Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22nd, 2016

Blessings To This Land

Ahwahnee Dining Room, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, January 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Photoshop used only to resize and decrease the tilt to the right, which was greater in the raw capture. The cloudy “effects” at the sides of the photograph are due to having come inside suddenly after hiking to Mirror Lake and back from the Ahwahnee Hotel in below freezing weather and snow. The lens fogged and even iced up as soon as I came indoors. I made this photograph after the center of the lens defogged. Is it a straight photograph or is it pictorialist?

(From the Holiday Archives…)

Thanks Giving

Blessings To This Land…
I am grateful for the wind,
For the tide that brings us foods from all over the world,
For warm fires and memories,
For friends.

Blessings to this home…
I am grateful for smiles and laughter,
For stories,
For this strong, good house,
For the woods.

Blessings to this life…
I am grateful for this calling,
For this challenge,
For this chance to serve,
Despite my flaws.

Blessings to the people…
I am grateful that even the greatest storm,
Will pass,
The night is long and full of fear,
But the sunrise always comes.

Blessings to the great circle…
Life carries on,
Nature is our teacher,
The tree bends in the breeze,
The squirrel gathers stores for the winter.

And we are blessed,
We may run very fast,
And lean far out over the cliff,
Yet catch only ourselves,
In the end.

Originally posted 11-25-2010

A Drive Through The Heartland 2

September 4th, 2015

A Drive Through The Heartland, Part Two

Transition from West to Midwest

(Continued from the blog post, “A Drive Through The Heartland 1.”)

What I Have Found…

Horst Barn With Cumulus Clouds, Potter, Nebraska copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This is a Western style barn in Western Nebraska. More round barns occur in Eastern Nebraska.

Horst Barn With Cumulus Clouds, Potter, Nebraska copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This is a Western style barn in Western Nebraska. More round barns occur in Eastern Nebraska. (Click on image to see large.)

Along the way, on this journey through the Heartland of America, I have now photographed each subject I suggested in the first blog post in this series, except for waterfalls and a shipwreck. The falls I planned to photograph were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in Kentucky and in Tennessee. The southern section of my trip through Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas has been postponed due to heat. If I had traveled up into the Michigan Upper Peninsula, as originally outlined, I would have also visited a shipwreck or two.

Nonetheless, cutting out the southern portion and the Michigan U.P. will allow me to get to a bit of Minnesota, photograph the world’s largest round barn in Marshfield, Wisconsin and find the many historically significant barns in the southeastern corner of South Dakota.

In my now nearly 6,000 miles of wandering through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, I have managed to run across numerous old mills, historic round barns, rectangular barns, multi-sided barns, one tobacco barn, and even a Swedish Gothic Revival style milk barn listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I have photographed gardens, farm animals, birds, people, children, horses, pigs, hogs, cows, goats, chickens, beaches, trees, forests, two county fairs, one covered bridge, plastic animals, stone animals, diners of various ethnicities, ponds, lakes, grasses, cornfields, old farm equipment, fast cars, slow cars, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, abandoned homes, barns and whole farms, renovated homes and barns, relocated barns and the cityscapes of Detroit, living, dying, dead and resuscitating.

How Is The US Doing?

If this trip were like taking the temperature of the country, I would say I have found it very much alive and well in many ways, and deeply sick in others. I have been surprised by the extent of blight, ruin and decay, not just in Detroit or other urban areas, but also in the country, in small towns and large towns. One of the reasons I started photographing barns in the first place is that they are going away, but I have been struck most by how many are going and gone and how fast. Barns are dying, no doubt about it. The whole small-farm way of life is a thing of the past and fading fast in the memory of the aging and dying.

Meanwhile, Topher and Kori’s wedding was an inspiration and party to remember. More on it in blog posts to come in this series. I have learned that love takes on many shapes and forms, unless it does not, as I have had at least three romances on this trip that never became romances… more on them in subsequent posts too.

Round Barns, Multi-Sided Barns, Rectangular Barns, Barns of All Shapes

Elijah Filley Stone Barn and Masonic Temple, Filley, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Stone barns are far more rare than round barns, except in New England.

Elijah Filley Stone Barn and Masonic Temple, Filley, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Stone barns are far more rare than round barns, except in New England. (Click on image to see large.)

