Posts Tagged ‘slot canyons’

Best Photographs Of 2014

December 18th, 2014

2014 The Year In Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Making Of “Reflection Pool, Escalante River Side Canyon”

October 23rd, 2014

Travel Log by Philip Hyde

Group Sierra Club Trip, Escalante River Canyon Backpack

Escalante, Utah, May 1968

Note: Thanks to Bill Clinton, On His Last Day in Office, The Escalante Wilderness Is Now Part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

By Philip Hyde

May 1: Gates Cabin Camp to Camp Below 25 Mile Canyon

Reflection Pool, Curved Sandbar, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde.

Reflection Pool, Curved Sandbar, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde.

(To view the photograph larger or order prints: “Reflection Pool, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Utah.”)

The canyon was narrowing and the river stretches between bends were getting longer while the bends were tighter. We began this day to traverse the upper part of what the wranglers call “The Narrows.” The canyon walls were intermittently higher and the big alcove bends characteristic of the lower Escalante River near Glen Canyon had begun. There were also more short side canyons.

I turned and wandered into one canyon on the left at right angles to the river. Suddenly, another sharp bend next to a large sand slope looked promising, with a narrow bottom and high walls, cottonwoods, box elders and a few Gambel oaks. About two miles up this canyon, it ended abruptly, but there was a small, hard to see passage between two huge angular boulders. I entered the chamber, which was not unlike Cathedral in the Desert—its equal in quality, though not in size.

The vaulted roof was not so soaring and the dimensions of the chamber much less, but the same feeling of remote, secret beauty was there. At the bottom sat likewise a plunge pool for reflections and the beauty of a curved sandbar. This pool was fed by a now-dry set of chute-like chimneys in the roof, rather than a waterfall, like Cathedral in the Desert. The chimneys, one alone and a double-barreled one next to it, were beautifully water-sculptured and made me wish there was some way to ascend to the level of the chimneys to see the carved stream channel above. I spent perhaps two hours there, then left reluctantly, but elated to find this chamber well out of reach of “Lake” Powell’s inundation.

I continued back to the river, then down canyon, crossing through the water back and forth innumerable times. The canyon was really narrow by then and the walls were more impressive, creating a chamber of darkness with a thin strip of sky above. I wandered on, past some sharp bends with great sandstone columns and overhangs. I kept on past the “Wrinkled Eyes,” two rounded out holes high in the wall of the left bank. I passed 25 Mile Canyon, but at first I started into its mouth, went 100 feet or so, reflected on the hour and decided to head for camp instead.

I was the last man in. Campers were having their soup in their Sierra Club cups beneath a deep red cliff perhaps 350 feet high that was catching the last rays of the sun. I ate and then made my bed among the limbs of a medium-sized cottonwood tree—a leafy bower with a sandy floor and more privacy than usual. It was cloudy again with stars and blowing broken clouds overhead, their moisture too diminished by the time they reached us to dump any, though it looked a bit threatening at times. My tarp was ready to be rigged, but no drops came and I slept.

Glen Canyon Book Review: Resurrection By Annette McGivney With James Kay

September 25th, 2013

Book Review on the Biggest Conservation Story of All Time and New Solutions… Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West by Annette McGivney with Photographs by James Kay and Foreword by Bill McKibben (Braided River, 2009)

How We Lost Glen Canyon

Resurrection Book Cover, Photograph copyright 2009 James Kay.

Resurrection Book Cover, Lake Powell at Hite Marina, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, Photograph copyright 2007 James Kay.

In the mid 1950s, David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, led a coalition of conservation groups in an effort to permanently banish industrial development from national park lands. The primary battle defending the sanctity of the national park system was over two dams proposed inside Dinosaur National Monument. The proposed dams in Dinosaur would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument on the Yampa and Green Rivers.

David Brower in Congressional testimony used 9th Grade math to prove that if Glen Canyon Dam were higher, it could hold back and store more water than both proposed dams in Dinosaur. Congress removed the two dams in Dinosaur National Monument from the Colorado River Compact and passed the bill approving the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Having never seen Glen Canyon, David Brower and many others did not know the extent or nature of the sacrifice made to protect the national park system. Looking back, especially after he floated through Glen Canyon on the Colorado River for the first time in 1958, David Brower mused that he and the coalition might have pushed on and possibly succeeded in saving Glen Canyon. (For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.”

Ironically, before World War II, Glen Canyon had been part of a proposed national park that would have encompassed more than two million acres spread across much of Southeastern Utah including most of what are now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park and all of Glen Canyon. The attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted these discussions and turned the attention of Congress to preparations for war.

