Posts Tagged ‘Wallace Stegner’

Photography, Spam, Social Media and My Letter to Ken Burns Films Regarding The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

March 17th, 2017

Behind the Scenes in Photography, Spam, Email, Social Media, Mistakes, Misunderstandings, Films, The National Parks, World Class Quality, Wins, Losses and Reconciliation: A Film Review of Sorts and A Business Lesson Learned

How Philip Hyde Handled Correspondence

Redwood Giants, Sunlight on Trunks of Coast Redwoods at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California, 1962 by Philip Hyde. Published in the book The Last Redwoods that spearheaded the campaign to establish Redwood National Park. (Click on Image to See Large.)

When I was a boy, my mother Ardis rushed at all times of day and evening to answer the phone that was both the home and business line. She would call for Dad through the house announcing each caller, or run into the studio or outside to find him. She helped with his correspondence and kept in touch with our local friends. She managed our social life. She replied to all letters that were not requests for photographs. Dad had a policy of replying to all correspondence, a practice he adopted from one of his mentors, Ansel Adams.

Now that I carry on his photography business, I continue the same approach to correspondence. More than 90 percent of serious inquires come through email, but between the inbox, texts, phone, voicemail, Twitter and Facebook, communications can be a full-time job. On top of all these channels, well-meaning friends, even sometimes well-informed friends recommend looking into this or that. It all can be overwhelming at times. Replying to everything means I sometimes inadvertently waste time answering spam or at least have to take extra time determining borderline cases. My spam filters do a lot of the work, but a certain amount of stuff that crosses my desk every day is off mission, off-topic or is distracting in some way. Regularly I get strange inquiries that show people would rather write me first than start with their own Internet search to find the most relevant source to contact.

How to Judge Away an Opportunity

When I first started helping Dad in 2002 and took over Philip Hyde Photography in 2005, the year before he passed on, I was new and even a bit naïve as to what incoming information was worth paying attention to and what was not. Until you are in photography for a while, you don’t know the players, or even how a photographer successfully gets his message and photographs out to the world. I still discover new channels all the time. I also am inundated with the same old ones that don’t work for me trying to get my attention. In a short amount of time you begin to develop a healthy skepticism, even cynicism, about every idea, every inquiry that comes along. After this short time when you have become freshly cynical, you still have not heard of all of the good, legitimate opportunities that might possibly make your entire career. Even after you have been around for a long time, you may have heard of most of them, but not all, because new legitimate ones emerge all the time.

And so it was that I passed up one of the best and most important opportunities that I might have ever found. There is an important moral to this story that emerges by the end of this blog post article. It may sound silly to some people and natural to others, but there was a time when I had not heard of PBS filmmaker Ken Burns. Regardless how famous he may be, I did not know who he was. My editor, who I generally trust as a well-connected and knowledgeable man, gave me Ken Burns’ phone number and said I needed to call him regarding a new National Parks project he was working on. Not knowing the scope, audience or respect that Ken Burns Films usually garner, one day I picked the number out of a tall stack of calls I needed to make. With a dismissive attitude I dialed the phone.

My First Call to Ken Burns Films

A lady named Susanna Steisel answered the phone, but I subsequently forgot or mixed up her name with someone else and did not realize that she was the same lady I wrote to and conversed with later. Mixed in with some small talk, I explained who I was. I said that my father was one of the primary photographers for the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that originally popularized the large coffee table photography book and were known as battle books for making national parks. I explained that Dad’s work participated in more campaigns than any other photographer of his time, that he was one of just a few West Coast photographers who have ever had a solo Smithsonian exhibition, his in particular covering the national parks and monuments. Ms. Steisel told me about all the well-known people they already had in the film. Many of them related to the 1800s or early 1900s, or were more current interviews of National Park Service personnel.

“It sounds like this project is mainly focused on the earliest days of the founding of the parks, not the later days in the mid 1900s, around the 1950s, 60s and 70s, is that right?” I stopped her in the middle of her explanation and asked. Taken slightly aback, she agreed. We talked just a little more, I wished her well on the project and then got off the phone. I checked off that task and moved on with other calls.

What One Fool Loses Another Wise Man Will Find

Later, after I learned more about Ken Burns Films and what an opportunity I lost by not listening more and jumping in with a snap judgment, I was angry with myself and angry with Ken Burns Films. I felt especially bad after I met QT Luong, a contemporary landscape photographer who Ken Burns featured in one segment of the film series. QT Luong’s claim to fame was that he was the only photographer known to have photographed all 59 national parks. QT Luong’s photographs are exquisite and serve the purpose of showing the beauty of the parks with a contemporary aesthetic, much the way Dad’s photographs had for their time during Mid-Century Modernism. QT Luong also writes an excellent photoblog and it was through blogging that we became friends. Look for my review of QT Luong’s late 2016 book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, a book that I helped edit. When I got to know QT Luong a little, he confided in me that significant income came from involvement in the 2009 film series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. However, he said recently that inquiries resulting from the film were fewer than he expected. Back in 2010, he wrote about this and other aspects of his involvement in a blog post, “QT Luong in Ken Burns National Park Series,” which might have cleared it up except that I didn’t see the post until after I wrote this article.

I like to think of myself as a good person, but hearing of the income that QT Luong earned  did not bring out the best in me. It sounded more substantial to me back then, but he explained recently it was not as large as I imagined. Either way, I became jealous of his success on Dad’s behalf, though I never told him. I even got mad at QT Luong, though I did not express it to him because he certainly did not deserve it. I also got angry with Ken Burns and even angrier with the poor lady I talked to in his office, whose name I did not remember. I blamed her even though I had cut her short and dismissed the project as not quite relevant for Dad’s photographs. Why wasn’t she more forceful in telling me the importance of the film? The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. This is the other side of snap judgements. When you make a snap judgement, by definition you don’t have much information. As a result you go off on all sorts of mental tangents, scenarios and imaginings that vilify those you made the judgement about, only increase your own animosity and are not factual, merely illusion. At the end of February 2014, when Susanna Steisel wrote me through the Philip Hyde Photography website contact form about a follow-up national parks book project they were researching, I did not realize she was the same lady to whom I had spoken several years before. I replied to her in early March:

Hi Susanna,

Did you get my voicemails? I returned your calls, but have heard nothing back from you.

