Posts Tagged ‘Vermillion Cliffs’

Only A Little Planet by Philip Hyde

May 10th, 2017

Only A Little Planet

The Plumas Lantern Newspaper, Greenville, California, March 1973

Opinion Column by Philip Hyde on Behalf of Nature with a Call to Action for Public Lands

Buckskin Gulch, Paria River Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, 1969, from Drylands by Philip Hyde. Now in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, which is under threat from the Trump administration. When Philip Hyde made this photograph, Buckskin Gulch was relatively unknown. Today it is a very popular destination for canyoneers and photographers, as are other locations within Vermillion Cliffs National Monument boundaries. “The Wave” is considered one of the top photography destinations in the world. (Click image to see large.)

“It is only a little planet, but how beautiful it is,” wrote the acclaimed poet Robinson Jeffers from Big Sur. His lines expressed the basic theme of this column: the inter-relatedness of all things. “The greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken.”

Our purpose here will be to communicate the love of Planet Earth that underlies every effort to conserve it. We are here to share the surpassing beauty and the relationship between all things on “this green ball that floats us through the heavens,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson called our home.

Our subject matter in this column will be the ever-expanding range of environmental problems and concerns, which we will explore through commentary, book reviews, related experiences and essays about natural beauty.

The “little planet” theme is at once a shrinking, and an expanding concept. While some exploiters are hurtling through space to make a revolution of our planet in minutes, others are looking into inner-space more deeply than ever before, studying its intricacies more carefully, and not a moment too soon. We need to know all we can about our only home, to learn again what John Ruskin knew two hundred years ago, that “there was always more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly.” We need to sense this one world we have in its wholeness, and to see our own wholeness in it. It can be no longer logical – if it ever was, to suggest that a problem of Earth’s is someone else’s. This is too much like saying to a fellow passenger, “Your end of the boat is sinking.”

History, we believe will record that the most important thing achieved by the epochal moon-walks of our times was not so much that man then first walked on the moon, but that he looked back from the moon to his own planet and saw it complete, a beautiful brown, blue and white ball sailing through the immense depths of space. Man looked back at Mother Earth from enough distance to see her perfection and isolation and to sense as well, even though nearly unseen, the presence of his own umbilical cord of dependence stretching to connect to Earths life-support systems.

It is good to remember when thinking of the sophisticated technology so widely extolled these days, that the spaceship that put those men on the Moon was not so much a result of inventive genius as it was a conscientious, but rather crude imitation of the naturally contrived life-support systems evolved through millions of years of life on Earth, which, though assaulted by many of men’s activities still continue to make possible our lives here. This has brought a dawning recognition that we need to do more to preserve and protect these life-preserving systems to continue to survive.

There is an absurd charge made by some who would like to ignore the magnitude of this recognition, that those who view nature as necessary to survival are an “elite” who want to keep it for themselves. Such a fantasy would be ludicrous, if it were not tragic. The ranks of conservationists are filled with people with a large experience of nature. Were they indeed selfish “elitists” they would not be getting the word out as widely as possible and encouraging more and more people to go on trips and wilderness outings. Conservationists are not keeping it to themselves.

When I was growing up I tried, sometimes in vain, to lure my friends into the mountains by citing John Muir’s invitation, “To climb the mountains and get their glad tidings.” Muir published his invitation widely, and since my earliest pilgrimages, my work has consistently proclaimed to all who would look and listen, the beauty and joy of life close to nature. Nature enthusiasts’ advocacy and willingness to share with anyone is widely confirmed by the heavy and growing use of natural areas in all parts of the country. Many of these early friends, now in their middle age, are today joining the young to walk the old trails. If I had been an elitist wanting to keep it to myself, I would have been better off to never publish any photographs, or write a line in praise of nature, and admonish my mountain friends to refrain likewise.

