after a hiatus of more than a decade. My feature article, “The Art of Vision: Learn to Connect with the Landscape Like the Great Masters Ansel Adams, Minor White, Philip Hyde and Others,” appeared in the march print issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and under “Locations” on the website. Many expert photographers and writers praised the article for its emphasis on craft and seeing rather than technical concerns and equipment. Read the conversation and insight by these industry leaders in my blog post announcing the feature story, “The Art of Vision: Outdoor Photographer Magazine Article By David Leland Hyde.” I also gave the Keynote Speech at the Escalante Canyons Art Festival in October, which drew the largest attendance of all keynote speeches in the 11-year history of the festival. I also gave or planned for 2015 a number of other smaller speeches at Colleges and Universities.

All “lucky 21” of my top photograph picks this year were single image capture, though I do blend images to capture highlight and shadow detail when necessary. However, this year I have used no blends so far, no HDR, only a few masks, did not move or remove objects, except for detailed retouching and otherwise optimized the photographs only with curves and a few other minor layer adjustments. This is essentially how the classic straight photographers printed in the darkroom, but in the digital workflow I make editing adjustments with much more precision than possible with any film process.

This year I kept 21,154 images as opposed to only 8,142 in 2013; 10,525 saved in 2012; 5,783 in 2011; 3,684 in 2010 and 8,877 in 2009 for a grand total of 60,178 since I went digital. Part of the increase is due to exposure bracketing for images that may need it. Totals are not easy to find before 2009, except in some years when I made no photographs. By comparison, my father in his 60 +/- years actively photographing full-time, made an estimated 50,000 large format film photographs, approximately 80,000 medium format images and another 20,000 tests or family snapshots with 35 mm film. While Dad would make at most 10-16 images a day in a subject rich area with the expenses and limitations of large format, I sometimes make as many as one or two hundred images on a big day. I am highly selective at times, but I also like to work the angles. I’m not usually shooting away hoping to get a few good pictures by sheer odds, an approach my father poked fun at, the majority of my photographs are potentially saleable. That is what I plan to focus on doing more of with my own work in the next several years. I already sell as many of my own prints as Dad’s, but his darkroom vintage gelatin silver prints, Cibachrome and dye transfer color prints blow my little ol’ chromogenic or digital prints away in dollar volume.

See many of the photographs below larger in Portfolio One and my Sierra Portfolio on philiphyde.com now. Later you will see that I am just beginning to build my own website. To see more David Leland Hyde photography, see the blog posts, “Best Photographs of 2013,” “My 12 ‘Greatest Hits’ Of 2012,” “Best Photos of 2011,” and “My Favorite Photos Of 2010.” To find out more about limited edition archival prints see the popular blog post, “David Leland Hyde Archival Prints Pre-Launch,” or for sizes and prices go to Portfolio One or Sierra Portfolio.

Please help me improve by sharing in comments which two or so you like best and two or so that you like least…

1. Sunrise Sierra Wave Cloud Over Lone Pine, Sierra East Side, California. I drove six hours to Lone Pine arriving at 2 a.m., but awakened energized only four hours later, looked out and saw the entire sky was blazing red with a huge Sierra Wave Cloud directly overhead. I immediately drove East toward Death Valley enough to include Mt. Whitney, the mountains and the Sierra Wave Cloud in one frame.

1. Sunrise Sierra Wave Cloud Over Lone Pine, Sierra East Side, California. I drove six hours to Lone Pine arriving at 2 a.m., but awakened energized only four hours later, looked out and saw the entire sky was blazing red with a huge Sierra Wave Cloud directly overhead. I immediately drove East toward Death Valley enough to include Mt. Whitney, the mountains and the Sierra Wave Cloud in one frame.

2. Clearing Sunset Near Vista Encontada, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. I exceeded the national park speed limit to get to this unnamed stop after photographing Point Imperial with the sun still above the horizon. I set up my camera and tripod as quickly as possible as the light was fading to dark fast. The howling strong wind required me to make a number of exposures before I got a sharp one.

2. Clearing Sunset Near Vista Encontada, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. I exceeded the national park speed limit to get to this unnamed stop after photographing Point Imperial with the sun still above the horizon. I set up my camera and tripod as quickly as possible as the light was fading to dark fast. The howling strong wind required me to make a number of exposures before I got a sharp one.

 

3. Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pines, Lake Tahoe, Tahoe National Forest, California. This place is hard to find and a significant hike, more than two miles, from the highway. The interesting rock arrangements and opportunity to capture near, middle and far away scenic elements, kept me photographing here nearly all day.

3. Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pines, Lake Tahoe, Tahoe National Forest, California. This place is hard to find and a significant hike, more than two miles, from the highway. The interesting rock arrangements and opportunity to capture near, middle and far away scenic elements, kept me photographing here nearly all day.

4. Sun Rays Through Cloud Layers, Pacific Ocean, Cardiff-By-The-Sea, California. My friend Ralf and his daughter Mia and I were photographing her cousins and brothers surfing, when the sun, clouds and sunlight began to put on this epic show. I was using shutter priority to keep the surfers sharp, but shifted into manual, low ISO, small aperture settings for a series of landscape photographs.

4. Sun Rays Through Cloud Layers, Pacific Ocean, Cardiff-By-The-Sea, California. A friend of mine and his daughter and I were photographing her cousins and brothers surfing, when the sun, clouds and sunlight began to put on this epic show, while it was also getting dark fast. I had been using shutter priority to keep the surfers sharp, but shifted into manual, lower ISO, smaller aperture settings for a series of landscape photographs. That’s when the daughter started asking me about what tripods do for photographs…

 

5. Twilight, Mist Patterns, Round Valley Lake, Greenville, California. This photograph I made near dark and lightened it some in Photoshop. Images made around the dusk hour often exhibit shades of translucent blue like this.

5. Twilight, Mist Patterns, Round Valley Lake, Greenville, California. This photograph I made near dark and lightened it some in Photoshop. Images made around the dusk hour often exhibit shades of translucent blue like this.

6. Clay Rainbow Near Old Pareah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. No trip to the wilderness Southwest is complete without getting stuck in the sand and mud. I had to get stuck and unstuck by myself many miles from pavement to earn this photograph. Besides that, making the image was straightforward with just a little saturation added for spice, though I actually de-saturated the red after curves contrast made it a bit overdone.

6. Clay Rainbow Near Old Pahreah, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. No trip to the wilderness Southwest is complete without getting stuck in the sand and mud. I had to get stuck and unstuck by myself many miles from pavement to earn this photograph. Besides that, making the image was straightforward with just a little saturation added for spice, though I actually de-saturated the red after curves contrast made it a bit overdone.

7. Logs And Reflections, Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California. This photo was among many I found walking around Manzanita Lake during the evening sun angle when the lake surface appeared to catch fire and glow with the most intensity.

7. Logs And Reflections, Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California. This photo was among many I found walking around Manzanita Lake during the evening sun angle when the lake surface appeared to catch fire and glow with the most intensity.

8. Lower Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. I wanted to get into Coyote Gulch, but did not want to backpack overnight. This slot canyon and two others near it, including the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch, provided plenty of interesting sandstone canyon sculpture without fighting the crowds at Antelope Canyon or The Wave in Arizona.

8. Lower Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. I wanted to get into Coyote Gulch, but did not want to backpack overnight. This slot canyon and two others near it, including the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch, provided plenty of interesting sandstone canyon sculpture without fighting the crowds at Antelope Canyon or The Wave in Arizona.

9. Dawn Mist And Canoe On Millpond, Graeagle, California. Woke up in the dark to make this one. The mist accumulating on the surface of the Millpond peaked just as I began to see and decreased with the progression of daybreak. I made a few exposures when it was darker with more mist, but the mist patterns in this were more interesting, while less lightening and noise reduction is needed on this image.

9. Dawn Mist And Canoe On Millpond, Graeagle, California. Woke up in the dark to make this image. The mist accumulating on the surface of the Millpond peaked just as I began to see and decreased with the progression of daybreak. I made a few exposures when it was darker with more mist, but the mist patterns in this were more interesting, while less lightening is needed on this image.

10. Old Mission, San Juan Capistrano, California. I made this one, as I do many photographs, from the tripod platform Dad built on the roof of our family Ford 150 Econoline travel van. You cannot see over the mission wall from street level.

10. Old Mission, San Juan Capistrano, California. I made this one, as I do many photographs, from the tripod platform my father built on the roof of our family Ford 150 Econoline travel van. You cannot see over the mission wall from street level.

11. Bicyclists Rejoice, Murals, Balmy Alley, Mission District, San Francisco, California. I agree with Nina Simone that an artist’s responsibility is to reflect the times. I show the general mood and place where the murals are, without recording any of them specifically, but rather, transforming their combination into a telltale scene. I intend to draw attention to the neighborhood and encourage people to go see this incredible, often political art. I clicked one frame before the bicyclists came happily along and idealized the composition. Riding bicycles will become more and more a sign of the times in the future.

