Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part Two

April 2nd, 2014

Dinosaur National Monument 2013

Part Two: Across The Misty Ranching Highlands

Jones Creek In Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde.

Jones Creek In Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde. Archival Chromogenic Prints Available.

 Arrival In Vernal, Departure For Dinosaur

(Continued from the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part One.”)

Even with sporadic rain and spring virgas dotting the horizon, the high open mountain passes of Rocky Mountain National Park, shining with stark beauty, already felt dry like the deserts of the interior and Western side of Colorado. Coming from the drizzle of a wet summer on the Colorado Front Range in Boulder, the high desert plains north and west of Steamboat Springs were warm and welcoming with the smell of sage and sun cracked earth all the way to Vernal, Utah.

After arriving indestructible at Randy Fullbright’s house at 4:00 am, I followed his previous instructions for where to catch a few hours of sleep. After waiting as long as he could, Randy woke me up somewhere between 7:00 and 8:00 am, and I found I was no longer indestructible. Indeed, with the night’s caffeine worn off, I was bone tired. Not only did I have very little sleep that night, I had just spent two weeks with minimal sleep moving all of my belongings. Weariness finally caught up with me here, in Vernal, the very morning I was supposed to rise to the occasion for a long hike in Dinosaur National Monument.

Well, I couldn’t exactly drive all that way, show up on Mr. Fullbright’s doorstep and then try to explain why I was too tired to go, especially with excitement in the air and him already well into his coffee that was making him increasingly indestructible by the minute, not that he wasn’t tough as nails even in his sleep. Everything I began to say about being tired sounded like a feeble excuse on the way out. So, I abandoned that line for the time being. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have reasoned that there might be opportunities for complaining later, but fortunately that would prove not to be the case.

Just then it was all about gathering my hiking boots, socks, camera gear, day pack and other items for our outing that seemed determined to rock on whether my body was ready or not. Randy and I had been talking on the phone about exploring Dinosaur for weeks, if not months, and the day had arrived. It was overcast so far. We wrestled our gear into Randy’s Ford 4×4 pickup, made lunches, reshuffled my cooler and other food into a cool place in the house and jumped in the truck ready rumble.

The Approach: Diamond Mountain Road

Dinosaur lies east of Vernal. You can take the road to the Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side before you get back into Colorado, or take Highway 40 across the Colorado border, turning left on the Harper’s Corner Road near the park headquarters and Colorado side visitor’s center, or enter the national monument on dirt roads that cross the prairie ranch lands just east of Vernal. We took Diamond Mountain Road. It jarred us around here and there with a few rough spots, but generally was smooth graded gravel that turned to pothole-riddled pavement in the national monument. Diamond Mountain Road meandered through dry washes and over low mesas that melted together as one open mesa top and faded into the mist in the distance. The sun nearly broke through in a few places, but mainly the clouds kept the sage-dotted sparsely grass-covered earth draped in mystery.

This land stage is battleground not only to the interests of Dinosaur National Monument, wealthy ranchers, developers, speculators and miners in a new energy boom. It is a battleground for idealists wishing to grow wealthy as Vernal develops as a mecca for fracking and other dirty mining approaches. Some special interests believe the only obstacle to Vernal’s rise to economic stardom and wealth would be Dinosaur becoming a national park and thereby imposing higher air quality standards on the area, limiting industrialization. Tourism interests and others on the other side of the issue believe the opposite. They argue that it is exactly Dinosaur’s conversion to national park status that would bring more new prosperity to the region than any other short-lived or even long-lived mineral or oil and gas extraction boom.

Randy and I had discussed many of these issues in the weeks and months leading up to my arrival in the area. Randy had also told me stories about photographing many of the remote and little known parts of Dinosaur, some that my father, pioneer wilderness photographer Philip Hyde had also photographed in 1951-1955, many that he had not. Randy spoke of places like Island Park, Echo Park, The Chairs, Jones Hole, Harper’s Corner, Mantle’s Ranch, Old Roundtop, Split Mountain, Whirlpool Canyon, Gates of Ladore, Hell’s Canyon, Yampa Bench, Rainbow Park, Douglas Mountain, Blue Mountain, Cub Creek, Deer Lodge Park and many others in the canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers. For more on remote places to photograph see the blog series beginning with, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.”