When I started actually reading the books on barns I bought from Amazon Marketplace, I discovered in A Round Indiana that round barns are extremely rare. Only about 1/5 of one percent of all barns built are round barns. If searching for barns were like playing poker, round barns would be the blue chips.

The author of A Round Indiana, John T. Hanou, wrote that Indiana has more round barns than any other state, but that if as exhaustive a study as he had made were done in Wisconsin, as many or more round barns might be discovered there. Also, there are true round barns and multi-sided barns. I have photographed eight-sided, ten-sided, 12-sided, 14-sided, 16-sided and 18-sided barns.

Western Deserts Give Way to Midwestern Grassland and Prairie

The drive across Nevada and Utah on Interstate 80 goes through some forested high mountain passes, but primarily it runs through a dry, dusty land of the Great Basin and Painted Deserts. Wyoming, along the freeway, is a cross between desert and grassland, a high plateau of boulder dotted baked cattle land. Nebraska feels much like Wyoming, but greener, more like the Midwest. Nebraska hayfields are more productive and plentiful and the woods are more lush and extensive.

The light changes from West to Midwest, generally. Evenings have more glow and afterglow. The light is softer and more diffuse. It is also less harsh and with less contrast, as you travel from West to East. Water becomes more plentiful moving toward the heartland of America. There is more dew, more sweat, more condensation, more mold, more rot, more rust and more and faster decay. Progressing from Nebraska into Iowa and from Iowa into Illinois and Indiana, you find yourself constantly surrounded by lawn mowers and people mowing along the road and around their homes and businesses. The volume of lawns and grass increases as you head east.

Water and Greenery

Fresh Round Hay Bales Near Ogallala, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. A high humidity muggy day in the Midwest. Trees and greenery along the roadside are more lush than Wyoming or other Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

Fresh Round Hay Bales Near Ogallala, Nebraska, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. A high humidity muggy day in the Midwest. Trees and greenery along the roadside are more lush than in Wyoming or other Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

For many generations, ever since we settled California, we have kept up the illusion that California is lush and green like the Midwest or the East. However, California is primarily desert, just like Nevada, Utah and in places if we are lucky, like Wyoming. Nonetheless, we have imported water, especially into Southern California from all over the West, particularly Northern California, where I live, with the idea that we could make Southern California look lush and inviting.

California already has the most interesting terrain, but we wanted it all. We had to have the green too. Now we are paying for this. Now we are rippling out lawns, xeriscaping, reengineering and trying to get back to a more natural version of ourselves because the water chickens have finally come home to roost during the current drought.

Much of the Midwest has been overly wet lately, particularly Michigan, for example. In Michigan and elsewhere in the Midwest, it is still politically ok to run the faucet as long as you like, have a giant lawn and giant lawn mower and the excess just drains away. While California has had the most severe drought in recorded history, bridges are out all over the heartland of America due to torrential rains and flooding over the last few years. The Great Lakes are all at least two to four feet above normal, which is a huge amount of water stored in excess.

Recently while talking to Mark Hursey, the owner of the Smith Round Barn in Ligonier, Indiana, I said, “I didn’t realize you irrigate in the Midwest, but now I see your irrigation ditch.” The watercourse I had noticed was brimming full of water.

“That’s not an irrigation ditch like you have in the West,” Mark Hursey replied. “That’s a drainage ditch. You see that round metal cap in the middle of the field?”

“Yes,” I said.

“That is the well for that field,” He said. “The water from the well covers that field and the excess drains off in the drainage ditch.”

“Because you have had a number of wet years lately, you aren’t drawing down your aquifer like they are in the Great Plains, in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, right?”

“Well, not as much, but we have had problems in the past with drawing the aquifers down in this part of the Midwest too.”

You will read more about Mark and Laura Hursey, their farm and the Smith Round Barn in future blog posts.

Western Barns Versus Midwestern Barns

Large Brick Round Barn Near Conroy, Iowa, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Round barns are more common in Iowa than in Nebraska, or any Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

Large Brick Round Barn Near Conroy, Iowa, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Round barns are more common in Iowa than in Nebraska, or any Western states. (Click on image to see large.)