11. Bicyclists Rejoice, Murals, Balmy Alley, Mission District, San Francisco, California. I agree with Nina Simone that an artist’s responsibility is to reflect the times. I show the general mood and place where the murals are, without recording any of them specifically, but rather, transforming their combination into a telltale scene. I intend to draw attention to the neighborhood and encourage people to go see this incredible, often political art. I clicked one frame before the bicyclists came happily along and idealized the composition. Riding bicycles will become more and more a sign of the times in the future.

12. Farm Workers, Strawberry Fields Near Oceano and Guadalupe, California. I stumbled upon this field of workers and others picking strawberries and cabbages on the way to the Oceano Dunes, some sections of the dunes are called the Nipomo Dunes and Pismo Dunes in each respective town the dunes reach across. By seeking out the wildest part of the Oceano Dunes I also discovered several other subjects I had been thinking of photographing in the future. The vantage point of the top of my van came in handy again here.

12. Farm Workers, Strawberry Fields Near Oceano and Guadalupe, California. I stumbled upon this field of workers and others picking strawberries and cabbages on the way to the Oceano Dunes. Some sections of the dunes are called the Nipomo Dunes and Pismo Dunes in each respective town the dunes reach across. By seeking out the wildest part of the Oceano Dunes, I also discovered several other subjects I had been thinking of photographing for some time. The vantage point of the top of my van came in handy again here.

13. Broken Windows Detail, Abandoned School, Mare Island, California. I’m seeing abandoned buildings and homes all over the West, in cities and in rural areas. I made this image from the public roadway, as the condemned school was on property owned by a private corporation who bought it from the US Navy. The school was on part of the defunct Mare Island Naval Base.

13. Broken Windows Detail, Abandoned School, Mare Island, California. More signs of the times. Watch your step in ruined buildings. Watch out above too. I have been dive bombed by birds, charged at by ferrel cats and made to jump by mice and rats. I notice abandoned buildings and homes all over the West, in cities and in rural areas. I made this image from the public roadway, as the condemned school was on property owned by a private corporation who bought it from the US Navy. The school was on part of the defunct Mare Island Naval Base. To see the photograph large

http://www.philiphyde.com/#mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&s=3&p=27&a=0&at=0

14. Freeway Curves, Vallejo, California. I like the curves and shapes found in many of the giant concrete bridges, ramps, columns, buttresses and beams of our interstate highway system. Photographing freeways is dangerous and sometimes tough on the lungs in rush hour. Often high contrast separates the shadowy under sides of roadways from bright surroundings, yet shadows add curves and other interest.

14. Freeway Curves, Vallejo, California. I like the curves and shapes found in many of the giant concrete bridges, ramps, columns, buttresses and beams of our interstate highway system. Photographing freeways is dangerous and sometimes tough on the lungs in rush hour. Often high contrast separates the shadowy under sides of roadways from bright surroundings, yet shadows add curves and other interest.

15. Oakland Harbor From Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco Bay, California. This side of Yerba Buena Island is a challenging place to make photographs as there is no place to park and the construction crews for the new Bay Bridge want to keep people away from the construction zone. However, I managed to squeeze out a few images of Oakland across the Bay receding into the mist.

15. Oakland Harbor From Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco Bay, California. This side of Yerba Buena Island is a challenging place to make photographs as there is no place to park and the construction crews for the new Bay Bridge want to keep people away from the construction zone. However, I managed to squeeze out a few images of Oakland across the Bay receding into the mist.

16. California Highway One From Above, Big Sur Coast, Pacific Ocean, Los Padres National Forest, California. The color version of this is beautiful with a sapphire blue ocean and gold illuminated plants on the cliffs, but I feel the black and white version somehow transports us to another time with the help of winding two-lane State Highway 1. Climbing several hundred feet above the highway also gives this a unique perspective. I had to watch out for Poison Oak, which is prolific in Big Sur. In the end I was not careful enough and drove home with the rash on my face, forearm, ankle and calf.

16. California Highway One From Above, Big Sur Coast, Pacific Ocean, Los Padres National Forest, California. The color version of this is beautiful with a sapphire blue ocean and gold illuminated plants on the cliffs, but I feel the black and white version somehow transports us to another time with the help of winding two-lane State Highway 1. Climbing several hundred feet above the highway also gives this a unique perspective. I had to watch out for Poison Oak, which is prolific in Big Sur. In the end I was not careful enough and drove home with the rash on my face, forearm, ankle and calf.