Many Ranchers And Other Groups Are Against Dinosaur Becoming A National Park

“Many of the ranchers, who also happen to be old friends of mine, are against Dinosaur becoming a national park,” Fullbright said. “They are afraid that they will lose their rights to grazing on the national monument if it becomes a national park.” This has happened over time in several national parks of the west. In Canyonlands, for example, grazing rights and leases were written to run out after 100 years. Randy said that in contrast the National Park Service in Dinosaur would be willing to offer grazing rights in perpetuity. “It wouldn’t be that hard for the National Park Service to give each of the old ranching families a grandfather clause for running livestock as long as their blood lines last, but they don’t trust that.”

Later, after I returned home to Northeastern California, Randy suggested I contact Dan Johnson, Dinosaur’s Chief Interpretive Ranger, to hear more about the potential for a change in Dinosaur’s park status. More on the issues involved in the next blog post in this series…

As we crossed the high plateaus approaching the canyons of the Green River, the signs of grazing were apparent and an occasional lonely fence angled off into the distance to join others. The mood of austerity was accentuated by washed out skies, white mists and lands colored by a limited palette of grays and beiges. Even in these drab conditions, the desolate wind-swept near-raw land had a presence and nature that only brought joy rather than loneliness to the heart of long-time desert travelers and dwellers like Randy Fullbright and me. The ceiling began to lift as we drove. By the time we came up over a hill and could look down on the fish hatchery and see ahead the impressive 10-15 mile long escarpment of Diamond Mountain. The skies remained gray overhead, but we could see as far as the land allowed in every direction.

I made a few photographs before we plunged down toward Diamond Gulch on the road that began to wind sharply with the contours of the hillsides. We stopped once again before a longer stop for more photographs where the road turned to parallel Diamond Mountain. At that spot, the views up at the eroded sculpting of the strata of Diamond Mountain in subtle reds, oranges, tans and beiges, were well worth photographing.

Randy drove us on down just a little ways to the Fish Hatchery, where we parked, talked to the park ranger for a while, then hoisted day packs and set off down the fishing trail into Jones Hole along Jones Creek. More on the story of our hike, some of it’s highlights and surprises,  conservation photography, spiritual experiences in nature and more in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument, Part Three”…

Are you a desert lover? Why?

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.”

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…

Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part One

December 5th, 2013

Dinosaur National Monument 2013

Part One: Introduction And Setting

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Early Travels To Dinosaur

When I was a boy of about nine, I visited Dinosaur National Monument with my parents. Later, in my early teens my father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, and I stopped through Dinosaur on the way back from a Fastwater Expeditions Sportyak trip down the Green River with famous river guide Bill Belknap.

The second short visit, I do not remember much. From that trip, besides the vivid memories of the river run, the only memory I have of the Dinosaur area is of looking down on Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming upstream on the Green River. From the earlier trip with my parents, I recall only the visitor’s center and Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side of the Colorado-Utah border that runs through Dinosaur National Monument. This is what most travelers to Dinosaur remember too, because it is all that most travelers see. However, there is much more to Dinosaur than fossilized bones or an interpretive building. The national monument consists of over 209,000 acres of sandstone bluffs, monuments, rolling hills, outcroppings, shale, slate and the most diverse and interesting feature of all, the labyrinthine canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers. The highlight of these canyons is an oasis called Echo Park, where the two rivers come together and the canyons open up into a small valley between 1,000-foot cliffs. In the center of Echo Park rising straight out of the rivers at the confluence is a gigantic sandstone rock fin that on the near end looks like the cut off end of a loaf of bread. This 900 foot tall sandstone loaf end is called Steamboat Rock because from the side angle it looks like a steam ship.

