Posts Tagged ‘North America’

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?

Imogen Cunningham, Minor White And Their Students On The Art Of Seeing

November 12th, 2013

Photography, Art And The Art Of Seeing

Reading Photoblogs And Networking: A New World

Photo Session, Old Tower, Broomfield, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Photo Session, Old Tower, Broomfield, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

While junk dominates the internet in many categories of photography, some of the best photography ever made is also quietly being produced and published every day. Running a photoblog and networking with other blog writers has opened a whole new world.

One blog I have grown to enjoy is Mark Graf’s Notes In The Woods. He must be one of the most innovative photographers around today. He shares tips, tidbits and techniques that keep photography interesting. Jim Goldstein also runs a good blog with a wider mix of interests, at least indirectly related to photography, including expertise in social media and internet marketing. Recently, about two months apart, both Mark Graf and Jim Goldstein wrote about the same topic. Mark Graf advised, “Always Do That 180” and Jim Goldstein published, “Pro Tip: Always Check The Views Behind You.” Multiple bloggers post about similar subjects from time to time, but it is rare enough to stand out.

These blog articles, both advising to look behind you while you are photographing for additional photo opportunities, reminded me of my father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, saying “a photographer has to look around.” Dad and other greats before him talked about looking in all directions. Mark Graf and Jim Goldstein are in good company. Their two blog posts triggered memories of my father in the field and how he approached making a photograph, as well as some advice given me by Stan Zrnich, one of Dad’s school associates under Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, while I photographed with him, and also a story about Imogen Cunningham told by one of Dad’s classmates, Benjamin Chinn.

Right after I read the blog posts I was photographing in Indian Valley in the Northern Sierra. I climbed into the bed of my Datsun 4×4 King Cab pickup, set up my Bogen tripod and pointed my Nikon D90 camera at the fresh snow on Grizzly Peak. In a few minutes, I turned around and looked behind me. Clouds were just peeling away to allow the sun to touch Indian Head Peak on the other side of the valley. I might have missed it if I hadn’t been recently reminded to look back.

How Philip Hyde Surveyed A Scene

My father would never have missed that moment of the light on Indian Head though… and he wouldn’t have to be reminded to look behind him. His overall approach to making photographs would have taken care of both. Dad’s approach was so different from how many photographers do it today. Often photographers now are in a hurry, I am no exception, though the more I photograph, the more I slow down. Photographers often must get somewhere else, or they are trying to “shoot” as many frames as they can in a certain amount of time. They may not be “allowing” or “making” photographs, but rather are “blazing” or “blasting away.”

When Dad was on the lookout for photographs, Mom and I were quiet in anticipation of the true quiet time, which began as soon as Dad pulled over and took out his Ziess wooden tripod and his 4X5 Baby Deardorff view camera, or the Hasselblad with Bogen tripod. He would say, “David, cut the chatter,” or “I can’t hear myself think,” or “Quiet on the Set.” While he was composing a photograph was one of the few times he asked me to be “seen and not heard. I remember him being in a different space mentally while in the act of making photographs. He kept a kind of intentional perimeter around the area he worked. Stepping into that circle was like walking into church: quiet and reverent. This working space was invisible but quite palpable, mainly made manifest by Dad’s attitude, emotional state and receptivity. In this enabling state of higher awareness, he missed nothing.

When he first arrived on any scene he would look in every direction many times and at every detail of the countryside around him. He would bend down and look up at a tree, crouch and look at a flower between two rocks, scramble up on top of a nearby overlooking rock, all in the interest of seeing every angle. He did some of this in his mind and some physically moving around in the area. By the time he settled in and planted his tripod, you knew he had checked all other possibilities and chosen one. There were exceptions to this longer process such as when he saw one isolated point of interest or when the light was fading or the situation was changing quickly for some other reason. In these instances Dad could move with the swiftness and efficiency of a stealth reconnaissance unit and make the image, but most of the time he did a good deal of looking around first.

