Posts Tagged ‘William Neill’

Outdoor Photographer Special Feature: Philip Hyde and the Art of Making National Parks

June 9th, 2016

Outdoor Photographer June National Parks Centennial Special Issue

Centerpiece Feature: Philip Hyde and the Art of Making National Parks by David Leland Hyde

Outdoor Photographer Cover, June 2016 National Parks Centennial Special Issue, cover photograph Mount Deception, Brooks and Silverthrone, Wonder Lake, the Alaska Range, Denali National Park by Carr Clifton.

Outdoor Photographer Cover, June 2016 National Parks Centennial Special Issue, cover photograph Mount Deception, Brooks and Silverthrone, Wonder Lake, the Alaska Range, Denali National Park by Carr Clifton. (Click on image to see larger.)

Outdoor Photographer magazine has come a long way lately. The magazine is under new ownership, Madavor Media, L.L.C. out of Braintree, Massachusetts. Wes Pitts, who worked for the previous owners for more than 17 years and apprenticed under Rob Sheppard, is the new Editorial Director/Editor. The articles and headlines now appeal as much to seasoned photographers as to beginners.

There are still many articles about gear and locations, but these are done more tastefully, while more articles about the art and craft of photography are appearing. Some of the best writers from the Rob Sheppard and Steve Werner eras are back like Lewis Kemper, Carr Clifton, James Kay, Mark Edward Harris, Art Wolfe and others. Columnists such as Amy Gulick, Frans Lanting, William Neill, David Muench and others continue to produce excellent advice and insight. David Leland Hyde has been named on the masthead as a Contributing Editor.

The reproduction quality still has a ways to go, but they are working internally on improving this and other aspects of the magazine to make gradual refinements over the coming months and years. The editor has expressed the objectives of bringing in more conservation photography and more quality coverage by the experienced professionals in the field.

Currently for June, the Outdoor Photographer editors and staff put together a National Parks Centennial Special Issue with cover photograph and personal experience feature article about the “Wildlands of the National Parks” by Carr Clifton. They invited David Leland Hyde to write the issue’s centerpiece feature article called, “Philip Hyde: The Art of Making National Parks.” Ben Horton wrote an excellent article about getting off the beaten path in the parks and long-time contributor William Sawalich wrote a fascinating feature profile of George Grant who, “Toiled in obscurity for nearly three decades as the first official photographer of the National Park Service.”

The Philip Hyde centerpiece feature immerses the reader in the conservation campaigns that made many of our Western National Parks. From Harvey Manning, author of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series book Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland, to David Simons, long-time resident, explorer, photographer and land conservationist in the North Cascades of Washington, from David Brower, Ansel Adams and Martin Litton to Eliot Porter, Point Reyes National Seashore, Dinosaur National Monument, Edward Weston, Minor White, the Bureau of Reclamation, Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, Howard Zahniser, Edward Abbey, Slickrock, Canyonlands National Park, The Last Redwoods, Gary Braasch, Jack Dykinga, Backpacker Magazine, William Neill, Chris Brown, Lewis Kemper, Carr Clifton, Alaska: The Great Land and Wade Davis author of a new book, The Sacred Headwaters, this is an in-depth look at Philip Hyde’s career, his influences and those he influenced in the field of conservation photography.

The Outdoor Photographer June National Parks Centennial Special Issue is on newsstands now and is one of the best issues of Outdoor Photographer yet. Do not wait because the special editions of Outdoor Photographer often sell out. This is not just a sales pitch. You can go online now and read Philip Hyde: The Art of Making National Parks, but if you want the special issue in the paper version, I would get it as soon as possible. Find it at Barnes and Noble and other booksellers and magazine racks, wherever magazines are sold.

To read more about the George Eastman Museum Exhibition America’s National Parks, see David Leland Hyde’s guest post on the Outdoor Photographer Blog. To read an in-depth overview of the exhibit including special programs and lectures see Philip Hyde in Photography and America’s National Parks Exhibition–Programs and Lectures.

Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill

March 30th, 2016

Celebrating Wilderness by William Neill

Reposted Today in Honor of the 10th Anniversary of the Passing of my Father, Philip Hyde.

Written by William Neill for the July 2006 Issue of Outdoor Photographer. Read more at OutdoorPhotographer.com and visit WilliamNeill.com or William Neill’s Photography Blog at WilliamNeill.com/blog/. This article was originally posted to Landscape Photography Blogger as my first guest post. I am grateful to Dad’s good friend master photographer William Neill for sharing it with the world again through Landscape Photography Blogger. Coincidentally, just a few days before I originally posted this Bill Neill tribute, Guy Tal wrote a tribute on his own blog journal to William Neill called, “Inspiration: William Neill’s Yosemite Volume One.”

New Tribute to Philip Hyde by Outdoor Photographer

The current editor of Outdoor Photographer, Wes Pitts, today also wrote a must-read tribute to Dad, “Remembering Philip Hyde, Visionary Landscape Photographer and Conservationist.”

Celebrating Wilderness by William Neill

Sunset From Mt. Hoffman, Yosemite National Park, California, 2006 by William Neill.

On March 30, 2006, Philip Hyde passed away at the age of 84.  The community of photographers and nature lovers lost a true friend and pioneer. (See the June 2006 issue of Outdoor Photographer, A Voice for the Wild).  I count myself as being very blessed for having known him.

 

Many years before meeting Philip back in the early 1980s, I discovered his work in the Sierra Club’s famous “Exhibit-Format Series” of books.  His images opened my eyes, along with those of thousands of other photographers and wilderness enthusiasts, to the beautiful and endangered landscapes he had explored.  He helped us see the great potential use landscape photographs could have for environmental protection.  Philip’s images spoke to me quietly yet forcefully of wild nature’s value, and showed me the impact hard work, dedication and selflessness can have.

Philip’s sphere of influence has expanded outward far and wide, quietly and profoundly.  Hyde was the workhorse for the Sierra Club book series, providing images for nearly every battle of theirs in the 1960s and 1970s.  When David Brower, the director of the Club and creator of the book series, needed images to help preserve an endangered landscape, Philip and camera went to work.  Books in which his photographs are instrumental include The Last Redwoods, Slickrock, Island in Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula, Time and The River Flowing, Navajo Wildlands, The Wild Cascades: Forgotten Wildlands, and This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers.

I have little doubt that every published nature photographer of my generation has been inspired by Philip’s efforts.  The large number of photographers, professional or not, working today to use their imagery to help preserve wild places, both locally and on national issues, owe Philip a great debt.

When I looked at those Sierra Club books as a college student, my wildest dream was to use my images in such books and other forums to further the cause of conservation, and to make photographs for a living.  The success of the Sierra Club books not only gave a great boost to its own membership, but also showed publishers that such books had commercial value, thus spawning the publication of thousands of books modeled after them.  The resulting nature book industry allowed many photographers to develop careers, and brought to light many issues of preservation.  Even those not familiar with the full extent of Hyde’s accomplishments can trace their roots to his efforts.

Beyond his environmental contributions, Hyde has earned an honored place for his art.  His photographs have a quality of serene reality.  His choice of camera is a 4×5 for revealing the landscape in sharp detail.  The color is not amplified.  The light he preferred was understated, and he did not favor the “magic hour” that seduces most of us.  He has a disdain for the redundant sunset motif.  He chose Ektachrome film, over Kodachrome or Fujichrome, for its more neutral reproduction of nature’s colors.  In similar fashion, Philip’s compositions and use of lenses are simple and direct.  Rarely do you see a photograph where camera position or lens exaggerates any aspect of a landscape.