Drought, Distortions, Glen Canyon Dam And A New Dream Of The West

The Bureau of Reclamation closed the gates on Glen Canyon Dam in 1964, but “Lake” Powell did not reach full capacity until 1980. The reservoir water level ebbed and flowed until the last time it was full in 1996, then drew down over 100 feet by 2003 and has remained nearly half empty or more than half empty ever since. It turns out that the Colorado River flow calculations that justified the building of Glen Canyon Dam in the first place were exaggerated, as were the rainfall estimates on which expansion and development interests based the entire settlement of the Western US plains and Southwestern desert. Tree ring studies and other climate measures show that the 20th Century was one of the wettest ever in the Western US. Today’s much lower rainfall and river flow rates are more characteristic of the region, though big dam proponents are officially calling the present conditions a drought. Nonetheless, scientists project that “Lake” Powell may never be full again. Odds are that both “Lake” Mead and “Lake” Powell will both remain as they are now, roughly half full or less for the foreseeable future.

Annette McGivney, in Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West, tells the story of the loss of Glen Canyon, but more importantly the rebirth of life in the side canyons since the reservoir has subsided. Glen Canyon today is the poster child for watershed recovery for both Glen and Grand Canyon, as well as for the resilience of nature in general. McGivney’s easy-flowing text accompanies the photography of James Kay, who for more than three decades has photographed the Colorado Plateau, the seismically uplifted high desert that the Colorado River cuts through in Utah and Arizona. James Kay knows this land and these canyons. His sensitive, artistic eye finds for us the devastation that was, and the haunting, unparalleled paradise that is Glen Canyon.

McGivney and Kay explored many of the tributary canyons together for this project, either by boat, by kayak, but most often on foot, backpacking from the reservoir up canyon; or from the rims of the sandstone tablelands above, down into narrow, winding passages and rock alcoves. These slot canyons, often hundreds of feet tall and in places only a few feet wide, are already verdant with newly rooted cottonwoods, willows, and grasses, as well as teaming with wildlife just as they had been for centuries before everything drowned under the full reservoir.

Annette McGivney quotes Richard Ingebretsen, co-founder with David Brower of Glen Canyon Institute, who asked, “Why keep two reservoirs half empty?” Glen Canyon Institute, founded for the ultimate purpose of reclaiming Glen Canyon and turning it into a national park, is working on a current campaign called, “Fill Mead First.” The idea is to keep “Lake” Mead full because it supplies many cities of the Southwest with water and generates their electricity. If “Lake” Powell were then drawn down, Glen Canyon could be restored and even made into a national park. Many who saw Glen Canyon before the reservoir say that it rivaled the Grand Canyon in beauty.

Canyon Photography On Par With The Best Ever

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

James Kay’s photographs in Resurrection certainly provide the proof of this claim to canyon beauty. Traveling by Kayak, powerboat and most often on foot, Kay has shown us as never before, the side canyons and back alcoves of Glen Canyon reborn. His style is both effectively documentary, yet artistically strong. Kay’s experience in the canyons of the Southwest has given him not just an eye for form; he has an eye for gracefully capturing the forms of canyons. His understanding of natural light and how to use it to best portray the curves, edges, near and far, contrasts, shadows and indirect illumination of layers on layers of weather-sculpted sandstone.

Some of Kay’s compositions are simple. For example, one photograph in Resurrection depicts a massive wall of rock that juts out into “Lake” Powell like the prow of a ship. The vantage point of the image is from a boat close to water level. At the bottom of the wall that is about 200 feet tall, we see a small boat dwarfed by the immensity of stone above. The photograph is a work of beauty, while at the same time it accomplishes the practical task of dramatizing just how far the reservoir has receded from the high water line marked by a gray-tan mud stain, or “bathtub ring,” as people call it. The top half of the cliff is the beautiful red-brown of native rock, while the bottom half of the cliff is coated with ugly mud stain.

Other images give us the haunting, far away longing of luminous reflections or newly sprouted grasses, shrubs, cottonwoods and other lush greenery. Some photographs are purposely ugly, some are otherworldly and nearly abstract, while still others incorporate hikers in soaring walled narrows or show us intimate rushing water. If you love the desert and canyons, this is a book and a place different. Yet despite how unusual this place is, those who see it as nothing more than a holding tank, a cash register or a recreation area for motorized tourism, have seemingly never stopped to see it the way James Kay shares it.