Other differences distinguish West and Midwest. With some regional exceptions, people all over the West are generally friendly to strangers, but Midwesterners are generally more easy going and more apt to help and be generous to strangers. Still, just like rural areas in California, Utah, Nevada or elsewhere in the West, a stranger must be careful when approaching a home in a remote area in the Midwest. Farmers and other rural people can be heavily armed and on some occasions may be dangerous. In blog posts to come I will share stories, one in particular, that scared me out of my Chacos Sandals and gave me cause to rethink how I approach rural requests for photograph permissions.

All types of barns can be found in all regions now, but originally, barn types followed the settlement patterns in different areas of the country by ethnicity. The typical Western barn has a roof that is steeper in the center and then decreases in steepness as it goes out toward the edges, whereas the Midwestern barn is the opposite. The top of the roof is typically less steep and the outer edges are the steepest, as in, what is called the Gambrel roof. Also, Western barns usually have the hay hoist up at the roof peak. Western farmers hoist their hay up to the upper floors on the outside of the barn, then lift it through a large opening up under the eave, protected by an extension of the roof called a hood.

One of the reasons round barns became more popular in the Midwest is that Midwestern farmers generally hoist the hay upstairs after the hay wagon enters the barn. In a round barn the hay wagon and a team of horses has enough room to circle the barn moving forward, without having to get the horses to back up to turn around. In the transition states between West and Midwest, there is a greater mixture of types of barns. The transition from West to Midwest is noticeable in the types of barns. For example, Nebraska has more Western style barns than Iowa, but Iowa has more than Illinois and Indiana and so on from West toward the East. The Midwestern state that feels the most Eastern is Ohio. Ohio transitions from Midwest to East. More typical in the East are stone barns, but stone barns can be found all over the US. More on different types of barns and different ethnicities in different areas in future blog posts.

(Continued in the next blog post in this series, “Heartland 3: Starke Round Barn, Red Cloud, Nebraska.”)

What types of barns are typical where you live?

Save The Historic Olsen Barn: Campaign by Feather River Land Trust

August 13th, 2015

Olsen Barn and Meadow Campaign

A Number of Photographers and Other Local Artists Including Jan Davies, Betty Bishop, Sally Yost, Sally Posner, David Leland Hyde and Many Others Have Donated Rights to Use Photographs, Originals and Prints to Feather River Land Trust to Help Save A Northern Sierra Legacy

October 23, 2015 Update:

Individual donations were up to $413,467 as of 10-1-15. This more than met the amount necessary to complete the land transaction. On September 23 Feather River Land Trust Executive Director Paul Hardy exercised the option to purchase the 107 acre property and Olsen Barn. Formal Closing took place October 23, 2015. As of October 1, Feather River Land Trust received 541 donations from 439 individuals from as far away as Alaska and New York. The total raised for the land transaction through October 1 was $798,000. Funds already raised for taking care of the land and barn total $15,467. A land and barn stewardship committee, including David Leland Hyde, has formed to establish land use, maintenance and restoration strategy. David Leland Hyde in particular is researching the viability for this property of joining the National Register of Historic Places.

 

The Imminent Demise of the Olsen Barn, a Plumas County Cultural Treasure

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near Chester, California, Sierra, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This photograph has been actively used by Feather River Land Trust in the Olsen Barn Campaign.

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near Chester, California, Sierra, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This photograph has been actively used by Feather River Land Trust in the Olsen Barn Campaign. (To see large click on image.)

Barns die in many ways: they are crushed by falling trees, blown down by high winds, dismantled for wood, demolished, set on fire and sometimes pushed over by bulldozers. However, the majority of barns don’t burn out, they just rot slowly away.

More barns give up the ghost each year than people build in the US. Around the West and Midwest dismantling barns is big business, but fortunately for historic barns there are also many friends of barns who are in the business of preservation.

One historic structure already falling apart is the Olsen Barn on the East edge of Chester, California on the shores of Lake Almanor where the Northern Sierra meets the Cascade Mountains. This cultural and community icon is one of the largest barns in Plumas County and the surrounding counties. For many years it has been restored in fits and starts, but mainly left to decay and crumble away if significant reconstruction does not occur soon.

Olsen Barn, Chester and Mt. Lassen Near Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large, click on image.)

Olsen Barn, Chester and Mt. Lassen Near Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large, click on image.)