Ken Burns is a very talented filmmaker and I hear he did a great job on his National Parks film. However, there is one aspect of his work that I am very disappointed in, well, not in him specifically, but in a lady on his staff in his office who made it seem like the Ken Burns documentary on the National Parks was only about the earliest founding days and not about the era when the most parks were formed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Due to a miscommunication and misunderstanding my father’s work did not make the film, while other photographers both contemporary to Dad and those who came after, were in it. This reflects badly on Ken Burns and his film. Why? Because my father helped make more national parks than any other photographer and is widely known as having been the backbone “go-to” photographer for more of the Sierra Club led national park campaigns than anyone else. My father was the first photographer sent on assignment for an environmental cause in 1951 to maintain the integrity of the national park system by helping to keep dams out of Dinosaur National Monument. Dad’s book, Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, also was part of the core of the campaign to save the Grand Canyon. Dad had a solo show that opened at the Smithsonian in 1956 and was nationally toured to major museums during 1956-1959 called, “America’s National Parks and Monuments.” Dad’s national park related resume is one of the strongest. I hope at some point to have a friendly creative talk with Ken Burns about how Dad’s much deserved recognition, heretofore supplanted by other photographers, could come to fruition. It is high time Dad receive the recognition he deserved. When I say ‘supplanted by other photographers,’ I’m not referring to Ansel Adams, who belongs in any National Parks film. Ansel was a mentor, teaching associate, promoter and friend to Dad. I’m referring to other photographers covered in the film who happened to have photographed National Parks after Ansel Adams for their own benefit. Dad dedicated over 60 years of his life to exploring and defending wilderness. His story needs to be told “writ large” by someone like Ken Burns with real filmmaking talent.

Please let me know if and how I can help you.

David

How To Treat Irate Customers: Business 101

To this message, Ms. Steisel to her credit replied with “sincere apologies.” She mentioned that she had run across Dad’s photographs and “thought they were as beautiful as any I have seen of the parks… If we can talk perhaps I can make up for past transgressions. I don’t know how these photos got missed.” She asked for a number where I could be reached to talk about it. She had already begun to melt my heart, but I was still disappointed by the opportunity lost, knowing that the film would stand as it was for all time without Dad’s photographs in it.

My next message a month later had a more amicable tone:

…Thank you for your conciliatory remarks. I hold nothing against Ken Burns or his organization, though I was shocked to find out that the film was the quintessential film on the national parks and somehow the research did not discover Dad to be a key creative player. Anyone doing a project on the National Parks, is completely remiss to not cover the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, David Brower, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde… Dad’s work not only suffered by not being in Ken’s film, but Ken’s film suffered by its omission…

Covering mainly Ansel Adams in such a film, is of course necessary, but is only the low-hanging fruit. Also, merely plucking contemporary photographers out of the air to be the token photographers in the film, without researching who actually deserved credit for making the national parks, is a disservice. In all other aspects, I hear the film is a moving tribute and one of the best ever made on the subject. As a highly talented and top notch filmmaker, I would hope that Ken Burns might be interested in righting these omissions and errors by considering doing a film on my father. Someone will sooner or later and it will have a wide audience. I have already had other filmmakers express interest, but I want a major player like Ken Burns to do it… call me any time.

The Power of a Gift and of a Sincere Review

When she called, we had a good, friendly conversation. She said Ken Burns was backlogged for years on film projects, but that his brother also made PBS films and perhaps I might talk to him. In a later conversation in 2015, it came out that I had The National Parks: America’s Best Idea saved in my Amazon favorites, but had still never seen it. I had never seen any Ken Burns films. After learning this she offered to send me The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and a number of others. From the list she gave me I picked out The Dust Bowl and Thomas Jefferson. Once I received the package of DVD’s from Ken Burns Films, I opened it right away and started watching The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Early on it moved me to tears. I cannot overstate how impressed I was with the cinematography, the level of research, the quality of the story telling, the strength of the interviews and many other aspects of the film. It was one of the best non-fiction movies I had ever seen. I watched the whole first episode that evening. The next morning I sat down to write a thank you:

Hi Susanna,

Please share this with Ken if you at all can. Certainly you’ve heard countless rave reviews of the National Parks film, though with my background, I hope mine will still carry some weight. I am also a big fan of documentaries and have watched far more of them than the “average bear.” This one I have to say is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I agree with those who say that Ken and your team have a gift for storytelling. I loved all the detail and powerful intimate stories you all found and presented so well. I like the idea of telling “the bottom up stories,” rather than the top down ones, though there was plenty of that too with all the presidents. My father’s work and story would have been perfect for your approach because, as is widely known, he was the people’s photographer, the approachable guy, the hard-worker whose accomplishments to recognition ratio was one of the lowest. Ansel was the ambassador and entertainer of movie stars and politicians, while Dad had his boots on the ground in so many of the campaigns, sharing photographs with local leaders and going to many places way ahead of anyone else’s interest curve.

Speaking of which, in your film you mention a man going to Dinosaur in 1952 and making snapshots that influenced David Brower to get interested in saving the place. Actually, Martin Litton started writing about Dinosaur in the LA Times in 1951. Brower and Richard Leonard sent Dad to Dinosaur the same year. Dad’s photographs from four trips 1951-1955 and Litton’s were what made the book, This Is Dinosaur, though of course attaching Wallace Stegner’s name at the time is what put it on the map. With the bottom-up approach, it would have been perfect to tell the story of Litton and Hyde, more than Stegner, the Pulitzer Prize winner, especially since they did most of the work on the campaign. You can’t ever tell all the stories. I mention this not to say you got the story wrong, but as an example because there were other places where Dad’s involvement would have been interesting to your audience and added much more depth.

The whole time I was watching the film, I was incredibly moved and also kicking myself, for not having listened longer when we first talked on the phone. I remember the conversation and it was actually more my fault than yours that you did not find out more about Dad. Though obviously my whole life I was around Dad and the family part of his story, I was fairly new to telling his professional story. Also, we talked not long after Dad had passed on and I was still reeling. I was not sure how or what I was going to do with any of it.

Seems like the film contained a great deal about John Muir, but not as much about the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, National Audubon, etc. Some of those names unfortunately have a stigma to some people, so I suppose I can see why they were not emphasized. I like how most of the stories were personal anyway, rather than about organizations. Yet, that coin has two sides. Reality is that nearly all the parks were all out battles just to bring into existence. Your film covered a smattering of that, but relatively little compared to how much of it occurred. In this sense, as pure journalism, it might not be considered as accurate by some, but the flip side of that is that your team told a story that was universal and could be related to by all. It was uniting, rather than divisive, which is exactly what the parks themselves were after they were formed. Getting them formed, however, created huge controversy, divisions and disagreements that continue to this day. You de-emphasized this, which I can see in the final analysis was for good reason.

Ultimately the film is a smashing success. I was nearly in tears at some points from the sheer beauty of the scenery and cinematography. The narrative too, had good pacing in that it snapped right along and engaged me deeply. I loved hearing from so many of the rangers.

Thank you again so much for sharing it with me.

David

Sounding the Human Note: Learn This Lesson Well

Susanna’s response:

David,
How completely touched I am by your letter. I will pass it on to both Ken and Dayton Duncan.
It is a really fine line between telling the actual whole story in detail and making a film that will be accessible to a wide-ranging audience. We really do try to do our best.
I lost both my parents early in life, and I have to say that I am envious of how proud you are of your father, and how much you know about his life, and appreciate his life. It is a gift that not many of us have.
Looking back, I wish we could have done better by him. I really do. Maybe I didn’t quite know what I was doing either.
Take good care and stay in touch if you want.
With great respect,
Susanna

I wrote her back and told her I appreciated her heartfelt response. I said that I was also touched by the gift of the films. I wrote, “A good lesson I have learned, I sure hope, is to listen more and not jump to conclusions. You all are doing wonderful, important work.” Ken Burns himself also wrote me to thank me for writing, to share how moved he was by my message and to say he was grateful to hear my story.

