My Personal Favorites Or 12 Top Picks Of 2012, Whatever You Want To Call Them
One of my neighbors, who I grew up with, has told me from time to time that he had to quit photography because he became too obsessed with it. It came out that he spent enough money on gear, gasoline, printing, matting and framing to put himself and his large family into debt. That was the destructive aspect, not the obsession with the art itself.
When we were young men I admired the same neighbor for his focus, determination and tireless effort that made him a success in sports, a large and strong weight lifter and an airline pilot. I contend that any endeavor of meaning, especially in the arts, for excellence to be attained, requires an obsessive dedication.
This is why I thought I could never be a photographer. I still sometimes do not consider myself one. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, had the passion and drive for excellence and the results to prove it, but until 2009 I had been lackadaisical about photography for 35 years. I will share more on my artistic journey below, but first I must tell you about the photographs here. Also, a big thank you to Jim Goldstein at JMG Galleries for putting this “best of the year” blog project on each year. I feel he’s a genius for inventing it.
The photographs in this blog post are all single image capture, though I do bracket for the eventual future date that I may possibly have the time to learn how to blend
or even, gasp, make High Dynamic Range or HDR prints. I do minimal post-processing, though I do use Photoshop to the degree that it is essentially equivalent to the darkroom. On most images I use Photoshop “Levels,” “Curves” and “Hue/Saturation” Layers. On “Pool, Cascade, Red Clover Creek” I used the Healing Brush to remove two prominent bird droppings on the center boulder that distracted and crapped up the photograph. On “Dawn, American River From Fair
Oaks Bluffs,” I also used the Healing Brush to remove a sunspot. Fortunately the sunspot backdrop against the even textured and dark toned, shadowy beach enabled this easy approach. I doubt I could have pulled off some of the more complicated methods of removing sunspots in Photoshop CS4, without spending many hours on the learning curve. I saw the video on removing sunspots in CS5, which takes one tenth the time with the use of Smart Fill. Made me lust after
newer versions of Photoshop software, but for now I will remain chained to my forced frugality of a full-time learning photographer and use my CS4, which is just fine.
Photoshop is a much more precise and powerful tool than any darkroom ever. I still, however, believe that we photographers have a contract with the general public that photographs traditionally are expected to represent “reality.” Nobody is arguing that photographs are “real.” Therefore, from time to time I do
amp up the post processing way beyond what looks “real” just to be sure that the viewing public knows I have been up to something. Meanwhile, especially with landscape photography, I’ve discovered that most of the time a RAW file does not look like the scene I photographed. Usually it is less saturated, for one thing, and usually has much less range of color and tones and much less shadow and highlight detail. This can all be partially or completely solved with Photoshop and thus I do espouse it, just as I prefer to use a good hammer more than a rock to pound in nails. I’m sure I will eventually use plugins and other add-ons, just as a professional carpenter, to compete these days, needs an air compressor driven nail gun. In the near future, look for my new “Sierra Nevada Portfolio,” that will contain large versions of these images and many others, to be posted after the 17 portfolios of Dad’s photography and below my “Portfolio One” on philiphyde.com. Also, to see more of my photography and philosophy see the blog post, “David Leland Hyde Archival Prints Pre-Launch,” or “Best Photos Of 2011.”
In 2009, I first came into the digital era and bought a Nikon D90 DSLR. Until then, I had used a Pentax K1000 35 mm film camera that my father gave me around 37 years ago when I was about 10 years old. I immediately loved making photographs with the Nikon D90 digital camera because it seemed easy to obtain decent results. I would like to graduate to a better camera one of these days for the purpose of making better big prints. I purchased my camera at Costco on special.
They had a package that included two lenses, a camera bag, strap, an 8 MG SD Card, a video and a few other little photo items that gave me everything I needed for pro-sumer photography. The larger lens that I don’t use very often is a Nikkor 55-200 mm, 1:4-5.6 lens. I make 95 percent of my images with the wide-angle lens, which is a basic Nikkor 18-55 mm, 1:3.5-5.6 lens. I would like to buy more lenses, but cannot justify the investment until my print sales pay for the new gear.
Before 2011 especially, and even now, I have little time for my own photography, but this year I still indulged in and enjoyed the making of over 10,000 images. Meanwhile, I have other goals and responsibilities including the development of my father’s large format and medium format photography in the digital era, expanding the presence of his vintage photographs in major museums and my own long, grinding, slowly developing writing career. Until 2012, I still had many frustrations with photography and still get lividly annoyed with Photoshop today.
Currently, due to several delays and complications I am blessed and cursed to be where the main subject is the wilderness landscape of the Northern Sierra Nevada. This has given me much joy, but also frustration in that I intend to photograph more people, street scenes, disasters, cultural events and other art and quasi-journalistic subjects. I would have loved to be the first photographer to arrive at the BP Gulf Oil Spill or in Japan at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster.
Regardless, I had several breakthroughs in 2012. I improved technically. I became clear that even though I will keep my own photography as a sideline for now, at some point I will incorporate it into my primary work. I also caught the photography bug. I am bitten and camera smitten. Though it is an investment in the future, I photograph “too much” in that at this stage the extra time away from representing my father’s vintage work is costing me and threatening my solvency. Because of photography, I am trying to do “too much.” However, my own photography has saved me in some ways. I wrote about this in a recent blog post reviewing 2012 and introducing a poem about my mother, Ardis Hyde, who wrote most of the Hyde Travel Logs: “Happy Holidays…?…!” Besides keeping me fit and serving as an outlet, my own work has brought me more fulfillment and peace. It entices me out of the house and out from behind the desk and computer
screen. Landscape photography has helped me feel the light on the mountains, smell the woods, hear the lulling water and expand into the spirit of open spaces. I am rooted and connected to nature more often. Yet for me any genre of photography, photography without borders, without labels or definitions, pre-planned or visualized, observed quietly or full of surprises and experimentation, any and all of it is a hoot and an inspiration. Now after almost four decades of carrying a camera off and on, I can finally say, it is an obsession.
Please share which images you like most here and which you like least…