Besides stunning views of Lake Almanor and Lassen Peak, the 107-acre Olsen Barn property includes lush stands of trees and a riparian creek corridor where the North Fork of the Feather River flows through from Chester into Lake Almanor. Norwegian pioneer settler and carpenter, Peter Olsen, originally built three barns for his dairy farm, of which today’s Olsen barn is the last one standing, but it is getting more shaky all the time. One major beam has fallen destabilizing one end of the structure. Also, many windows and doors are open and in other places the wooden walls are wearing thin, disintegrating and in danger of collapse.

Feather River Land Trust Tour Group, Interior Olsen Barn Near Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large, click on image.)

Feather River Land Trust Tour Group, Interior Olsen Barn Near Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This photograph has also been used in the Olsen Barn Campaign. (To see large click on image.)

Still, several owl species continue to live in the barn. The meadow around the barn provides habitat for many species of wildlife and wildfowl, including a number of endangered species. Collins Pine owns an old railroad grade that runs through the property West of the barn and connects the fields around the barn to other areas of Chester Meadow. Collins Pine plans to restore the old railroad trestle crossing the North Fork Feather River and convert the railroad grade into a walking, hiking and possibly a biking trail. This will improve public access if the property owner is cooperative to such land use. A developer could wipe out the barn and fill the land with houses, as has been done so many times all over the west.

Fundraising Video Shows Historic and Natural Values

In a YouTube video raising funds to acquire the property for preservation, Paul Hardy, Executive Director and Founder of Feather River Land Trust said:

The property and barn are for sale on the open market and the right to public access could be lost forever. The barn has survived fire, floods, heavy snows, but most of all, development. Feather River Land Trust will keep the space open to everyone who wants to enjoy nature right outside their door. We also want to ensure that the Olsen Barn is standing for another 150 years.

Olsen Barn Across North Fork of Feather River and Riparian Area, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Olsen Barn Across North Fork of Feather River and Riparian Area, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large click on image.)

Since before the arrival of White settlers, the Chester Meadow has been a resource for people of the community to fish, picnic, explore and enjoy access to the shore of Lake Almanor. Originally the open grassland around the barn was part of the Maidu settlement now under Lake Almanor called Big Meadows. The area is now the last remaining remnant of Big Meadows, a Maidu trading and cultural center.

“Development of the Olsen Barn property would permanently erase an important village site of the Mountain Maidu people,” said Kenneth Holbrook, Maidu Summit Consortium Director, also in the Olsen Barn Campaign fundraising video.

Lenticular Clouds, Mt. Dyer and Chester Meadow Near Olsen Barn, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see larger click image.)

Lenticular Clouds, Mt. Dyer and Chester Meadow Near Olsen Barn, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see larger click image.)

The property is for sale for $798,000. The total Save Olsen Barn Campaign with pre-acquisition costs, restoration and management of the property will total about $1.2 million. Partly by meeting an early fundraising deadline, the project received $400,000 from Plumas County through California Proposition 50 on behalf of the Chester River Parkway. The current total fundraising from Feather River Land Trust private donors, as of August 4 is $243,108. This amount added to the $400,000 from the Prop 50 Grant makes a grand total to date of $643,108, leaving $154,892 needed by September 26 to successfully complete the purchase.

October 23, 2015 Update:

Even though the land transaction is now complete, funds are still much needed for ongoing land stewardship and barn restoration.

How You Can Make A Difference

Olsen Barn Through The Willows Across The North Fork Feather River, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. The Mountain Maidu used willows to make baskets that were unique in all the world. (To see larger click on image.)

Olsen Barn Through The Willows Across The North Fork Feather River Near Lake Almanor, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. The Mountain Maidu used willows to make baskets that were unique in all the world. (To see larger click on image.)

Time is running out on this gem of the Sierra. Here are some ways you can be part of this historical restoration project and support the Feather River Land Trust Olsen Barn Campaign:

Help Out By Check: Please make checks out to FRLT or Feather River Land Trust and Mail to: FRLT, P.O. Box 1826, Quincy, CA 95971 or take to the Chester branch of Plumas Bank.

Online Contribution: Go to Olsen Barn Fundraising page, scroll down, click on the large orange link button and under Donation Type choose Olsen Barn Campaign.

Stock or Mutual Fund Donation: Call Karen Klevin at 530-283-5758. It’s easy to make a stock donation and it is particularly beneficial if you have appreciated stock.

FRLT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

To find out more about the Olsen Barn Campaign and the Feather River Land Trust directly from Paul Hardy, Executive Director and Founder, attend The Common Good Community Foundation hosted talk and dinner (optional).