17. San Juan River Canyons From Muley Point Overlook, Utah. Muley Point was one of Dad’s favorite photo stops. The dirt road and remote location weeds out many travelers. However, the views are great of Monument Valley and into the San Juan River canyons, offering all kinds of photographic possibilities.

17. San Juan River Canyons From Muley Point Overlook, Utah. Muley Point was one of Dad’s favorite photo stops. The dirt road and remote location weeds out many travelers. However, the views are great of Monument Valley and into the San Juan River canyons, offering all kinds of photographic possibilities.

18. Leaning Alders Abstract, Indian Creek Near Taylorsville, California. I made a number of variations on this, a few closer in, some including the shore, a few horizontals. This version stands out the most. The color version of this same composition looks nearly identical to the black and white, except for the large floating stick in the lower right that is brown in the color image. The Alder tree trunks are dark gray either way, as well as the water being the same slate gray in either color or black and white.

18. Leaning Alders Abstract, Indian Creek Near Taylorsville, California. I made a number of variations on this, a few closer in, some including the shore, a few horizontals. This version stands out the most. The color version of this same composition looks nearly identical to the black and white, except for the large floating stick in the lower right that is brown in the color image. The Alder tree trunks are dark gray either way, as well as the water being the same slate gray in either color or black and white.

19. La Jolla Caves, La Jolla Shores, California. A friend of mine’s kids were doing flips off rocks into the ocean at a place called Deadman’s, to the side and above La Jolla Caves. I photographed boys doing flips and a couple flops. Photographed the cormorants on the cliffs as well as the beautiful and frightening cave entrances at cliff base.

19. La Jolla Caves, La Jolla Shores, California. A friend of mine’s kids were doing flips off rocks into the ocean at a place called Deadman’s, to the side and above La Jolla Caves. I photographed the boys doing flips and a couple flops. I photographed the cormorants on the cliffs as well as the beautiful and a bit spooky cave entrances at the cliff base.

20. Burney Falls, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, California. I have wanted to visit Burney Falls for a long time to see if I could photograph it significantly different than my father did. He photographed it in all seasons, but his most known image of the falls he made in winter with the foreground deciduous trees bare and few leaves on any other shrubs. I was happy to find that there are many viewing areas and many angles from which to photograph the waterfall, including from downstream, from front, side and from several different levels above the 129-foot drop.

20. Burney Falls, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, California. I have wanted to visit Burney Falls for a long time to see if I could photograph it in a different way from the many my father did. He photographed it in all seasons, but his most known image of the falls he made in winter with the foreground deciduous trees bare and few leaves on any other shrubs. I was happy to find that there are many viewing areas and many angles from which to photograph the waterfall, including from downstream, from front, side and from several different levels above the 129-foot drop.

21. Spring Showers, Table Mountain, Sierra Foothills Near Oroville, California. Many of my best images I drive right by and then turn around to go back and make the image. This photograph was located on a part of the highway with narrow shoulders and steep drop offs on either side of the road.  This meant the nearest place to park was a good half-mile down the road. I felt this one was worth hiking a mile, but I also had to watch for some time the sun going in and out of the clouds to pick the best moment when the trees would be lit, but also when they cast at least some shadow, which I feel adds interest.

21. Spring Showers, Table Mountain, Sierra Foothills Near Oroville, California. Many of my best images I drive right by and then turn around to go back and make the exposure. This photograph was located on a part of the highway with narrow shoulders and steep drop offs on either side of the road. The nearest place to park was more than half-mile down the road. I felt this one was worth hiking a mile round-trip, but I also had to watch for some time, the sun going in and out of the clouds to pick the best moment when the trees would be lit, but also when they cast at least some shadow, which may add interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview of Gary Crabbe Part 3

July 12th, 2011

Landscape Photography Blogger Interviews Photographer Gary Crabbe

Last Part of A Three Part Series

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

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

Interview Conducted By Phone May 25, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HYDE: Did your images cover the whole state?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HYDE: That’s nice, yeah.

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

HYDE: How many kids do you have Gary?

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

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

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

HYDE: Were you still using the same original camera?

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

HYDE: Is it a nice fit for that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Blog Blog: Greg Boyer

May 16th, 2011

Monday Blog Blog: Greg Boyer Photography

Raised on ranches as a boy and now living in Bishop, California in the shadow of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, Greg Boyer first became serious about photography in the early 1970s. He first began making landscape photographs at age 12 when his father gave him an Argus C3. In 1960, a trip to Yosemite National Park helped spark his creative inspiration. By the time he reached age 13, he had been to 18 states.