Take A Walk In The Flow

The meditative state Dad adopted coincides with my experience in observing and photographing with Stan Zrnich, who also attended the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, under Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White. Stan Zrnich and I took our cameras and went for a walk in downtown San Rafael, California one afternoon in July 2009. Stan talked about how Minor White taught his photography students to go into an altered state of heightened awareness when they photographed. That explained the roots of my father’s method. Stan’s calm mindset was evident in his tranquil facial expression and demeanor while walking around. He showed me numerous instances where I walked right by something photogenic, mainly because my mind was chattering on about what I thought I was looking for, what I wanted to accomplish that day by photographing and so on. Often in photography it is easy to get “stuck in the head” and become too analytical.

The book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi shares the advantages of getting “into the zone,” also called the optimal creative state. Being in this state increases effectiveness and quality of thinking, as well as even improving the quality of life. Flow describes this creative state:

People typically feel strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and as if they were performing at the peak of their abilities. Both the sense of time and emotional problems seem to disappear. There is an exhilarating feeling of transcendence, of breaking out of the boundaries of identity.

Flow and other sources teach photographers and other artists and creative people how to obtain this state any time on demand and how to control it, rather than merely leaving its arrival to chance. Through practice we can attain this state quickly at any time. My father described it as a state of receptivity in which he looked more closely at everything and saw objects more deeply. Not only did he see the graphic qualities of subjects and what they would look like transformed into the two-dimensional plane of the photograph, but he also saw the very nature of the subject matter more deeply as well and could thereby depict it more effectively in his art. This relaxed mindset is not complex or dependent on ceremony, it can be started quite easily through deep breathing or other methods of relaxation and available by recall the more it is practiced.

The Quiet Mind Of Seeing

This is the art of seeing in photography, pirouetting in dance, or “getting air” in ski jump competition. It is the main event in any endeavor where results improve with concentration. Photographers who are in a heightened space for seeing do not miss anything in any direction. I saw this first hand from observing Dad and Stan Zrnich, They and their comrades learned it from Minor White and Imogen Cunningham in their day. Benjamin Chinn, one of Dad’s classmates known for photographing the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown and of Paris, France, said that the “quiet mind” was responsible for much of his success in capturing people and moving events well. He said that one of his mentors, Imogen Cunningham, had made herself available for photo walks during photography school. When Minor White arrived at the right place in the curriculum, Imogen Cunningham took the students out for one or two hour walks to show them what they would have missed… and they missed a lot at first, but as their seeing strengthened over time, their images improved and they missed less and less.

What is your experience? Do you photograph better when relaxed and focused, or sometimes better when you’re in a hurry? Do you pre-visualize and plan or allow images to appear as you wander?

I Would Apologize Too: A Letter To Mother Earth

August 23rd, 2012

I Would Apologize To Mother Earth Also, Except That Implied In An Apology Is The Intent To Stop Committing The Offense, Which I Am Working Toward, But Have Not Yet Achieved…

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Something about fast food, the Catholic Church, electric wires powered by San Francisco’s electricity grid and a sky turned apocalyptic in a pleasant Photoshop surprise, seemed appropriate to post again with this would be apology. Available as an archival fine art digital print.

(See the photograph large, “Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California.”)

Recently master photographer Youssef M. Ismail of Organic Light Photography wrote a blog post titled, “I’m Sorry – An Open Letter To Mother Earth.” This beautifully written expose is also an openhearted lament for what we humans have done to our home planet Earth. Echoing Youssef M. Ismail’s sentiments, talented photo blogger Monte Stevens made a blog post in his own words that he called, “I also apologize.” I would like to continue the trend and the tradition by adding my own message to the conversation.

The Holocaust?

I was also inspired to write this blog post by the holocaust that is currently transpiring. That’s right, I said holocaust: bigger than any holocaust we’ve ever seen of humans. I’m talking about the animal holocaust, the wholesale slaughter of our feathered and furry friends and relatives, directly by murder and indirectly through the destruction of their habitat.

Part of what also inspired me to write this letter to Mother Earth was an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone by Bill McKibben called,  “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math: Three Simple Numbers That Add Up To Global Catastrophe – And That Make Clear Who The Real Enemy Is.” Bill McKibben has authored important books such as The End of Nature, The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change, American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau with Al Gore, The Age of Missing InformationDeep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future and others.

