Posts Tagged ‘Yosemite National Park’

Living the Good Life 6: Search for the Good Life

February 27th, 2018

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Six: Ideas From and Review of Chapter One—We Search for the Good Life

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences.“)

“Such is the superiority of rural occupations and pleasures, that commerce, large societies, or crowded cities, may be justly reckoned unnatural. Indeed the very purpose for which we engage in commerce is, that we may one day be enabled to retire to the country, where alone we picture to ourselves days of solid satisfaction and undisturbed happiness. It is evident that such sentiments are natural to the human mind.

~ John Loudon, A Treatise on Forming, Improving and Managing Country Residences, 1806

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Lower Lawn, Raspberries, Apple Orchard, Raised Beds, Midsummer, Rough Rock, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. After return from Midwest travels.

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I interviewed her for possible magazine articles about her locally popular organic gardening, preserving and food preparation. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living. They lived a low impact sustainable lifestyle long before “sustainable” became a word or a trend.

Because Mom passed on suddenly, I only ever made one tape recording of me interviewing her. I regret not having started sooner and filled a cabinet full of tapes of her. After that first recording session on a bleak January day, she gave me her personal copy of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. She first paused to hold the book to her heart, put it in my hands with weight and gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

This series of blog posts looks at how Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail in pursuit of flora, fauna and photographs, adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.”

Part Six: Searching for the Good Life—Based on Chapter One

After the Hydes experienced a series of setbacks and mishaps while attempting to make a life and a living in Carmel, they first moved to Casablanca, Morocco, where they worked for an American company that planned and built military bases. Stay tuned for more on Morocco in future blog posts. Working in Morocco with little overhead helped them get ahead financially and rebuilt their confidence as Dad had great success at work mentoring another photographer. Don’t miss the earlier blog post in this series, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.” Also for more about the Hydes’ early career, rising to meet life challenges with mentoring from Ansel Adams and touching briefly on their adventures in Morocco, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 5,” and “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 6.”

The blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel,” ends with Mom and Dad returning to the mountains and finally acquiring land where they could build a home. However, before this became possible, they did a great deal of soul searching, home location research, and made a study of various gardening approaches, building methods and house designs.

In Living the Good Life, Helen and Scott Nearing described how they lost their livelihood in the Great Depression and grew weary of the worsening conditions and limitations of city life. By the time the Back to the Land Movement gained momentum on the West Coast after World War II, the Hydes and their like-minded contemporaries wished to escape the city and “Live in the country, in a decent, simple, kindly way,” as the Nearings put it.

In an interview by the now defunct Darkroom Photography Magazine, more recently republished in the blog post, “Philip Hyde at Home in the Wilds,” Dad disavowed the idea that he and Mom lived “too far” from any cities or even large towns.

“I don’t think it’s isolation, I think it’s insulation,” Dad told the Darkroom Photography interviewer. “We’re insulated from a lot of urban influences that I’m not all that interested in. Don’t get me wrong… I like people… But I guess I like them in small quantities… What’s most important to me is to be able to look out the window and see the changes of the seasons, or the rain pouring down, or the stars at night…”

While livelihood stood out among other considerations in looking for the Good Life for the Nearings, Dad had a sense, even a kind of faith, that if he lived in the wilderness that he wished to defend with photography, prosperity would follow. Mom and Dad made their exodus from the San Francisco Bay Area during the boom just after The War, while the Nearings left New York City during the Great Depression twenty years earlier. The Nearings’ observations at the time apply just as much today, now eight decades later and certainly applied during the cold war when Mom and Dad were settling in the mountains.

If profit accumulation in the hands of the rich and powerful continued to push the economy toward ever more catastrophic depressions; if the alternative to depression, under the existing social system, was the elimination of the unmarketable surplus through the construction and uses of ever more deadly war equipment, it was only a question of time before those who depended upon the system for livelihood and security would find themselves out in the cold or among the missing. We disapproved of a social order activated by greed and functioning through exploitation, acquisition and accumulation.

The Nearings explored Europe, Asia and much of North America before deciding to remain in the Northeastern U.S. for the seasonal aesthetic beauty of big snow in the winter, budding greenery in the spring, heat and swimming in summer and the “burst of colors in the fall.” Physically they discovered that “the changing weather cycle is good for health and adds a zest to life.” As can be read about more in the blog post, “Living the Good Life 3: The Change of Seasons,” Mom, Dad and myself in my time, all have loved the change of seasons.