The Desert, Progress, Jobs, Money And Other Myths

Despite US Bureau of Reclamation and pro-development rhetoric, the only two justifiable reasons Glen Canyon Dam was ever necessary, and remotely remains necessary, were the Politics surrounding the agreement between the seven Western states that share the water; and the Income from recreation on “Lake” Powell. The viability of Hydropower generation has nearly run out with low water levels often not providing enough gravity water drop to turn the turbines at sufficient speed. Besides, the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act no longer allows the fluctuation of water levels caused by increased dam releases during peak power usage.

Politically in relation to water use, the three Upper Colorado River Basin states: Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, for good reason mistrust the four lower basin states: California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. The lower basin states have all along taken more than their share of Colorado River water. Glen Canyon Dam provides a physical obstruction by which the upper states can regulate the flow to the lower states and keep them from taking more than their allotment, if and when the upper states catch up with the lower states in their land development and thirst for water.

Even though the desert does not inherently provide the water to support the building of industry and commercial buildings, suburbs, golf courses, and abundant water features, the seven Western states of the Colorado River system have been in a race to develop as fast as they can to be sure they obtain as much Colorado River water as possible in relation to the neighboring states. John Wesley Powell, whom the reservoir was named after, warned against developing the West beyond its water capacity. He recommended a number of water saving approaches that have been implemented by a few wise communities, but ignored by most.

Indeed, McGivney reminds us that the cities of the desert tend to flaunt the image of the manufactured oasis. The Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2005 adopted the slogan, “The Desert is a Myth.” A July hike in any direction beyond the edge of a Phoenix suburb like Anthem, for instance, and it becomes readily apparent that the desert is real and it is the lush golf courses that perhaps are already, or soon will be a mirage. Land development in the West has achieved similar temporary high profits and blindness to long-term consequences as recent Wall Street derivative speculation and the banking system near meltdown.

Nonetheless, it is less the cities that would run dry without “Lake” Powell than the farming of water-intensive crops like alfalfa, hay and cotton, grown not to supply market demand, but to take advantage of government subsidies and tax breaks. Dams are portrayed as symbolizing progress and economic growth, but special interests are the primary benefactors. In Utah, for example, mining, ranching and industrial agriculture represent less than 3% of the economy, but they use 85% of Utah’s water. Even though industrial agriculture comprises a decreasing portion of the Western economy, the industry is one of the largest contributors to political campaigns. Thus, even though dam projects, expanded water pipelines and other water infrastructure will not sustain society long-term, these outdated public works continue to garner support of those in political power.

A Dying Motor Tourism Industry And The Future

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century.

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. James Kay used this photograph side-by-side with his own like this in the book Resurrection too.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point, with the Cathedral almost fully recovered as only a few feet of water were left in the bottom.

The motorized brand of tourism that thrived on “Lake” Powell in the 1980s and 1990s, has generated significant income for concessionaires and boat operators, who also provide proportionally large support to politicians and boost the local economy. In 1992, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area hosted a record 3.5 million visitors, nearly as many at this peak as visited the Grand Canyon. Yet today with the shrinkage of the “lake” area, the closure of two out of five of the marinas and high gasoline prices area hotel stays and other tourism has dropped by 40 percent. Nearby national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Zion each increased visitation in the last decade. Indeed, the economy is playing a major role in the dying of motorized tourism nearly everywhere. Less disposable income, especially among the upper-middle class and upper class has led to less motorized lake recreation. In the past many high earning tourists have spent discretionary money on Jet Skis, Houseboat shares and other expensive water toys, but in the last 10 years public lands hiking and camping has grown, while motor boating has decreased significantly. Local jobs in Page, Arizona and elsewhere around “Lake” Powell have depended almost entirely on motor tourism. Most local people, including the Native Americans in the area, want to prolong a dying industry to maintain their livelihoods. While denying that their way of life is dying, they are likely missing the opportunities and shift in perspective that could bring them a far more sustainable, Earth-friendly and perhaps most importantly, a more permanent security.

McGivney’s “Step-by-step guide to saving Glen Canyon and then, perhaps the world” offers the kind of forward thinking solutions that thought leaders have begun to discuss in recent years. While these innovative resolutions will become requirements, rather than options in the near future, as a civilization we have a big leap to negotiate before we are ready to leave our self-serving short-term approaches behind and move into a mindset that is more conducive to sustaining our society and all life on Earth. This is perhaps the text’s only flaw, or perhaps it is more of a challenge: the leap from where our watershed management and environmental stewardship are now to where they need to be to sustain life in the Southwest and on Earth long range may be too big. Are we up to the task? Perhaps an even better question is: can we learn to cooperate with, listen to, find new ways to meet the needs of and educate those who have a vested interest in business as it has been for far too long?

For more on Glen Canyon and Philip Hyde’s photography of the lost paradise see the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1,” or “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”