In this day of media sound bites, over-filled inboxes and the constant barrage of social media news feeds, I, like many of my peers in this civilization, have learned to skim through everything very quickly. I see people from all walks of life making snap judgements all the time that are way off the mark and lead to all kinds of problems. Someone misjudges someone else when they meet and an opportunity is lost. Someone makes comments on a Facebook post that are insulting or irrelevant merely because they didn’t take the time to read the conversation before they added to it. Now that my misunderstanding with Ken Burns Films is cleared up and a connection has developed, it may lead to something professionally interesting, but even if it doesn’t, the significance of the positive goodwill and mutual respect should not be underestimated. This experience and the loss to my father’s work and his legacy have taught me that I must slow down and review each contact or suggestion carefully. In particular I must beware not to take any conversation or meeting for granted because my next big career break might be lurking somewhere in the pile of messages, spam and irrelevance.

Wallace Stegner: The Wilderness Idea

September 29th, 2014

Steamboat Rock, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, 1955 by Philip Hyde. Made on Philip Hyde’s second trip to Dinosaur National Monument. In the book, “This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers” with Forward, first chapter and editing by Wallace Stegner and photographs by Philip Hyde, Martin Litton and others, the Sierra Club used this horizontal photograph and cropped it to less than square, nearly a vertical. There was a vertical version of the photograph but it was not used in the book. This is still today Philip Hyde’s most widely published black and white photograph.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Any photographer of the natural scene is wise to care deeply about the preservation of wilderness, otherwise some day he or she could wake up some bright “magic hour” morning to discover there are no natural places left to photograph. Maybe it will not happen that rapidly, but many who have been exploring the outdoors for decades have already noticed the shrinking of the wilderness and the changing of places that were once somewhat wild.

In today’s society, appearances would have us believe that we have learned to live without nature. However, scientific evidence links much of our society’s dysfunction to lack of contact with the natural world. Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner wrote the forward and helped compile and edit the first book published for an environmental cause, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers with photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. Wallace Stegner was also an advocate for wilderness on many other fronts throughout his writing life. He worked on several books in the groundbreaking Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series and many of the campaigns that defined modern environmentalism. Edward Abbey was Wallace Stegner’s student at Stanford. Here is a quote from Wallace Stegner’s famous letter–statement called The Wilderness Idea excerpted from A Sense of Place by Wallace Stegner:

The wilderness idea has helped form our character and has shaped our history as a people. It has no more to do with recreation than churches have to do with recreation. Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed, if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases, if we drive the few remaining species into zoos, or to extinction, if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country, from the noise, the exhaust, the stinks of human and automotive waste, and so that never again can we have the chance to see ourselves single, separate, vertical and individual in the world, part of the environment of trees and rocks and soil, brother to the other animals, part of the natural world and competent to belong in it.

Without any remaining wilderness we are committed wholly, without chance for even momentary reflection and rest, to a headlong drive into our technological termite life, the brave new world of a completely man-controlled environment. We need wilderness preserved, as much of it as is still left and as many kinds because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed. The reminder and reassurance that it is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in 10 years set foot in it. It is good for us when we are young because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly as vacation and rest into our insane lives. It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there. Important that it is, simply as idea. The frontier was necessary. For an American, insofar as he is new any different at all, is a civilized man who has renewed himself in the wild.

For a tribute to Philip Hyde’s landscape photography and its role in wilderness preservation see the blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.”

(Originally posted Nov. 4, 2010.)

Why do you think we need wilderness? Is it important for landscape photographers and others who hike, travel or enjoy other outdoor activities on wild lands to care about wilderness preservation?

Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Three

July 3rd, 2014

Dinosaur National Monument, 2013 Visit

Part Three: Down To The Green River And Up To Ely Falls

(Continued from the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Two.”)

Upper Jones Hole Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Upper Jones Hole Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Into Jones Hole

As we ambled down the trail away from the Diamond Mountain Fish Hatchery and into Jones Hole, we began to see signs of what Randy Fullbright and the Park Ranger had been talking about: the recent rock slide. High on the cliff we could see the fresh, unstained light tan undercut where giant sandstone boulders, just weeks before, had peeled away from the cliff and come tumbling nearly straight down at least 1,500 feet, landing like bombs in Jones Creek and rolling through the forest smashing trees and everything else in their path.

The Boulders ranged from small house size down to bowling balls and had badly broken up the deciduous forest and riparian undergrowth on both sides of Jones Creek. Jones Creek contained many of the light tan boulders, as did the entire surrounding area in about half a mile radius of the main devastated area. It must have been quite a sight to observe all that sandstone raining down from high on the cliff above–and the noise must have been deafening. The trail had been closed for weeks as the Park Service was still nervous about allowing anyone to hike into Jones Hole. They were afraid more sandstone would come tumbling down and crush unknowing hikers and fishermen. Park Rangers had re-routed the trail to skirt safely around what looked much like a war zone. Randy and I walked into the heart of the devastated area and approached the creek to see the damage. After observing the current effects of geology in action and making a few documentary snapshots, we moved back to the detoured trail and on down the canyon.

Fishing, Hiking And Photographing

Jones Hole attracts fishermen from all over that part of Utah and Colorado. The Park Service still plants Jones Creek with Rainbow Trout from the Fish Hatchery upstream. While Jones Hole generally appeared dry and desert like, cottonwood trees, willows, tamarisk and other riparian plants grew thickly along Jones Creek. Besides, on that day at times it felt like rain could overtake us any minute as the sky brooded overhead. Other times the ceiling thinned and the sun grew brighter trying to break through. The light greens of sage and sagebrush offset by the deeper greens of the larger trees along the creek, with dried yellows and beiges of meadow grasses provided a good mixed palette of colors and textures against the reds, browns and tans of the sandstone cliffs behind.

We mainly hiked, but stopped for photographs occasionally. Randy made only a few photographs the entire day, while I stopped more frequently and he waited in his courteous, quiet way. Photographing Jones Hole took some adjustment as I am used to the lush river canyons of the Northern Sierra in California, or the more complete desert scenes of other parts of Utah further south. Much of the views of Jones Creek were a wild tangle, but the creek itself had character, as did the cliffs all around, if we looked closely. Randy took me on a detour off the trail and over to the cliff across the creek at one point to show me the petroglyphs and pictographs he had promised. These were not large or overly striking, but they were impressive in how well preserved and distinctly they stood out in red-brown against the tan cliffs at that spot. Few people know where they are and Randy said he and the Park Rangers intend to keep it that way.

Back on the main trail, we stopped for lunch along the creek where there were a couple of giant 10X20 foot natural granite “tables” and a good spot for photographs up and down the creek. It was good to sit in the shade or what was trying to be sunshine, stop and breath in the warm desert air with the more fecund smell of mud and life along the water. After a good break from hiking and a dunk of our shirts in the stream, refreshed we set off again. Except for a few sections moving over boulders along Jones Creek, most of the trail was fairly smooth, though a bit sandy in places. The hike still felt fairly strenuous to me at four miles each way, down to the Green River and back to the Fish Hatchery. Across and high on the canyon wall, Randy pointed out where a spring came out of the rock and made a waterfall and place to “shower” and get refreshed high above the trail. Though the spring was only a trickle at that time, we could see a thin silver ribbon of falling water high up against the far cliff.