Almanor Legacy, a Talk by Paul Hardy
August 13, 2015
Lake Almanor Tavern (Next to Dollar General)
384 Main Street, Chester, CA   96020
530-258-2100
Hors d’Oeuvres, No Host Bar: 5:00 pm
Talk: 5:30 pm
Dinner: 6:00 pm
(Call to make reservations for dinner by August 11, 2015)

Monday Blog Blog: Mark Graf Up Close, On Ice Or Underwater

March 16th, 2015

Mark Graf: Notes From The Woods PhotoBlog

Lessons On How To Make Captivating Nature Photographs Almost Anywhere

Coral Reef, Little Cayman, Caribbean, Nikon D700, Nauticam underwater housing, dual Inon Z240 strobes. This photograph represents a lot of what I enjoy about the underwater world. Everything you see is animal life. Animals familiar, and some very foreign to land dwellers. All of which make the ocean a fascinating place to explore, and deserving of our attention to preserve the highly complex chain of life that exists within it.

Coral Reef, Little Cayman, Caribbean Sea, Nikon D700, Nauticam underwater housing, dual Inon Z240 strobes. “This photograph represents a lot of what I enjoy about the underwater world. Everything you see is animal life. Animals familiar, and some very foreign to land dwellers. All of which make the ocean a fascinating place to explore, and deserving of our attention to preserve the highly complex chain of life that exists within it.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

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

Learning about photography online is richest and most rewarding not in attending tutorials, photo schools, forums or other large blog or magazine sites, but in finding talented single photographers who have a distinct voice or a specific niche, something in common with you, or the type of advice or specialty you seek, or something different you admire, then developing a blog relationship with them.

One photoblog I discovered five years ago in my first month of blogging was Mark Graf’s Notes From The Woods. Not only do I admire the way Mark Graf approaches photography and blogging, he is one of the best at encouraging discussion and creating community, yet he appears to do it nearly effortlessly, with nonchalance and a lack of blowing his own horn that is pleasant and surprising in today’s often ego-driven photo social media world.

Graf makes his home in Detroit and has photographed and specialized in the natural places and wildlife of Michigan, Alaska, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, as well as other states and bodies of water since the year 2000. His photography has been widely published in magazines and books and used by a long list of commercial clients in the financial, travel and education spheres. He specializes in placing large fine art prints in hospitals and other medical facilities to provide a calming, tranquil atmosphere for patients. Part of his core philosophy as an artist is the idea that everything is connected in the web of nature. Mark’s short biography and artist’s statement are well worth reading.

One day a few years ago I visited the New York Times Opinion Pages Dot Earth online and suddenly there was a photograph by Graf called “Fracked,” as well as a commentary on the image and his other photographs he makes by photographing mineral laden rocks up close. Abstract photography is one of his specialties. To learn more about the photograph from the artist’s perspective see Mark’s blog, Notes From The Woods and the original blog post about “Fracked.” Also, take a Google at some of the many other blogs and websites that published articles about the innovative image “Fracked,” including StateImpact a reporting project of NPR, National Public Radio.

Fracked, Nikon D800, Nikon 105 f/2.8 Macro lens, cross-polarized lighting. "This abstract of Cherry Creek Jasper was photographed during a time when natural gas fracking was fresh on my mind from a number of news stories. The red cracks symbolized the wounds we are creating in the Earth. The appearance of them above and below a horizon symbolized what we do below the Earth can have an impact on the atmosphere above. This image was referenced in the New York Times Dot Earth Blog.

Fracked, Nikon D800, Nikon 105 f/2.8 Macro lens, cross-polarized lighting. “This abstract of Cherry Creek Jasper was photographed during a time when natural gas fracking was fresh on my mind from a number of news stories. The red cracks symbolized the wounds we are creating in the Earth. The appearance of them above and below a horizon symbolized what we do below the Earth can have an impact on the atmosphere above. This image was referenced in the New York Times Opinion Pages Dot Earth Blog.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

Graf has written about how Michigan, for the most part, has less dramatic landscapes than many Western or other states and countries. As a result he has developed his macro and underwater photography and diving. He also finds nature in small areas and preserves, often owned by the Michigan Nature Association, which he supports and works with. The Michigan Nature Association, Mark said, “Buys sensitive plots of land and prevents any development or recreational use other than hiking and education.” They are a non-profit working to protect Michigan’s threatened and endangered species through habitat preservation. Since 1952, they have established more than 170 nature sanctuaries, the largest network of such natural areas in Michigan.

