Posts Tagged ‘petroglyphs’

Book Review – Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks

May 4th, 2018

Book Review

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by Q. T. Luong

The Ethics of Protecting and Promoting Our National Parks

Cover of Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by Q. T. Luong. (Click to view large.)

Americans invented National Parks and in return, National Parks and other wild lands of the new continent shaped Americans. Yet the influence of cities and automobiles has eclipsed that of the national parks in all ways except through our collective imagination and grandest vision of all that makes up an ideal civilization. We must be careful to perpetuate these fragile image ties to our wilderness past, or forever lose our identity as part of nature. Maintaining this vision will also ensure our national parks remain wilderness untrammeled. Otherwise, we lose the piece of our core selves closest to our heart.

The age-old debate still rages over whether to invite more people out to enjoy nature and thus develop a larger fan base, or keep quiet and try to stop people from increasing the wear, tear, vandalism and man-made infrastructure necessary to simultaneously maintain access and protect our national treasures.

“For every place there will always be people that want to exploit it,” my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde said. “And, there will always be people—hopefully—that want to save it and keep it as it is. Even with the risk of inviting the crowds into paradise, better to publish your photographs and rally the troops. What’s in the frame of the photograph matters artistically, to be sure, but what’s outside the frame can destroy it.” Later in life, in the early years of the millennium, after hearing how overrun and trampled certain locations had become, Dad said he still wondered whether his books benefitted or harmed nature.

The Advantages of Large Format Film and of a Well-Written Text

Grand Teton from Schwabacher Landing, Midday, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see large.)

If this best in class large format book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, with text and photography by Quang-Tuan Luong were a film, it would win multiple Academy Awards as one of the best efforts ever for recruiting new national park fans and encouraging old fans to renew themselves through new visits. My impression is that Mr. Luong accomplished such a masterpiece through sheer will, discipline and diligence.

When you open Treasured Lands for the first time you revel in the sublime realism and beauty that can only be achieved by large format film or a $40,000 digital camera rendered through the subtle, well-balanced color palette of a well reproduced photography book. To be fair, Tuan Luong informed me that the photographs in the book were not all made with a large format camera. Nonetheless, they all exhibit large format acumen by the photographer and they all have an unmistakeable large format aesthetic, portraying the full spectrum of nature, rather than nature dressed up only on her best day.

To accompany this colossal collection of effective and moving illustrations, Q. T. Luong wrote a text that flows and delivers just as well as the images. His punchy prose keeps your interest. It is loaded with facts, but not everyday facts, novel, captivating facts, figures and surprising observations that give you the feeling of having smartly and efficiently obtained the essence of each place. Just starting at page one and turning a few pages to the contents showing all the parks, I felt like I had already embarked on an adventure. I was learning, absorbing and celebrating our national heritage. I held in my hands all the parks in one monster volume.

Art, Propaganda and Photograph Location Disclosure

Cannonball and Badlands at Night, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

But is it art? Critics and others might ask. I would say the book itself is a work of art, the photographs are mainly documentary but contain artistic elements, some of them more than others. Some art critics might say the book is propaganda. They might perceive it as a kind of glorified guide book because Luong provides specific directions to each of his compositions in each park. Some art connoisseurs, gallerists and museum curators consider any art that is not solely for the sake of art itself is propaganda. This traces back to critics John Szarkowski and Nancy Newhall, as instigated by Ansel Adams and Beaumont Newhall around the time they co-founded the first museum photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ansel Adams in workshops and his student and teaching associate Philip Hyde in a number of places, both in writing and in interviews spoke against giving directions to image locations. Both photography mentors felt the practice inhibited student resourcefulness and creativity, as well as hobbling the development of individual vision. I usually tend to agree with Dad and Ansel and believe these details are a flaw in Treasured Lands.

However, times have changed and photography in many cases is self-taught or no longer taught with the same rigor. Many photographers today find location specifics an asset and have praised Treasured Lands most of all for this reason. Either way, still today the best guidebooks offer suggestions and ideas, but do not give exact specifics. Nonetheless, even for purists like me, Luong somehow gets away with providing specific directions because the sheer scope of his undertaking and achievement force us to take him seriously as more than a mere tour guide. To go with the directions, I would have liked to see an outdoor ethics statement, or the Leave No Trace Principles. However, between the photographs and text, Luong portrays and describes these natural places with such reverence and admiration that his readers will hopefully take on at least some of his tone and outlook, which will hopefully cause them to treat our amazing national treasures with respect.

With new adventures on every page turn, my resistance to location disclosure fell away almost immediately under the sheer power of what I was seeing and reading. Unfortunately, I did find the maps a bit hard to read due to their tiny type font. However, I enjoyed reading how to reach a smattering of the photo locations. Meanwhile for the most part I became caught up in reading other content, which while obviously extensive and geologically rich, came accessibly served up in one to two page bytes. These are rewarding and satisfying because each section acts in part like a mini-tour of the park it covers. The text is well thought out, well-organized, captivating, diverse and packed with actionable instructions and tips to make your travels more enjoyable and photographically productive.