Stories Of Our Fathers

Steamboat Rock figured prominently in discussions I had with my father after my mother passed away in 2002. After she was gone, I left a high paying job and moved from Upstate New York back home to Northern California. I moved in with Dad in the house I grew up in to help him out because he had not only lost the first love of his life, but had also lost his eyesight two years before and thus lost the second love of his life, photography. Dad explained how Steamboat Rock had become a symbol in the 1950s and 1960s of the then fledgling modern environmental movement and its first big success in defending Dinosaur from the invasion of dam builders, who wanted to erect two dams within the national monument, thereby flooding 96 out of 104 river miles of the Yampa and Green Rivers. For more about the battle over Dinosaur as well as conservation leader David Brower and photographer Philip Hyde’s roles in it, see the blog post series, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism.”

We talked much about Dinosaur and I poured over the maps and photographs. The series of blog posts above I originally wrote as a chapter in a book about my father’s life that I am still interviewing people for who knew Dad. By 2005, I could not wait to get up to the remote northern border of Utah and Colorado and see the place for myself. On the way back from a visit to Boulder, Colorado, I took the road less traveled, US Highway 40, and rolled across the open desert. A description of the approach and entry into Dinosaur can be found in the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 2.” In summary, I traveled the long pothole infested paved road out to Harper’s Corner, stopping at overlooks along the way and ending with a one mile hike out on a thin slice of sandstone 2,000 feet above the Green River at Harper’s Corner, where a large portion of Dinosaur’s geology and canyons can be seen all at once. I also took a risk going into Echo Park, made a tribute to my father at Split Mountain and had all sorts of other adventures, all fueled and inspired by my first listening to Jack Kerouac’s quintessential Beat Generation novel, On the Road. Kerouac’s lyrical, poetic prose lifted me and put a lilt in my step and my writing. For more on my journey as well as Dad’s explorations of the same territory and much more in the dusty, wild past of 1951, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 3” and “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4.”

Randy Fullbright And A New Dinosaur Campaign

I came back from Dinosaur changed, more on that and my profound experiences in future blog posts. The sad irony is that I did not have my camera with me in 2005 to record it all. Needless to say, this irony has been poking at me ever since I bought a Nikon D90, my first digital camera, in 2009. I have been hankering to go back, but never had the chance. Enter artist, goldsmith, gallery owner, gem and fossil expert, photography collector, photographer and impromptu wilderness guide Randy Fullbright.

I first started talking to Randy Fullbright via e-mail and phone in July 2011 when he introduced himself through comments on my blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 9.” Ever since then we have talked from time to time about his extensive photographic explorations of Dinosaur and about my dad’s work there too. Randy has two goals: 1. To photograph all of Dinosaur, no easy feat, and 2. To help Dinosaur become a national park. To these ends he has worked tirelessly and become well acquainted with many of the park rangers and management of the monument, as well as the local politics of air quality, oil and gas exploration and drilling, mining, tourism, recreation, ranching and the boom time explosion of the population of Vernal, Utah. Randy operates Fullbright Studios in Vernal, is active in the community and knows just about anyone who is anyone in town and all over the West.

While I spent this last summer in Boulder, Colorado for the first time again after a two year absence, I began to talk seriously about taking Randy up on his offer to take me into Dinosaur to some of the places few to no one else has photographed and locations my father photographed in the 1950s. Isn’t that a great offer? Again on my way home to Northern California, I took Highway 40, the road less traveled, and raged across the desert to Vernal, where I arrived at Randy’s house behind his gallery at 4:00 am. I did not see him until the morning when we embarked on a dirt road romping, camera carrying trip in to Dinosaur and an unforgettable hike into Jones Hole. Stay tuned for the whole story in blog posts to follow in this series, plus more about the mystical canyons, people, politics, fishing and simple freedom of Jones Creek and the Green River in Dinosaur…

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part Two.”)

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.”

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? 

Official New Release: Sierra Portfolio

May 29th, 2013

Announcing David Leland Hyde’s All New Sierra Portfolio

“The Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light… the most divinely beautiful of all mountain chains I have ever seen.” –John Muir

New Sierra Portfolio By David Leland Hyde On PhilipHyde.com

Half Dome From Mirror Lake Trail, Winter, Yosemite National Park, Sierra, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

Half Dome From Mirror Lake Trail, Winter, Yosemite National Park, Sierra, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

John Muir wandered and celebrated the Sierra for more than a decade inspiring thousands of artists and lovers of wilderness to “climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” My father, American landscape photographer Philip Hyde, was one artist so inspired. His last book, published in 1992 and titled, “The Range of Light,” featured quotes from John Muir to go with his color, as well as black and white photographs.