Moonrise Over Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2008 by Greg Boyer.

(View the photograph larger Click Here.)

(What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? To find out more read the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”)

Greg Boyer’s father was in the Army Air Corp which became the US Air Force. He later became a safety engineer for a the U.S. government and in the Missile Industry. The family began ranching in California and then moved to Idaho north of Boise along the Payette River. Greg Boyer worked on his father’s ranch while also photographing and hiking the mountains and back country of Idaho.

In the mid 1970s and early 1980s, Greg Boyer worked as a well driller and did construction work building irrigation pumping plants along the Sacramento river in California. At the zenith of Greg Boyer’s early photography life, he recently explained, he dove in more deeply and then faded after a camera catastrophe and other life changes:

I was about the same age as Galen Rowell. He was in all the magazines. He was an outdoor hero. I was doing mountain climbing and some of the same things he was but on a smaller scale. I was always an explorer as a kid. The last year I was very serious about photography was 1975 when I was photographing on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, a wild and wooly place. I was using a Nikon F2. I had a 500 mm lens on and I was getting ready to change the focusing screen. I set the camera down and it fell off the rock perch I set it on at the edge of a deep gorge. I was rummaging in my camera bag trying to find the focusing screen and all I heard was the first clunk of my camera bouncing several times down in the ravine. I turned around and the camera was gone. On the second bounce I saw the body go one direction and the lens go the other. Soon after that my ex wife and I moved back to California in 1975. I was drilling wells and the work was demanding. I didn’t have the time to devote to photography that I wanted to. I was raising a family. I still made snapshots of my kids and family vacations.

Greg Boyer worked for Campbell Soup for 14 years as a maintenance planner. When an opportunity to go back to school came, he took it. He attended UC Davis in Multi-Media Design, where he learned about video production and Photoshop, which he had originally started to learn in 1992. He worked in Video Production from 1997 to 2005. Around that time the video business began to change. The video company he worked for and many others were casualties.

In 2004 Greg Boyer bought a Nikon D2X digital camera. With his extensive knowledge of Photoshop, he also began digital printing. Thus began a whole new experience with photography:

With digital photography I found out how to express the way I saw a scene. I couldn’t do that with film. Digital landscape photography was everything film photography could have been to me but that I never had with film. I never had the tools to do what I really wanted to do until digital came along.  It’s the immediacy of the digital image. You can see right away what you have. You can look at the image and at the histogram and then do something different if it doesn’t work. In the film era you didn’t know what you had until you had the rolls processed. Then you might never make it back to the same place, or you had to get back there in the same conditions.

In late 2005, Greg Boyer was diagnosed with Emphysema. When he told his son, his son said, “Well, you better quit wasting time.” After thinking about it, Greg Boyer realized his son was right. He decided to change his lifestyle and do what he really loved, which meant getting back in touch with nature and taking up photography again. Soon afterwards he moved to Bishop, California to be near the Sierra Nevada in a small-town atmosphere and clean air. Greg Boyer described his experience of connecting with nature and the philosophy behind it:

Krishnamurti was an influence on the way I look at what I’m doing in landscape photography. I go out and get absorbed by my surroundings. When I’m out taking photographs it is a spiritual experience of that moment in time and space when it is all yours. You are it and it is you. Krishnamurti wrote about seeing and not categorizing. His philosophy was that by defining something you separate yourself from it. He gave me a new way of being out and connected to nature. Civilization’s mistake is in separating from the natural world.

In the Eastern Sierra Nevada Greg Boyer now goes backpacking at least twice a year. He still carries 50-60 pounds of gear on backpacks including cameras and lenses. Greg Boyer said he is ‘living the dream,’ but he is glad he doesn’t have to rely on photography for a living in today’s conditions. He has the freedom to pursue landscape photography as he likes:

I’m enjoying life and having a good time. This is the way life was meant to be. I’m blessed to be doing what I love in a beautiful place. At Campbell Soup some people had been working there for 35-40 years and hated every minute of it. I feel bad for people who are stuck doing something they have no idea they can get out of. Many people are not doing what they love to do. I like sharing what I’m doing in photography. I like the interaction with other photographers in the photo blogosphere. Besides, I live a few blocks from Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery.

Take a close look at Greg Boyer Photography and his blog, which offer an inspirational perspective on landscape photography. His blog posts about Photoshop and other post-processing tools and techniques provide an experienced presentation of simple and advanced methods.

Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?

May 12th, 2011

Did the “over-saturation” of landscape photographs start with digital printing and Photoshop, or did it originate well before that in the film era with the advent of Fuji Velvia Film and Kodak Ektachrome E100VS Film? Is “over-saturation” a myth?