The Many Reasons Treasured Lands Is Not Propaganda

Haleakala Crater from White Hill, Midday, Haleakala National Park, Hawaii by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Regardless, I have other reasons not to dismiss Treasured Lands as mere propaganda. At face value, rather than feeling commercially viable at all, Treasured Lands feels so heavy in weight, so chock full of striking imagery and so bulging with smart information that once you have it in your hands you feel that you have made a great deal to have it for under $100. The publisher’s retail is $65 for an autographed copy from TreasuredLandsBooks.com. Currently you can even get it for as little as $44.19 with free shipping from Amazon.

Large two-page evening panoramas sprinkled across the pages bring the parks depicted into vivid awareness while taking us partially into abstraction with the extreme light and shadows of dusk. Sweeping vistas throughout the book give a sense of place and overwhelm us with the vastness and remoteness of wilderness. Luong visited many of the parks multiple times, which translates to years of hard work, days and nights of grinding travel in all conveyances and over all manner of terrain, which also translates into daunting logistics and planning.

By no means did Q. T. Luong make the expected photographs of each or even many of the national parks. In Lassen Volcanic National Park, as one example of many, he skipped the most popular views, especially of the mountain, but with the exquisite detail and texture of large format film he captured frames that showed the character of the park just as well without being cliché. In discussions with other photographers, I found most of them said that the book has a good balance between more innovative images and what some might call “the obvious shots” that are all but required to identify certain landmarks in some parks. Besides, in the visual arts people are drawn to at least a nuance, if not a good amount of familiarity, as Atlantic editor Derek Thompson points out in his book, Hit Makers. Hits are made from images that look new, but also remind us of other images before in some way.

Some of the Best Illustrative Landscape Photographs Ever Made

Cove of Arches and Cove Arch at night. Arches National Park, Utah by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Speaking of hits, in some of the national parks, Luong managed to make what I consider some of the best photographs ever made of certain areas. This was true in a number of unexpected places such as in Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite, where Luong shows us the only photograph I have ever seen that lives up to the early 1900s Bureau of Reclamation vision of what the reservoir would look like, as sold to the American public. Pinnacles National Park is challenging to photograph. Perhaps his many visits enabled Luong to do something extra special there by knowing the most striking compositions and capitalizing on the best possible light. In the Sierra, he photographed snow caked on Giant Sequoia trunks, but did it better than it has been done before, with more majesty and more mood. I love Luong’s photograph of Alabama Hills. It is more about the Sierra Crest and the terrain, than any gimmicky cliché pseudo-arch foreground window framing the distant peaks. Luong omits the Merced River altogether in Yosemite, except in the higher elevation roaring cascades below Vernal Falls.

The differences between documentary and art photography are blurring anyway, but Luong is perhaps one of those who push the two definitions inward toward each other. His photographs for Treasured Lands overall are documentary, but even the most representational and least creative works are artistically strong and well seen from a design perspective with luscious forms and beautiful lines. It is quite evident that Luong has studied the great works of photography and art and applied what he has observed. Documentary, almost standard issue images that essentially say, “Ok, here we are at Joshua Tree,” are the best working basis for a large book on all of the national parks. However, Luong keeps his book fresh by mixing in nighttime photographs, ridge silhouettes, a few wildly tilted horizons and other Pictorialist effects such as slow shutter speeds for silky water, movement blurs and wind blurs. Luong also puts in the extra effort and expense to provide variety in other ways by getting up in airplanes, scaling mountain peaks, climbing walls, swimming underwater, chartering various boats horses, burros and other unusual transportation. Meanwhile, he also mixes in enough expected imagery such as the lava dripping into the ocean in Hawaii, Tunnel View from Yosemite, the Teton Barn, Mt. Denali and Wonder Lake and the circular petroglyphs on Signal Hill near the Tucson Mountains in Saguaro National Park.

Realism, Hard Work, Diligence, Feedback, Revisions and Quality

Margerie Glacier from Tarr Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Another significant reason large format film was the ideal medium for this national parks project lies in how the high fidelity gives reflections, textures and details a much more interesting and realistic look. With large format, a nature photographer can go after and make ordinary objects extraordinary. The resulting photographs also work better when they contain flaws and extra grit, rather than having to be sterilized by over retouching in Photoshop. For example: I love that Luong left the house in his Zion photograph of Towers of the Virgin. Many digital photographers take it out of their images of this iconic location. The large format color is also so lush and true without any false-rendering of tones or over-saturation.