When Dad was 16 he first visited the Sierra and labeled his map of Yosemite National Park, “Home.” Twelve years later in 1950 he and my mother moved to the mountains in the Northern Sierra. Another 15 years later a doctor friend helped them give birth to me at home in the wilderness of the Sierra. I grew up in the woods along Indian Creek and have been “haunted by waters” like Norman Maclean ever since. The Sierra could also be called the “range of shimmering water” as it is more abundant in rivers, lakes and streams than any other mountain range.

The house I was born in is situated on an ancient granite rockslide that originated from Grizzly Peak. The peak itself is not visible from our home directly below the mountain. We see Grizzly Ridge, rising precipitously up 4,000 feet to 7,600 feet elevation, from Indian Creek at 3,600 feet elevation just below the house. Nonetheless, this northern end of the Sierra is mild, softly rounded and much lower than the high Sierra of Yosemite, Kings Canyon and the John Muir Trail.

As a child of the mountains, they raised me just as much as my parents. My mother knew I would learn many of life’s most important lessons by wandering around in the woods, fishing and hiking along Indian Creek, Spanish Creek, Greenhorn Creek, Ward Creek, Red Clover Creek, Montgomery Creek, Lights Creek, Hinchman Creek, Peters Creek and many of the other streams of Plumas County and the Feather River region.

These local names are telltale signs of my focus on local photography for the last four years since I forged into digital photography; and for many years before that while carrying a film camera off and on, sometimes going whole decades without a camera too. Here I learned to walk, talk, run, swim, fish, ice skate, drive in the snow, jump off of big rocks into deep waters and all the fun a boy could ask for without any need of television, video games, cell phones or portable computers.

I understand the need, in some cases, for landscape photographers to travel. During his more than 60-year career, Dad traveled an average of 99 days out of every year. Yet even Dad’s travels were almost exclusively regionally limited to the Western United States, primarily in Arizona and Utah canyons and California mountains. Is it necessary that all photographers go to Machu Picchu, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, or even Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, Tunnel View in Yosemite Park, or Zabriski Point in Death Valley National Park? Sometimes photographers traveling to Iceland might help save the ice sheet, photographers traveling to far northern British Columbia might save a vast wilderness like the Sacred Headwaters. However, generally, I feel more and more that I am a proponent of photographic bioregionalism. In other words, bloom where you’re planted. Considering that Edward Weston said he could look at his boot and find a great photograph, amazing images are everywhere, if the photographer looks, or rather sees closely enough. There is no need to travel great distances to find beauty. It can be found right in the backyard as locally focused well-known photographers like William Neill, Michael Frye, Gary Crabbe, Richard Wong and Guy Tal prove over and over, day in, day out.

I was born in the Sierra, here is where I live and here is where I photograph. This new portfolio is a collection of a small slice of my personal expression through the lens, very often one single rudimentary lens, a Costco special Nikon 18-55 mm that came in a kit with my Nikon D90, a Nikon 55-200 lens, a camera case, an SD card and camera manual. Sure, some day I hope to break out Dad’s large format Deardorff view cameras and his two medium format Rollei SL66 film cameras to try out some black and white film, but for now, I’ll stick to the easy to use and versatile Nikon D90. I am lucky to have Dad’s nearly indestructible Bogen #3028 tripod with handy pads on the legs for comfortable carrying over the shoulder for long distances or while free rock climbing with one hand down into some canyon in these fair mountains of home.