“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”

In his Rolling Stone article, Bill McKibben reminded us that in 2009 world leaders signed the “Copenhagen Accord” agreeing that the most our civilization can survive is a two degree Celsius increase in global temperature. Two degrees is the fatal first number. Scientists estimate that we can pollute the atmosphere with approximately 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide and still remain below the two-degree safety limit. This is the safe second number. Engineers have since calculated that the amount of carbon in proven coal, oil and gas reserves is five times what will produce the pollution to exceed the safe two-degree temperature increase. That is, we have more than 2,795 gigatons of carbon already discovered and big oil and energy companies are still looking. This third and scariest third number is the amount of carbon already known, that if burned, will produce a planet 11 degrees warmer and “straight out of science fiction,” wrote Bill McKibben. This means that we need to convince Big Oil, gas and coal companies to keep 80 percent of fossil fuel in the ground. What it comes down to is that as a species, we humans need to let go of greed, the fear of not having enough, to survive. Strange that it’s necessary to let go of the fear of death to avoid experiencing it.

Is “Big Oil” Or “You And I” To Blame?

Therefore, to begin with, after I stop doing it, I will apologize to planet Earth for my part in continuing to drive automobiles and run other engines that burn fossil fuel, thereby supporting and fueling big oil’s greed addiction. For more on Big Oil’s greed addiction, see the blog post, “Exxon Profits $11 Billion As Oil Prices Skyrocket.” I drive much less than the average American, diligently combine trips and carpool, stay home a lot rather than “going out,” but I am still part of the problem. I could blame it on the car companies for not offering me convenient and reasonably priced alternatives, but other options are out there and have been for some time. There are diesel conversions to make it possible to burn biodiesel and there are electric vehicles available now, bicycles, horses, no I’m not joking, and many other ways of getting around besides petroleum powered automobiles. I live in a rural area and notice that many of my neighbors will drive the 54 miles round trip to Quincy, California or the 212 miles round trip to Reno, Nevada, several on the same day. If these neighbors took a little time to communicate with each other, or set up a system to notify each other when they would drive to town, we could all make travel and errands into social events. We are so addicted to convenience that we often “take separate cars” to the same event.

Alternatives have existed for cleaners, detergents and other household soaps and products for many years. I am sad that I have been aware of these alternatives for at least 20 years. I have made a point of using some of them, but up until the last few years I still used some toxic cleaners and other household products. Detergents that contain phosphates inevitably work their way into streams, rivers and lakes fertilizing algae and causing it to grow out of control killing native fish and other water dwelling beneficial insects, animals and plants.

I do recycle, compost and have a grey water system saving water and energy, but I could do much more. I eat locally when I can, but I often eat foods from far away lands, thereby increasing the fuel costs and my carbon footprint. I will apologize for this too, when I stop doing it.

Is Meat A Problem?

I still eat meat, but need to cut back. Humans are meant to be omnivores, not gluttons. In North America, the sustainable practice would be to get rid of the cattle that are destructive to the land, inefficient with resources and provide a lower quality meat that has a higher fat content than meat from the original native species: buffalo, or the American Bison. It is not the eating of meat that is a problem, but the quantity that Americans consume that poses a resource problem. If Americans reduced our meat intake just 10 percent, we could feed 60 million more people around the world. Science has proven we eat many times the protein necessary for our health, not to mention the consumption of fat and grease that leads to many diseases. For the overeating of protein, I apologize.

I apologize to Mother Earth for the toxic substances I use in my everyday life. I feel remorse for being naive and thinking government agencies are here to protect the public from poisons and other harm, when agencies such as the FDA, FTC, DEA, FAA, FCC, FDIC, ICC, NIH, and SEC are corrupt. Government agencies fill their board of director seats with executives from the very companies they are supposed to regulate.

Junk The Junk

Americans receive almost four million tons of junk mail every year, the equivalent of 62 billion pieces, about 240 mail items for every man, woman and child in the country. I am sad to admit that at most times in my life I have not had time to sit down and write every company that sends me junk mail asking them to desist. One year I did do this and had about six months of blissful junk free mail where I only received the mail I wanted before the whole process started all over again. I apologize for not having gone through the process all over again.