Part of what lifted up the text and images to far above average, was the amount of advice and feedback Quang-Tuan Luong asked for along the way. He was wise to get Gary Crabbe to help him edit the photographs and to get advice from many other experts at each stage in the production process. The first time Tuan and I met in San Jose, he asked me for ideas on how he could come out with yet another national parks book and make it different from any that had been done before. This was a smart question to ask about such a book and a good place to start in attracting my interest and participation. My first answer was that we do not need another book on the national parks. However, as I began to think about how Tuan opened himself up to input and ideas, I felt I had to offer more. Besides, when he asked me about making it a guidebook for photographers as well as a picture book for everyone else, I told him I did not like guidebooks. Some help I was. Yet he patiently and gently persisted in asking more questions and asking me to read some of his text. I agreed to do so, somewhat reluctantly. It took me a long time to offer much feedback, but as I began to, I saw that Tuan had put a great deal of thought and effort into the project, the text no less than the photography. As the book took shape and began to emerge from the realm of ideas, the quiet strength of what he was doing became evident. Let this be a word of caution to all aspiring creative people out there: never give up on what you love or on your big idea just because it has been done before. Do it better. Q. T. Luong certainly did and the world and the field are far richer for it. However, he did it not by force of will or ego, but through good listening. Remember that too, above all else. He also did it with kindness and generosity. My copy of Treasured Lands is the limited edition version that Tuan personally sent me. He numbered it by hand 77 of 150, signed it and wrote me a personal note. How cool is that?

A Tribute to the American Land, the Art of Place and Our National Heritage That Will Live On

Cypress trees Reflected in Cedar Creek from Canoe, Congaree National Park, South Carolina by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

It may be due to the large format camera, or perhaps Luong and his sensibilities, or all three, regardless an outstanding sense of place permeates every page of Treasured Lands. Many are close behind, but the national park depictions deserving the most recognition in establishing place in my opinion are Cuyahoga Valley, Death Valley, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier Bay, Great Sand Dunes, Guadalupe Mountains, Haleakala and Yellowstone. In Yellowstone, Luong includes Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs and a fairly unique framing of Yellowstone Falls, but also shows us many locations with which we are not familiar. In Death Valley, Luong gives us perhaps more of the usual images than in other places, but the additional images show us so much more as to render the place very well overall. Luong exhibits a certain flair for Alaska as his images in each of the parks there for the most part are both unexpected and extraordinary in the lexicon of all landscape photographs.

Q. T. Luong’s massive work consists of not so much a single unity of style, but of several style themes that run throughout the book. This cohesiveness is quite an accomplishment for a project that took so many years to complete. With all of the elements that went into making the book creating a synergy that lifts it above other work in the genre, it also transcends its minor shortcomings, or perceived structural flaws that we readers bring to it based on our own biases.

The sheer volume of work, in and of itself is impressive, but the consistent quality and exemplary execution make Treasured Lands a truly monumental achievement. Even as the son of Philip Hyde, or perhaps especially as the son of Philip Hyde, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Treasured Lands is one of the greatest large format landscape photography books ever published. It will live on and influence photographers for years and perhaps even generations to come. These statements, considering what has been accomplished in the genre before, hopefully transcend anything else I could say, or have said above, whether critical or supportive.

Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Three

July 3rd, 2014

Dinosaur National Monument, 2013 Visit

Part Three: Down To The Green River And Up To Ely Falls

(Continued from the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Two.”)

Upper Jones Hole Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Upper Jones Hole Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Into Jones Hole

As we ambled down the trail away from the Diamond Mountain Fish Hatchery and into Jones Hole, we began to see signs of what Randy Fullbright and the Park Ranger had been talking about: the recent rock slide. High on the cliff we could see the fresh, unstained light tan undercut where giant sandstone boulders, just weeks before, had peeled away from the cliff and come tumbling nearly straight down at least 1,500 feet, landing like bombs in Jones Creek and rolling through the forest smashing trees and everything else in their path.

The Boulders ranged from small house size down to bowling balls and had badly broken up the deciduous forest and riparian undergrowth on both sides of Jones Creek. Jones Creek contained many of the light tan boulders, as did the entire surrounding area in about half a mile radius of the main devastated area. It must have been quite a sight to observe all that sandstone raining down from high on the cliff above–and the noise must have been deafening. The trail had been closed for weeks as the Park Service was still nervous about allowing anyone to hike into Jones Hole. They were afraid more sandstone would come tumbling down and crush unknowing hikers and fishermen. Park Rangers had re-routed the trail to skirt safely around what looked much like a war zone. Randy and I walked into the heart of the devastated area and approached the creek to see the damage. After observing the current effects of geology in action and making a few documentary snapshots, we moved back to the detoured trail and on down the canyon.

Fishing, Hiking And Photographing

Jones Hole attracts fishermen from all over that part of Utah and Colorado. The Park Service still plants Jones Creek with Rainbow Trout from the Fish Hatchery upstream. While Jones Hole generally appeared dry and desert like, cottonwood trees, willows, tamarisk and other riparian plants grew thickly along Jones Creek. Besides, on that day at times it felt like rain could overtake us any minute as the sky brooded overhead. Other times the ceiling thinned and the sun grew brighter trying to break through. The light greens of sage and sagebrush offset by the deeper greens of the larger trees along the creek, with dried yellows and beiges of meadow grasses provided a good mixed palette of colors and textures against the reds, browns and tans of the sandstone cliffs behind.