Commenting on his evolution from being a black and white photographer to predominantly using color, Philip wrote in his book The Range of Light, “Black-and-white lends itself to manipulation that can dramatize a subject.  Color tends to record what is seen, so it is no coincidence that I use color for that purpose.  I don’t feel nature needs to be dramatized: it is dramatic enough! …Color photographs that…rely too much on the shock value of color alone will not sustain interest.”

Philip’s approach, which seems at first to show the landscape in ordinary descriptive terms, is his attempt to make us realize nature’s profound beauty is always there for us to see, not just during a monumental performance of light or color.  There is selflessness to this approach.  In his images, his own importance recedes in the face of nature’s beauty and need for protection.  He once wrote to me, “There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care who gets the credit.”

Many years ago, I hiked up Mt. Hoffman in Yosemite.  I walked slowly upward, alone in my thoughts. I carried all my 4×5 gear to the summit, planning to photograph the sunset and then hike down in the twilight.  At the top, the views of Yosemite’s wilderness stretch out all around.  There was virtually no sign of human life below.  The sunset light warmed the surrounding peaks, and the Sierra Nevada displayed why it is called The Range of Light!  The serenity I felt was powerful.

Thanks to far-sighted pioneers, this rare form of sanctuary exists for millions to enjoy.  The initial preservation of Yosemite by President Lincoln in 1864 and subsequent the formation of the National Park System, the inspiring words and energetic crusading of John Muir, the monumental photographs of Yosemite by Ansel Adams have all contributed to the cause of wilderness preservation.

At times like this, when a great person in our field or our life is lost, we might wonder who could ever replace them?  It is an important time to stop and remember the impact each one of us can have.  John Muir saw threats to the wildness of Yosemite, and fought to preserve it.  Ansel Adams felt deeply moved by the beauty of Yosemite and the Sierra that Muir helped preserve, and used his photographs to fight further for wilderness preservation.  Philip Hyde, learning from the example of Muir, Adams and David Brower, worked tirelessly to photograph threatened landscapes. Many photographers have followed Hyde’s example.  As a ripple expanding outward in a circle, more will follow those who have followed him.  We must all acknowledge our mentors, and I am proud to count Philip Hyde as one of mine.  We honor their legacy by following their example.  Let the circle be unbroken. — William Neill

I am interested primarily in what Emerson called “the integrity of natural objects.”  They express wholeness and individuality, and it is this sense of place that is the foundation of my work.  My life in photography has been taken up in exploring natural places for their beauty and uniqueness.  It has been a labor of love, and nature has provided me the perfect object. — Philip Hyde

William Neill’s Note:  The North American Nature Photography Association offers a grant in honor of Philip Hyde.  See http://www.nanpafoundation.org/hyde_grant.html for more info and for applications.

______________________

To sign up for newsletter updates, including info about his BetterPhoto.com online workshops, please see William Neill’s web page at WilliamNeill.com. For more about wilderness see the blog post, “Wallace Stegner: The Wilderness Idea.” For the story on how I learned more about my father’s work see the blog post, “Memories Of Finally Working With Dad.”

Originally posted August 26, 2010

Official New Release: Sierra Portfolio

May 29th, 2013

Announcing David Leland Hyde’s All New Sierra Portfolio

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

New Sierra Portfolio By David Leland Hyde On PhilipHyde.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inherited Nature: Father And Son Exhibit At The Capitol Arts Gallery

April 25th, 2013

Inherited Nature: Photography by Philip Hyde & David Leland Hyde

(Following is a variation of the press release for the show.)

Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. One of the images on display in “Inherited Nature.”

(See the photograph large, “Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California.”)

Plumas Arts will exhibit the historically significant photographs by Philip Hyde that helped to make many of our national parks at the Capitol Art Gallery at 525 Main Street in Quincy, California from May 3 through June 1. An opening reception Friday, May 3, 5-7 pm launches the show.  A special presentation by David Leland Hyde, Philip Hyde’s son, will also be held at the Capitol Arts Gallery on Tuesday, May 14, at 6 pm.

