Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Nevada’

Philip Hyde Explored Wilderness In Photographs

February 18th, 2014

Philip Hyde Speaks Out About Respecting And Defending The Five Deserts of North America

By Jane Braxton Little

Note: This article originally titled “Philip Hyde: Exploring World In Photos” by Jane Braxton Little appeared in the Feather River Bulletin on October 7, 1987 just before the release of Drylands: The Deserts of North America. Jane Braxton Little now writes for the Sacramento Bee and magazines such as Audubon, American Forests, Scientific American, Nature Conservancy, Sierra, Native Peoples and many others. She is a full-time freelance writer who travels the world on environmental stories. Drylands is out of print but readily available through used booksellers. See Drylands: The Deserts of North America on Amazon.

Anvil Cloud Over Badlands, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 1975 Philip Hyde. A Drylands image. Philip Hyde was aided in image selection for Drylands by Jim and Carolyn Robertson of Yolla Bolly Press, who packaged the book for publishing by Harcort, Brace, Jovanovich. Yolla Bolly also packaged Galen Rowell's famous book Mountain Light. The Yolla Bolly archive with Drylands and Mountain Light now resides at Stanford University.

Anvil Cloud Over Badlands, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 1975 Philip Hyde. A Drylands image. Philip Hyde was aided in image selection for Drylands by Jim and Carolyn Robertson of Yolla Bolly Press, who packaged the book for publishing by Harcort, Brace, Jovanovich. Yolla Bolly also packaged Galen Rowell’s famous book Mountain Light. The Yolla Bolly archive with Drylands, Mountain Light and others now resides at Stanford University.

Traveling The West

Philip Hyde glanced around his studio lined with full-color landscape photographs in various stages of framing and confessed a yen to travel.

“I haven’t taken any kind of trip for 18 months and I’m beginning to feel it,” Hyde said. “My feet are itchy.” The Mojave, Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Great Basin and Painted Deserts are what have kept Philip Hyde, age 66, at his studio in his home in the Northern Sierra. His new book, Drylands: The Deserts of North America, will be published this month.

Sculpted sand dunes, multicolored lava flows and the surreal cracks of a sun-parched mud patch are among Philip Hyde’s 95 photographs that convey, often with stark simplicity, the complex beauty of North America’s five deserts. Hyde also wrote the text of the new large format coffee table book.

Hidden Complexity In Deserts

“To the casual eye, deserts look like simple places: scattered sage brush, the occasional lizard, bare rock…” Hyde wrote in his introduction. “Yet deserts are not really simple places and the bareness can be deceptive.”

With the publication of Drylands nearly behind him, Hyde has been kept in his studio readying the photographs reproduced in the book for shows at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, opening October 23, and at Lightworks in Sacramento, scheduled to open December 2.

Drylands is the most recent of the many books and calendars that have helped to establish Hyde as one of America’s most respected and experienced landscape photographers. His work has been exhibited nationwide and is represented in major photography collections. While Hyde’s work reflects the diversity of vegetation and topography from Alaskan tundra to the mountains of central Mexico, it projects a singular attitude towards his subject.

Reverence And Discovery In Nature Photography

“I photograph nature with great respect for it,” Hyde said. “I want people to appreciate wilderness and I would like to think that I have had a hand in making them more conscious of nature.” A perfectionist, who chooses his words with precision, Hyde refolds his lunch napkin into its brass ring and labels his studio typewriter with the date he installed a new ribbon. His photographs are the products of a fine eye distinguished by an appreciation for the subtly unusual.

“Photography for me is a discovery process,” Hyde said. “I don’t go to a place and wait. In a place that’s full of pictures, it doesn’t make sense to wait for them to happen. There are too many other pictures waiting to be taken.”

Philip Hyde and his wife Ardis spend an average of three months a year on photographic trips. They have climbed the mountains of Baja California, Mexico, rafted through the Grand Canyon, Rio Grand and many other river canyons, and camped on a glaciated beach in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. Before each trip, Hyde studies the geology and geography of the area and researches it pictorially. Hyde explained, “Basically I’m dealing with the land. I find out what I can about it in advance. When I get there I explore it—and see what happens.”

Environmental Activism And Politics

His travel far from the conventional tourist beats is in step with his environmental politics. An outspoken conservationist, he served as a photographer for the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that originally popularized the large format coffee table book. Hyde produced numerous books for the San Francisco based Sierra Club and worked with many other environmental organizations. He was a major contributor to the first Sierra Club desk calendar and his work continues to appear regularly in new editions, as well as numerous other publications. His pictorial record of Glen Canyon before it was flooded by Lake Powell is just one example of his use of photographs to make political statements.

“My photographs are my voice,” Hyde asserted. “They haven’t hurt people as much as I would have if I got mad and hit them over the head.” He is generally critical of the direction of national politics and specifically critical of the Reagan administration and James Watt, Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior.

“The whole idea of conserving things is more liberal than conservative,” Hyde said. “Conservatism, as practiced in this country is exploitation. It’s big business privilege. It doesn’t jibe with conservation or true conservatism.” Hyde has devoted a lifetime to photography out of a belief in communicating conservation ideals.

Art As Communication More Than Expression

“My philosophy of photography is communication,” He explained. “That rules out getting too far out and too personal—where the communication is so obscure you go to a show and the most banal photograph has three paragraphs of text to explain it. That’s not the true medium of photography. If it needs to be explained, it’s something else.” He also does not advocate art that is different merely for the sake of being different.

“There’s so much talk about creativity,” Hyde said. “Philosophically, I don’t know about creation. It seems to me there is no real need to make nature into something else. If you make a tree into something other than a tree, that’s not photography.”

“The picture doesn’t have to communicate just what the photographer is thinking,” said Hyde. “Let people play around with it. That’s part of the fun.” The best of Hyde’s photographs leave space for the viewer to complete the scene.

Self Made, Self-Reliant And Simple

Hyde does almost all of his own photographic printing in his studio, keeps all of his own clerical records and markets the bulk of his work by himself. Despite the challenges of running a one-man business, he prefers the simplicity of being self-contained to the complexities of being an employer.