The Nearings had a threefold purpose they sought in the ideal life:

  1. “A life based on the values of simplicity, freedom from anxiety or tension, an opportunity to be useful and to live harmoniously.”
  2. To make a living in conditions that “enlarge joy in workmanship, give a sense of achievement… promote integrity and self-respect… assure a large measure of self-sufficiency… and make it easier to guarantee solvency…”
  3. “Leisure during a considerable portion of each day, month or year, which might be devoted to avocational pursuits free from the exacting demands of bread labor, to satisfying and fruitful association with one’s fellows, and to individual and group efforts directed toward social improvement.”

“I’m not really trying to play the money game,” Dad said. “Photography has provided a living, not a bad living at all, but when I left the city… I knew that I was leaving behind the opportunity to make lots of money. I think that when I first chose photography, I knew I was choosing the pleasures of creativity over the consolations of wealth. I define success for myself in terms of lifestyle. Success is freedom and opportunity to do what I want to do.”

For the Nearings the “road from New York City to the wilderness was short in miles but far-reaching in social consequences.”

We were leaping from the economic and social sophistication of a metropolis to a neighborhood in which few of the adults and none of the youngsters had ever visited a large city, in which every house was heated with wood and lighted with kerosene. In the first year of our stay we piled the children of several neighbor families in the back of our truck and took them to get their first glimpse of the ocean, to see their first train, to attend their first movie and treated them to their first ice cream soda.

The Nearings started as “summer folk,” who are disliked by the local population because they “do not intend to stay long or work much.” “Summer residents do no great harm if they occupy abandoned land, or marginal land unfit for agriculture. However, many of them let their pastures go back to woodlots, which is detrimental to the agriculture of the state when the land goes out of production. The more summer people the more demand for factory goods and specialties in stores shipped in from out of state. “Summer folk,” for the most part, obtain their dollars out of state and exchange them for canned goods in the local market rather than growing their own produce.

The social consequences of turning the countryside into a vacationland are far more sinister than the economic results. What is needed in any community are individuals, householders, villagers and townsmen living together and cooperating day in, day out, year after year, with a sufficient output of useful and beautiful products to pay for what they consume and a bit over. This is solvency in the best social sense. Solvency of this nature is difficult or impossible except in an all-year-round community.

Therefore, the Nearings soon became all-year-round residents of Vermont. The Hydes also started as summer residents in the mountains. Their first residence in Plumas County at Lake Almanor was at the Fox Farm, a small community where they knew the Kurtzes and the Kurtzes knew most of the others. The summer of 1948, when Dad worked in the Cheney Mill in Greenville, was Ardis and Philip’s first summer after their marriage in June 1947 and their first summer in the mountains. The next summer they also spent in the wilderness. Ansel Adams helped the Hydes obtain a job at the Parson’s Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. They were to live in the renowned McCauley Cabin for two months and act as caretakers of the Sierra Club owned Parson’s Lodge for the summer, talking to visitors about the Sierra Club’s work and making photographs. Dad sung the praises of mountain life:

Went out this afternoon in the late low angle light and made more negatives of rocks, trees and Cathedral Peak, a photogenic, but difficult scene. We’re really beginning to realize what we have here in Tuolumne Meadows. We have no clock or watch. We eat when our stomachs announce the time for it and go to bed when it seems like the thing to do. We get up when we’ve had enough sleep. We feel no strain toward getting something completed by a certain span of time—it just takes until it’s done. This is altogether a wonderful way to live. We’re busy now laying plans for making it a permanent way of life. Why strain for security in the city when you can live in the mountains each day to the utmost—never seeking for tomorrow because you’re busy living today? Living is a full-time job—why relegate it to the leisure hours left after a hard day at the office? Why slave for retirement at 65 when all you mean by retirement is freedom to live. You can live now, live today. These Tuolumne days seem to bring out ever more clearly the things hinted at in our Greenville days and these sojourns in the mountains bring us into increasing contact with those who have found ways to live in the wilderness.

The Nearings 20 years earlier in Vermont were also looking for ways to live in the mountains full-time. They laid out their garden to produce a year around crop that more than fed their family. Another piece of the income puzzle turned out to be saving and buying properties in the neighborhood to operate as wood lots for firewood. Land was still very cheap at a handful or two of dollars an acre. The forests were good sources of income for many rural towns.

One piece of property the Nearings bought from Frank Hoard. He had licensed his land to Floyd Hurd and his wife and 11 children to harvest the maple syrup under a share agreement when the sap ran in the spring. The Nearings continued the same share agreement, ended up with half of the maple syrup harvest, and discovered that “maple syrup in Vermont is better than cash. It sells readily and does not depreciate.”