During his 60-year full-time large format film photography career Philip Hyde lived with his wife Ardis in Plumas County for 56 years. His photographs that are part of permanent collections and were shown in venues such as the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, George Eastman House and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, now come home for a rare showing in Plumas County. The Plumas Arts show will be the first local exhibition of its kind since Hyde’s passing in 2006.

Why “Inherited Nature”?

The exhibition, titled “Inherited Nature” will also be unique because it introduces the digital photography of David Leland Hyde, who walked many wilderness miles with his parents and now works to preserve and perpetuate his father’s archives. David Leland Hyde not only inherited his father’s collection, but also his father’s love of nature, art and activism that helped shape his own photography and view of the world. Part of the show naming process included consideration of the double meaning of “nature,” as well as a third double meaning of the phrase which refers to all of us inheriting nature and passing it down as well. One title kicked around was “Nature Passed Down.” The inherited aspect of nature and landscape does not apply only to David Leland Hyde. As far as his photography is concerned, he photographs the landscape because he grew up on the land. However, having lived in cities as well as Plumas County where he was born, David also enjoys architectural, portrait and street photography.

Philip Hyde first made images of the Sierra Nevada at age 16 in 1937 on a Boy Scout backpack in Yosemite National Park with a camera he borrowed from his sister. By 1942 he was making photographs of artistic merit in black and white, and much more rare at the time, in color. In 1945, as he was about to be honorably discharged from the Army Air Corp of World War II, Hyde wrote to Ansel Adams asking for recommendations for photography schools. Adams happened at the time to be finalizing plans for a new photography department at the California School of Fine Art, now the San Francisco Art Institute. The new photography school was the first ever to teach creative photography as a profession. Adams hired Minor White as lead instructor and he brought on teachers who were luminaries and definers of the medium such as Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham.

Living The Understatement Style

Referred to as a quiet and humble giantby prominent landscape photographer QT Luong, Hyde chose to live in the wilderness of Plumas County, sacrificing the greater monetary success of living close to the marketplace of the Bay Area for values more important to him. He set an example of living a simple, close to nature, low-impact lifestyle that becomes more relevant as a model all the time. QT Luong wrote of Philip Hyde:

Living a simple life out of the spotlight, he always felt that his own art was secondary to nature’s beauty and fragility… As an artist, this belief was reflected in his direct style, which appears deceptively descriptive, favoring truthfulness and understatement rather than dramatization.

Philip Hyde spent over one quarter of each year of his career on the back roads, trails, rails, rivers, lakes and ocean coasts of North America making the photographs that influenced a generation of photographers. Today some find it easy to take his compositions for granted, but this mainly happens because they have been emulated countless times. Much of landscape photography today applies principles and techniques developed by Philip Hyde.

Philip Hyde’s Influence On Landscape Photographers

Philip Hyde’s wide sweeping impact started with his role as the primary illustrator of the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, the series that popularized the large coffee table photography book. The series also contained popular titles by Ansel Adams and color photographer Eliot Porter. Eliot Porter, along with Philip Hyde is credited with introducing color to landscape photography. Well known photographer William Neill said, I have little doubt that every published nature photographer of my generation has been inspired by Philip’s efforts.” To read William Neill’s tribute to Philip Hyde in full, originally published in Outdoor Photographer magazine, see the guest blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.”

Just as Philip Hyde inspired photographers, his wife Ardis inspired him and traveled as his companion throughout his life and after most would have retired. With Ardis, he built his home near Indian Creek surrounded by woods. Over a two-year period, Philip designed, drew the plans and constructed not only the home with Ardis’ help, but also gathered local river rock for a large fireplace.