Nearly all of my photographs are single exposure, single image capture, though now that I’m learning to blend, I usually make at least two, sometimes three exposures of most high contrast photographs. The only photograph in this new Sierra Portfolio that is a blend is #3 “Oaks, Grizzly Ridge, Fall.” It is not a blend for contrast, but for the purpose of lightening the California Black Oaks and shifting color temperature of part of the image and not another. Many of these Sierra Nevada photographs involve very little Photoshop work at all, except where obvious. Color saturation was rarely increased with the saturation slider. I usually only increase saturation as a byproduct of working with the curves to attain the look of the original scene. People who don’t use Photoshop and claim their images are more pure because they for the most part use their RAW file, are generally producing images that are less true to life than those who use Photoshop because the RAW file rarely match any scene the way it looked originally. For more on this and related subjects see also the blog post, “David Leland Hyde’s Portfolio One Revisions And New Releases.” Please keep in mind that I create these photographs in limited editions of only 100. When they’re gone, they’re gone. Enjoy browsing: Sierra Portfolio… and please share which you like best…

(Originally posted for soft release May 29, 2013.)

Why Defend National Parks And Other Wilderness By Philip Hyde

May 7th, 2013

Why Defend National Parks?

By Philip Hyde Circa 1951

Landscape Photography Blogger Note: Philip Hyde wrote this unpublished 1951 magazine article while the controversy was heating up over two proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument. In 1951, Richard Leonard, who was on the board of both the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club, as well as David Brower, another board member who would soon after become the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club and the father of modern environmentalism, sent Philip Hyde on assignment to Dinosaur National Monument. It was the first time a photographer ever went on assignment for an environmental cause. The resulting book published in 1955, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers, edited by Wallace Stegner, was also the first book ever published for an environmental cause. Article edited by David Leland Hyde in November 2011. To read more about Philip Hyde’s travels to Dinosaur in his own words, see the blog post, “On The Road To Dinosaur.”
Tenpeak Range From Slopes Above Image Lake,  Glacier Peak Wilderness - North Cascades National Park, Washington, copyright 1956 Philip Hyde.

Tenpeak Range From Slopes Above Image Lake, Glacier Peak Wilderness – North Cascades National Park, Washington, copyright 1956 by Philip Hyde. The 4X5 large format version of this photograph helped make North Cascades National Park. It appeared on the poster for the campaign and in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book “Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland.” The printer for the book, Barnes Press, lost the large format film original. This photograph, drum scanned from the 35 mm version of the same image with nearly identical framing is now a popular lightjet print. Before the digital era, Philip Hyde did not print his 35 mm slides large. However, with the sophistication of digital technology, the image is again released to the world.

In a few wild places on the surface of the Earth, nature has reached a climax. The United States of America has been gifted with a bountiful supply of these places of peak expression. While many were actively trying to convert these places to some kind of material gain, a few were finding out that these places had an intangible resource, a spiritual benefit that made itself felt in these natural areas. Fortunately, the inspirational character of wild places is becoming more recognized, even as exploitative uses are also on the rise.

Now more than ever, it is time for a new emphasis on intrinsic values and non-commercial use of our national parks. We have argued for preservation on principle, but the principle is little understood. People need a clearer sense of the importance of wilderness preservation. Dinosaur National Monument is a good example of how the dam builders offer people only one use of the national park system, a use that displaces most other uses. In our materially minded society, the “what can I get out of it” approach commands powerful attention. Irrigation water and electric power are strong selling points for building dams and limiting the scope of uses in Dinosaur National Monument and other units of the national park system. Conservation organizations all over the country oppose dam construction in Dinosaur National Monument. Why? What alternative uses do they propose?

To find the answer to this question, we must begin by taking a closer look at Dinosaur National Monument itself. This leads us to ask more questions: Why is Dinosaur a national monument? Why is the area set aside and its natural resources out of the reach of exploitation? The answers to these questions transcend solely material considerations. The canyons of Dinosaur National Monument were protected because they offer a benefit of greater value than can be obtained from the physical properties of the land. The labyrinthine canyons offer a place of inspiration where the integrity of nature is still intact, unaltered by the materialistic drives and desires of humans. It is a place where people can go to contemplate the works of a power greater than themselves, where they can transcend the destructive aspects of ego and lose some of their self-conscious thoughts.

That such an opportunity is a tonic to those who avail themselves of it is not sentimental wishful thinking, but has been demonstrated and proven. Preservation of an area because it provides such an opportunity is justified in and of itself alone, without any of the many other alternative uses to the industrial extraction of the natural resources.