Invariably, those who make the “elitist” charge are unwittingly speaking of themselves, for without exception, the nature they would make available to all is a nature plundered and maimed after the extraction of something translated into material wealth. These practical industrialists would convince us that we should choose the forest of a Weyerhaeuser ad over the real thing, or a dug out pit in raw earth filled with poisoned water and called a lake, rather than a natural mountain meadow. These are the economic elitists of the country working in the realm where the dollar is king, and there are no reservations for any lesser loyalties. Buckminster Fuller called them “The Last of the Great Pirates.” Fortunately for Earth and its other inhabitants this breed is dying out, and being replaced by those more responsible who can better read the signs of the times.

Landscape Photography Blogger Call to Action for Wilderness Public Lands:

Currently a long list of national monuments are under review of their status as national monuments and for possible sale, oil drilling, coal mining and other exploitative one-time uses rather than the ongoing lower impact, more profitable, more enduring and fun tourism use by we the owners. The US Department of interior has released the following list of Antiquities Act Monuments under review and announced a formal public comment period starting May 12. Be sure to make your voice heard and your plea made, either short or long, in favor of keeping our national heritage as it is: Interior Department List and First Ever Formal Comment Period.

New Releases: Philip Hyde Signature Desert Landscapes

April 9th, 2015

New Releases: The History Behind Philip Hyde Desert Icons

Archival Chromogenic Prints from Large Format Film

Evening Light On West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah-Arizona, copyright 1963 Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. (Click on the image to see it large.)

Evening Light On West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah-Arizona, copyright 1963 Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. (Click on the image to see it large.)

Philip Hyde began photographing the desert Southwest with large format film in 1951. At that time, he used primarily black and white film, but did expose some large format color transparencies too. The Sierra Club book, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park and It’s Magic Rivers, with introduction, one chapter and editing by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner, included as many color plates as black and white, but editor, journalist, conservationist, pilot and river guide Martin Litton also made nearly as large a share of these images in the book as Hyde. To read more about the making of This Is Dinosaur see the blog post series, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism.” To read more about Martin Litton see the blog post series, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience.”

While on his way back and forth from his Northern Sierra home in California to Dinosaur National Monument, Philip Hyde explored and photographed much of Nevada, Utah, Arizona and parts of New Mexico. For more on his early travels in the deserts of North America, see the blog post series, “Toward a Sense of Place,” and the blog post, “Images of the Southwest Portfolio Foreword by Philip Hyde.” Below is the history of three Philip Hyde signature desert photographs that both exemplify his style of photography and inspired two generations of photographers.

Based on the photograph locations in Hyde’s Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series volumes Navajo Wildlands: As long As The Rivers Shall Run (1967) and Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest (1973) with Edward Abbey and in other Hyde books for Sunset and the prominent travel and natural history magazines of the day, large format film photographer Tom Till said that Hyde was the first to photograph areas of The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park and Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park. Large format photographer David Muench, who was 15 years younger than Hyde, a little later was also the first to photograph some iconic desert landscapes.

Evening Light on West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley

Possibly one of the most emulated American classics of all-time, Philip Hyde’s 1963 “Evening Light on West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley,” came into the public eye just as the quality of color printing in books developed enough for such books to become popular. “Evening Light on West Mitten Butte” enjoyed much recognition when it first appeared in the Exhibit Format Series book, Navajo Wildlands in 1967. Since 1967, hundreds of thousands of similar photographs have been made and many published of this view of Monument Valley. Navajo Wildlands helped the Navajo Nation, now more correctly called by their own name Diné Nation, to form seven Navajo Tribal Parks to preserve some areas of the reservation for all generations.

Ripples on Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert

Ripples on Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 1987 Philip Hyde. From Drylands: The Deserts of North America.

Ripples on Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert, California (Drylands Crop) copyright 1987 Philip Hyde. From Drylands: The Deserts of North America. (Click on the image to see it large.)

Two other Philip Hyde desert landscape icons have been emulated much since their creation, but they were neither the first, nor even early in the evolution of similar images, merely the most widely known and observed for inspiration. Ridges and ripples on sand dunes had been famously photographed by Brett Weston, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and many others well before Philip Hyde made the color photograph, “Ripples on Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert, California” in 1987. Hyde’s photograph perhaps was early in relation to all color images of this type of scene. Regardless, it was not until after “Ripples on Kelso Dunes” appeared in Drylands: The Deserts of North America that close up images of ripples on sand dunes flooded the photography market. Hyde’s original photograph was an unusual vertical that showed the ripples on the sand dunes in the foreground with the ripples fading into the distance at the horizon. Yolla Bolly Press, the packagers of Drylands, who also packaged Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape, convinced Hyde to crop “Ripples on Kelso Dunes” to a horizontal for the front pages of Drylands. This version only showing the bottom half of the original vertical, the close up part of the image, became popular for its abstract qualities. Many still today find the Drylands crop of “Ripples on Kelso Dunes” a stronger image than the original vertical.