Here was something on which we had not counted. In a syrup season lasting from four to eight weeks, owning only the maple trees, the sugar house and some poor tools, and doing none of the work, we got enough syrup to pay our taxes and insurance, to provide us with all the syrup we could use through the year, plenty to give away to our friends and to sell. We realized that if we worked at sugaring ourselves, syrup would meet our basic cash requirements. We were surprised and delighted to learn that here might be the answer to our problem of making a living amid the boulders scattered over the green hills of Vermont… The possibility of sugaring for a living answered the second question: how to finance the good life. Our next job was to determine the way in which the good life was to be lived.

The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living The Good Life 9.” The next two blog posts, Parts 7 and 8 in the series, will cover the ins and outs of various plans and designs for Living the Good Life. Part 7 will further examine the similarities and differences in methods and lifestyles between the Hydes and Nearings.

(Read more, “Living the Good Life 7: Nearings’ vs. Hydes’ Design for Living.”)

Photography, Spam, Social Media and My Letters 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.


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.


Sounding the Human Note: Learn This Lesson Well

Susanna’s response:

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,

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.

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

Book Review: Picturing America’s National Parks

September 1st, 2016

Book Review: Picturing America’s National Parks by George Eastman Museum Assistant Curator Jamie M. Allen

Cover of "Picturing America's National Parks" by Jamie M. Allen (2016).

Cover of “Picturing America’s National Parks” by Jamie M. Allen (2016). (Click on Image to See Larger.)

Landscape Photography Classics and Much More

To accompany the George Eastman Museum exhibition, Photography and America’s National Parks, the Eastman Museum and Aperture Foundation teamed up to publish assistant curator Jamie M. Allen’s new comprehensive book on the history of photography in our nation’s parks called Picturing America’s National Parks.

The George Eastman show, made up of the work of more than 50 photographers from all eras in the history of photography, includes landscape photography greats such as Ansel Adams, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Imogen Cunningham, John K. Hillers, Philip Hyde, William Henry Jackson, the Kolb Brothers, Eadweard J. Muybridge, Eliot Porter, Bradford Washburn, Carleton E. Watkins, Edward Weston and Minor White, as well as a good number of other renowned photographers who also happened to make exposures in the National Parks such as George Eastman, Andreas Feininger, Lee Friedlander, Johan Hagemeyer, Martin Parr, Stephen Shore, Garry Winogrand and others. The exhibition has also turned out to be one of the most popular and prominent museum shows of the year.

You See It “Everywhere”

As such, during the run of the exhibit from June 4 – October 2, 2016, Photography and America’s National Parks has enjoyed significant publicity, while the book, Picturing America’s National Parks, already has attracted even greater press exposure. The exhibition or the book or both were introduced or reviewed in Antiques Magazine, Outdoor Photographer magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Aperture, Real Clear Life, the Rochesteriat, the Nature Conservancy magazine, the Rochester City Newspaper, Smithsonian Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, Museum of Photographic Arts, Visit Rochester, The Atlantic, Tween Tribune, Artsy, Outside Magazine, AnOther magazine, Mother Jones magazine, USA Today, Yahoo News, Slate, Audubon magazine, Artbook, Travel & Leisure magazine, Pop Photo, and many others. The book can be found online to purchase, borrow or to read more reviews at, Aperture Foundation,,, eBay, Google Play, Library Resource Finder, Sweet, Abelardo Morell, Schaumburg Library, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art bookshop, Worldcat, Fraser Muggeridge Studio, Loot, LibraryThing, Lenscratch, Photolucida, ALA Booklist, Beyond Words, PDN Online and many, many others too deep in Google search results to track down.

Fascinating, Well-Written and Leavened With Significant Detail

Like her pre-show introductory article in Antiques magazine, assistant Curator Jamie M. Allen’s main essay in the book is well written, smooth flowing and easy to read, yet packed with interesting history of both the national parks and early photography in them. The rest of the book displays the photographs with titles and an accompanying text for each of the featured photographers, interspersed with several paragraphs at a time on various historically relevant points such as the invention of the mass produced Kodak camera, the increase in availability of the automobile, the development of photomechanical and photolithographic postcards for sale at park concessions, 18-by-60-foot Colorama photo advertisements for the national parks, caretakers in the national parks and the National Park Service’s social media campaign #findyourpark.

Interspersed with the images from each major contributor at approximately every 16 pages, a timeline page provides the reader with significant dates in the history of photography and the history of the national parks. These timeline pages are loaded with fascinating tidbits that enrich the reading experience of the book. Despite many details included, the timelines present history in general, broad strokes. There are significant points of history, especially of the parks that are not detailed, but this would require a much larger, more difficult to read book.