Green River, Rafting Party, Harpers Corner From Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Green River, Rafting Party, Harpers Corner From Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Dinosaur’s Main Character–The Green River And Its Canyons–Now And Then

Not long after, we emerged from the trees to find ourselves finally at the Green River. Almost immediately after we walked out on the gravel shore, a herd of bighorn sheep passed us. Randy told me some stories of the males being less than friendly in rutting season, but this day the herd passed close by us without much concern. We looked around behind us at a tall, cone shaped promontory towering above Jones Creek. When we got out in the open and could see upstream, we noticed a rafting party beached on a rock and gravel spit above the riffle at the mouth of Jones Creek. Way up the Green River past the rafting party we could make out the outlines of the rock outcropping called Harper’s Corner that I had driven to in 2005 from the Colorado entrance to Dinosaur National Monument. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, made a black and white photograph, published in 1955 in the National Geographic, from Harper’s Corner looking down over 3,000 feet at the upturned strata typical of the Green River and Yampa River canyons. Harper’s Corner also overlooks Echo Park and Steamboat Rock farther upstream, the proposed site of one of the dams slated for Dinosaur that Dad’s photographs helped prevent. Dad was the first photographer ever sent on assignment for an environmental cause to Dinosaur in 1951 to help prevent two proposed dams that would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument. Dad’s photographs and those by river guide and journalist Marin Litton became the illustrations for the first book ever published for an environmental cause, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, edited and with introduction by Wallace Stegner.

The sky had been darkening most of the day and here at the Green River, it finally began to rain lightly. Our shirts we had soaked just an hour earlier were already dried out and the cooling rain felt rejuvenating, even though it passed after only about 15 minutes and everything dried out again quickly. Having worked for the last two months moving furniture and packing boxes at my townhouse in Boulder, Colorado, and having minimal sleep for a number of days, I was already tired, but because this was one chance that might not come again for years, if ever, I agreed to hike with Randy up Ely Canyon to Ely Falls on the way back to the Fish Hatchery.

Ely Canyon was interesting and narrower than the Jones Hole canyon. There were a lot of small dead Juniper tree skeletons dotting the landscape. Ely Creek and Ely Falls were both small, Ely Falls only being about 12 feet high, while the creek was only a foot or two wide in most of its course. However, the falls were set in a greenery-surrounded oasis. Randy and I talked about conservation and my father’s work in the area, as well as the present day prospects of Dinosaur National Monument becoming a national park. More on Ely Creek, Ely Creek Canyon and the movement to form a national park in the next blog post.

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Four.”)

Have you ever been to Dinosaur National Monument? Have you seen bighorn sheep or any other large wild animal up close?

Announcing An Honest Silence: A Celebration Of Wilderness

October 12th, 2012

Greg Russell, PJ Johnson And Ann Whittaker Release Their New E-Book, An Honest Silence: A Celebration of Wilderness

E-Book Cover For An Honest Silence by Greg Russell, PJ Johnson and Ann Whittaker with Foreword by David Leland Hyde.

Announcing An Honest Silence: A Celebration of Wilderness, a new e-book of essays and photographs by Greg Russell, PJ Johnson and Ann Whittaker. It might be conflict of interest to review it here because I wrote the foreword for it, but I will give a taste of what the new e-book has to offer readers and why advance reviewers, landscape photography blog writers and nature enthusiasts are excited about it.

Greg Russell mentions in his blog post pre-announcing An Honest Silence: A Celebration of Wilderness that at $5.00, the book is ultra affordable. Besides, Greg Russell points out that a portion of proceeds will go directly to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, of which my father pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde was an active and prominent member for many years, and I’ve been a member for close to a decade. Check them out too. You will be glad you did.

But why another book, or e-book in this case, about wilderness? I believe Greg Russell answers this question best in his Preface:

Everyone who lets their imagination wander into open space should be lifting their voices up to be heard in support of wilderness.  If not now, when?  When it’s all gone, it will be too late. These essays are reminiscent of our own experiences and thoughts about wilderness; we are passionate about the places we spend time in the outdoors, and feel that they need to be protected and enjoyed.

In the Foreword I review the wilderness literary tradition and how this new e-book by Greg Russell, PJ Johnson and Ann Whittaker honors the tradition well:

Fiction and non-fiction anthologies, novels, short stories, magazine articles, editorials, and book after book centers on or dabbles in wilderness… We are blessed with a voluminous tradition of written pages on wilderness, yet today in the computer age, as far as I know, there has yet to be even one single e-book written about wilderness, until now.

From there I go on to express other reasons why we all need wilderness and in addition why it can do anyone much good to read An Honest Silence, closing with:

The early pioneers of wilderness writing would be happy to join me in welcoming three fresh talented voices to the wilderness tradition. Some day, they too may be seen as pioneers in their own avenue of expression.

The essays by Greg Russell passionately connect you to the land through his eyes. The writings by PJ Johnson will make you think and provide a wake-up call regarding how we treat wilderness. Ann Whittaker’s lyrical prose will move you to see yourself more deeply through wilderness. All in all, An Honest Silence is an excellent read and will bring more meaning to your own experience of wilderness. Don’t wait. Go download it now. You will be glad you did.

Buy Now

The Naming Of ‘Hyde’s Wall’ By Writer And Photographer Stephen Trimble

August 8th, 2012

How The Photograph, ‘Junipers, Wall, Escalante Wilderness’ From Slickrock With Edward Abbey, Became ‘Hyde’s Wall, Escalante Wilderness’ Now The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Guest Blog Post By Natural Historian And Landscape Photographer Of The Western U.S., Stephen Trimble

Hyde’s Wall, East Moody Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1976 by Stephen Trimble. If you look carefully you will see that this photograph was not taken from the same distance, nor from the same lateral angle, in relation to the wall, as Philip Hyde’s photograph.

LP Blogger On Stephen Trimble:

Writer and photographer Stephen Trimble won the Ansel Adams Award for photography and conservation for his book, The Sagebrush Ocean: A Natural History of the Great Basin Stephen Trimble lives in Salt Lake City and in Southern Utah’s redrock country just outside of Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park. For more about his books, his conservation projects and other work visit his website at www.stephentrimble.net. Stephen Trimble is author of over 20 books on the natural West including

Hyde’s Wall, East Moody Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1971 by Philip Hyde. This was the favorite photograph from Slickrock, a Sierra Club book that sold well and received literary recognition for both Philip Hyde and Edward Abbey.

Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography, showcasing

photographs by Philip Hyde and the last living interview of the master landscape photographer. Stephen Trimble teaches writing in the University of Utah Honors College and spent the 2008-2009 academic year as a Wallace Stegner Centennial Fellow at the University of Utah’s Tanner Humanities Center. The Lasting Light Exhibition has been on a national tour with the Smithsonian Institute since 2006, when the show opened at the Historic Kolb Studio, father’s day weekend after Philip Hyde passed away.