We mainly hiked, but stopped for photographs occasionally. Randy made only a few photographs the entire day, while I stopped more frequently and he waited in his courteous, quiet way. Photographing Jones Hole took some adjustment as I am used to the lush river canyons of the Northern Sierra in California, or the more complete desert scenes of other parts of Utah further south. Much of the views of Jones Creek were a wild tangle, but the creek itself had character, as did the cliffs all around, if we looked closely. Randy took me on a detour off the trail and over to the cliff across the creek at one point to show me the petroglyphs and pictographs he had promised. These were not large or overly striking, but they were impressive in how well preserved and distinctly they stood out in red-brown against the tan cliffs at that spot. Few people know where they are and Randy said he and the Park Rangers intend to keep it that way.

Back on the main trail, we stopped for lunch along the creek where there were a couple of giant 10X20 foot natural granite “tables” and a good spot for photographs up and down the creek. It was good to sit in the shade or what was trying to be sunshine, stop and breath in the warm desert air with the more fecund smell of mud and life along the water. After a good break from hiking and a dunk of our shirts in the stream, refreshed we set off again. Except for a few sections moving over boulders along Jones Creek, most of the trail was fairly smooth, though a bit sandy in places. The hike still felt fairly strenuous to me at four miles each way, down to the Green River and back to the Fish Hatchery. Across and high on the canyon wall, Randy pointed out where a spring came out of the rock and made a waterfall and place to “shower” and get refreshed high above the trail. Though the spring was only a trickle at that time, we could see a thin silver ribbon of falling water high up against the far cliff.

Green River, Rafting Party, Harpers Corner From Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Green River, Rafting Party, Harpers Corner From Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Dinosaur’s Main Character–The Green River And Its Canyons–Now And Then

Not long after, we emerged from the trees to find ourselves finally at the Green River. Almost immediately after we walked out on the gravel shore, a herd of bighorn sheep passed us. Randy told me some stories of the males being less than friendly in rutting season, but this day the herd passed close by us without much concern. We looked around behind us at a tall, cone shaped promontory towering above Jones Creek. When we got out in the open and could see upstream, we noticed a rafting party beached on a rock and gravel spit above the riffle at the mouth of Jones Creek. Way up the Green River past the rafting party we could make out the outlines of the rock outcropping called Harper’s Corner that I had driven to in 2005 from the Colorado entrance to Dinosaur National Monument. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, made a black and white photograph, published in 1955 in the National Geographic, from Harper’s Corner looking down over 3,000 feet at the upturned strata typical of the Green River and Yampa River canyons. Harper’s Corner also overlooks Echo Park and Steamboat Rock farther upstream, the proposed site of one of the dams slated for Dinosaur that Dad’s photographs helped prevent. Dad was the first photographer ever sent on assignment for an environmental cause to Dinosaur in 1951 to help prevent two proposed dams that would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument. Dad’s photographs and those by river guide and journalist Marin Litton became the illustrations for the first book ever published for an environmental cause, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, edited and with introduction by Wallace Stegner.

The sky had been darkening most of the day and here at the Green River, it finally began to rain lightly. Our shirts we had soaked just an hour earlier were already dried out and the cooling rain felt rejuvenating, even though it passed after only about 15 minutes and everything dried out again quickly. Having worked for the last two months moving furniture and packing boxes at my townhouse in Boulder, Colorado, and having minimal sleep for a number of days, I was already tired, but because this was one chance that might not come again for years, if ever, I agreed to hike with Randy up Ely Canyon to Ely Falls on the way back to the Fish Hatchery.

Ely Canyon was interesting and narrower than the Jones Hole canyon. There were a lot of small dead Juniper tree skeletons dotting the landscape. Ely Creek and Ely Falls were both small, Ely Falls only being about 12 feet high, while the creek was only a foot or two wide in most of its course. However, the falls were set in a greenery-surrounded oasis. Randy and I talked about conservation and my father’s work in the area, as well as the present day prospects of Dinosaur National Monument becoming a national park. More on Ely Creek, Ely Creek Canyon and the movement to form a national park in the next blog post.

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Four.”)

Have you ever been to Dinosaur National Monument? Have you seen bighorn sheep or any other large wild animal up close?

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 9

June 23rd, 2011

Conclusion To The Story of Dinosaur National Monument And The Birth Of Modern Environmentalism

(Continued From The Previous Blog Post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 8.”

To celebrate this final part in our series on Dinosaur National Monument and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism, below are excerpts from Ardis Hyde’s 1955 travel log of the Sierra Club river trip down the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument.

Steamboat Rock From The Side, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, copyright 1955 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers included an introduction and first chapter by Wallace Stegner with documentary and landscape photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. It was the first book ever published for an environmental cause. An essay in This Is Dinosaur called “Fast Water”, written by Otis “Doc” Marston, an expert river guide, lyrically described the adventure down the Green River through Dinosaur National Park.