In such a wild place as Dinosaur, where nature is at climax, the physical uses are transitory like elsewhere, but their transitory nature puts into perspective the sacrifice of other values necessary to obtain a fleeting benefit. The minerals are mined and permanently disappear when there are no more minerals. Even a great dam can become a monument to expediency by filling with mud in a region of erosion where rivers carry a heavy burden of silt. The advance of science may bypass the most foresighted means of exploiting nature, as when atomic power generates electricity, but will no place be left untouched? Will we cut down the last tree? Shoot the last mountain lion? Stone the last canyon swallow? Dam the last river and flood the last canyon? Is it not time to defend and stand by the official recognition of the spiritual benefits of setting aside at least some sacred ground where people can find much needed solace and renewal?

For an introduction as to why the battle over Dinosaur was pivotal to the conservation movement, how the Dinosaur campaign transformed the Sierra Club and brought conservation into the limelight, transforming it into modern environmentalism, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1,” and other blog posts in the same series. The Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series popularized the coffee table photography book. To read more about this ground-breaking book series, see the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 1.”

Monday Blog Blog: Tributes By Outdoor Photographer, QT Luong, G. Dan Mitchell And A New Grand Canyon Battle

April 15th, 2013

Monday Blog Blog: Philip Hyde By Outdoor Photographer Blog, Christopher Robinson; QT Luong; And G. Dan Mitchell

Grand Canyon Escalade: Jackson Frishman And Greg Russell Share A Grand Canyon Adventure To View A Proposed New Development Site At The Little Colorado River

(What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? See the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”)

View Up The Colorado River From Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1964 David Leland Hyde.

View Up The Colorado River From Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. This photograph appeared in the Sierra Club Book in the Exhibit Format Series, “Time And The River Flowing: Grand Canyon,” which helped in the campaign to prevent two dams in the Grand Canyon at either end of the national park.

Philip Hyde has had a long history of writing for, being written about and being interviewed for Outdoor Photographer Magazine. Recently, the Outdoor Photographer editor Christopher Robinson wrote a tribute about Philip Hyde for the Outdoor Photographer Blog. Read the tribute here, “Philip Hyde: Photographer, Conservationist, Artist.”

Also, in the last few weeks, QT Luong wrote an insightful, savvy, well-researched and thorough survey of Philip Hyde’s books and career defending wilderness with photography. See, “Philip Hyde Books.

G. Dan Mitchell is a prolific photographer and blogger about photography. A big thank you also to him for blogging about QT Luong’s book survey and on Philip Hyde in general. Read G. Dan Mitchell’s post here, “‘Philip Hyde Books’ – QT Luong.”

Besides appearing in more environmental campaigns than any other photographer and introducing color to landscape photography, Philip Hyde is also known for his photographs in Time and The River Flowing: Grand Canyon helping to save the Grand Canyon from two dams. Now there are new threats to the Grand Canyon. Jackson Frishman weaves a fine narrative of his visit to the Mouth of the Little Colorado River in which he discusses the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade. Here’s his own description of his blog post, “Pilgrimage To Solitude“:

Note: This is a big post on a big subject, and I appreciate your taking the time to read it through. But even if you can only look through the pretty pictures for now, I hope you’ll still find an opportunity to visit SavetheConfluence.com and read about the development threatening a wild, spectacular, culturally resonant and ecologically important corner of Grand Canyon National Park. You can see details of the proposal and hear the developers’ side of the story at GrandCanyonEscalade.com.

Greg Russell, who accompanied Jackson Frishman on his hiking adventure into Grand Canyon National Park, also wrote his own brilliant tribute to the Grand Canyon and story about their trek to Cape Solitude where they could overlook the confluence of the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River. Read Greg Russell’s blog post, “Through The Grama Grass.”

Also, I would like to mention James Hunt Photography’s Blog because he also wrote a tribute to Philip Hyde called, “Images That Change The World – Updated” that embedded the Philip Hyde Short Video back in 2011 when we released it. James Hunt is currently working to educate people about how climate change is impacting forests and wilderness in New England, in particular at the Quabbin Reservoir. The Quabbin is an “accidental wilderness” in Massachusetts two hours west of Boston, where invasive species coming up from the South, Red Pine Needle Scale and other impacts provide indications of change. You will have the opportunity to read more about James Hunt and the Quabbin in a future blog post.