By Stephen Trimble

In the long-ago spring of 1976, the side canyons of Utah’s Escalante River were more remote than they are now, and they are still pretty remote. My two buddies and I had driven without incident in our hand-me-down family sedans across the Circle Cliffs to the Moody Creek trailhead. We found no other vehicles parked at the end of the road. Once we set off on foot, we weren’t expecting to see anyone else for the next week.

As a college student, I had pretty much memorized the Sierra Club exhibit format books. I aspired to photograph like Philip Hyde and Eliot Porter and Ansel Adams. Though I used a 35 mm camera rather than their large-format view cameras, I knew I could learn a lot from thinking—and seeing—like they did. And I respected with all my heart their dedication to saving wild places.

I knew Philip Hyde’s photographs in Slickrock, the 1971 Sierra Club book he created with Edward Abbey on the southern Utah Canyon Country, and when I photographed in Capitol Reef and the Escalante, Hyde’s eye influenced what I framed in my viewfinder. I had always harbored a secret wish to stumble on the patch of lichened sandstone he chose for the cover of Slickrock.

Instead, I found Hyde’s Wall.

My friends and I made camp at the junction of East Moody Canyon and the Escalante. In the lengthening iridescent light of late afternoon we wandered up East Moody Canyon. Each rounding curve brought new walls. Desert varnish streaked the crossbedded sandstone, black swaths across lavender and vermillion. Here, the color fields of Rothko; there, the bold strokes of Franz Kline.

One wall in particular drew me. I moved my tripod this way and that, aiming my camera past piñons and junipers to a canyon wall reflecting purples and mauves, textured with fractures and cracks. The light had bounced down between canyon walls from the sky and the stars, distilled to an unbelievable saturation.  I had never seen such surreal and intense colors. As I wandered back to camp, I realized that this just might be the very same wall Philip Hyde had photographed for Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest with Edward Abbey and for Philip Hyde’s Glen Canyon Portfolio. I was intensely curious to see if my hunch was correct, but of course I couldn’t verify the match until I had my slides back from processing and I had the book in my hand. Once verified, the fact that we had both found our way to this inspirational wall in the middle of nowhere struck me as incredibly cool and serendipitous.

In 1979, I first published my version of the East Moody wall in its desert-varnished sunset splendor, in my first book with a spine: The Bright Edge: A Guide to the National Parks of the Colorado Plateau Not long afterwards, I heard back from friends who were with Philip Hyde when he first picked up a copy of The Bright Edge and saw my version of his wall—and they reported that he wasn’t pleased. So I contacted Philip to make amends, and I started captioning the photo “Hyde’s Wall” as a tribute whenever I had control of captions—most notably in Blessed By Light: Visions of the Colorado Plateau (1986).

Years later, I had the wonderful opportunity and honor to interview Philip by phone for my book, Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography in December 2005, just three months before his death in March 2006. He was still passionate, still inspiring. He told me that he was down there photographing in the Grand Canyon in the 1960s and 70s “because we wanted to keep the dam builders out,” but the place itself was most important: “Here was this magnificent canyon full of wonderful things to photograph. It’s a matter of seeing, not deciding where you are going to photograph but just looking around, opening your eyes.”

I often have quoted Philip Hyde’s preface to Slickrock, in which he articulated the wilderness photographer’s fear:

The focus of this book is on a part of Earth that is still almost as it was before man began to tinker with the land… Telling thousands about it—to get their help in what must be a prolonged struggle to keep it wild—is a calculated risk…. I have some hesitation in showing more people its delightful beauty—hesitation born of the fear that this place, like so many others of great beauty in our country, might be loved to death, even before being developed to death. So, if our book moves you to visit the place yourself sometime, first make sure you add your voice to those seeking its protection.

For every place, Philip Hyde said, “There will always be people that want to exploit it, and there will always be people—hopefully—that want to save it and keep it as it is.” Better to publish your photographs and rally the troops. What’s in the frame of the photograph matters artistically, to be sure, but what’s outside the frame can destroy it. The generation that followed—including myself—knew that the Grand Canyon was saved from dams, in part, by Philip Hyde’s photographs. We knew the power of nature photography. And we have tried to live up to his legacy.

+-+-+-+-+

Landscape Photography Blogger Note: In 2012, this kind of inadvertent image similarity happens more regularly than it did in 1976 because many, many times the number of landscape photographers are out exploring the wilderness now; not to mention that many, many times more landscape photographs exist in the collective psyche as well. Discover more about Slickrock and Philip Hyde’s collaboration with Edward Abbey in the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?” and under the blog post tag Edward Abbey: Blog posts that mention Edward Abbey.

 

Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 2

October 7th, 2011

Martin Litton: Environmentalist, Conservationist, Sierra Club Director, Bush Pilot, River Guide, Hiker, Writer, Journalist, Visionary and Landscape Photographer

Continued from the blog post, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 1.”

Chiaroscurro, Sun Through Fog, Avenue Of The Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California, copyright 1964 by Philip Hyde. First published in "The Last Redwoods: Photographs And Story Of A Vanishing Scenic Resource," by Francois Leydet with photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton, in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series.

See the photograph larger here: “Avenue Of The Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California.”

After seeing Martin Litton’s feature articles in The Los Angeles Times protesting proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument, David Brower recruited the young journalist to join the Sierra Club and continue the fight against dam building and other wilderness degradation in earnest.

Martin Litton and Philip Hyde made the landscape photographs of Dinosaur National Monument that became the Sierra Club book, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers with introduction and chapter one by Pulitzer Prize novelist Wallace Stegner. The controversy over the dams in Dinosaur National Monument, along with the first quality images of the area brought home by Philip Hyde and eloquent arguments by Martin Litton in Sierra Club Board Meetings, prodded the Sierra Club Board of Directors to decide to expand the interests of the Sierra Club beyond California and the Sierra Nevada.

The battle over Dinosaur not only made the Sierra Club a national organization, but also brought the cause of conservation national recognition. A number of conservation groups including the Wilderness Society and others formed a coalition of organizations opposing the Dinosaur National Monument dams. The conservation ideals exemplified by visionaries such as Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir, were combined with new lobbying efforts, grassroots on location campaigning, full-page ads in national newspapers and other methods that became modern environmentalism.

The Dam Builders Reach For The Grand Canyon

“Post-War industrialists in league with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found their high water mark when they reached for the Grand Canyon,” Philip Hyde explained in a 2004 interview. “World wide citizen action prevented Big Dam Foolishness from getting a foothold in the Grand Canyon. Dam builder’s influence declined from then on.” Today, there is a world-wide movement to remove dams on major rivers, but in the 1950s and 1960s, conservation groups did not yet have much power. David Brower, leader of the new environmental movement and Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and Martin Litton hatched a plan to stop the Grand Canyon dams. They organized a river trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. The river trip participants included the who’s who of the day in landscape photography, geology, ecology and other sciences and disciplines. Martin Litton acted as lead boatman, Francois Leydet joined the trip as a writer, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde as photographers, David Brower as filmmaker, to mention only a few. Their creative efforts and scientific observations became the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book, Time And The River Flowing: Grand Canyon. The book went out to every member of Congress and with other written material circled the globe and caused a worldwide outpouring of support for saving the Grand Canyon.