“The hardest thing I do is to make things simple,” he said. Hyde recently simplified his printing process by replacing color dye transfer printing with Cibachrome, a color printing process manufactured in Belgium and marketed by an English company. Cibachrome has complexities in the chemical and manufacturing process, not in the print making methods.

When he is at home in the Sierra, Hyde maintains a disciplined schedule, working regular hours in his studio. The house where he and Ardis have lived since 1959 is decorated with clean, understated elegance: hand-made earthenware, Navajo rugs, books, rugs, wall hangings and brass trays from when the Hydes lived in Morocco for a year.  Their food is often picked from Ardis’ garden just up hill from Indian Creek, complimented by her homemade whole wheat bread.

His photographs bear a quest for simplicity, conveying a strong sense of the individuality of a single stone or the moment of a sunset over the Grand Canyon. They are images that may accurately reflect a point in time selectively plucked from a world in constant flux.

“Every day different things are happening. Every day the sun is in a different position… Photography is an exploration more than anything else.”

New Silver Gelatin Black And White Prints

February 5th, 2014

Son Hand Prints New Silver Gelatin Black And White Prints From Philip Hyde’s Original Negatives

 

Granite Arrow Shaped Rock, Hemlock Tree, High Sierra Near Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park, California, 1950.

Granite, Hemlock Tree, High Sierra Near Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park, California, copyright 1950 Philip Hyde. One of those darkroom printed in 2014 by David Leland Hyde and Stefan Kirkeby.

In October 2013 and January 2014, David Leland Hyde and Stefan Kirkeby darkroom hand printed brand new contemporary silver gelatin prints from Philip Hyde’s best vintage original negatives of Alaska, Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, the Redwoods and Point Reyes. In October Hyde and Kirkeby printed 10 images for a total of 62 contemporary prints and in January they printed six images for a total of 28 prints.

In most cases, the vintage prints of these particular negatives are nearly or all sold out. More importantly, with these new prints, the public can obtain darkroom prints in the same tradition that Philip Hyde made his own, with much less outlay. The black and white estate prints made by Imogen Cunningham’s heirs are valued at $2,500 and the contemporary black and white prints of images by one of Philip Hyde’s classmates, William Heick, are priced at $1,800. The contemporary darkroom prints of Philip Hyde’s top black and white photographs are valued at only $1200.

Hyde and Kirkeby only made 3-8 prints of most of the images. Most of the new silver gelatin prints are available only in a limited edition of 10 prints per image, though a few of the photographs are limited editions of 20. For ins and outs of limited editions see the blog post, “Why Photography Galleries, Curators And Collectors Like Limited Editions.”

“We made these darkroom prints in collaboration to maintain coherence between the new and old silver gelatin prints, “ explained Stefan Kirkeby. “Making prints in the darkroom like this carries on the legacy of all the early darkroom printers. We do it out of respect for the medium.”

Stefan Kirkeby has helped other black and white photographers make new silver gelatin prints including Golden Decade photographers Stan Zrnich, David Johnson, William Heick and the heirs of Don Whyte, Benjamen Chinn and many others.

“We used Ilford warm tone fiber-based paper,” Stefan Kirkeby said. “It contains the most silver of all Ilford papers. That’s why the prints have such beautiful warm tone blacks like Philip Hyde’s prints from the 1940s and 1950s.” At Stefan’s darkroom in San Rafael, we used a Durst Laborata 1200 for the 2 ¼ and 4×5 negatives. We also made some contact prints from two of Philip Hyde’s early 8×10 negatives: “Looking Down Merced River At El Capitan” and “Aspens, Conway Summit” that appeared in This Is The American Earth, the first book in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall. For the 5×7 negatives we rented a darkroom at Rayco in San Francisco where they had a Durst 8×10 Enlarger with a 5×7 easel.

“Philip Hyde did a lot of work and did not get enough recognition,” Stefan Kirkeby said. “So many people are using the parks without knowing that he helped protect those lands with his photography. We are printing and sharing his photographs out of respect for his hard work.”

Have you ever been in a darkroom or made silver gelatin prints?

Ken Brower Speaks At “This Land Is Our Land” Philip Hyde Exhibition Opening

January 30th, 2014

250 People Attend The Opening For The Largest Exhibition Of Philip Hyde In Northern California In 20 Years

Ken Brower And David Leland Hyde Speak About The Collaboration Between Their Fathers, David Brower And Philip Hyde, On Behalf Of Wilderness

“This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness,” will run through March 1, 2014

David Leland Hyde, Ed Cooper And Debby Cooper At The Opening of "This Land Is Our Land." Ed Cooper was another mainstay photographer for the Sierra Club, his work appearing in the famous Sierra Club calendars of the 1970s and 1980s that contained the who's who of landscape photography at the time. He is a well-known mountaineering large format photographer. His latest book, "Soul Of The Rockies" came out in 2008.

David Leland Hyde, Ed Cooper And Debby Cooper At The Opening of “This Land Is Our Land.” Ed Cooper was another mainstay photographer for the Sierra Club, his work appearing in the famous Sierra Club calendars of the 1970s and 1980s that contained the who’s who of landscape photography at the time. He is a well-known mountaineering large format photographer. His latest books are, “Soul Of The Rockies” (2008) and “Soul of Yosemite.” (2011)

Stefan Kirkeby, gallerist of Smith Andersen North Gallery, said over 250 people attended the Philip Hyde exhibition opening this last Saturday evening, January 25, 2014. Included in the crowd were Ken Brower–history making editor of Sierra Club Books and National Geographic writer and author of several books, Sierra Club Calendar and mountaineering photographer Ed Cooper, Golden Decade photographers Stan Zrnich, Gerald Ratto and David Johnson, who each have significant accomplishments of their own, Jack Fulton department head and associate professor of photography at the San Francisco Art Institute, Jeff Gunderson co-author of The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, black and white architecture and landscape photographer Mark Citret, contemporary landscape photographer Gary Crabbe–protegé of Galen Rowell, a Sonoma County winery owner and other collectors, photographers and fans of photography.