“The canyons of Dinosaur have had a reputation far worse than they deserved,” Doc Marston wrote. “Anyone who goes boating on them now goes with ninety years of experience behind him. The change by which a fearsome river has become a playground has involved two things: the dissipation of wild tales and bogey stories about Niagaras, ‘sucks,’ and cataracts on the one hand; and the development of suitable boats and techniques on the other.”

June 28, 1955: We met our river party near Vernal, Utah at the house of Bus Hatch, the river boatman. We piled into school buses, crossed the Green River near Jensen and headed into Colorado. A side road off U.S. 40 lead to a point on the Yampa River above Lily Park, a popular put-in four miles upstream from the Eastern National Monument boundary. After lunch the party of 67 people and six rubber ‘barges’ launched. I rode in Ray Simpson’s folbot as a bow paddler. The river meandered through a valley. This normally smooth section grew rough due to headwinds. The fun began upon entrance into the canyon proper at the National Monument boundary. We ran a series of healthy rapids, quite an experience to go through in small craft. We traveled about 15 miles to our first campsite at Anderson Hole. It was a long beach with springs in the sand and a large, flat sagebrush area above, good for campsites. We had a campfire every night on this trip.

June 29, 1955: “Brick” woke Philip and I. He sung us happy anniversary while playing the bagpipes. It was our eighth year of marriage and not unusual that our anniversary found us in a wild place. We logged 28 river miles, a long stretch for the day, highlighted by Big Joe Rapids which is a Class IV rapid in high water. Philip ran with Ray Simpson. I traveled in the boat rowed by Dave Rasmussen holding nine passengers including Dr. Putnam, a Geologist from UCLA, the Drapers of the Academy of Sciences, and Mosses, both photographers. We saw two beavers in the water near a sand bar and three Golden Eagles. In the larger rapids the boatmen customarily stood up in the rear of the raft and faced the danger, pointing the stern downstream. We could see Petroglyphs on the rock wall across the river with binoculars.

July 1, 1955: The first day of July took our Yampa River adventure through beautiful scenery but insignificant rapids. The cliffs were higher and the Yampa River sleepily undulated through giant horseshoe bends. We drifted leisurely down smooth waters under streaked, curving walls of Weber sandstone of an older vintage. Our boat made frequent stops for Philip to photograph. We ran through the heart of sheer 1,000 to 2,000 foot cliffs.” In the evening Charlie Mantle came to the campfire and answered questions about his homestead and living in such a remote place. Afterward the Park Geologist, Morey Powers, along for the day’s run, gave a talk about the Yampa River canyon geology. The moon, approaching full, gave soft illumination to the still river against the high canyon walls.

July 3, 1955: We woke to fire crackers and bagpipes signaling our last day on the river. We pulled out at Rainbow Park for lunch and the unloading of the dunnage. The rapids with the worst reputation, rated Class IV at high water, in Whirlpool Canyon and Split Mountain Canyon were exciting but not too thrilling in the rubber barge. In Moonshine rapid, SOB rapid, and Schoolboy rapid (all Class II-IV depending on water level) the wind blew violently and spray and sand filled the air. We took out for good at Split Mountain Gorge.

At Split Mountain today the road and river mosey to a meeting at the campground and boat ramp. The campground is punctuated by cottonwoods and sleepy aspens nestling with the river and studying the upturned strata on the other side. Bands of yellow and Tuscan red zigzag up the hills to gray-tan sheer sandstone cliffs, with sage and green grasses receding into a blue sky, while puffy white clouds roll away forever over the flowing river. I hear a faint rustling of leaves, a low brushing of soft riffles. I smell the clean mud in the dry afternoon sun. I sit back in this campground and let time slow down until I get a feeling of reconnecting to roots in the Earth, the immediacy of feeling, of knowing what is real, of linking in the moment with something beautiful. This place was a gift from my father to his son, from his generation to mine and all those to come. I want to tell the river runners breaking down their boats, that without those early Sierra Club activists, the rafters and the rest of this campground would be nearly 300 feet under water here. Maybe they know or can feel it somehow, or maybe the circling hawks will tell them when they are silent on a quiet day like this. In the moments of stillness on the river bank, standing at the place where the water meets the land, I say, “Thank you, Dad.”

The Making Of “Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side”

August 10th, 2010

The Making Of The Landscape Photograph That Is Now A Limited Edition New Release:

“Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side, Now Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah, 1965” FROM the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series book, “Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run” by Stephen C. Jett and Philip Hyde.

Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side, Now Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah, (Color) 1965 by Philip Hyde.

(View the photograph full screen CLICK HERE.)

It was the end of November and the Northern Sierra Nevada winter set in. Long cold rains, sleet and snow alternated with ever lower night temperatures when the weather cleared. The telephone rang, Ardis Hyde answered. She set the receiver on the desk, walked out the back door and looked up to where Philip Hyde was hurriedly putting a roof on his new studio addition on a precious day of dry weather.