Also on Martin Litton’s list of conservation successes was the making of Redwood National Park. The centerpiece of the redwoods campaign, the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book The Last Redwoods: Photographs And Story Of A Vanishing Scenic Resource with text by Francois Leydet and photographs again by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton, helped the Sierra Club establish its argument for a Redwood National Park between the California state parks along Redwood Creek where the largest redwoods remained rather than a Redwood National Park proposed by Save The Redwoods League that merely combined existing state parks. Read more on the Redwoods campaign and the making of The Last Redwoods with Martin Litton and Philip Hyde in future blog posts.

Martin Litton was the 185th known person to float down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1955 and founded the company Grand Canyon Dories in 1971. He ran commercial river trips using small oar-powered wooden boats originally used for fishing in Oregon and known as drift boats, but adapted by Martin Litton for use in whitewater and renamed Grand Canyon Dories. Martin Litton wrote the introduction to a number of noted books on the Grand Canyon and other environmentally sensitive wilderness areas and national parks, as well as working as managing editor for Sunset Magazine. During his work for Sunset Magazine, Martin Litton used various made up names in print for his photo credits because Sunset Magazine did not want him to actively participate in controversial environmental campaigns.

At Age 94 Martin Litton Is Still Fighting For Redwoods

Though history has not given Martin Litton as much credit as others, at the present age of 94 he continues to work on various environmental campaigns and fly his Cessna 195. He even rowed a Dory through the Grand Canyon at age 90. Martin Litton held a seat on the Sierra Club Board of Directors from 1964 to 1973. He helped found the American Land Conservancy and served on its executive committee for 10 years. In 2005 he ran as a write-in candidate for the Sierra Club Board of Directors, but he did not win the election. His current focus is preventing the logging of Giant Sequoia Redwood Trees in Sequoia National Monument. See an excerpt from the recent film on Martin Litton. He still speaks regularly on conservation, often with outrage at the logging of the Giant Sequoia Trees:

The mission of the Forest Service is to get rid of all the nation’s forests so they can start over. Under the guise of removing hazardous trees, they are taking out all the dead trees that are serving as homes for woodpeckers and owls. Their credo is to remove trees that are dead, dying, or in danger of dying. That’s every tree in the world… I feel sorry for my grandchildren. The only true optimist is a pessimist. You have to realize how bad things are before you can improve them.

Stay tuned for excerpts from my fiery interview of Martin Litton in the next blog post in this series, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 3.” Also in future blog posts read more stories of Philip Hyde and Martin Litton working or traveling together: a river trip up the Klamath River, down the Colorado river, flying over the California Coastal Redwoods, through Grand Canyon National Park.

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 9

June 23rd, 2011

Conclusion To The Story of Dinosaur National Monument And The Birth Of Modern Environmentalism

(Continued From The Previous Blog Post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 8.”

To celebrate this final part in our series on Dinosaur National Monument and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism, below are excerpts from Ardis Hyde’s 1955 travel log of the Sierra Club river trip down the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument.

Steamboat Rock From The Side, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, copyright 1955 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers included an introduction and first chapter by Wallace Stegner with documentary and landscape photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. It was the first book ever published for an environmental cause. An essay in This Is Dinosaur called “Fast Water”, written by Otis “Doc” Marston, an expert river guide, lyrically described the adventure down the Green River through Dinosaur National Park.

“The canyons of Dinosaur have had a reputation far worse than they deserved,” Doc Marston wrote. “Anyone who goes boating on them now goes with ninety years of experience behind him. The change by which a fearsome river has become a playground has involved two things: the dissipation of wild tales and bogey stories about Niagaras, ‘sucks,’ and cataracts on the one hand; and the development of suitable boats and techniques on the other.”

June 28, 1955: We met our river party near Vernal, Utah at the house of Bus Hatch, the river boatman. We piled into school buses, crossed the Green River near Jensen and headed into Colorado. A side road off U.S. 40 lead to a point on the Yampa River above Lily Park, a popular put-in four miles upstream from the Eastern National Monument boundary. After lunch the party of 67 people and six rubber ‘barges’ launched. I rode in Ray Simpson’s folbot as a bow paddler. The river meandered through a valley. This normally smooth section grew rough due to headwinds. The fun began upon entrance into the canyon proper at the National Monument boundary. We ran a series of healthy rapids, quite an experience to go through in small craft. We traveled about 15 miles to our first campsite at Anderson Hole. It was a long beach with springs in the sand and a large, flat sagebrush area above, good for campsites. We had a campfire every night on this trip.

June 29, 1955: “Brick” woke Philip and I. He sung us happy anniversary while playing the bagpipes. It was our eighth year of marriage and not unusual that our anniversary found us in a wild place. We logged 28 river miles, a long stretch for the day, highlighted by Big Joe Rapids which is a Class IV rapid in high water. Philip ran with Ray Simpson. I traveled in the boat rowed by Dave Rasmussen holding nine passengers including Dr. Putnam, a Geologist from UCLA, the Drapers of the Academy of Sciences, and Mosses, both photographers. We saw two beavers in the water near a sand bar and three Golden Eagles. In the larger rapids the boatmen customarily stood up in the rear of the raft and faced the danger, pointing the stern downstream. We could see Petroglyphs on the rock wall across the river with binoculars.

July 1, 1955: The first day of July took our Yampa River adventure through beautiful scenery but insignificant rapids. The cliffs were higher and the Yampa River sleepily undulated through giant horseshoe bends. We drifted leisurely down smooth waters under streaked, curving walls of Weber sandstone of an older vintage. Our boat made frequent stops for Philip to photograph. We ran through the heart of sheer 1,000 to 2,000 foot cliffs.” In the evening Charlie Mantle came to the campfire and answered questions about his homestead and living in such a remote place. Afterward the Park Geologist, Morey Powers, along for the day’s run, gave a talk about the Yampa River canyon geology. The moon, approaching full, gave soft illumination to the still river against the high canyon walls.

July 3, 1955: We woke to fire crackers and bagpipes signaling our last day on the river. We pulled out at Rainbow Park for lunch and the unloading of the dunnage. The rapids with the worst reputation, rated Class IV at high water, in Whirlpool Canyon and Split Mountain Canyon were exciting but not too thrilling in the rubber barge. In Moonshine rapid, SOB rapid, and Schoolboy rapid (all Class II-IV depending on water level) the wind blew violently and spray and sand filled the air. We took out for good at Split Mountain Gorge.