“It was our largest show opening since the Golden Decade,” said Stefan Kirkeby.

The Golden Decade in West Coast photography refers to the first 10 years of Ansel Adam’s photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute when Minor White was lead instructor and other teachers included Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange and Lisette Model. The Golden Decade exhibit at Smith Andersen North drew over 500 people and exhibited the work of over 20 of Philip Hyde’s contemporaries.

“This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness” exhibition will run through March 1, 2014 and consists of vintage color dye transfer and Cibachrome prints, original vintage black and white silver gelatin prints, contemporary black and white darkroom prints from Philip Hyde’s original 2 ¼, 4×5, 5×7 and 8×10 negatives, and photographer authorized archival chromogenic lightjet and inkjet digital prints.

Stefan Kirkeby opened the evening’s talk by recognizing the commitment and dedication of Philip Hyde to preserving wilderness through conservation photography. He introduced David Leland Hyde, who first recognized Stefan Kirkeby’s dedication to art and artists. Then Hyde spoke about his father’s various campaigns and what it was like growing up with a father who was on the road 100 days out of every year for nearly 60 years. The young Hyde spoke of his good fortune to have traveled with his mother and father on many of their outdoor adventures. He told the story of traveling to a small wild island in the Caribbean as part of an assessment of whether or not to protect the island and it’s unique native species and endangered species in their home habitat, or to maintain the island as a US Navy bombing range.

David Leland Hyde described landing in a small plane in a grass field on Isla Mona, the island off Puerto Rico, driving through the jungle, staying in small beach bungalows, snorkeling in shallows filled with multi-colored fish that stretched for miles, backpacking across the hot desert interior of the 10-mile across island, hiking along the beach, camping near a Korean War era plane crash, befriending a four foot iguana, visiting a bat cave and getting up in the middle of the night with his parents and naturalist Frank Wadsworth to see the Southern Cross gleaming overhead in the clear milky way decorated night sky.

Ken Brower spoke next about the collaboration between his father, environmental leader David Brower, and his “go-to” photographer, Philip Hyde. Ken Brower told the story of David Brower and Philip Hyde having traveled to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir together in 1955 to photograph and motion picture film the low water that revealed the devastated dusty field of stumps as depicted in Philip Hyde’s famous photograph of the same title. Ken Brower also talked about other conservation campaigns and how art ultimately can make a big difference in the world.

The atmosphere in the gallery during the opening was festive and lively with plenty of refreshments including a selection of several types of white wine. You have never before seen gallery opening finger food cuisine like this: toothpick strawberries, kiwis, raspberries, grapes, cantaloupe, brie and three other types of cheese, four types of crackers, raspberries, cantaloupe, Shrimp Spring Rolls and sauce, both made on location, as were fresh Pico de Gallo with two types of chips and much more.

Besides being the first large photography exhibition of Philip Hyde’s work in nearly 20 years in the Bay Area, “This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness,” will run through March 1, 2014 and display the various regions in which Philip Hyde photographed and helped to protect wilderness.

For more on Philip Hyde’s career and “This Land Is Our Land” Exhibition, see the blog post, “Major Northern California Philip Hyde Exhibition.”

Smith Andersen North Gallery
20 Greenfield Ave
San Anselmo, California
415-455-9733

Tuesday – Friday: 10AM – 6PM, Saturday: 12 – 5PM, and by appointment.

Best Photographs Of 2013

December 23rd, 2013

Best David Leland Hyde Photographs Of 2013

The Year In Review…

Willow, Alder, Indian Creek, Fresh Snow, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Willow, Alder, Indian Creek, Fresh Snow, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Near the end of 2012, as I began to wrap up my new Sierra Portfolio, my mind sauntered off on a trail toward crafting a black and white portfolio. Since 2009, every so often I have made images that I thought might convert well to black and white. However, starting in late 2012, after I made a new image folder and began thinking about black and white art, more and more black and white subjects seemed to shown up in my life. (To see any of the photographs larger see my, “Portfolio One,” or “Sierra Portfolio.”

Sundown, Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Sundown, Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

On the morning of January 27, 2013 I woke before daybreak. An eight-inch blanket of heavy fresh snow turned my mountain hideaway into the proverbial winter wonderland. I shifted into high gear, grabbed some food for the road and my camera gear and ran for my 1980 King Cab 4X4 Datsun Pickup, the same truck I learned to drive in the snow when it was new and I was 16 years old. My old truck and I shuffled off down the half-plowed county road looking for adventure and photographs. With the quiet of the snow I slipped quickly into the receptive state of mind described in the blog post, “Imogen Cunningham, Minor White And Their Students On The Art Of Seeing.”

Indian Rhubarb Shoots In Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Indian Rhubarb Shoots In Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Just as I passed the road to Carr Clifton’s house, who was out of the country in Iceland, South America or somewhere else, I looked down toward “the river,” which is what we locally call Indian Creek of Plumas County in the Northern Sierra Nevada, California.

Big Horn Sheep, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Big Horn Sheep, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

The low slanting rays of the sun were just beginning to illuminate the water and surrounding forest in a way I had never seen before. I have driven by that spot thousands of times since age 16, sometimes noticing what the river looked like, sometimes not, eyes glued to the winding country road in all manner of weather and road conditions. Today, in a peaceful, open frame of mind, I quickly pulled over to look closer with the camera out. “Willow, Alder, Indian Creek, Fresh Snow” and an SD card full of other images seemed like the type that would make great black and white photographs, but with mist clearing to reveal a rich blue sky reflecting in Indian Creek, they make good color images too.

Storm Clouds Over Boulder III, Boulder, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Storm Clouds Over Boulder III, Boulder, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Even as more black and white suited subjects appeared before me in 2013, more wildly colorful scenes paraded into my vision as well. Lake Almanor, which is known for colorful sunsets, was the stage one evening for a beautiful, yet subtle pastel show. Because it had been partly cloudy in the afternoon, I expected a good sunset, but I was running late. By the time I was in position along the lakeshore, I missed the sunset, but the aftermath after sundown turned out to be even better.