Chinle Shales, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

The second signature desert landscape that Hyde made as late as 1982 was “Chinle Shales, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah.” This photograph also graced the pages of Drylands. Photography historians have found earlier photographs with vague similarity to this image, but it was not until after 1987 that similar images showed up in numerous magazines and other publications and now on the internet on various websites of photographers of the American Southwest.

Chinle Shales, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah, copyright 1982 Philip Hyde. From Drylands: The Deserts of North America.

Chinle Shales, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah, copyright 1982 Philip Hyde. From Drylands: The Deserts of North America. (Click on the image to see it large.)

So what? What is the point of researching who came first and who came later? This kind of tracking is not necessarily done for further recognition in and of itself, but it does serve to further establish and educate scholars, art historians and the public in this regard: it is important for determining the influence of an artist like Philip Hyde on his medium. Influence has a great deal to do with the perception of the significance of the life’s work of any artist and how his or her work is positioned in the historical record. These three photographs play a consequential role in the history of photography, particularly of landscape photography and photography of the Western US and Colorado Plateau. Similar photographs of a location do not necessarily emulation make, but in Hyde’s case, many of the who’s who of nature photography today acknowledge having been influence by his work.

Philip Hyde made six or fewer original dye transfer or Cibachrome hand made color prints of each of these four images. Only three original dye transfer prints remain of “Havasu Falls,” two of “Chinle Shales” and none of “Evening Light, West Mitten Butte” or “Ripples on Kelso Dunes.” Please consider acquiring our new archival chromogenic prints of these images, produced in a special numbered open edition, while they are at a special introductory price for a limited time. For more about new release pricing, see the blog post, “New Releases Now at Special Introductory Pricing.” For more information about the difference between archival digital prints and archival chromogenic prints, see the blog post, “About Archival Fine Art Digital Prints.” To purchase prints, see the images large and read more descriptions see the New Releases Portfolio on the Philip Hyde Photography website.

Have you ever seen photographs similar to any of these three?

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 1

April 3rd, 2012

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs Of Drylands: The Deserts of North America By Philip Hyde, Part One

Celebrating Landscape Photography Blogger’s 200th Blog Post!

On this special occasion Landscape Photography Blogger presents an excerpt from Drylands: The Deserts of North America, with photographs and text by Philip Hyde. Besides Slickrock with Edward Abbey and a few titles in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, Drylands is considered Philip Hyde’s magnum opus, or great work. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light, recently donated its archive to Stanford University. Help celebrate Landscape Photography Blogger’s 200th Post by reading a page from the great book that is becoming more rare all the time…

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 1

The Five Deserts of North America

…nature is already in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition that shines so peacefully around us.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

White Domes, Valley of Fire State Park, Mojave Desert, Nevada, copyright 1970 by Philip Hyde. Cover Photograph of “Drylands: The Deserts of North America.” Color Transparency: 4X5 Baby Deardorff View Camera. Dye Transfer Prints, Cibachrome Prints, and Archival Digital Prints. See PhilipHyde.com for Image Info and pricing.

(See the photograph large: “White Domes, Valley of Fire.”)

Webster’s dictionary defines a desert as “an arid region in which the vegetation is especially adapted to scanty rainfall with long intervals of heat and drought…a more or less barren tract incapable of supporting any considerable population without an artificial water supply…Desert rainfall is usually less than ten inches annually.”