At Split Mountain today the road and river mosey to a meeting at the campground and boat ramp. The campground is punctuated by cottonwoods and sleepy aspens nestling with the river and studying the upturned strata on the other side. Bands of yellow and Tuscan red zigzag up the hills to gray-tan sheer sandstone cliffs, with sage and green grasses receding into a blue sky, while puffy white clouds roll away forever over the flowing river. I hear a faint rustling of leaves, a low brushing of soft riffles. I smell the clean mud in the dry afternoon sun. I sit back in this campground and let time slow down until I get a feeling of reconnecting to roots in the Earth, the immediacy of feeling, of knowing what is real, of linking in the moment with something beautiful. This place was a gift from my father to his son, from his generation to mine and all those to come. I want to tell the river runners breaking down their boats, that without those early Sierra Club activists, the rafters and the rest of this campground would be nearly 300 feet under water here. Maybe they know or can feel it somehow, or maybe the circling hawks will tell them when they are silent on a quiet day like this. In the moments of stillness on the river bank, standing at the place where the water meets the land, I say, “Thank you, Dad.”

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 8

May 20th, 2011

Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, The Escalante Wilderness And Other Regional Repercussions Of The Battle Over Dinosaur National Monument

(FROM THE CATEGORY, “Excerpts Of New Book,” CONTINUED FROM THE BLOG POST, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 7.”)

Anasazi Grain Storage In The Sandstone, Dinosaur National Monument, copyright 1951 by Philip Hyde.

The reservoirs on the Colorado River are currently at all-time lows because they lose more water annually to evaporation and seepage than they conserve, especially in drought years. Water and its management will increase in political prominence in the future as populations grow and the supply of water as a resource declines. The Glen Canyon Institute today is campaigning to have Glen Canyon Dam bypassed. As water in the Western United States grows more and more scarce, this idea is destined to gain momentum.

Immediately after the dams in Dinosaur National Monument were dropped from the Upper Colorado River Storage Project and the corresponding bill passed both houses of Congress, David Brower, still in Washington, spoke by telephone to a group of Sierra Club Board Members back in San Francisco, urging them to continue the fight and remain in opposition to Glen Canyon Dam. Unfortunately, in The History of The Sierra Club, Michael Cohen explained, “Bestor Robinson felt that such a purist stand would result in defeat, since the Club had made a compromise, saying in effect that the Bureau of Reclamation could have Glen Canyon. Bestor Robinson later said that ‘if you didn’t have the Grand Canyon then Glen Canyon should be preserved’; but, he argued, ‘the trade-off was necessary.’” For more about how long it took to fill Glen Canyon and other Glen Canyon miscalculations and mistakes, see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

The Virtues And Vices Of Compromise

“Bestor Robinson was worse than a compromiser,” Martin Litton said. “It was as if he were on the other side. The point is, no matter how hard you fight, you are going to end up with a compromise. If you start with a compromise, you have lost. Richard Leonard, Sierra Club President, believed the compromise had to be kept if the Sierra Club was to maintain credibility.”

Martin Litton said that Richard Leonard expressed concern in Sierra Club Board Meetings that Congress would be convinced the ‘preservationists’ were unreasonable.

“Richard Leonard was afraid we would be accused of suggesting the waste of the ‘entire Colorado River,'” Martin Litton said. “He thought Congressmen would say conservationists intended the Colorado River to be ‘unused’ and allowed to flood away into Mexico and the Gulf of California, as if that would have been so bad.” Studies now show that the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, is dying because its salt content has increased to unnatural levels with less and less fresh water from the Colorado River reaching it.

“Richard Leonard believed that the Sierra Club would not have been able to keep dams out of the Grand Canyon if Glen Canyon Dam had not been built,” said Martin Litton. “I disagreed with him. We had the public’s confidence in us, and we had the nation on our side as a result of Dinosaur. We could have carried that momentum right through the whole Colorado River system. I don’t mean there never would have been any pressures, but there wouldn’t have been any dam or reservoir once we got the great Escalante National Park.”

The Proposed Escalante National Park

Escalante National Park had been discussed by some members of Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt much earlier before World War II. It would have surrounded the entire area of Glen Canyon, the Escalante Wilderness and thousands of additional acres in the region. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the US into World War II, Congress turned its attention to more pressing matters and Escalante National Park never materialized beyond the idea stage, not even as a proposal. Escalante National Park would have saved Glen Canyon. The Escalante Wilderness finally became officially part of the National Park System in 2000. President Bill Clinton signed Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument into existence on his last day in office. An act that enranged off-road vehicle users and local Utah anti-wilderness conservatives. The main drawback to President Bill Clinton’s National Monument is that under political pressure, he designated the new Monument under Bureau of Land Management care rather than the National Park service. The two agencies have significantly differing policies regarding their care and preservation of wilderness lands. President Bill Clinton compromised.

David Brower wrote in his autobiography about Glen Canyon, “My own bitter lesson there was that you don’t give away something that you haven’t seen; you don’t suggest alternatives until you’ve been there.”

The Green River, Yampa River And This Is Dinosaur

In 2005, the runoff was again higher than normal after years of drought, helping the reservoirs of the Upper and Lower Colorado River Storage Projects to recover from severe depletion. On the Green River below Steamboat Rock in Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, a river crew lifted a white three-pontoon river raft up the beach to the truck. The side of the boat’s inflatable outer pontoon said, “Outward Bound.”

The Outward Bound crew was one of hundreds of groups that float through the Dinosaur National Monument river canyons now every summer. Back when Philip Hyde ran the Green River and Yampa River, the Sierra Club had just overcome the myths of unknown danger and begun to prove to the American people that rafting through Dinosaur National Monument was safely possible.

Ardis and Philip Hyde ran the Yampa River in 1955 with a Sierra Club group. By then, many Sierra Club and other groups had run the Yampa River and the Green River since the first Sierra Club trip braved the canyons in the summer of 1951. That same year, 1951, Philip Hyde covered Dinosaur National Monument by land. It was the first photography assignment on behalf of an environmental cause. The Sierra Club sent Philip Hyde to see what Dinosaur National Monument had to offer and whether it was worth saving. Philip Hyde’s assignment and a group of essays by prominent river guides and naturalists of the time became the book This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers with introduction and a first chapter by Wallace Stegner and documentary and landscape photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton.

(CONTINUED IN THE FINAL BLOG POST OF THE SERIES, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 9.”)

Monday Blog Blog: Buzztail Blog Shakes And Makes A Difference

March 14th, 2011

California Quarter Image, Reverse Side, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons, 2005. First seen on PJ Finn's Buzztail Blog.

What is Monday Blog Blog? See the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”

NEW! Special Update: Buzztail Blog Has Added A New Writer

Greg Russell, author of the photo blog, Alpenglow Images, will lend his blog post writing skills to help PJ Finn develop Buzztail Blog

Check out Greg Russell’s first Buzztail blog post, “Learning To Stand, Part I.”

What is Conservation Anyway?

Whether we are called conservationists, environmentalists, activists or some other term, a growing number of people both breathe air, drink water and want to maintain the quality of both for future generations. There are a certain faction of people in the United States who swallow the marketing and spin dished at them by big oil and big coal backed media. The spin says that we can continue to take old decayed organic material that we call oil and coal from deep in the earth, run it through refineries, machines and other hot devices, then spew it into the atmosphere indefinitely without any negative consequences. In my opinion, the idea that any negative consequences will be considered a theory until they have proven true, is ludicrous and nothing short of mass-suicide. The people swallowing and perpetuating the propaganda apparently have never ventured out into nature to observe the obvious signs of change all around us in every ecosystem.