Old Wall And Young Woman, Broomfield, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Old Wall And Young Woman, Broomfield, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

In making the editing cuts on my Sierra Portfolio, It became more clear than ever that I not only loved to photograph water, but apparently the Sierra is the ideal place to do so. To read more about what John Muir called the Range of Light see the blog post, “Official New Release: Sierra Portfolio.” In Colorado, I struggled at first in the Rocky Mountains because everything seemed dry after photographing only in the Sierra for two years. I did manage to find water at Walden Ponds in Boulder County, part of the Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve. Besides, it rained much more than usual in Boulder the whole summer.

Cattails, Willows, Reflections, Walden And Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve, Boulder, County, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Cattails, Willows, Reflections, Walden And Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve, Boulder, County, Colorado, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

The skies were spectacular with some of the wildest, apocalyptic cloud formations I have ever seen. I made many cloud photographs that I plan to make into a cloud portfolio. Days after I left Boulder, the biggest rainfall on record slammed the Rocky Mountain Front Range and huge floods swamped the cities at the base of the Rockies. Average normal rainfall for the entire month of September is a little over one inch, but during September 11-13, 2013, over 17 inches of rain fell in Boulder County, with over nine inches in one day.

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

One rainy afternoon when the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds causing rainbows and dramatic lighting effects, I saw an old grain tower off of a main street in Bloomfield, Colorado. When I approached the old tower building, a group of three ladies were gathered on the train tracks nearby. One lady was feverishly wielding a camera, one was holding a deflector shield and the other made sexy poses on the railroad tracks. I asked if they minded if I made a photograph or two with them as the foreground and they agreed.

Rocky Shoreline, Taylor Lake, Fall, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Rocky Shoreline, Taylor Lake, Fall, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

On my way out of Boulder toward Dinosaur National Monument, I passed through Rocky Mountain National Park, where it rained in the distance forming picturesque early autumn virgas. Besides the black clouds and grayscale mountains, the highlight of my Rocky Mountain National Park visit was a sighting of big horn sheep. About seven or eight of these hoofed giants were grazing and moseying along parallel to Trail Ridge Road.

Signs all along the route say not to stop, but a long line of cars did, to watch the big horn sheep. Because I could not move forward anyway, I quickly reached over and put on my long lens, took the camera off the tripod and abandoned my car mid highway. The group of sheep followed the edge of Glacier Gorge, moving slightly away from the highway and over a knoll topped by jagged angular rock outcroppings. I saw that if I ran forward along the road and stayed low with the knoll between the flock and myself, I could sneak around the rock outcroppings and end up very close to the sheep before they could see me. Besides, up until I made this new plan, all my photographs of the herd of big horns were from behind. I needed some front view images.

Shadow Patterns, Crystal Lake And Indian Valley From Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Shadow Patterns, Crystal Lake And Indian Valley From Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

The big male leading the group foiled my plan. As I came partly around the knoll, there he already was, quite close and not looking jovial or friendly. He was not hostile either, just looking his experienced tough old self, keeping a close eye on me. He turned several different ways, as if to pose for the camera, and then wandered on down the slope away from my prying zoom lens.

In Dinosaur National Monument, Randy Fullbright, a local artist and jeweler and gallery owner, took me into Jones Hole. For more on my adventures in Dinosaur from 2013 and other years, see the blog post series, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013.”

After being gone from my home in Northeastern California for three months when I only expected to be gone three weeks, I only had two weeks at home, then I had to rush off to the Bay Area to deliver my father’s vintage prints for the upcoming Photography Gallery show at Smith Andersen North in San Anselmo, Marin County, California. For the big exhibition, we made contemporary gelatin silver black and white prints. More announcements will come about the show and about the contemporary darkroom prints. Between darkroom printing and the making of new archival digital prints at the Smith Andersen Lab, I stayed in Marin County two weeks and missed nearly all of the fall leaf color back at home in the Sierra.

11.-DHCA-CrysL-259-13-Shadow,-Rock-And-Snow-Patterns,-Crystal-Lake-(Vert)-BW-blog

Shadow, Rock And Snow Patterns At Crystal Lake, (Vertical) California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Once I returned, I did however make a few photography outings, one to Taylor Lake, where the rocky shoreline and fall leaf color reflections made striking subjects. The most appropriate black and white subject of the whole year turned out to be the rocks and melting snow patterns, shadow patterns and granite cliff faces at Crystal Lake earlier this month. We have had such light snowfall this year, that the road that would usually have three to four feet of snow on it by now, is still passable by four wheel drive.

I will save a more in-depth explanation about the last photograph for another blog post. In short, it is the continuation of a direction I began in 2009 because in my own photography I like to go beyond the genre of landscape photography, exploring street photography, abstract photography and experimental approaches. Also, while my father was the conservation photographer, as my work develops professionally I would like to explore social activism more than environmental activism. I also have some ideas and experience with mixed media and multi-media as well. Stay tuned…

Open Door At Blue Minnie's, San Rafael, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Open Door At Blue Minnie’s, San Rafael, California, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

For more “Best of” see the blog posts, “My Greatest Hits Of 2012,” “Best Photos Of 2011” and “My Favorite Photos of 2010.”

Please share which images you like best and which you like least and why, if you like. It will be helpful…

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26th, 2013

Happy Turkey Feast Day 2013!

I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
And if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

–From The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Grass Hummock, Indian Creek, Indian Valley, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde.

Grass Hummock, Indian Creek, Fall, Indian Valley, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde.

When you do not know the business of photography, it is challenging to jump right in full-time and make a living, regardless of experience in other businesses. This difficulty is eased in some ways, but ultimately more devastating in the long run, if you have some funds to start with. This tends to merely delay the necessary pain of actually having to produce, but when the funds finally do dry up, there is what seems like a long free fall before you finally learn enough to construct a net out of thin air, to save yourself from ruin.