Ardis And Philip Hyde At Home

The Hydes first came to Plumas County in 1948 through a chance meeting on a train with Ardis’ friend from college then living at Lake Almanor, who helped Philip Hyde land a summer job in Greenville at the Cheney Mill. Having a young college kid from the city endlessly amused the other workers at the sawmill. One time young Philip even fell into the stinky millpond, which drew great laughter and a ticket home for the day to photograph. Ardis taught kindergarten and first grade for 12 years to help supplement Philip’s photography efforts beginning in 1950 when the Hydes settled in Plumas County.

While living in Plumas County for 56 years, Philip Hyde also actively contributed to the community. He was a founding artist member of Plumas Arts and contributed funds to provide lighting in the gallery. He was also one of the founders of the Plumas County Museum. He hired the architect Zach Stewart, whose famous architectural firm had hired both Hyde and Adams as photographers. Stewart charged the Plumas County Museum much less than usual for his architectural services and as a result the Plumas County Museum had money left over for a small investment fund that has helped it perpetuate for the many years since.

A portion of all proceeds from the exhibition will go directly to the Feather River Land Trust and Plumas Arts, continuing Philip Hyde’s tradition of contribution to the community.

Gallery Hours for the exhibition are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11am to 5:30pm and Saturdays form 11am to 3pm.  Arrangements may also be made for viewings outside these times by calling Plumas Arts at 530-283-3402.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24th, 2011

Pumpkin, Melting Snow Patterns On Deck, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Dear Pilgrims and Natives, the Turkey is a little slim this year, but we all still have much that deserves gratitude. Every day, even in the darkest of times, each of us can find something for which we are grateful. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for good neighbors, good friends, a good guitar or two or three strummed or picked around a warm wood stove with a glass of wine and more food than anyone needs. I am also grateful for Lumiere Gallery and the Messages From The Wilderness Show. I am grateful for all other photography galleries and venues that have hosted exhibitions of Dad’s photographs in the last few years, as well as each of the photography galleries that now represent my father’s pioneering conservation landscapes in the form of vintage black and white prints, archival digital prints, dye transfer prints and Cibachrome prints. I am also thankful to the following bloggers and websites for either Tweeting, Twittering, Re-tweeting, putting on Google+, on Facebook, embedding in their website or photoblog, or otherwise linking to or mentioning the ALL NEW PHILIP HYDE SHORT VIDEO. Dad would be shocked, humbled, amazed, and when he got used to the idea, happy to see his photographs shown around the world. Thank you to each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart…

Note: Those names below in blue are links as customary. Those in black that are not links I either could not find again or they were buried in a long list of shares. Topsy and some other social media search sites are currently having technical difficulties. Even the Holy Grail, Google Search, does not seem to crawl all tweets and shares, even on its own platform Google+. Also, as I am not yet a participant of some of the social media, not all searches are available to me. If you are one of those listed below and would like your name linked to your share or post of the video, please send me the link in the contact form above or in an e-mail. Same goes for those who I have accidentally omitted from the list and deserve my apologies.

Jim M. Goldstein

William Neill

Sharon and Dirk Van Lieu

Robert Rodriguez, Jr.

Guy Tal

Art Wolfe

PJ Finn

Richard Wong

Stephen Gingold

G. Dan Mitchell

Steve Sieren

Seung Kye Lee

Dan Baumbach

Greg Russell

Michael Frye

Paul Dickenson

Michael E. Gordon

Jim Sabiston

Carl Donohue

Q.T. Luong

Russ Bishop

Sven Seebeck

Michael R. Reynolds

John Paul Caponigro

Paul Colangelo

Sean Arbabi

Buzztail

Atlanta Celebrates Photography

Alltop

Creative Live

F8 Daily

Networked Blogs

World Panorama Stock

Fox News Travel Section

Newsodrome

Technorati

Shootplex

Photo Life Magazine

Photogravity

New School of Photography

Gaia Gallery

Byte Photo

Orlando Photography

Travelscenics

Mitrasites

James Hunt

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 1

October 20th, 2011

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series

The 2oth Century’s Biggest Advance In Landscape Photography

Part One: Introduction

Hyde’s Wall, East Moody Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde. One of the most renowned photographs from the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. “Hyde’s Wall,” originally titled “Juniper, Wall, Escalante” was first published in the Sierra Club book “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” with Edward Abbey. For more about Edward Abbey, “Hyde’s Wall,” “Slickrock” and how the wall originally became known as Hyde’s Wall, see future blog posts in this series.