A Popular Populist Approach

Ms. Jamie M. Allen approaches her subject from a populist perspective, which is somewhat unusual for a museum curator. More than one of the reviews of Picturing America’s National Parks said it was a comprehensive history of photography in the national parks. This is partly true, depending on the definitions of these terms. On a more close reading though, I would say that this volume is not necessarily the history of fine art photography or landscape photography in the national parks, but it could more accurately be described as the history of all photography in the national parks, or a history of cameras and images of any kind from any source made in the national parks.

This populist view of photography in the national parks puts significant emphasis on the various ways that photographs have helped to establish, preserve, depict and popularize the national parks. Allen observes that the history of the national parks is inextricably intertwined with the history of photography. After reading this inspiring book, I would go beyond saying that photography helped popularize the national parks to say that apparently the national parks helped popularize photography. In the development of the West, Allen points out that images produced on location at several of the most popular parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite became a hot commodity. A cottage industry in photograph sales developed with photographers establishing small shops where tourists could purchase various types of photographic reproductions of the scenery they had enjoyed during their visit and in some cases purchase photos of themselves in the scenery.

Intertwining Histories of National Parks and Photography

The development of postcards, the snapshot camera and many other aspects of photography that were popular rather than professional, were a large part of the story of the intertwining histories. In addition these aspects make a more interesting read than a mere compilation of the great photographers who have depicted the national parks. Because some of the professionals have been left out, the collection of photographs represented acts less as a survey of those famous for photographing the parks and more as a compilation of famous people and ordinary people who also made images in the national parks.

Both the exhibition and the book tie all of this history into current trends by bringing to light the masses of images and selfies made each day and shared hourly on social media. However, Allen and the Eastman Museum go beyond the mere mention of this phenomenon, to incorporating it as an activity at the exhibit. In the entryway to the show a photograph of the Grand Canyon containing a life-sized figure of George Eastman standing on the rim gives visitors to the show an opportunity to make a selfie with Mr. Eastman and the Grand Canyon in the background to take home, share on social media and discuss the exhibit with friends online. This feature and the encouragement of phone snapshots in the museum makes the visitor experience more fun while portraying the museum as cool and up to date in their delivery of history, not to mention making the show and the museum extremely popular, as well as the objects of considerable buzz.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Allen and her team are to be commended for their fanning of the media flames through her appearance on local TV and the comprehensive development of publicity across the country, but also in their exhaustive and colossal volume of research necessary for such a project. As excellent as done, their research was not necessarily perfect, or perhaps for sake of simplicity and accessibility they chose to leave some information out. For example: the timeline for the 1960s is missing the introduction of color to photography books. Though the timelines are a small part of the overall book presentation, this was a major breakthrough for the parks, for photography and for the fortunes of Kodak because it caused a huge spike in the popularity of color film. It also was part of what led to the popularization of the coffee table photography book, which changed the face of the photography industry and paved the way for more photographers to make a living in the medium.

In the timelines, there is also no mention of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, which during the 1960s, especially in the Western U.S., but also all over the world, greatly advanced the momentum of the movement to conserve more public lands and to further popularize the national parks themselves. The timeline entry for 1963 mentioned that David Brower and Eliot Porter published several books on the parks, but the mention of popular books by Philip Hyde in the Exhibit Format Series, who is represented in the Eastman Museum collection, also is omitted. David Brower called Philip Hyde his go-to photographer because he produced the images for many books that made or protected national parks just in the 1960s alone, such as The Last Redwoods (1963), Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon (1964), The Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland (1965), Not Man Apart (1965) Navajo Wildlands (1967), The Grand Colorado (1969) and even more volumes in the 1970s.

Philip Hyde’s book, Island In Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula (1962) was the first book to ever raise funds to purchase land to make a national park service unit, Point Reyes National Seashore. It was also published the same year as Eliot Porter’s In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, (also not mentioned in Picturing America’s National Parks) in 1962, giving both books the shared title of the first major book projects published in color.

Outstanding Image Choice and the Making of an Evergreen Title

I like Allen’s image choices for the sections on Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Minor White and many of the others because she used photographs we don’t often see from these well-known masters. Adams as usual gets a huge amount of credit for his work in the national parks, most of which is well-deserved. However, also as usual, Adams gets credit for some of the accomplishments of other photographers such as the help in conservation and formation of national parks, which Adams did do some and quite effectively, but not more than or even at the same level as photographers such as Philip Hyde and Eliot Porter, who essentially took over the Sierra Club Books from Ansel Adams after they transitioned to color. The description under Ansel Adams carried on at length about conservation and the national parks, whereas the Philip Hyde description mentioned it only briefly, especially in light of his much greater volume of work on wilderness and national park protection campaigns. When I asked Allen about the difference, she said that originally her text included much more about Philip Hyde’s work in preserving national parks, but that her editors cut some of it. Apparently editors need educating as well about the figures behind major conservation efforts.