Coffee filters, paper towels, paper napkins and other household paper products are not naturally white. I will apologize later when I have stopped adding to the use of these products and instead opt for unbleached paper products or better yet, use washable or recyclable cloth napkins and towels. The bleaching of paper creates dioxin, which is a deadly poison that wipes out all living things in its path through our disposal and waste water systems.

More Apologies To Apply?

I apologize for having kept my hot water heater on high until recent years when I turned it down to a lower setting and bought insulation to keep from wasting heat and maintaining higher energy and carbon use than necessary.

I apologize for the times in my life when I didn’t recycle. I am sad that on those occasions I didn’t take the few minutes necessary to find out what company did the recycling in the area I lived.

Toxic paint both interior and exterior has surrounded me most of my life, but whenever I had to paint anything, I didn’t necessarily use the most Earth friendly product. I didn’t want to spend the extra money or do the research. I apologize. Paint and paint products account for over 60 percent of the toxic chemicals that private individuals dump into landfills.

At certain times in my life I drove on worn out, nearly worn out, unbalanced or under inflated tires, which alone wastes up to two billion gallons of gas per year in the US. I apologize that sometimes when buying tires I have gone the most economical route rather than purchasing the longest lasting, most fuel efficient tires, or just as stated above, cutting down on driving altogether. I have often not paid attention to rotating and balancing tires every five thousand miles.

Simple Actions For A Longer Life On Earth

In the book 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth authors John Javna, Sophie Javna and Jesse Javna explain that we can have a significant effect on the environment simply by maintaining major appliances such as refrigerators, range stoves, air conditioners and others. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that if each of us only increased the efficiency of our appliances by 10-15 percent, we would decrease the demand for electricity by about 25 large power plants nationally. I still use some inefficient appliances, but of course filling landfills with old ones just to replace them with new ones only compounds the waste problem. I apologize for not having phased out old, inefficient appliances a few times when I had the chance.

My list of apologies and promised apologies for the future could go on and on. Here’s just a few areas where I notice that either myself or my neighbors are doing more than our share to destroy the environment and continuing to do so, while we pay lip service to being sad and sorry about the state of our world:

–       Leaving water running while brushing teeth or doing dishes

–       Washing dishes with a dishwasher (hand washing uses half the water)

–       Forgetting to get tune-ups and other car maintenance on time

–       Buying and driving gas guzzling autos

–       Using non-rechargeable batteries

–       Not Recycling Alkali batteries. The technology does exist.

–       Not bringing our own shopping bags to the supermarket or grocery store

–       Having our own shopping bags in the car but not remembering to bring them into the store

–       Wearing bleached clothes that very often also contain formaldehyde

–       Using traditional oven cleaners

–       Using permanent ink markers and pens that contain harmful solvents

–       Maintaining a lawn in an arid climate

–       Buying food or other products from places that use Styrofoam

–       Using paper plates and plastic tableware

–       Choosing plastic over other materials in products

–       Failing to research products we buy to be sure they are not polluters or wildlife killers

–       Investing in polluting companies, big oil, and other Earth destroying industries

–       Not having your home heating system properly tested, tuned up and maintained

–       Keeping the heat on in your home or office when you are not there

–       Keeping any lights on in your home or office in rooms you are not in

–       Throwing away magazines and newspapers without recycling or donating

–       Purchasing foods that use extravagant packaging for marketing advantage

–       Using disposable landfill choking diapers rather than cloth washable diapers

–       Keeping all or most of the lights on at night in your business

–       Using disposable cups at work rather than bringing your own from home

–       What else are you wasting or neglecting to save?

If you are guilty of any of the above, you are helping to spell doom for our home planet Earth. It is easy to look at the vanishing beauty in nature and at environmental destruction and point the finger at someone else, or disconnectedly say that we will have to do better. However, if each and every one of us took more small actions each day, it would make a gigantic difference. We have to vote with our pocketbooks, as they say, and through our other choices to ensure the survival of our own planet Earth. I apologize for usually doing too little too late myself.

Our Addictions

One of the main issues is that as a society we have become addicted to convenience. We have also allowed television and other major media to program us to want more than what we have as a general practice. My father used to say that the secret to happiness in this world is to want less, to desire less. What we must seek if we are to live is long-term prosperity, not abundance at the expense of the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the wildness of the natural world within which is the preservation of the Earth, as Henry David Thoreau warned us.