(See the photograph large: “Hyde’s Wall, E. Moody Canyon, Escalante Wilderness.”)

The 19th Century’s most significant advance in photography took place with the invention of flexible, paper-based photographic film by George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, in 1884. Another beginning that would grow and converge with photography in the mid 20th Century, was the founding of the Sierra Club in 1892 by 182 charter members who elected John Muir their first president. To read about how John Muir influenced pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, see the blog post, “Philip Hyde’s Trubute To John Muir.”

In 1951, the Sierra Club sent a young photographer named Philip Hyde, recently out of photography school under Ansel Adams, to Dinosaur National Monument, on the first ever photography assignment for an environmental cause. To learn more about the national battle to save Dinosaur National Monument that many consider the birth of modern environmentalism, see the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.” Philip Hyde’s photographs with those by journalist Martin Litton became the first photography book ever published for an environmental cause: This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And It’s Magic Rivers. Read more about Martin Litton in the blog post, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 1.”

By 1960, David Brower, an accomplished climber, Sierra Club high trip leader, member of the Sierra Club Board of Directors and previously a manager at the University of California Press, helped the Sierra Club establish the Sierra Club Foundation. One of the purposes of the Sierra Club Foundation was to develop a Sierra Club publishing program. Sierra Club Books launched the Exhibit Format Series with the first volume, This is the American Earth, with text by Nancy Newhall and photographs primarily by Ansel Adams with a handful of other photographers including Philip Hyde, Edward Weston and Minor White. The new Exhibit Format Series brought Sierra Club books and the cause of conservation national recognition, while advancing the art of photography and helping to establish landscape photography as a popular and persuasive art form. To learn more about David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1.”

In his 1971 book about David Brower, Encounters with the Archdruid, John McPhee described the coffee table books from the Exhibit Format Series:

Big, four-pound, creamily beautiful, living-room furniture books that argued the cause of conservation in terms, photographically, of exquisite details from the natural world and, textually, of essences of writers like Thoreau and Muir.

William Neill, in his 2006 tribute to Philip Hyde wrote:

Philip Hyde was the workhorse for the Sierra Club book series, providing images for nearly every battle of theirs in the 1960s and 1970s.  When David Brower, the director of the Club and creator of the book series, needed images to help preserve an endangered landscape, Philip and camera went to work.  Books in which his photographs are instrumental include: The Last Redwoods, Slickrock, Island in time: The Point Reyes Peninsula, Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, Navajo Wildlands, The Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland, and This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers. I have little doubt that every published nature photographer of my generation has been inspired by Philip’s efforts.  The large number of photographers, professional or not, working today to use their imagery to help preserve wild places, both locally and on national issues, owe Philip a great debt. The success of the Sierra Club books not only gave a great boost to its own membership, but also showed publishers that such books had commercial value, thus spawning the publication of thousands of books modeled after them.  The resulting nature book industry allowed many photographers to develop careers, and brought to light many issues of preservation.  Even those not familiar with the full extent of Hyde’s accomplishments can trace their roots to his efforts.

To read the full tribute, see the guest blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.” Stay tuned for the next installment in this series about the launching of the Sierra Club book program and the making of This is the American Earth.

(Continued in the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 2.”)

Monday Blog Blog: Derrick Birdsall

September 26th, 2011

Monday Blog Blog: Derrick Birdsall of My Sight Picture Lands A Book Deal To Photograph North Texas Frontier Forts And Lives For A Week In A Historical Log Cabin

Sunset, Log Cabin, Farmer's Branch Historical Park, Farmer's Branch, Texas, copyright 2009 Derrick Birdsall.