To illustrate this point and to show an example of how the descriptions were presented, here is the entry for Ansel Adams:

Ansel Adams‘ (American, 1902-1984) lifelong passion for the national parks began in 1916 when, at the age of 14, he read James Mason Hutching’s 496-page book In the Heart of the Sierras (1886) and convinced his parents to take him on vacation to Yosemite Valley. Equipped with a No. 1 Brownie camera that his parents had given him, Adams took his first images of Yosemite that year. Soon after, he became involved with the Sierra Club, starting as the custodian for the club’s headquarters in Yosemite and later leading tours and participating in trips to the Yosemite High Country. He was eventually elected to the board of directors and lobbied for additional areas to be set aside as national parks and monuments. By the 1930s, Adams’ photographic work had become well known, and in 1941 he was invited to participate in a project to photograph all the national parks. Organized by the Secretary of Interior, the initiative was abruptly cancelled when the United States entered World War II. Adams continued the project independently, supported by a series of Guggenheim Fellowships. His images of the parks have come to represent the grandeur of the American landscape, conjuring a sense of pride for American viewers in both the land itself and the preservation of these spaces through the National Park Service. Adams’ photographs have also had broad international appeal, establishing the national parks as globally recognizable icons.

Compare that to the entry for Philip Hyde, which is also excellent, but not as thorough:

In 1946, Philip Hyde (American 1921-2006) became one of the first students to attend the newly formed photography program at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). Here he studied under Edward Weston, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, and many other influential photographers of the time. After graduating, Hyde served as the official photographer of the Sierra Club High Trip during the summer of 1950, thus beginning his long relationship with the organization. His involvement with the club blossomed into relationships with other groups, including the Wilderness Society and the National Audubon Society. Hyde’s photographic work was used to advocate for and realize the preservation of places such as the Grand Canyon. While he photographed the characteristic vantages of many national parks, his images also show atypical views, such as a sand dune at the Grand Canyon.

Regardless, even with some omissions, Picturing America’s National Parks is destined to be a staple of bookstores, libraries, schools and universities for many years to come. I like the accessibility of the approach, the innovative layout and the depth of information presented in an easy to digest format. I like the cover art, but don’t particularly like the no dust-jacket cover. However, this keeps the costs down also adding to accessibility. Besides, this type of jacketless cover will likely prove ideal when the book is used as a textbook. It certainly ought to be mandatory reading for anyone studying photography, the national parks or any related outdoor curriculum.

San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 17

May 12th, 2016

On the Fall Program, Student Supplies and Lab Schedule

Lecture by Ansel Adams

Philip Hyde’s 1947 Class Notes Notes

California School Of Fine Arts, Now The San Francisco Art Institute

Photography Program Founded By Ansel Adams, Minor White Lead Instructor

(Continued from the blog post San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 16.)

Winter Forest Near Badger Pass, Yosemite National Park, High Sierra, California,

Winter Forest Near Badger Pass, Yosemite National Park, High Sierra, California, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde from the Golden Decade book.

Below is the next in a series of excerpts from the only known existing complete student lecture notes from the photography program at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. During the “Golden Decade” while Minor White was lead instructor, beginning in the Ansel Adams Summer Session 1946, Philip Hyde kept a detailed record of class presentations.

A new book, Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-1955 by William Heick, Ira Latour, Ken Ball and Victoria Ball will be published June 2016 by Steidl of Germany with a small text contribution by David Leland Hyde and photographs by Philip Hyde, his classmates and other students during the era.

For the California School of Fine Arts Summer Session 1946, Ansel Adams brought in Minor White from Columbia University on recommendation from Beaumont and Nancy Newhall. In the 1946 Summer Session Minor White quickly proved himself as a coach of the young students and as a guest lecturer. Within a few weeks Ansel Adams felt confident enough in Minor White’s teaching abilities to leave him in charge of the class and set out on the road to photograph the national parks for his recently awarded Guggenheim Fellowship.