Urban Railroad Distortion, Reno, Nevada, copyright 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Post-processed in Photoshop.

In his 1993 book Galen Rowell’s Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography, Galen Rowell wrote a chapter called Velvet Media in which he extolled the virtues of Fuji Velvia film, with some cautions. Galen Rowell wrote:

After twenty-five years of using Kodachrome film whenever sharpness was of the utmost importance, I abruptly gave up on it in February 1990 after seeing tests of an amazing new slide film from Japan…. Fuji’s introduction of ISO 50 Velvia at the Photo Marketing Association show in Las Vegas… After I returned home, I ran controlled comparisons of Velvia against Kodachrome 25, Kodachrome 64 and Fuji Pro 50. On my own light table the next morning, I clearly saw the end of an era. Velvia was the best of all existing worlds. Its resolution exceeded that of Kodachrome 25 and the other test films in high-contrast tests simulating daylight and equaled Kodachrome 25 in soft light. Its color saturation and separation of tones exceeded those of Fuji Pro 50 and the other films. I was aware that many photographers would prefer Kodachrome’s relatively muted colors, but I believed much of this was due to a conditioned constancy illusion that Kodachrome slides accurately represented the natural world. I knew better and fully expected Velvia to establish a new constancy illusion with picture editors and the public… I wanted to see the world freshly through this new tool and to push it to the limit to see what it would do. Over the years, the limitations of other films had caused me to consider certain kinds of subject matter and lighting as impossible. Murky renditions of greens in shadow under a blue sky on Kodachrome became vivid on Velvia. Fuji Pro 50 renditions of delicate foliage have very strong color, but also a lack of resolution that calls attention to itself, especially when compared with Kodachrome 25. Velvia holds both color and sharpness.… I soon began asking, ‘Is anything wrong with this film?’ not only to myself but to other users. The few negative answers had to do with too strong colors and a slower film speed than the advertised ISO 50.

In early 2010, in the comments on Steve Sieren’s blog post, “Ever Wonder About The History Of Landscape Photography?” large format landscape photographer Michael Gordon commented about how Fuji Velvia film had changed Landscape Photography. Michael Gordon first did a blog post about Velvia in 2008. In his 2010 comment, Michael Gordon said, “Want to be shocked? Compare Hyde’s “Drylands” photos to the current crop of Velvia-ized desert landscape photographs. Porter too. Not many years have passed, and despite the drying climate, the desert sure got a lot more vibrant in photographs!” Other comments on Steve Sieren’s blog post addressed the effect Velvia film had in the hands of various landscape photographers and its general impact on all landscape photography.

Many galleries, museums, photographers and others blame “over-saturation,” if it exists and can be defined, on the advent of the digital age and Photoshop, but here we see much evidence that “over-saturation” began long before. Also in 2010, outdoor, documentary and landscape photographer Carr Clifton offered his thoughts and possible explanation as to what happened in landscape photography from 1990 through the early years of the new millennium. Carr Clifton said, “When we first started printing digitally, we were used to trying to get the richest and even the hottest color out of whatever film we were using. Many films didn’t have the rich color palette that we now see. The same thing happened back in the 1990s with Velvia. Velvia was different because for the first time, it offered too much color, more than you see in nature. When everybody started scanning film and making digital prints, even the scans of Velvia were too gaudy.”

On reading Galen Rowell’s Outdoor Photographer features, Sierra Magazine articles and several of his books I discovered that he wrote more eloquently about photography than perhaps just about anyone else ever, with the possible exception of Robert Adams, Charis Wilson, Edward Weston, Minor White and Ansel Adams at times. That puts Galen Rowell at the top of all writers on photography. He is also admirable as a landscape photographer because he was self-taught. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde has been said by many of the who’s who of photography today to have influenced a generation of photographers. See the blog posts, “How Color Came To Landscape Photography,” “The Golden Decade: California School Of Fine Arts Photography,” and the series beginning with the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism.”

Notwithstanding, Galen Rowell also influenced a generation, the next generation, our generation, the landscape photographers just coming into prominence now. Galen Rowell was also one of the most talented photographers who ever lived. He was the master of “fast and light” and capturing unusually powerful landscape photographs. When we showed the Philip Hyde exhibition at Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery, I found through talking to guests and staff that Galen Rowell was also known as a life-changing mentor, a generous mountain guide, a driven activist for various conservation and social causes and a dynamic leader of an organization of top quality people who continue to inspire the world. However, some segments of the art establishment hardly recognize him because they feel he overdid the color. Carr Clifton, who also greatly admired Galen Rowell put forward the theory that when Velvia film first emerged on the scene and also in the early days of digital printing, that Galen Rowell went a little far with the color, but never lived to rein in when other photographers did.