(See the photograph large here.)

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

Some photographers have no problem with singing their own praises or even over-blowing the merit of their own work. In contrast, many photographers and other creative people hesitate to promote themselves because either they doubt their own work, feel self-aggrandizement is tacky or any number of other reasons. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, fit into the second category and architectural, historical, street and landscape photographer Derrick Birdsall does as well.

When I proposed doing a Monday Blog Blog on Derrick Birdsall and his popular blog My Sight Picture, he said something about the caliber of photographers I feature, how short a time he had been “serious” about photography and that he felt highly honored to be the subject of such a blog post. My reply was that my father liked to support and encourage those who were the most dedicated to the craft and the most accelerated in their development. Besides, Dad was always egalitarian in his association with all levels of photographers. I added that even though Landscape Photography Blogger exists to honor my father, it is my blog, doggon it, and I will feature who I want, which essentially in time will be a wide variety of landscape photographers from all over the world that I haven’t even met yet, but to start with I will feature those who I like and who support this blog the most.

Derrick Birdsall began his participation on this blog by asking in a comment if I thought that the current period was another Golden Era for photography. See comments on the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 2.” Ever since, he has shown a knack for asking pithy, discussion sparking and often difficult questions. I have always been amazed at his prolific volume of photography. This month, for example, he made over 20,000 exposures. Also, he puts up blog posts more frequently than any other blog I follow.

Just five years ago, Derrick Birdsall began photographing with a small Hewlett Packard “point-and-shoot” that came with a printer he bought. Because it was convenient to keep in his pocket, he took it everywhere he went. At first he had mainly an “I was here” style, but once he was out exploring around the Gila River in New Mexico and a storm blew across the canyon. Derrick “snapped” a few pictures and found that one of them had an “Ansel Adams style to it and something just clicked in my head, that I could do this.” He now photographs mainly with his Canon 7D, with his earlier Canon 50D as a backup. For post processing, he uses only Adobe Lightroom and Idealab/Google Picasa, no Photoshop.

Right away Derrick made an impression on me with his polite, Southern manner sprinkled with “please” and “thank you, Sir.” He was born in Virginia and has lived in Texas since the 4th Grade. His distinct photography in some ways is best exemplified by his photographs from his visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Rather than going for the landmarks: the adobe, Native Americans on the Plaza, or other typical Santa Fe clichés, his images on Smug Mug are of the land and not even of the most prominent features. He explained that this was partially circumstantial as he had attended a museum conference, took a walk and photographed what looked good to him. “A lot of times we miss something right under our noses because we’re too busy trying to put tripods where someone else already has. Part of my uniqueness is that growing up, I never spent much time looking at, or learning about art or photography. Even now, I don’t look to others’ photographs to guide what I do.”

He photographs landscapes, motorcycles, shooting competitions, airplanes, animals, architecture and many other subjects. Here’s his explanation for wide variety over specialization:

If I had my druthers, I’d be out working the Texas deserts and canyons every day with a camera. Unfortunately for me, I can’t get out there all the time, so I take images of what I have access to. There’s beauty to be found everywhere—whether that’s in a majestic desert landscape, a nice macro that you walk by every day, your dog laying out in the sun, or whatever you might pass by.  My rule number one is that to take a good picture, you’ve got to have your camera with you everywhere you go.  That way if you see something that catches your eye, you can take the time to stop and capture that moment. That being said, I think that to really capture the essence of something, you have to know it, and the images I share with folks are of things I know and love.  Basically, it’s all about ‘seeing.’  Once you start hunting for the light, you see it everywhere you go. I also use every photo opportunity as a way to become more skilled with the camera across the board. For example, I can learn something from taking an image of a hot rod and apply it to capturing reflections of a pool of water in the desert. In the short time I’ve been working at this, I’ve learned that photography is often about trial and error. Every time you hit the shutter button it’s a learning experience. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and the more images you take, the better you get at being able to bend the camera to your will so that you can capture the image you visualized.