“It’s David Brower on the phone,” Ardis Hyde shouted. “Something about a new project.”

“Tell him I’ll call back a little later,” Philip Hyde yelled back.

“He said it was very urgent.”

“OK, tell him I’m coming,” Philip Hyde replied. He climbed down the ladder and came to the phone. David Brower told him there was not much time. There were urgent threats to the Navajo lands in Northeastern Arizona. Proposed dams on the rivers, Uranium and mineral strip mining, oil drilling, and civilization’s encroachment on the Navajo way of life were just a few of the dangers to the desert landscapes that the Navajo had called home for a thousand years undisturbed.

Professor Stephen C. Jett had written his dissertation after a “detailed study of the recreational resources of the Navajo Country.” His dissertation was “an introduction to Navajo attitudes toward land, a guidebook, an inventory, and a series of recommendations…” David Brower was emphatic, “We need to get some photographs of these areas as soon as possible and pair them with a text by Dr. Jett to spearhead a campaign to save Navajo Country.”

Philip Hyde gathered several layers of thick tarps and plywood, put them over the roof skeleton of his newly framed studio and in less than a week he and Ardis Hyde were off to Navajo Country in Arizona. He would take his chances with putting on the roof. Hopefully the heavy snows would hold off until he returned. Hopefully there would be enough clear weather to finish the roof before too many January snows made it impossible until Spring and a whole season was lost.

Ardis And Philip Hyde Explore Navajo Country In The Cold

By December 8, 1964 Ardis and Philip Hyde were on the road and by nightfall December 9 they arrived in Gallup, New Mexico near the Arizona border and the Navajo Reservation. Fortunately they did not camp out but stayed in the Ramada Inn because the low that night was 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Early the next day they drove out to catch the morning light on Window Rock. The Navajo Tribal Council was in session. The Hydes met with Navajo Tribal Council Representative Sam Day. Ardis Hyde wrote in the Travel Log, “We had a brief but illuminating talk about what we should see in the way of tribal parks present and proposed…. He is recording chants and rituals in the evenings.” Ardis and Philip Hyde visited the Good Shepherd Mission and a few trading posts. They bought a beautiful 4’X6’ Navajo rug for $22. They spent the night in Chinle at Thunderbird Ranch in a new unit for $9.00. Because the dining room was closed, Ardis Hyde cooked soup and coffee on the SVEA portable stove in place of room service. In the morning they went to the new Navajo visitor’s center to meet with the liaison officer between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Navajo Indian Tribe for more guidance on what landscapes to photograph. They also bought several reports on Navajo planning and affairs.

Philip Hyde photographed Ship Rock and other landmarks, some that had never been photographed before. By Monday, December 14, temperatures were down to 3 degrees Fahrenheit and it was hard to photograph. The next day the sun warmed the air enough to make photography easier. A Navajo guide showed the visitors into Monument Valley where Philip Hyde made two exposures that later became well-known landscape photographs, “Evening Light On West Mitten Butte” and “Anasazi Bighorn Sheep Petroglyphs” on the wall that Ansel Adams made a photograph at a different angle. In the days to follow they traveled on to Batatakin Ruin, Muley Point, the Grand Canyon and finally Canyon de Chelly. For more on these Navajo adventures see the blog posts, “Toward a Sense of Place 1” and “Toward a Sense of Place 2” by Philip Hyde. Many fine photographs went home in the 4X5 and 5X7 view camera film holders. Yet the Hydes found they had barely touched what the country had to offer.

Ardis And Philip Hyde Hike 24 Miles From Rainbow Lodge To Rainbow Bridge And Back, Six Months Pregnant

After successfully finishing the roof and weathering the worst of the winter cozy at home in Northeastern California, Ardis and Philip Hyde were back in Navajo Country by April 1965. Ardis Hyde was five months pregnant when they arrived, but that didn’t slow them down. For a month they traveled around Navajo Country photographing and getting to know the land and people. May 26 they finally succeeded in lining up a pack trip from Rainbow Lodge down to Rainbow Bridge and back. The journey of 12 miles each way took several days walking on foot with pack horse support. The trail winds around sacred Navajo Mountain in one long gradual ascent punctuated by one very steep descent and ascent through a canyon. Ardis Hyde wrote in the Travel Log:

At about mile 4 the trail leaves flat terrain and enters interesting country making a transition from soft rock with ledges into sculptured rock with good views of White Mesa, Cummings Mesa, Dome Canyon, No Name Mesa and the Kaiparowitz Plateau. Just past mile 5 we ate lunch in a good spot to see the summit of Navajo Mountain with fresh snow. This was Philip’s first picture of the day and more followed around the pass.  We started down a steep descent into Cliff Canyon, which narrows more at the bottom with a green canyon floor of lush grasses. On top we saw a few larkspur in bloom. Now there were brilliant yellow Mariposa Lilies as well as paler lavender ones. The wild flower display became more and more profuse until as the canyon leveled after mile 7 it was just like one continuous garden in all colors. Mallow, Asters, yellow and white daisies, larkspur, pink prickly pear cactus, spiderwort, evening primrose, Cliff Rose, Sand Verbena, wild onion, Bricklebush, Spanish Bayonet in bud and Juniper berries still abundant…