They say you have to hit bottom before you can bounce. However, I have now proven that a person can skim along the bottom for quite some time before hitting the lowest point and bouncing. This year, for me, was the year of the bounce. Print sales are up. Business is up. Income is up. In fact, at one point early in the year I was mystified and lamenting my lack of earning power, when I began to ask around to find out what was really going on out there in the streets and with other photographers and landscape photographers. In most cases it is not very pretty, even though the images often are nothing but pretty.

I could sit here and moan about the economy like the majority of others do every day, even the very best, but it really isn’t “the economy, stupid.” It is really each of us making or breaking it daily. An interesting discovery I made not long ago was that the “economy” today is twice as big as it was in 1980. Why isn’t each of us earning twice as much? Well, because our individual incomes truly do not have all that much to do with the overall economy. In this essay, I’m going to play economic devil’s advocate.

The U. S. “Economy” alone is measured in hundreds of billions of dollars. If it goes down a few percentage points, the media spread hysteria and fright like wildfire, but if it goes up a small fraction, then we all rejoice. And what the heck is uncertainty? I thought the role of a leader is to banish uncertainty from people’s minds, but I guess we don’t have any leaders of consequence these days. The fluctuations in growth that are part of doing business affect each of us individually just about as much as we believe they do.

I am not blind to unemployment or the decline I see all around me, but to blame all of it on the idiot gamblers on Wall Street and the con artist mortgage bankers seems a bit overblown.  I know a huge number of people have been taken advantage of, lost their homes, lost their retirement funds and so on. I feel for these people and understand they are victims of the new corporate state. Toward changes, we all need to work and become activists, but what else is new? The big guys have been taking advantage of the little guys since history began. Each of us has to step to the plate and do it for ourselves despite the economy, despite unemployment, despite whatever the setbacks are of any nature.

I have discovered that if a collector wants to make an excuse not to acquire a print, he or she will find an excuse, lately it has conveniently been the economy. If you buy that excuse from someone who is more well off than you are, then you do not believe enough in art and you are not likely to sell much of it in the Soft Depression of the 21st Century. Go back and get a government job, oops, maybe that’s not such a good idea either. Nothing personal if you already work for the government. I feel for all those who were needlessly put out of work recently because of partisan politics. During the government shut down, members of Congress still collected their pay and retained all or most of their staff, while Nobel Prize winning scientists and other accomplished people were ejected. The only real security is the security each of us creates for ourselves. Henry David Thoreau called it self-reliance. This century we have to practice economic self-reliance. It is the only way we will have anything to be thankful for in the long run.

Back to landscape photography, certainly some superstars are still crushing it in the current “economy,” whatever that is, but it turns out that a lot of collectors and other print buyers are making a lot of excuses and most photographers have no decent response or plan to overcome these excuses. I certainly do not have all the answers, or even hardly any. However, I was heartened to find out when I checked around, that even though I consider my income paltry compared to the days of the late 1980s when I was making a six figure income, I am selling more prints than just about anyone else around, at least in the nature and landscape photography genre. That is something to be thankful for… and I am. Thank you Great Spirit, for the gifts you bestow. It has been a long road to get here. I still have a long way to go in many areas including time management, SEO, web development, social media, exhibiting at shows, museum relations, photography gallery development, printing my own prints and much more. My father once wrote that he had a long apprenticeship from the mountains themselves, mainly learning economics. More on the economy and selling photographic prints in future posts…

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

What are you thankful for?

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?

Letters From The Ansel Adams Color Photography Workshop

August 14th, 2013

Philip Hyde Letters Home To Ardis And David From Yosemite Valley

Wednesday, May 29, 1974, 8 am

Yosemite Lodge, Yosemite National Park, California

Cottonwoods, Merced River, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. This is the original 2 1/4 Hasselblad framing. Philip Hyde often cropped his 2 1/4 photographs to 4X5 dimensions and composed accordingly.

Cottonwoods, Merced River, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. This is the original 2 1/4 Hasselblad framing. Philip Hyde often cropped his 2 1/4 photographs to 4X5 dimensions and composed accordingly. Click on the image to see it larger with the 4X5 cropping.

Dear A & D,

Cooool this morning! – Very hot Sunday and Monday, but more like May on Tuesday. I’m really enjoying this workshop. Lots of talk – some interesting people and especially enjoying my “colleagues” and getting acquainted. Doing plenty of talking myself – a “loosed tongue.” Learning something.

Workshop seems pretty well organized. I’m having trouble sleeping – being “over-stimulated” I guess. Went to bed around 11 pm. Woke up at 5:30 this morning  and not tired. This is really good for me!!! ;) Not just the shorter sleep, but stimulation, talk, interchange, etc.

Yosemite Falls brimming – I can hear its thunder from my room at night – a  pleasant kind of noise, not distracting… I think now I might stay a day or two here as I won’t be making many pix while workshop is on. But more of that later.

Hope all is well with you two.
Love,
Dad

 

Sunday, June 2, 1974, 6:30 am

Yosemite Lodge

Dear Mommio and Davio ;)

Well, here I am again! To bed last night after a critique until 1:30 am. Awoke at 6 am and couldn’t sleep any more, so here I am waiting for Steve Crouch to come by the room so we can have breakfast together. It’s Sunday morning and after breakfast I’ll check out and go over to the Gallery for a farewell session with everybody. It’s been a very full week and at this point I’m a little tired but still exhilarated. I’ve enjoyed the exchange with people immensely and think it’s been very good for me. The group has been a very heterogeneous collection of people and that’s been stimulating. There were also some whose talent stands out and that is a miracle to me to observe.

In sort and in all it’s been an experience I was ready for and needed and I feel like I have done something with it. For once I haven’t been frantic to make photographs but seemed to be aware on many levels of consciousness what I was really here for. Perhaps – or maybe I should say – surely my photography will benefit far more by this than if I had merely made pictures on this occasion.