When Graf writes for Notes From The Woods, he sometimes states his opinion, but he writes his posts in such a way as to leave plenty of room for other viewpoints. He shares the various sides of any given discussion or method and asks his readers for their thoughts. I will discuss certain aspects of blogging here because I feel Notes From The Woods is one of the most accessible and easy to relate to examples of how to run a photography weblog around.

There are subtle issues that come up in commenting on blogs and receiving comments. The two biggest complaints I hear from bloggers about comments are: 1. “Most of the people who comment only do so hoping I will return comment on their blog” or conversely, 2. “Some blogs I comment on never reciprocate by commenting on my blog.” As a photoblogger, if you comment right back each time anyone comments on your blog, you tend to get into a lot of “tit for tat” relationships. If one day you do not maintain the chain of exchanging comments, comments tend to dry up on your blog. If you never reciprocate by commenting on other blogs, you will not receive many comments on your blog either. There are a few blogs that are extraordinary exceptions to this pattern. Also, at least some comments come from those who truly appreciate the writing or photography.

Graf has found the happy middle between the two opposites of never reciprocating and constantly reciprocating. He comments back selectively and intermittently. Mark visits and comments on Landscape Photography Blogger when I write something that catches his interest, but there is no noticeable correlation to when I comment on his blog. Thus, with his lead, we have avoided the rut of an endless half-sincere comment trade. This alone sets Notes In The Woods apart in my mind and causes me to think of Graf Nature Photo in a favorable light. When I get very busy, his blog is one of those I visit first, while I may not get to many of the others I usually read. More fundamentally, I have been following and commenting on Notes In The Woods now for five years because I found Mark’s writing and photography intriguing and ideas provoking. His blog was also rated highly by blog ranking websites, which meant to me that he knew what he was doing and would be interesting to learn from. I was not disappointed.

Ice Sheets at Twilight, Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm lens. "Photographed on Lake St. Clair, Michigan - which is about a 25 minute drive from where I live.  I only photograph here in winter because of the dynamically changing conditions of the frozen lake.   I am always surprised at what the lake offers up to me in terms of compositional elements."

Ice Sheets at Twilight, Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm lens. “Photographed on Lake St. Clair, Michigan – which is about a 25 minute drive from where I live. I only photograph here in winter because of the dynamically changing conditions of the frozen lake. I am always surprised at what the lake offers up to me in terms of compositional elements.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

Graf has a way of sharing often small, yet vital photography pointers sometimes through his own mistakes and with a humility, friendliness and real-world insight that can be lacking in other photographers who have as much experience. I always look forward to reading what he has to say, or what I can learn, or be reminded of, in his blog posts. Many aspects of digital photography that were different from film, I discovered there.

Not only does Graf’s blog provide an excellent learning experience, but his photographs have much to teach those who care about nature and wish to capture it with integrity. At the same time, with many innovations that go beyond the literal image, we see in his work the cutting edge of artistic expression in digital photography today. Mark began this journey by using double exposures and other effects with film photography. See his article about it on NatureScapes called, “Departing from the Literal Image.” Today we see in Graf’s photographic art various blurs, pans, movement of objects and other effects, all executed with taste, often in camera rather than in Photoshop, giving natural places dignity. He still makes multiple exposures in camera, which is one reason he uses Nikon digital cameras: they make it possible. His use of special effects adds to and helps bring out the beauty around us, rather than supplanting it in a gimmicky way like much of the awkward pictorialesque imagery seen online today. To a number of his images he adds a circular blur either in post-processing or in camera. The images in which he chooses to use this whirl effect, or any other technique for that matter, help us see the details and patterns in nature, rather than covering them up. For an education in digital photography, be sure to study his online photography gallery of portfolios. You will be glad you did.

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

September 25th, 2013

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

How We Lost Glen Canyon

Resurrection Book Cover, Photograph copyright 2009 James Kay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canyon Photography On Par With The Best Ever

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

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

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

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

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

The Desert, Progress, Jobs, Money And Other Myths

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

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

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

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

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

A Dying Motor Tourism Industry And The Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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