Today, the San Francisco Art Institute still has one of the world’s most cutting edge photography departments, however, in 1945-1955, the first ten years of the program made history as Minor White brought in Imogen Cunningham, Lisette Model, Dorothea Lange, and many other luminaries to guest lecture. Each semester Minor White also took the students on numerous field trips, the highlight of which was a visit to Wildcat Hill in Carmel to discuss the art and craft of photography, look at prints by Edward Weston and photograph with him out on Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Ansel Adams first taught the Summer Session in 1945. In the summer of 1946, Minor White joined him as a teacher and at the same time, Philip Hyde joined them as an early student. Due to an office paperwork error, Philip Hyde did not start in the first full-time class in 1946, but started in the second full-time class in the Fall of 1947. The extra year on the waiting list did not go to waste, however as Philip Hyde also used his G. I. Bill Veteran’s education benefits at U. C. Berkeley to take a number of art and design courses, including classes by the famous Japanese-American painter Chiura Obata. By this lecture in August 1947, Hyde had just been married to Ardis King in June of 1947, whom he met at a New Year’s party in San Francisco at the end of 1945 and got to know in the year at U. C. Berkeley before he attended the full-time photography program in the Fall of 1947. Philip Hyde’s notes quoted below are from a lecture where Ansel Adams outlined the Summer Session and Fall Full-Time 1947 program courses, lab schedule and supplies needed.

Philip Hyde’s Lecture Notes—August, 1947

Each student will be in a conference group for attending museum and lecture events.

Program – August 18-22


Morning            Introduction
Afternoon         Design, Society and Artist with Ernest Mundt [School Director]


Morning            Lecture—Minor White
Afternoon          Lecture—Ansel Adams


Morning             Lecture—Minor White
Afternoon          Design, Society and Artist


Morning             Lecture, Field Trip—Minor White
Afternoon           Lab


Morning              Lab
Afternoon           Design, Society and Artist

Lab Schedule Summer and Fall

[1st Year Student = 1; 2nd Year Student = 2]

Time                      Mon.           Tues.         Wed.       Thurs.      Fri.          Sat.

9 am – 12 noon         2                  2                  1                2               1               open

1 pm – 4 pm              2                  1                  2                1               2              open

4 pm – 7 pm              1                  1                  1                1               1

7 pm – 10 pm            1                  1                open            1               open

Also for 1st Year Students – Darkroom #6 – Mondays 4 pm – 7 pm, Fridays 9 am – 12 noon

Supplies for Student Purchase

  • Isopan Cut Film
  • Super XX Cut Film
  • 1 pound of Metol
  • 1 lb. Hydroquinone
  • 4 oz. Amidol
  • 4 oz.
  • 1 lb. Glacial Acetic Acid
  • 1 gallon of Acid Hypo
  • Gross 8X10 Dry Mount Tissue
  • 1 lb. Kodalk
  • 1 qt. Kodak Selenium Toner
  • 8X10 Printing Paper Contrasts—1, 2, 3 Cykora #2, Glossy #3
  • 1 Exposure Record
  • 1 Eastman Spotting Colors
  • Photo Course Worksheets
  • Spotting Brushes
  • Glassine Envelopes
  • Mount Boards


Interesting how many large format film photography supplies are now replaced by electronics and computers… Any thoughts on traditional processes, darkroom printing, art schools or another aspect of these notes?

(Continued in the blog post San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 18.)

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 and visit or William Neill’s Photography Blog at 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 for more info and for applications.


To sign up for newsletter updates, including info about his online workshops, please see William Neill’s web page at 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

My Most ‘Unique’ Photograph Of Yosemite Valley

April 1st, 2015

My Most Amazing Photo of Yosemite Yet

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California

Always. Do. Your. Home. Work…?

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California. Objects appear by special licensing permission from far out friends of Steven Spielberg.

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California. Sky objects appear by special licensing permission from far out friends of Steven Spielberg. (Click on the image to see large.)

        For many months I have been researching Yosemite National Park photo locations on Flickr, Instagram, 500px, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, The Luminous Landscape, Outdoor Photographer Locations, and how can I forget: Facebook. Then I consulted my photographer’s ephemeris, the Weather Channel, my neighbor who works at NOAA, astrological charts, astronomical charts, phases of the moon, sunspot activity reports, the Gregorian Calendar, the Hebrew Calendar, the Mayan Calendar, Dreamspell, a number of online games, Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Showtime, TV Guide, the Outdoor Channel, the Discovery Channel, Oprah, The Ansel Adams Gallery Blog, Michael Frye’s Blog, various Yosemite web cams, the Ghost of Ansel, the Yosemite Tour Bus Schedule, Bill Clinton’s speaking schedule, the Sierra Ski Report, the Central Coast surf report, literally hundreds of guidebooks, pamphlets, brochures, every hotel and motel and a few dive bars, taverns, bathroom walls and small funky convenience stores within 150 miles, searching for inspiration in Yosemite.