David Leland Hyde’s Portfolio One Revisions And New Photographs

April 5th, 2013

Many New Releases Added And Others Revised In My Portfolio On PhilipHyde.com

Cypress Trees, Point Arena Odd Fellows Cemetery, Mendocino Pacific Ocean Coast, California, copyright 2012 David Leland Hyde.

Cypress Trees, Point Arena Odd Fellows Cemetery, Mendocino Pacific Ocean Coast, California, copyright 2012 David Leland Hyde.

Besides several images from the blog post, “My 12 ‘Greatest Hits’ Of 2012,” now on display large on PhilipHyde.com, many other newly released DLH images are now on view and a number of previously released photographs are now revised and updated. See the David Leland Hyde Portfolio at the end of 16 Philip Hyde Portfolios on the Philip Hyde Photography website and acquire a fine art archival lightjet chromogenic print out of a limited edition of only 100.

For those who are not familiar with the term chromogenic, the simple definition is that such prints are not inkjet digital prints, but form the image on photographic paper through exposing the paper with light in a photographic process as opposed to using a digital print making ink set to color the paper. For more on digital prints versus chromogenic prints, see the blog posts, “Photography Galleries, Collectors, Appraisers And Digital Prints,” and “Why Photography Galleries, Curators And Collectors Like Limited Editions.”

Mesas, Boulders, San Rafael Swell, Utah, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Mesas, Boulders, San Rafael Swell, Utah, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

In this blog post, I will share a little about the making of a few of the newly released photographs now in the revised portfolio. In the blog posts, “Northern California Beaches: Misty Sonoma Coast” and “Actor, Photographer, Apple Farmer And 1960s Activist Nicholas King’s Memorial,” I included a few of the landscape photographs from the Sonoma County Pacific Ocean Coast and the Mendocino County Pacific Ocean Coast. Some of these California beaches and rocky cliffs can now be seen in the revised portfolio. One image that did not appear in “My 12 ‘greatest hits’ of 2012,” from my Sonoma and Mendocino Coasts trip, that now appears in my portfolio is “Cypress Trees, Point Arena Odd Fellows Cemetery.” Also, a photograph from 2009 of Utah called, “Mesas, Boulders, San Rafael Swell,” that I posted with my guest blog post on Greg Russell’s Alpenglow Images, “Make Your Own Tripod Tracks,” has itself also been revised and added to the remade portfolio gallery.

Sandstone Boulders Against The Sky, San Rafael Swell, Utah, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Sandstone Boulders Against The Sky, San Rafael Swell, Utah, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

On the same trip through Utah in 2009, I also made the vertical, “Sandstone Boulders Against The Sky.” This photograph was one of many I made that morning. I left Boulder, Colorado the evening before and spent the night just past the Green River crossing where Interstate 70 climbs up onto the Colorado Plateau. It was a bitter cold winter night with blowing snow and howling gale force winds. In the morning my Ford Van was caked with frozen snow, ice and road grime. I stopped there to sleep only for a few hours in the middle of the night and woke up just as the light began to dawn on the snowy landscape. The desert lands of Southern Utah came to live with new definition and beauty in the fresh snow. In the early morning my hands, nose and other extremities felt like they would surely get frost bite, but I persisted to photograph all morning. By late morning the snow was beginning to melt off in the surprisingly warm sun, a welcome contrast to the cold of the night before. As the snow melted, intricate and visually fascinating snow patterns were left against the red rock sandstone background. Also, the light softened and became more diffuse as high clouds moved back in.  The sandstone boulders appeared in many of my photographs, but this image in particular also captured the sky and the light.

“Dawn, American River From Fair Oaks Bluffs,” I made in 2012 from another Uncle, Clint King’s home the morning of his memorial service. I got up about a half hour before sunrise to be able to catch the sunrise and the mist on the American River. Fair Oaks is a beautiful bedroom suburb town on the outskirts of Sacramento. My Uncle Clint was a self-made man who did very well. I will write a future blog tribute to him as I did for my Uncle Nick King. The tribute will also contain more images of the event and related subjects.