Can Landscape Photography And Environmentalism Combine Well?

Meanwhile some photographers do not recognize the connection between landscape photography and the need to help preserve the land. Some photographers have also forgotten that landscape photography helped birth conservation in the 1800s. Nonetheless, many landscape photographers are aware of the tradition they are part of and are also rediscovering that photographs are one of the best tools available for making a difference. Because Global Warming has become so politicized and controversial, as have many other conservation and environmental issues, or for other good reasons, some photographers who are also great activists, choose to keep their photography and conservation efforts separate. My father pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde set himself apart by combining conservation and photography way before it was cool, hip and groovy to do so, but many other landscape photographers of note including Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter chose to separate the two endeavors to varying degrees. For more discussion on whether or not to mix conservation and photography see the blog post and comments on, “Wallace Stegner: The Wilderness Idea.”

PJ Finn, Photomontana Blog and Buzztail Blog

One photographer who is also an environmentalist is Paul Johnson, online a.k.a. PJ Finn. PJ Finn runs an insightful photography blog called Photo Montana, as well as a blog for activism, wilderness and environmental news called Buzztail Blog, which incidentally came before the photoblog. Buzztail refers to the noise a rattlesnake makes with its tail as a metaphor for what conservationists and environmentalists do when they report on and draw attention to various environmental issues. For more information about PJ Finn see his bio and the previous Landscape Photography Blogger blog post, “Photomontana Takes On Sacred Cows,” which recommends PJ Finn’s blogging on both blogs. Lately PJ Finn, after a move to Southern California, has rededicated himself to building up his Buzztail blog. Please lend PJ Finn a hand over there, stop by, make a comment, link to his blogs and otherwise offer up a big thanks to him for all of the good work he does.

Monday Blog Blog: Ansel Adams In The National Parks

February 28th, 2011

Book Review: Ansel Adams In The National Parks: Photographs From America’s Wild Places

Highlights Of And About The Essays And The Photographs

 

Ansel Adams In The National Parks by Ansel Adams. Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Amazon.com price $22.72.

How to add to what other reviewers have said? Ansel Adams In The National Parks has been reviewed in a number of other venues online (see list of relevant posts below), which represents a sizable marketing and publicity outlay for Little, Brown and Company. Little Brown was kind enough to send me a review copy as a gift, thank you to Little Brown and the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust as well as the Center For Creative Photography. I imagine the other reviewers received advanced review copies to aid their review efforts too.

Below is what I like and dislike about this new release. I highly applaud the book and offer some criticism too. Ansel Adams in the National Parks: Photographs from America’s Wild Places (Amazon) is a beautiful addition to anyone’s library. The look and feel of this new volume about Ansel Adams, pleases the senses and says quality all the way, yet the book is reasonably priced at only $40.00. Considering the book displays “more than 225 photographs” and the reader discovers “many rarely seen and 50 never before published” Ansel Adams photographs. These facts alone make it worth owning. The new binding of  Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, Ansel Adams In Color and Ansel Adams In The National Parks: Photographs From America’s Wild Places are all similar in attractive design and style: block lettering on white covers with smaller photographs on front and back.

In Ansel Adams In The National Parks I was happy to find many Ansel Adams photographs I have never seen before. The far majority of his photographs of the national parks in the book are a supreme joy to discover. There are perhaps half a dozen or less that I thought were below the standards of what Ansel Adams himself would have published. Ansel Adams was very particular about which of his photographs he printed and published. He printed only about 900 images out of his 50,000 original negatives.

I liked the notes and letters between Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall and Beaumont Newhall, when they either traveled together or wrote to each other about Ansel Adams’ travels and photography on his Guggenheim to photograph the National Parks.

I also enjoyed reading darkroom black and white photographer John Sexton on printing Ansel Adams photographs in the 1970s.

It is always a treat to read Wallace Stegner. His essays are well-informed and well-argued. As good as his essays are, his fiction is even better. Why not use new essays rather than reprints of essays published in previous books about Ansel Adams? Plenty of high quality credentialed essayists would love the opportunity to write about Ansel Adams in the National Parks.

The essays in the back of Ansel Adams In The National Parks, sing, especially the last essay by William A. Turnage “Ansel Adams, Environmentalist.” William A. Turnage’s prose is lyrical as he praises and passionately gives tribute to his life-long friend and partner. The two essays by Richard B. Woodward, “Ansel Adams In The National Parks” on the travels of Ansel Adams, Nancy Newhall and Beaumont Newhall and “Ansel Adams and the Preservation of Wilderness,” each provide a well-written and fascinating short history lesson. In “Ansel Adams and the Preservation of Wilderness”  Richard B. Woodward wrote:

As our sense of what happened yesterday or decades ago is often as muddled and contentious as our plans for the future, a mechanical process that provides more or less realistic evidence of the world as it once was can be of immense practical and political value…. Architecture historians in several European countries understood this vital function of photography soon after Daguerre took credit for inventing it in 1839. In France the government had already founded the Commission des Monuments Historiques in 1837 and assigned it to compile a list of old decaying medieval and Renaissance structures—cathedrals, parks, chateaus, villages—imperiled by neglect…. In 1851, the Commission selected five photographers—Edourd-Denis Baldus, Hippolyte Bayard, Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and O. Mestral—for an elite unite that operated under the name La Mission Heliographique. It was perhaps the first time, though by no means the last, that photographers were hired in a noble-minded effort to preserve valuable parts of the world, in this case a centuries-old heritage that France was in danger of forfeiting unless quick action was taken to save these crumbling and irreplaceable sites….

Richard B. Woodward continued with sections on how photographs helped protect Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone, and many other conservation causes all over the world. Then he wrote about Ansel Adams’ leadership in the transformation of photography and its establishment as an art form:

By organizing the exhibition Group f.64 in 1932—with Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and others—Adams became an eloquent spokesman for “straight photography” in San Francisco and far beyond….Finally no photographer except Stieglitz did more to win acceptance for photography as a fine art. In 1940, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York created a separate department of photography, the first in the world, Adams became one of its founding fathers. Without training as a scholar or curator, he was nonetheless instrumental in the rediscovery of Watkins, Jackson, and O’Sullivan. By extolling their achievements to Beaumont Newhall and others in the museum community, he helped to construct a nascent art historical continuum for landscape photography. His own international prominence as an artist toward the end of his life altered the material conditions for those choosing to take the medium in that direction. In the 1970s, prints by Adams became one of the pillars of an emerging market for photographs as an art collectible, for sale in galleries and auction houses. The select but not inconsiderable number of photographers lucky enough to earn a living today from sales of their prints have Adams to thank for proving this could be done. Despite an altered context and a newfound respect for photographers within the realm of contemporary art, his pictures remain basic to the photography market and show no sign of diminishing in prevalence twenty-five years after his death.

Related Posts:

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Ansel Adams Gallery

“Black And White Prints, Collectors And Philip Hyde” Fine Art Photography Collector’s Resource

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” National Parks Traveler

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Travel Blissful

“Review: Ansel Adams In The National Parks” JMG Galleries

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Photonaturalist