I wanted quintessential Yosemite, but yet my own take on this hallowed place. I input all of this data into a new photographer’s analytics program that I got at Home Depot, or was it Toys ‘R’ Us? Anyway, this is an amazing program. It crunched all this data and then tracked down the almost exact location through shared camera GPS coordinates.

The Sound of A Million Shutters Clicking

I drove seven long hours to capture this amazing Yosemite Valley perspective that is destined to be a centerpiece of my Portfolio One. Just when I thought I was the only person who might have thought of capturing this unique vantage point, I was disappointed to find that hundreds of photographers were already there snapping away. The sound of electronic digital shutters clicking was like a thousand tiny tornadoes. At first I was dumbfounded and even sat down to cry. To think that my unique location had already been discovered. There was a lineup of photographers, shoulder to shoulder, camera bag to camera bag, stretching throughout the parking lot, down into the brush, into the woods and way up the hill as far as I could see, all facing the same direction, all with tripods interlocked.

Finally after a good gnashing, howling and trembling sob, I stood up and felt a little better, resigned to make the most of the situation. I jogged down to the lineup in slow motion and imagined triumphant music and a TV crew tracking me. Esteemed photographer Ken Cravillion was there, a voice of good humor and reason. He offered me his spot between two other “photographers.” I set up my camera and took only One Shot, just as a famous muscle man from Australia has taught.

“I freakin’ nailed it,” I yelled at the top of my lungs with gusto and glee.

Secret Systems and Special Gear Make a Photographer…?

At that moment, way up behind me in the crowd I saw my friend Jim Sabiston from New York City.

“New York City,” I exclaimed when he drew near. “You must have some of the same secret systems and special gear that I do. I can tell that is what has made you an extraordinary photographer. I wonder if that is how all these amazing master professionals knew to photograph here too.” We proceeded to compare notes as I wrapped up my exposure. It turns out he looked up some of the same materials and has many of the same sources.

“Golly-wiz,” I said, “We can’t let this information get out. Pretty soon all the photographs made with these secret toys, ahem, tools, will look the same.” I would not want to spoil the incredible uniqueness already developing online among people who snap photos, post regularly and read each other’s materials exclusively, rarely, if ever, reading a classic novel or setting foot in a museum.

Now that I had my One Shot, I gave my spot in the lineup to Jim. I told him that I couldn’t wait to compare my photograph to his, not visually or aesthetically, but socially, to see which one would get more likes on Facebook. We are in competition because competition is, of course, the name of the game in photography, especially competition for recognition, not necessarily for quality. Quality is sort of an afterthought. What matters are “likes,” retweets, pins and reposts. Nonetheless, even though we are in competition, because it is amazing, I highly recommend checking out Jim’s photograph on his blog.

Ghost In The Machine

It was not until I opened my photograph in Photoshop Camera Raw that I noticed that something very unusual had indeed happened after all. At first these flying objects that I could not identify in the sky were very faint. Yet, after I applied my layers, presets, plugins, knockoffs and knockouts, I found the objects were much clearer. I still am not sure what they are. They look like something from Star Wars or Star Trek, but as some people have pointed out, all three of them are the same size, even though they are each a different clarity and brightness. Something is shooting a beam off into space toward the upper left of the image. I am not sure if this has anything to do with the objects, or The Arcanum, or with Bridalveil Falls lined up with it in synchronicity on the right, but this beam is clearly there in the image and even in some other images I saw taken at the same time. If the objects are indeed flying, people have pointed out that the perspective is wrong for them to be behind one another coming toward us. I am amazed some people have even made comments like, “The sky is all messy in that spot. It looks like you Photoshopped those objects into your photograph.” Can you believe it? I was flabbergasted. I tried to explain that it might be due to the beaming in process. Skeptics.

My own theory is that at the decisive moment of capture, each object was in the process of beaming in from somewhere else. This explains the differences in appearance. Also, if you look closely and squint your eyes, you too may see the objects becoming even clearer before your very eyes. They have been getting clearer in the photograph gradually all along. I am not sure how to explain this phenomenon. The objects seem to be beaming into the photograph just as they beamed into reality. I did not see the objects at the time of exposure, nor did anyone else that I noticed, though there was that one pet woodchuck that was freaking out quite a bit there in the parking lot at Tunnel View. I have asked around and as far as I know, nobody else captured these objects on their digital SD Cards or film. It remains a mystery. I suppose the case of the unidentified flying objects is one that cannot be over-thought or over-explained as is the practice with everything else in photography.

Happy April 1!