Are you, dear reader, apologetic?

To learn more about living lightly through the ahead-of-their-time example set by Ardis and Philip Hyde, see the blog post, “Living The Good Life 1,” For a lively discussion on creating a sustainable world and related issues see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 1

April 3rd, 2012

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs Of Drylands: The Deserts of North America By Philip Hyde, Part One

Celebrating Landscape Photography Blogger’s 200th Blog Post!

On this special occasion Landscape Photography Blogger presents an excerpt from Drylands: The Deserts of North America, with photographs and text by Philip Hyde. Besides Slickrock with Edward Abbey and a few titles in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, Drylands is considered Philip Hyde’s magnum opus, or great work. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light, recently donated its archive to Stanford University. Help celebrate Landscape Photography Blogger’s 200th Post by reading a page from the great book that is becoming more rare all the time…

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 1

The Five Deserts of North America

…nature is already in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition that shines so peacefully around us.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

White Domes, Valley of Fire State Park, Mojave Desert, Nevada, copyright 1970 by Philip Hyde. Cover Photograph of “Drylands: The Deserts of North America.” Color Transparency: 4X5 Baby Deardorff View Camera. Dye Transfer Prints, Cibachrome Prints, and Archival Digital Prints. See PhilipHyde.com for Image Info and pricing.

(See the photograph large: “White Domes, Valley of Fire.”)

Webster’s dictionary defines a desert as “an arid region in which the vegetation is especially adapted to scanty rainfall with long intervals of heat and drought…a more or less barren tract incapable of supporting any considerable population without an artificial water supply…Desert rainfall is usually less than ten inches annually.”

This bare bones definition needs expanding. For one thing, barrenness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Ancients regarded the desert as a place to avoid—literally, to desert. The biblical “waste-howling wilderness” is a description of the Middle Eastern desert, a fearful place for most people. But even then it was for some a place for contemplation, a retreat from the cares of daily life. In our times, the desert is commonly a refuge, though we can be grateful that the deserts of North America were avoided by so many early travelers, and thereby protected. More recently, parts of these great deserts have become increasingly attractive to sun-worshipers. It is an irony that the climate, attractive to so many people, is being gradually altered by air pollution generated by population growth and its attendant requirements for industries and automobiles.

Webster’s definition doesn’t explain the aridity of the desert. High mountain chains intercept moisture-laden storms, keeping rainfall from the land in the lee of the mountains. Wind also contributes to desert dryness. A map plotting the course of trade winds in relation to deserts around the globe would show most arid lands to lie in the path of the trades. Though our deserts are not as directly in the path of the trades as some, strong winds persist over most of them for long periods, particularly in the spring.

The North American deserts are unlike most deserts in that they are not confined to the interior of the continent. They reach to the sea on both coasts of the Baja California peninsula and along the west coast of mainland Mexico as well, creating some unusual meetings of desert and water.

The scarcity of rainfall in the desert has one advantage. The surface of the land in well-watered regions is often obscured by dense vegetation. In the desert, land forms are readily apparent, the often beautiful sculpture of their contours revealed. This may be why geologists are drawn to the desert and sometimes inspired to near-poetic descriptions. A classic example can be found in Clarence Dutton’s monumental Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District, first published in 1882. Here is his description of the Vermillion Cliffs in the Painted Desert:

During the midday hours the cliffs seem to wilt and drop as if retracting their grandeur to hide it from the merciless radiance of the sun whose very effulgence flouts them. Even the colors are ruined. The glaring face of the wall, where the light falls full upon it, wears a scorched, overbaked, discharged look; and where the dense black shadows are thrown—for there are no middle shades—the magical haze of the desert shines forth with a weird, metallic glow which has no color in it. But as the sun declines there comes a revival. The half-tones at length appear, bringing into relief the component masses; the amphitheaters recede into suggestive distances; the salients silently advance toward us; the distorted lines range themselves into true perspective; the deformed curves come back to their proper sweep; the angles grow clean and sharp; and the whole cliff arouses from lethargy and erects itself in grandeur and power as if conscious of its own majesty. Back also come the colors, and as the sun is about to sink they glow with an intense vermilion that seems to be an intrinsic luster emanating from the rocks themselves.