“It was around 2003-2004 that everybody started to pull back some and bring their color back into the realm of reality,” Carr Clifton said. “All except for a few blatant examples that remain. Galen, unfortunately for all of photography, died in the plane crash in early 2002. We were all very sad about it. Now Galen’s prints are frozen in a state of too much syrup. He never made it to the time in 2003-2004 when everyone backed their color off.” Because Galen was so admired, there are now many photographers who try to do what he did with sunrise-drenched mountain tops, brilliant reflections and ultra-vivid colors. Other landscape photographers agree with Carr Clifton. They believe that Galen Rowell might very well have pushed his own work back down the color saturation scale if he had lived. It’s all conjecture, but an interesting theory and something to consider in view of how much landscape photographers try to emulate Galen Rowell’s work. For more about other concerns over the direction of landscape photography today see the blog post, “Is Landscape Photography Thriving Or Dying?” For a new way to look at it and other remedies see the blog post, “What Urban Exploration Photography Learned From Nature.”

Travel and landscape photographer Richard Wong wrote on this subject in November 2010:

…Galen did have a large audience probably due to several factors, one of which was a long relationship with Outdoor Photographer Magazine dating back to the beginning from what I understand, but even before that he had “street cred” in the outdoor community for being a prolific adventurer and rock climber. There were photographers just as good if not better out there at all the different things he did but he was able to connect with and convey his philosophy to his audience much more effectively than most. He was a great writer. And also someone who was always striving to innovate. Looking at his body of work, you can clearly see the evolution over the years. You also have a good point about the color. I was told that his staff worked on those digital masters from his slides in the years prior to his death and probably against advisement, he wanted to push the envelop on the saturation. You can tell by looking at some of his prints up close at his gallery and also in some of his books that some highlight detail was probably sacrificed due to saturation. His Evolution Lake image for example. With that said, I have always overlooked that phase of his career because that doesn’t define his body of work. One thing I’ve always pondered is what Galen would be doing now on the Nikon D700 if he were still around. Breaking new ground for photography I would imagine.

Fuji Velvia film was not the only film that amped up the saturation. Galen Rowell provided a warning against overdoing the color saturation in this quote also from the 1995 book, Galen Rowell’s Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography:

 

Much of what people were saying when Velvia first came out applies to Kodak E100VS today. Sometimes it looks garish, sometimes it looks great, and much of the time it will produce the image that editors will choose. Kodak E100VS often produces bright colors closer to what you believe you saw in flat light or at a distance, but if you use it all the time, you risk having the sum total of your style appear garish and suspect. In direct light this film doesn’t just come near the edge of the color saturation envelope; it moves beyond into a realm that requires the same sort of restraint as the use of color-enhancing filters does.

Probably the same could be said for the color saturation adjustment slider in Photoshop. What do you think? Is “over-saturation” an overblown issue? Is it a myth? Is over-saturation a problem in landscape photography today?

Backpacker Magazine Interview: Conservation Photographer Philip Hyde Part 1

March 17th, 2010

Upper Iceberg Lake, Minarets Wilderness, Now Cecile Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, 1950 by Philip Hyde. The Minarets were one of the first places Philip Hyde backpacked with his father Leland Hyde and brother David Lee Hyde in the early 1940s before World War II.

In Keeping with the vision of publisher Bill Kemsley, Jr., Backpacker Magazine writers interviewed landscape photographers who were significant in the fledgling modern environmental movement. For background on Bill Kemsley, Jr., the founding of Backpacker Magazine and on how the original Backpacker Magazine became a force for wilderness conservation and a voice for environmental photographers, read the blog post, “The 1970s Backpacking Boom, Conservation and Photography.”

The following interview helped inspired Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Jack Dykinga to leave photojournalism and the city of Chicago, move to the West and take up landscape photography for conservation. The interview was first published in the Spring 1975 issue of Backpacker Magazine. Interviewer, Gary Braasch is an environmental photojournalist who went on to attain the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography, “Outstanding Nature Photographer” from the North American Nature Photography Association and “Legend Behind the Lens” from Nikon. He was also a Founding Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers of which Philip Hyde and Galen Rowell are the only honorary members. Click Here to read about his latest book, Earth Under Fire, and previous books he has written about nature photography and the environment. The following article is republished with the permission of Gary Braasch and Bill Kemsley, Jr., founder of Backpacker Magazine.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  The world is so full of beautiful places. How do you, with a drive to photograph them all, decide when and where to travel?