This bare bones definition needs expanding. For one thing, barrenness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Ancients regarded the desert as a place to avoid—literally, to desert. The biblical “waste-howling wilderness” is a description of the Middle Eastern desert, a fearful place for most people. But even then it was for some a place for contemplation, a retreat from the cares of daily life. In our times, the desert is commonly a refuge, though we can be grateful that the deserts of North America were avoided by so many early travelers, and thereby protected. More recently, parts of these great deserts have become increasingly attractive to sun-worshipers. It is an irony that the climate, attractive to so many people, is being gradually altered by air pollution generated by population growth and its attendant requirements for industries and automobiles.

Webster’s definition doesn’t explain the aridity of the desert. High mountain chains intercept moisture-laden storms, keeping rainfall from the land in the lee of the mountains. Wind also contributes to desert dryness. A map plotting the course of trade winds in relation to deserts around the globe would show most arid lands to lie in the path of the trades. Though our deserts are not as directly in the path of the trades as some, strong winds persist over most of them for long periods, particularly in the spring.

The North American deserts are unlike most deserts in that they are not confined to the interior of the continent. They reach to the sea on both coasts of the Baja California peninsula and along the west coast of mainland Mexico as well, creating some unusual meetings of desert and water.

The scarcity of rainfall in the desert has one advantage. The surface of the land in well-watered regions is often obscured by dense vegetation. In the desert, land forms are readily apparent, the often beautiful sculpture of their contours revealed. This may be why geologists are drawn to the desert and sometimes inspired to near-poetic descriptions. A classic example can be found in Clarence Dutton’s monumental Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District, first published in 1882. Here is his description of the Vermillion Cliffs in the Painted Desert:

During the midday hours the cliffs seem to wilt and drop as if retracting their grandeur to hide it from the merciless radiance of the sun whose very effulgence flouts them. Even the colors are ruined. The glaring face of the wall, where the light falls full upon it, wears a scorched, overbaked, discharged look; and where the dense black shadows are thrown—for there are no middle shades—the magical haze of the desert shines forth with a weird, metallic glow which has no color in it. But as the sun declines there comes a revival. The half-tones at length appear, bringing into relief the component masses; the amphitheaters recede into suggestive distances; the salients silently advance toward us; the distorted lines range themselves into true perspective; the deformed curves come back to their proper sweep; the angles grow clean and sharp; and the whole cliff arouses from lethargy and erects itself in grandeur and power as if conscious of its own majesty. Back also come the colors, and as the sun is about to sink they glow with an intense vermilion that seems to be an intrinsic luster emanating from the rocks themselves.

The stone landscape of which Clarence Dutton writes might appear austere and unfriendly to the casual traveler suddenly thrust into it. Many people would not recognize it as a part of their familiar world, but something about the place immediately appealed to me. Perhaps it struck some of the same harmonic notes evoked by the clean expanses of granite in the High Sierra Nevada I had learned to love in my youth. The place spoke to me of the same kind of purity that Ralph Waldo Emerson was alluding to when he wrote of the integrity of natural objects.

I am not able to take up full-time residence in the desert; my roots are too deep in the northern Sierra Nevada where I live now. I can, however, happily spend a season there and feel quite at home. It was not always like that. The ease I feel now is the product of many experiences, not all pleasant, but all valued for what they taught. Nor did the ease come without struggle, but as a result of an effort to understand, to penetrate the discomforts, to clear away the debris of prejudice and preconception that can so distort one’s view of a natural environment. It is not necessary to change the country—or to develop it. As Aldo Leopold put it so well: “Development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind.”

As a forest dweller and desert traveler, I am especially aware of the contrasts between an arid landscape and one that is well watered. The creek that flows beneath my window as I write; the groundcover, trees, shrubs, and flowering plants; the seasonal and atmospheric changes I observe here are all expressions of water abundance. In the desert it isn’t just the paucity of water that impresses me. I am delighted to discover water’s surprising, often beautiful presence in hidden places, as for example, the spring in Monument Valley that flows from beneath a high sand dune—or those few, small, spring-fed pools surrounded by the vast, sere, rocky landscape of Death Valley.

I also enjoy the contrast between desert vegetation and that of my home environment. In the southern part of the Baja California peninsula, the array of strange, even unique, plant forms is the result of the plants’ special adaptations to water scarcity…

Continued in the future blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2.”