Ardis And Philip Hyde Camp Under The Stars Next To A Hopi Wood Fire

That night they camped under the Cottonwoods and stars after threat of rain had passed. ‘Sheep’ frogs made a “chorus at assorted pitches of bleating.” The Hydes could see the glow of a beautiful sunset on all of the high domes across the landscape but they nestled into their “shady enclosure with the smell of a Hopi wood fire and snug beds after a nine mile day.” The next day they hiked on in the canyon bottom slowly picking their way and “stumbling over streambed rocks most of the time.” It heated up. They saw a few pools of clear water to swim in but decided to wait until they reached Aztec Creek. However, Aztec Creek turned out to be brown with the recent storm. They climbed out of the canyon up onto the “Slickrock domes” for views of the mountains and surrounding landscape. Then back down to hot chocolate and another early bedtime. The next day as they entered Bridge Canyon they came to very clear water under cottonwoods, dense foliage and three horses grazing on wild flowers.

The View Of Rainbow Bridge

Bridge Canyon was beautiful with dense foliage and high vertical walls until the last mile before Rainbow Bridge when an inner gorge develops out of darker red sandstone in layers. Here the trail continues above a ledge and we look down into the gorge to see the stream. We pass many tempting pools and catch our first glimpse of Rainbow Bridge about 10:30 am, unfortunately in flat light. From this upstream approach Rainbow Bridge appeared finer, not as massive as from below. At the last turn above Rainbow Bridge we hear voices. We coincided with a boating group coming in. They were immaculately dressed in white and light-colored pressed clothes. There were two families of shrill children. Philip took some photographs of Rainbow Bridge from the west side on a ledge above the stream and we hurried away to each lunch in quiet upstream. Philip bathed in two pools. There were frequent overhangs with seeps apparent. At one of these we found enough water to fill our cups. Saw a bee collecting pollen and at another seep we saw a ‘Sheep’ frog up close. He had no webbed toes, a gray-black back and orange-cream sides. We heard an occasional canyon wren call. I spotted some kind of flycatcher with rufous tail, white side feathers and a horse, gargling call. The trail through Redbud pass was all in the shade. We paused to admire a butterfly with a Navajo rug design and vegetable dye colors gaining strength in his wings after emerging from his chrysalis.

From Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run

Toward A Sense Of Place by Philip Hyde

Excerpted from the blog post, “Toward A Sense Of Place 3.”

Our first view of Rainbow Bridge had been some years before, after coming up five miles from the river through a magnificent canyon of beautiful rock sculpture and delightful long, narrow pools. We were almost reluctant to go to Rainbow Bridge again after that fine, wild memory of it, knowing that it was now only a mile and a half from the rising edge of Lake Powell that is engulfing the stream that created the bridge. We had been three days in the wilderness, with all that is implied in getting close to the land and letting it get close to you. We rounded the last great curve above Rainbow Bridge and began to see tourists. I sniffed the air and—sensed something extraordinary about it… perfume, emanating from some immaculately clad yachtsmen—or was it the yachtwomen among them—busily signing the register under the Bridge. The Bridge looked the same, or did it? Was it only an illusion that it looked… a little plastic? To know what the real Bridge looks like, don’t you have to participate in the finding of it, a little arduously along the stream that made it possible, the heat and the cobbles and the water and the time that all combined to build that Bridge? I think of the land of the Navajos as a living entity of moods—of light moments and gloomy. Above all I think of color—color constantly changing with the light, color that infused the life of the people who have passed over this land. Overpoweringly, this place testifies to man’s transitory nature—and yet confirms his continuity. That continuity may end if this should ever cease to be a land of time enough and room enough.

More about the flooding of Glen Canyon in the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

For sizes, pricing and more information, see the blog post, “Limited Edition New Release: Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side (Color)” on Fine Art Collector’s Resource Blog.

For more about Philip Hyde and his relationship with wilderness and landscape photography see the blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.” For more on wilderness backpacking see also the blog post, “The 1970s Backpacking Boom, Conservation and Photography.”

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 4

July 12th, 2010

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Ardis, David and Philip Hyde in Their Camper. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 3.”)

Part Four: Ketchikan to Wrangell, Alaska

Forest of Snags, Chichagof Island, Alaska, 1971 by Philip Hyde.

June 24, 1971: I woke up at 7 am and announced sunshine, our first since Victoria six days ago. Philip broke out his 4X5 for the first time on the trip and headed out towards Ward Lake on the nature trail. He was happy to get the ground dogwood on 4X5. From there we retraced our route, stopping at the Lilly Pad lakes for a photograph with the mountain background reflected. Back to town for food shopping while David and Philip scrambled along the rocks of the rip-rap.  Drove up the hill to a small community college where the Bald Eagles were abundant. Went to the Ferry landing to check in at 12 noon.