PHILIP HYDE:  My trip planning evolves out of a combination of wanting to go back to places I really liked where I find a lot of subject matter, and the need to see new territory. Sometimes when I go to a new place I get certain images that I will never again get just because of the newness and the excitement of being in a place that’s different.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  What kind of kit do you take backpacking?

PHILIP HYDE:  This is always a great debate. Should I take the Hasselblad and have a lot of 2 ¼ X 2 ¼ inch exposures, or should I take the view camera and make a few good 4 X 5s? It depends on the situation and the place and how vigorous I feel. If I backpack the view camera for three or four days, I can carry three or four film magazines—36 or 48 sheets—and two or three lenses. My tripod weighs about five pounds. By the time I have it all thrown in I’ve got 30 pounds. The Hasselblad, with a lot of rolls, will add up to about half that.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  But what kind of sacrifices to you make in the rest of your dunnage to survive the weight when you’re going into the wilderness for any length of time?

PHILIP HYDE:  Everything else is minimal. We backpack with just a piece of plastic for tent, tarp and groundsheet combined. A down bag. We survive on stuff like muesli, and the cooking is pretty simple. I find that if I carry too much, I just don’t have the energy or inclination to take pictures.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  One answer, of course, is to go to a smaller camera. Why do you continue to use a 4 X 5 primarily rather than a 35mm, which is so much lighter?

PHILIP HYDE:  The basic reason is that I can’t get the detail I want on 35mm. A 35mm original boosted up to 20 X 24 inches or even 8 X 10 doesn’t have the sharpness I’m looking for. I’m always trying to compromise with the Hasselblad because with it I can go farther, faster and lighter. But then I get something I really like on the 2 ¼ X 2 ¼ inch film and wish I had taken my view camera along and done a little more struggling to get the picture on 4 X 5. Maybe that’s pure stubbornness, but I still think there’s a difference, and the difference, as far as I’m concerned, is crucial. There’s something else too: the view camera is a terrific discipline. I don’t have nearly the discipline with the Hasselblad because I know the film’s cheap and there’s a lot of it. Expense-wise, I can shoot only about two exposures of 4 X 5 for a roll of 120 film or about 20 exposures og 35mm film. If I get one or two really good 4 X 5 pictures, I’m way ahead of the game because I often don’t get that many on a roll of Hasselblad film.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  The discipline you talk about—is it mostly a discipline of time? Waiting, walking around, getting the right angles and the right light?

PHILIP HYDE:  What I do is form a scene with my eyes and mind before exposure, rather than inside the camera. As an art-school-trained photographer, I have an axe to grind about getting people to look harder. I don’t think the small camera does much for that because it’s too easy. As for waiting, I don’t wait. In fact it’s almost always the other way around. A fellow who was here the other day looked at a photo of a meadow with a cloud up above it. He remarked, “Gee, you must have waited a long time until that cloud got just the way you wanted it.” I had to laugh because that wasn’t what happened at all. The cloud was already there when I saw it, and I had a hell of a time getting the view camera set up before it was gone. There are photographers who claim to work the other way. They know there’s going to be a picture at a certain place and certain time of day, so they go there. But I can’t imagine doing that, because the world is too full of pictures to wait a long time for any one of them. Also, it’s very difficult for me to visualize a picture if it’s not already there. It becomes something that’s kind of put together—constructed. And if I were going to do that, it would be much more efficient to be a hand artist and paint the scene. Photography is the art of getting what’s there, not creating something.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  Are you saying that photography isn’t creative—isn’t a fine art?

PHILIP HYDE:  What I want to say about creativity in photography is that it is analyzing what is there, rather than constructing something out of one’s imagination. Analysis consists of seeing strongly. If you define creativity as the expression of individuality, then the kind of photography you’re talking about is “creative” when it communicates the maker’s viewpoint and individual vision. This may be more subtle than in other mediums, and our audience, despite Marshall McLuhan, still isn’t very educated about appreciating photographs, which explains why there are still people around asking, “But is it art?” It’s safe to say that photography can be art, and I see more and more evidence of individual expression by a growing number of photographers.

(CONTINUED IN THE BLOG POST “Backpacker Interview: Conservation Photographer 2“)

To hear from Paul Strand and other photographers about creative photography and how a photograph becomes art, see the blog post, “What Makes A Photograph Art?