The stone landscape of which Clarence Dutton writes might appear austere and unfriendly to the casual traveler suddenly thrust into it. Many people would not recognize it as a part of their familiar world, but something about the place immediately appealed to me. Perhaps it struck some of the same harmonic notes evoked by the clean expanses of granite in the High Sierra Nevada I had learned to love in my youth. The place spoke to me of the same kind of purity that Ralph Waldo Emerson was alluding to when he wrote of the integrity of natural objects.

I am not able to take up full-time residence in the desert; my roots are too deep in the northern Sierra Nevada where I live now. I can, however, happily spend a season there and feel quite at home. It was not always like that. The ease I feel now is the product of many experiences, not all pleasant, but all valued for what they taught. Nor did the ease come without struggle, but as a result of an effort to understand, to penetrate the discomforts, to clear away the debris of prejudice and preconception that can so distort one’s view of a natural environment. It is not necessary to change the country—or to develop it. As Aldo Leopold put it so well: “Development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind.”

As a forest dweller and desert traveler, I am especially aware of the contrasts between an arid landscape and one that is well watered. The creek that flows beneath my window as I write; the groundcover, trees, shrubs, and flowering plants; the seasonal and atmospheric changes I observe here are all expressions of water abundance. In the desert it isn’t just the paucity of water that impresses me. I am delighted to discover water’s surprising, often beautiful presence in hidden places, as for example, the spring in Monument Valley that flows from beneath a high sand dune—or those few, small, spring-fed pools surrounded by the vast, sere, rocky landscape of Death Valley.

I also enjoy the contrast between desert vegetation and that of my home environment. In the southern part of the Baja California peninsula, the array of strange, even unique, plant forms is the result of the plants’ special adaptations to water scarcity…

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

NANPA Philip Hyde Grant 2010

January 27th, 2010

NANPA Foundation Announces 2010 Recipient of the Philip Hyde Grant

Award Highlights Use of Photography in Conservation

Bald-faced hornet, Vespula maculata, emerging from nest, Ontario, by Paul Colangelo. (Finalist in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.)

Wheat Ridge, Colorado – The NANPA Foundation has announced that Paul Colangelo of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is the recipient of the 2010 Philip Hyde Grant for his work in British Columbia. This $5,000 peer-reviewed grant is awarded annually to an individual member of the North American Nature Photography Association who is actively pursuing completion of an environmental project.

Sacred Headwaters, Sacred Journey is a documentary project of the Sacred Headwaters. Wildlife and nature photographer Paul Colangelo and writer Amanda Follett plan to raise awareness of this remote land and the issues surrounding it. See www.paulcolangelo.com and http://www.sacredheadwatersjourney.com/ for more information about Paul and the project in the northern reaches of North America.

Forest fire remains, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada, by Paul Colangelo. (In the group exhibit at the Smithsonian.)

Paul Colangelo specializes in editorial assignments and conservation efforts. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute, was awarded an honorable mention in the International Photography Awards, and named a finalist in BBC’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Paul Colangelo lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In northern British Columbia, three of the province’s greatest salmon-bearing rivers (the Skeena, the Stikine and the Nass) are formed in the subalpine basin known as the Sacred Headwaters. The land has one of the largest intact predator-prey systems in North America, earning it the nickname, “Serengeti of the North,” and is the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation. It also is the location of natural resources such as coal and coal-bed methane and gold.

Headwaters of the Skeena River, Sacred Headwaters, British Columbia, by Paul Colangelo. (From the Sacred Headwaters, Sacred Journey project.)

The Sacred Headwaters are at the center of a dispute between the Tahltan First Nation, resource development industries, government and environmental groups. Competing interests concerning land use, mining and hunting have created divides and put the future health of the Sacred Headwaters at risk.

The NANPA Foundation develops, supports and implements nature photography projects jointly with the North American Nature Photography Association and other organizations. It initiates, partners, operates and generates funding for projects that advance awareness of and appreciation for nature through photography. For information about the NANPA Foundation, visit its website at www.nanpafoundation.org. For information about NANPA and the Annual Summit, visit www.nanpa.org.