The big news recently was a book deal with TSTC Publishing for a coffee table book featuring Derrick Birdsall’s photographs of the Texas Frontier Forts. Derrick Birdsall has a background in history and has been photographing the Texas Frontier Forts seriously since 2009. He earned an MA in History from Sam Houston State University and since then has been working in museums for over 20 years. He learned from a competitive shooting mentor that if you want to succeed, “you have to let other people know what your goals are and they will help you reach your goals.” Derrick Birdsall has had the goal to produce a coffee table book on the Texas Frontier Forts for some time. At one point, he collaborated with Margaret Hoogstra, who manages a cultural tourism trail centered on the Texas Frontier Forts called Texas Forts Trail. She was at a meeting with a representative from TSTC Publishing and they started talking about potential book projects. Margaret Hoogstra mentioned Derrick Birdsall’s photography of the forts. Subsequently the publisher set up a meeting in which they agreed to do the book. Derrick called it a “networking success.”

The forts project hits so many buttons for me. For starters, I am a historian by trade… I love history, always have. Secondly, the bulk of the forts are well off the beaten path and in some truly beautiful country. Thirdly, they are some of the only places you can get to anymore where you can not only see things the way they were, but you can feel it too. Standing inside some of the old buildings and hearing the wind whistling through the cracks in the walls without the interruption of modern noises is just magical to me… I can get my history fix and my landscape fix in the same breath.

The city of Farmer’s Branch, Texas has a historical city park with 28 acres of grounds and 12 structures dating from the 1840s to the 1930s. Derrick Birdsall, park Superintendent for 12 years, slept in one of the log cabins for a week this last March in commemoration of Farmer’s Branch Historical Park’s 25th Anniversary. The Dallas Morning News article shared how Superintendent Birdsall wore period clothing and cooked over an open fire to help bring frontier days to life. See the YouTube video here. The Farmer’s Branch Historical Park, with over 80,000 visitor’s a year, is an outdoor museum, special event venue and educational facility sharing the heritage of North Texas and Dallas County.

I enjoy being able to teach people… and there are definitely perks associated with the museum world. From time to time I can flash my “museum card” and get access to places that I otherwise would not have…. My museum is… not your usual gallery type setting. One of the things that just flat drives me nuts is that quite a few of the folks who work in a gallery setting are elitist snobs. It’s my belief that the objects in our care are to be shared with as many folks as possible and that visitors should have reasonable access to the artifacts. A lot of the gallery types keep everything behind glass if it’s accessible at all and more often than not you can’t even see the items because they are hiding back in the stacks. How can you educate and teach your visitors if all of your tools are locked up behind closed doors? The other thing that I notice about some folks in more traditional types of museums is that while they are often times highly educated, they only know what they’ve read, and not because they have any experience in their subject matter.  Those are the folks that talk about the rules in art and photography but if you put a paintbrush or camera in their hands they wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to use it.

When Derrick Birdsall studied museums, he attended graduate school. When he learned competition shooting, he took classes from the best marksmen in the world (See a YouTube video of the “Three Gun” type of shooting he does here). However, with photography he has been largely self-taught. He took one class online with master landscape photographer William Neill, but the rest of his training has been through trial and error in the field. He chooses photographs and guides his photography with the help of pre-visualization. In shooting competition, he made a sight picture, aligning the front and rear sight of his gun with the target. He also learned to fire between breaths, during what is called the respiratory pause. He sometimes uses this technique while photographing. As a result of his training, he can often defy the rules about when a tripod is necessary. He wrote about the parallels between both types of “shooting” in an excellent blog post appropriately called, “Sight Picture,” similar to the name of his highly visited blog My Sight Picture. Take a sight along his photo blog for yourself. You will see the work of a new voice in photography, traveling at a high velocity toward his target.