Gotta go – love to you two.

Me  ;)

 

Tuesday, June 4, 1974, 8:15 pm

Campground, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park

Dear Sweetie and Son,

It’s 8:15 pm and I’ve just finished the dishes after dinner. It was good talking with you two tonight. I’m enjoying my stay in this beautiful place that has meant so much to the Hyde family. It never palls on me and always seems that there’s more that I haven’t seen before. This morning Jim Speer and I walked up from the campground along the river to Happy Isles. As always I found lots to photograph and I really enjoyed having Jim along too.

This week has been a monumental talk fest and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! Though there were all levels of accomplishment and ability, everyone was serious and interested in photography. I feel that I got completely out of my usual – I should say, former self-consciousness. I relaxed and enjoyed the people and the interchange. Jim told me he thought I am an extrovert! Funny how the barriers come down when you forget self and stop worrying about what other people are thinking about you. I could do this in our sessions, even when I was talking about my work, career, experiences, etc. Many people commented on the good mix of personalities among the four staff and I think, too, that it made for a more interesting interchange for the students – though, unfortunately we didn’t really have a lot of chance to talk with each other, except sometimes at meals and odd times.

I sat in on a Steve Crouch critique and several of William Garnett’s critique sessions. Though not actually scheduled for any myself, after the first day or two, people began asking me if I’d look at their work. I ended up having unscheduled critiques three of the evenings. I enjoyed this, particularly since many of them were young people. I’m now going to make an astonishing statement: I think I would enjoy teaching! Not full-time, but as a periodic thing – a change of pace and a kind of recharging of my own interest. I can already feel changes there. Of course, some of this is the magic of Yosemite – but it is also the magic of getting rid of the feeling that I don’t like people. That feeling was never really part of me, or natural to me, and I feel that “the scales have fallen away from my eyes.” With more openness and generosity toward people, it’s wonderful to see how they respond. I feel like a great weight of negativism has been taken off me. Surely I’m not the same now after this experience. How good that I saw it as an opportunity and didn’t shrink from it. May I have good judgment to recognize such opportunities in the future.

Another thing this whole experience teaches me is that I need this kind of interchange for my own growth. It is Spring here in more ways than the obvious – your shrinking violet has bloomed, Love. It’s a sweet scent and I have such a good feeling about it. What a phenomenon. Well it’s getting on toward 9 pm and I’m going to be early and will start early in the morning. The afterglow is gone from Half Dome, which I see clearly from my campsite, but the afterglow is still in my heart.

I love you,

Dad

For more about photography workshops taught by Philip Hyde in Yosemite National Park and elsewhere see the blog post, “Photography Workshops Taught By Philip Hyde.”

What is your experience? Have you ever been in a social or learning situation where the human interaction inspired or changed you creatively or otherwise?

San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 15

July 9th, 2013

Technical Aspects of Visualization

Lecture By Minor White

Philip Hyde’s 1947 Class Notes

California School Of Fine Arts, Now The San Francisco Art Institute

Photography Program Founded By Ansel Adams, Minor White Lead Instructor

(Continued from the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 14.”)

Landscape Photography Blogger Note:

Bristlecone Pine Snag Against Sky, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. 8X10 Deardorff Large Format View Camera.

Bleached Juniper Trunk On Ridge Above Parson’s Lodge, Cumulus Clouds, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. 8X10 Deardorff Large Format View Camera.

(View the photograph large: “Bleached Juniper Trunk, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite.”)

Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White were all proponents of visualization or pre-visualization as it is sometimes called. Ansel Adams wrote about visualization, as did Minor White to some extent. However, few, if any, of their students ever published any lecture notes sharing the contents of lectures on the subject. Here for what is likely the first time ever published, are the notes from star photography student Philip Hyde on a lecture by Minor White during the summer session, on August 19, 1947. Today is Minor White’s birthday. He was born on July 9, 1908.

Half way through the class lecture in 1947, Minor White shifted into a technical discussion regarding film density, exposure, the Zone System, film testing, tonal reproduction, tonal separation, contrast control by underdevelopment, various aspects of darkroom processing, waterbath formulas, and other details of film darkroom photography. The purpose of the lecture was to applying darkroom post-processing tools to carry out and complete the process of visualization as begun at the point of exposure in the field with the camera. This technical discussion consisted mainly of graphs and charts that do not apply to today’s digital photography and in some cases not even to today’s film photography. This complex portion of Minor White’s lecture is omitted here, for the most part, with some portions summarized, leaving us with the non-technical core of the subject.

These lecture notes are presented here mainly as a historical record, more than for teaching or learning purposes, though they may serve the latter two purposes as well, with certain readers. More on the theory and philosophy of visualization will follow in future articles and blog posts. Yet this lecture, may put into perspective how relatively easy making good photographs has become, due to technology replacing many of the processes mentioned below. Photoshop is certainly not simple, nor do we now merely press one button that eliminates all visual distractions and turns our images into artistic masterpieces, as many uninformed people seem to believe. Nonetheless, the lecture below puts into perspective the level of diligence involved in darkroom black and white photography. Which of these two post-processing methods do you feel took more skill? Or if the skills are different, how do they compare?

Technical Aspects of Visualization Lecture By Minor White

Philip Hyde’s Notes August 19, 1947
Visualization

Visualization is the basis of creative photography as taught at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) photography school. Visualization is simply visualizing, imagining in the mind, the final print while looking at the scene you are photographing. The approach to applying visualization is to place tones on a scale, in the 10 gradations of tone in the Zone System and internalizing the relationship of exposure to development taking into consideration the relationship between exposure and density of the film being used.

Any tone in nature can be reproduced with exposure control exactly as is with normal development. This is considered a normal exposure to development relationship. The relationship of tones remains the same with normal development. Less than normal development will compact the relationship, that is, it will compact the scale of tones. More than normal development will stretch the scale.