After my Uncle Clint’s memorial celebration in November 2012, I drove to Livermore to see the Golden Decade Legacy Show at Figurehead Gallery that included my father’s vintage and authorized archival prints, Ansel Adams prints, Minor White prints and the black and white photography of other students of theirs from the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. After viewing the exhibition, I attempted to photograph at the Livermore Gravel Pits as Dad did in 1949. However, due to liability, they would only let me photograph on a day where the office foreman could accompany me. I tried to sneak some photos, but an upper level manager drove over and yelled obscenities at me.

Manly Beacon, Badlands And Panamint Range, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Manly Beacon, Badlands And Panamint Range, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

I drove from there down to photograph some architecture of the restored old homes in downtown Pleasanton, California. However, still craving more gritty fare, I also stopped under the freeway to photograph graffiti and street art. On the way home through Stockton, I also exited in downtown there, but did not find much I wanted to photograph until I found my way to the Deep Water Port of Stockton. Again, I ran into management that would not allow photographs without contacting the corporate office and coming back another day. One of the homeland security guards told me how to drive around to the other side of the San Joaquin River and photograph the Port of Stockton from a distance. This is how I made the photograph, “Port of Stockton” that also appears in the updated portfolio.

In 2009 in Death Valley National Park, I first came across the phenomena of photographers overrunning an iconic landscape. I descended into Death Valley during the evening magic hour, made some images near Panamint Springs and a few other stops on the way down to Stovepipe Wells and the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes. I hit the sand running in the Twilight hour. The dunes were heavily beaten with footprints, as I suppose there had not been any windstorms recently. Still, I managed to make a number of good images including some of the classic tallest dune there at Mesquite Flats with some Amargosa Range mountains in the background. I was satisfied, short on time and the campground and all lodging was full. I moved on to the Furnace Creek area and parked for the night in my Van in the hotel parking lot.

Two Horses With Live Oak, "Inveration," Sierra Foothills Near Dunlap, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Two Horses With Live Oak, “Inveration,” Sierra Foothills Near Dunlap, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

The next morning I woke up in the dark and headed out to Zabriski Point. I was amazed to find that even an hour before sunrise, the parking lot already had around 10 vehicles in it. I took the paved road width trail up to Zabriski Point proper and found close to a dozen photographers already set up waiting for the sun to come up. I stopped briefly in the paved stone-encircled corral where more cattle were gathering by the minute to photograph the sunrise cliché.

I walked back toward the parking lot, but saw a small dirt trail taking off for the ridge that angled toward Manly Beacon. I took this trail and the crowd of gathering photographers soon faded into the distance. I followed the dirt trail along the ridge top marveling at the vast open space of the Badlands and how not one photographer could be seen in the entire Death Valley landscape, except in the small confines of one paved trail overlook. I made a few photographs of Manly Beacon, an icon, by any definition, though captured from an angle that only a few take the time to see because it requires a little extra walking. The irony is that the sunrise all those other photographers were waiting for never happened. The sun never came up and never came out. it remained cloudy, as you can see in my photograph. I thought about how my Dad would most probably have hiked way down into the Badlands with his large format view camera, miles from the parking lot, lost amidst the bare earth of the erosion landforms. I remembered being teased in school for being different. At that moment  in the Death Valley landscape, all I felt was gratitude for my upbringing. My parents taught me not only to think “outside the box,” but more importantly to live outside the box… and as Robert Frost said, “That has made all the difference.”

Urban Railroad Ultra Fine, Reno, Nevada, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Urban Railroad Ultra Fine, Reno, Nevada, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

On that note I introduce “Two Horses With Live Oak, ‘Inveration,’ Sierra Foothills Near Dunlap, California,” and “Urban Railroad, Ultra Fine, Reno, Nevada.” These two 2009 photographs are what I call Photoshop experimental photography art. “Inveration” is a made up word to describe my Photoshop process for that image.

Please share: what do you think of these experiments and the other images? Do you live outside the box and away from the herd?