(Note: The photographs mentioned have not yet been drum scanned for fine are digital printing or to appear here or on the Philip Hyde website.)

We had a long wait before boarding. Finally we drove onto the Ferry but it didn’t get underway until about 3:15 pm. Skies were still clear with clouds in streaks across the heavens but not in the way of the brilliant sun. The ferry this time was called the Matanuska, smaller than the Wickersham and easy to find our way around in with a central stairwell next to which the camper was parked. The ferry was late starting and late to arrive in Wrangell, Alaska. David found a boy his age to play paper airplane with. While I took a pay shower, Philip made 2 ¼ pictures of the route. Totem Bight Park was visible in the distance.

The scenery became more interesting as we entered Stikine Strait. As we approached Chichagof Pass, part of Wrangell was visible with the highest mountains yet, visible on the skyline. Some were smooth white domes of snow. One in particular was a jagged rock crest, probably Castle Mountain. We rounded Wronski Island and the mountains almost ringed the horizon in nearly every direction, with their splendid white summits. It was beginning to really look like Alaska. Philip took a 120 photograph of Boundary Peaks.

After docking around 8:45 pm, we backed off of the Ferry among the first. The light was low and mellow and it was warm and beautiful as we drove off. Philip made the first photograph at Shakes Island. His composition contained another Indian Ceremonial House surrounded by flowering trees and Totem poles. At low tide then, mud flats surrounded the island. Bright fishing boats crowded the harbor docks. The town seems tiny with many older frame houses retaining some degree of charm. Heavy moss grew on some shingle roofs. Totem poles erected here and there around town. New looking Stikine Lodge on filled ground at the water’s edge. Two lumber mills operating in town and another south of town. Proceeded out south to Pat Creek Campground. Houses occasionally all the way, forests cleared on the water side, logging stumps on the other. Not much hint of wilderness left.

June 25, 1971: We woke up late at 7:45 am. Rain again after only one day of sunshine. The gloomy skies lifted by 1:30 pm, though. We spent the morning leisurely doing chores, Philip packing film to mail, David building a Lego chainsaw and logging. Then he changed to being captain of the Wickersham with his raincoat and billed hat on, passing out “waterproof tickets” that were pieces of his raincoat material found in his pocket. We had popcorn and hot chocolate for lunch. After pulling out of this logged-over Forest Service Campground, we stopped at the roadside to look at tiny flowers. Philip made close-ups with his 35 mm camera of a heather-like plant, lichen, fern fronds, and other ground cover. We made more stops on the route back to town. David was asleep and the rain stopped. Then we stopped at the water’s edge where the forest curtain is still intact. We walked out on the beach to discover it was very different from Ketchikan. Here large boulders of fine grain granite are imbedded in a ground of small rounded rocks that are white, grey and dark slate. At this spot Philip took pictures of the beach rocks and their backdrop of forest, which is an abrupt wall that begins at the high tide mark. At the next picture stop, Philip caught some light, wispy waterfalls at the road edge.

A brief stop for groceries in town after we looked in vain for petroglyphs a mile south of the city park as stated in Milepost. No trouble finding the petroglyphs at the north end of town location at the end of the boardwalk. We had help from a neighborhood boy, Lance Koenig, who came up to the car and asked, “May I be of service?” He took us right to the petroglyph rocks. Then he and David had a marvelous time throwing rocks at tin cans they set up on boulders, knocking them into the incoming tide. This tide had covered we didn’t know how many of the petroglyphs, but Philip took photographs of those still out. An old rusty carpenter’s plane was resting on a drift log. David brought it back to the camper and set about at dinner to plane everything around. He was also absorbed in being the captain of a cruise ship, Philip and I being his crew. He got himself all decked out in navy blue jeans, raincoat and Davy’s old ski hat. (Davy refers to David Lee Hyde who was Philip Hyde’s brother and David Leland Hyde’s namesake. He was killed in the Korean War.) After petroglyphs, we drove out airport road as far as we could for more photographs of the dwarf forest with ponds in the foreground and peaks behind. At the Ferry dock we found out we couldn’t board the next Ferry because it was the Wickersham, which was too large to load vehicles at Wrangell. We walked around the docks, put David down, then walked some more. We heard the high school band coming from somewhere. Turned out they were escorting and welcoming the cruise ship Arcadia that was circling the outer harbor because it was too big to land. A very festive and lively scene with assorted small craft maneuvering across the horizon as well. Tried to wake up David but not possible. Philip made more photographs around the breakwater and as we went through a dripping jungle of thimble berries.

June 26, 1971: Glad to see some breaks in the sky and faint sunlight early in the day. Bought a half pound of fresh pink shrimp from the cannery right from the man loading them into cans to be frozen…

CONTINUED IN THE BLOG POST, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 5.”