A full-scale print is one in which all the values of the 10 Zone scale are present including white and black, Zones 0-9. When exposure is graphed against density, there is a portion of the curve at the beginning, or toe, where the curve gradually increases steepness. This toe portion of the curve is preferred for enlargement, but can cause loss of accuracy of tonal relationships in darker areas. The curve then straightens out. This part of the curve is where tonal reproduction is accurate. The top, or shoulder, of the curve, where it gradually decreases steepness, is the least desirable for photographic enlargement and printing.

The lightest Zones, Zones I, II and III are on the toe portion of the graph and will be less dense than expected. Contrast can be controlled by underdevelopment. This must be determined by testing of the film to see whether upper or lower values will contrast more and in what relation to development. When lower values are in the toe, they can suffer serious loss of tonal quality. A good waterbath helps to increase separation in the lower tones, or the toe of the curve(s) and decreases or diminishes this effect in the upper Zones. Testing is done with a gradated step wedge.

Lens testing is also related to the success or failure of visualization efforts. Testing lenses determines the differences between theoretical and actual light transmission, due to flare, aberrations in the lens and technique of the photographer.

For those of you who did both post-processing in a film darkroom and now use Photoshop, Lightroom or some equivalent, do you feel traditional film black and white photography or digital photography post-processing is more difficult? In what ways are the challenges of each different?

Ode To Freedom by Ralph Waldo Emerson

July 3rd, 2013

Happy 4th of July, 2013!

Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of Philip Hyde’s favorite writers. His essays, though challenging, inspire and illuminate the natural world, political issues and other matters of philosophy. This poem is from his Complete Collected Works.

Sung in the Town Hall of Concord, Massachusetts July 4, 1857

Ode To Freedom by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Apetizers of Santa Maria Style Barbequed Linguisa, July 4th, 2009, Watson's Walking G Summer Family Camp, 2009 copyright David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Apetizers of Santa Maria Style Barbequed Linguisa, July 4th, 2009, Watson’s Walking G Summer Family Camp, 2009 copyright David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

O tenderly the haughty day
Fills his blue urn with fire;
One morn is in the might heaven,
And one in our desire.

The cannon boom from town to town,
Our pulses beat not less,
The joy bells chime their tidings down,
Which children’s voices bless.

For he that flung the broad blue fold
O’er mantling land and sea,
On third part of the sky unrolled
For the banner of the free.

The men are rip of Saxon kind
To build an equal state,
To take the statute from the mind
And make of duty fate.

United States! The ages plead,
Present and Past in under-song,
Go put your creed into your deed,
Nor speak with double tongue.

For sea and land don’t understand,
Nor skies without a frown
See rights for which the one hand fights
By the other cloven down.

Be just at home; the write your scroll
Of honor o’er the sea,
And bid the broad Atlantic roll,
A ferry of the free.

And henceforth there shall be no chain,
Save underneath the sea
The wires shall murmur through the main
Sweet songs of liberty.

The conscious stars accord above,
The waters wild below,
And under, through the cable wove,
Her fiery errands go.

For He that worketh high and wise,
Nor pauses in his plan,
Will take the sun out of the skies
Ere freedom out of man.

Grand Canyon Book Review: “Path Of Beauty” by Christopher Brown

June 19th, 2013

Review Of Christopher Brown’s New Coffee Table Photography Book On The Grand Canyon: Path of Beauty

"Path of Light" Book Cover: "Colorado River In The Grand Cayon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright Christopher Brown.

“Path of Beauty” Book Cover: Colorado River In The Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1986 Christopher Brown.

Wilderness Guide, River Captain and Photographer Christopher Brown has given the world a photography book that highlights the Grand Canyon as grand vista, secret garden and old friend. Certainly great craft and care are evident in Brown’s intimate images of luminous side canyons, but his big scenes of the Grand Canyon show us the Canyon’s vast size like never before.

Chris Brown’s well-written text also puts the reader right into the canyons of sun-drenched rock, rampaging white water and hidden oasis gardens. We feel the desert heat and the cold wave spray. We sense the weight of time drifting slowly by as we descend into the deep gorges that Brown has explored for more than 50 years.

Christopher Brown gets into Path of Beauty by showing us various ways to get into Grand Canyon National Park. His discussion of Geography and the forces that shape the canyon is more wild than dry, the wildest forces being the raging of water in the river and the dumping of water from the sky in Monsoons and flash floods that choke the Colorado River with sticks, boulders and other material from side canyons. Brown vividly illustrates with active, interesting language and his powerful photographs how debris flows from side canyons produce increased excitement and danger in the rapids on the river.

Crystal Rapid is an example of this rapid building process. When Major John Wesley Powell navigated the Grand Canyon in 1867, “Crystal was a small riffle spread across the canyon bottom. It was mentioned only in passing in river journals for almost 100 years. Until 1966.” That year, a major flash flood “pushed several thousand tons of rocks and boulders” into the Colorado River, changing it’s course and raising the pool level above the rapid, making the rapid’s drop much more precipitous, concentrated and swift, as well as adding a giant hole created by an immense new underwater boulder. Brown describes how the rapid is run now:

A boat caught in the hole can surf around for a moment on the wave, do a pirouette, flip back into the hole, sometimes with a half or full twist, and can window shade, flipping over and over. A swimmer going into a big hole can be driven to the bottom of the river by the strong down current, and tumbled along the rocks on the bottom while being thrashed around in every which direction by the water currents trying to break her arms and legs and pound the air out of her lungs. It’s dark down there too. On a good day, which is most of the time, she will come to the surface a hundred or more feet downstream, gasp for air, and wonder for a second if she is alive or in boatman heaven, and which would be preferable. Hopefully she won’t be tangled up with her boat, which usually comes out of the hole just behind her. This is one of life’s longest 15 seconds.

Chris Brown goes on to share sometimes scary, sometimes humorous accounts of other mishaps and adventures he witnessed or participated in during his many decades rafting the wild Colorado River. Few men alive today know the Grand Canyon the way Brown does and it shows in his hard-won river wisdom and in his astonishing and vivid photographs.

Path Of Beauty And The Photography Of Natural Landscapes

In the back of the book, Brown includes a chapter on his approach to photography:

To begin I ask myself: “Where do I want to be today; what is calling me?” There may be a favorite place I want to revisit, or a new place I want to see. I don’t expect to see anything in particular, or to take a specific photograph. Mostly I want to photograph in a place where I enjoy being, and that is sufficient. I begin right there, and I go where I am drawn. I might wander off in one direction, and for no apparent reason, go off in another. I follow the slightest impulses and urgings, wherever the moment pulls me. I generally end up in a good place, and sometimes I wonder how I got there. Over the years I have learned that the intuition that guides me works well, so I trust it… When I hear someone espousing rules of composition I divert my eyes and cover my ears… If I have the desire to take a preconceived photograph, one that is in my head, or to find a certain light, I will feel this expectation and will see only this imaginary photograph, and nothing else. If I don’t find what I desire, I will feel nothing but frustration… The desire to create a good photograph can tie me in a knot of anxiety and paralysis. If it has to be good, this is an invitation for the gremlin of judgment and criticism to sit on my shoulder, just out of sight. He questions if something is really good, suggests it has been done better before, and tells me it’s not worth the time and effort. This is the kiss of death for any creative endeavor. I have learned to simply ignore this voice when I am working on anything creative, and the decision to ignore it is actually quite simple, and totally freeing. I have to remind myself of this every time I go out, because desire and expectation creep up unnoticed. I find that the less I expect, the more things will reveal themselves to me.

Brown’s photographs, while spontaneously found, also exhibit a thoughtful, deliberate method once in process. His selection in the field and his processing of the image at home is carefully orchestrated, sometimes right down to each individual pixel. He spends at least many hours and most often many days working on each image in post-processing to get it exactly right. His images capture the context and character of the Grand Canyon, like few have ever done for any place. Brown took his friendship and insights from Philip Hyde seriously in that he has shown the world sights and insights that they might not have ever seen or realized otherwise. Through Path of Beauty, you can treat yourself to a whole new, more lifelike version of the Grand Canyon, the next best thing to being there. Though be hereby warned, Brown’s book will most certainly entice you to go there and perhaps inspire you to photograph the place yourself from a different perspective than you might have before.

The only aspect missing from the book, in my opinion, is at least some mention of the grave threats to the ecosystems and doubts as to the very survival of the river itself, as it is known, going into the future. Nonetheless, keeping in mind this is not an environmental activism project or a book for a cause specifically, except perhaps the cause of natural beauty and the enjoyment of an unparalleled visual journey through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, this canyon and this river cannot receive too much praise or recognition for aesthetic and wilderness qualities alone. Feast your eyes on Path of Beauty. You will not be sorry, but you may be changed by the experience.

About Christopher Brown’s Friendship With Philip Hyde And Learning Photography

The North Canyon Pool, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright Christopher Brown.

The North Canyon Pool, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1990 Christopher Brown.

In the last 40 years, Christopher Brown has become a leading and award-winning full-time “professional” creative photographer and master print maker. He teaches photography and print making in Boulder, Colorado. His work is displayed in many private and public collections across the United States, including the Denver Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Brown was a guide and boatman for Outward Bound for over 30 years, during which time he began to make photographs of the natural landscape.

In the early 1970s, Brown decided to become more serious about photography and wrote a note to Galen Rowell, Eliot Porter, Bill Ratcliff and to Philip Hyde. He received a reply from all of them, but the reply from Philip Hyde was in Chris Brown’s words, “by far the longest and most thoughtful.” Not long after, Brown asked Hyde and Porter to review his portfolio. Porter wrote back to say that he was very busy and that Brown ought to do what he, Porter, had done and study the work of the masters. Hyde wrote Chris a letter that was “six pages, single spaced, both sides.” Brown, in a taped interview in 2005, said that he and Hyde in many ways had a similar approach to the world:

If somebody wrote me today, I would just send them a copy of that letter because what Philip said is what I would say to aspiring photographers now. He talked a lot about that if you are going to be an artist, you make your own path and you design your own life. I’ve always been that kind of person, a do it yourself guy. It was good to hear from him and realize that the struggles I was having, in terms of how to do this, were basically what it was going to be like. Nothing was going to change and that was ok.

Christopher Brown and his wife Elizabeth Black, a painter, went to visit Ardis and Philip Hyde in their mountain home in the Northern Sierra of California. “It was like we were on the same river trip. He was just a lot further downstream.” Brown and Hyde went on to travel together many wilderness miles, including self-guided river trips down the Rio Grande and the San Juan Rivers, in the Needles and Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park.

Early in their correspondence Brown wrote to Hyde that he occasionally felt the need for the perspective controls and depth of field possible with a large format camera. He saw switching to a 4X5 film camera as an inevitability that he was not ready for at the time. Hyde wrote back regarding many of the advantages and disadvantages of large format photography. (Stay tuned for future blog posts that will include portions of these letters.) Brown at first used his medium format camera more, then converted to large format for several decades. Brown described his relationship with Hyde in Path of Beauty:

Photographer Philip Hyde let me be his friend, and we hung out together on the Rio Grand and in Canyonlands, laughing at each other fumbling with lens caps, debating whether an exposed piece of film was empty or full, while we searched for the next “snap.” Phil refused to be a guru or give advice, and steadfastly lived the belief that each artist has to find his own path.

In another section of Path of Beauty where Brown discusses the “art of seeing,” he recalls,

Photographer Philip Hyde said to me: “If you see a picture, better take it.” Life is always uncertain, so why not take yet another chance? You can debate the merits back in the studio. I try to save my analysis and critique for later. It is a distraction while I am photographing. “Shoot first and ask questions later.”

This may not be good advice for the use of guns, but it probably is the best policy for the use of cameras.

(More of the Philip Hyde—Chris Brown correspondence, the merits and drawbacks of color versus black and white photography and David Leland Hyde interviewing Christopher Brown in future blog posts.)

What is your process for making photographs?