Ed Cooper: Mountaineer, Rock Climber And Large Format Photographer

January 22nd, 2015

Rock Climber And Mountaineer Ed Cooper Packed A Large Format Camera To The Top Of Many Of North America’s Highest Peaks

Now He Speaks Out About His Explorations, First Ascents, Sierra Club Books, Conservation And Philip Hyde’s Contribution

Short Bio of Ed Cooper

Ed Cooper, author and photographer, working with a newly acquired 5x7 Gundlach Bundschu view camera, top of Mt. Reynolds, Glacier National Park, Washington, copyright Ed Cooper Collection 1964.

Ed Cooper, author and photographer, working with a newly acquired 5×7 Gundlach Bundschu view camera, top of Mt. Reynolds, Glacier National Park, Washington, copyright Ed Cooper Collection 1964. Cooper nearly always carried all of his own medium and large camera equipment to the tops of many of North America’s highest peaks. The only exception Cooper could remember was once on a pack trip into the Ramparts where grizzly bears were plentiful and a horse carried his view cameras.

Ed Cooper is a pioneer mountaineer and fine art photographer who lives in the California wine country. At age 16, he climbed Mt. Rainier, 14,411′ (4392 meters), one of Washington’s most formidable peaks and photographed the experience. He has climbed and photographed mountains ever since, nearly always with a large format camera. His collection of summits includes Mt. Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska (20,320) the highest peak in North America and the 3,000 foot vertical face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park.

In December 2003, the film, In the Shadow of the Chief: The Baldwin and Cooper Story came out telling the tale of Ed Cooper and Jim Baldwin’s unusual scaling of the Grand Wall of the Stawamus Chief near Squamish, British Columbia, Canada in 1961. The climb was sponsored by the town and the film features vintage footage of the original ascent, as well as new footage of a re-enactment.

Clouds wreathe Mt. Robson, 12,972', 3954m, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies in Mt. Robson Provincial Park. Original is an 8x10 black and white negative using Tr-X film and a red filter, taken 8-18-1968 about 10 am. An 8x10 Eastman view camera and a 36" Dallmeyer lens, weighing over 10 pounds, were used in a set-up requiring two tripods. Some burning and dodging was required to bring this print to completion. Copyright Ed Cooper, British Columbia.

Clouds wreathe Mt. Robson, 12,972′, 3954m, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies in Mt. Robson Provincial Park. Original is an 8×10 black and white negative using Tr-X film and a red filter, taken 8-18-1968 about 10 am. An 8×10 Eastman view camera and a 36″ Dallmeyer lens, weighing over 10 pounds, were used in a set-up requiring two tripods. Some burning and dodging was required to bring this print to completion. Copyright Ed Cooper, British Columbia.

His new book, Soul of Yosemite: Portraits Of Light And Stone (2011) consists of a selection, from his collection of Yosemite images dating back to 1962, which best represents the area and fits into the organization of the book entering Yosemite National Park from El Portal, progressing through Yosemite Valley on Southside Drive and on to Tuolumne Meadows, including a short section on the Hetch-Hetchy area, now a reservoir, once a valley flooded in 1914. It also includes a short section on the author climbing a new route on El Capitan in 1962.

His previous book, Soul of the Heights: 50 Years Going to the Mountains (2007) offers glimpses into mountaineering and rock climbing in the 1950s and early 1960s during the highly competitive era of first ascents, through his own experiences, photographs and exclusive firsthand accounts by climbers of the era about their first ascents of now top destination climbs. Ed Cooper’s 4×5 and 5×7 photographs include portraits of many of the best-known peaks in North America. His earlier books are Soul of the Rockies: Portraits of America’s Largest Mountain Range, The American Wilderness in the Words of John Muir, Grand Canyon: Shrine of the Ages and Early Mining Days – California Gold Country: The Story Behind the Scenery. Ed Cooper’s photographs graced the famous Sierra Club Desk Calendars for many years, as well as many other prominent publications including many of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series books and other Sierra Club Books and publications.

Climbing Mountains, Photographing For Sierra Club Books, Glen Canyon And Conservation

By Ed Cooper, March 2012

Date: Sometime in late 1956 or early 1957

Place: Washington State

Climber on cornice at about the 12,000' (3650m) altitude on Mt. Robson. Mt. Resplendent, 11,240' (3426m) is in the left background. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo 1961. British Columbia.

Climber on cornice at about the 12,000′ (3650m) altitude on Mt. Robson. Mt. Resplendent, 11,240′ (3426m) is in the left background. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo 1961. British Columbia.

Back then I was about 20 years old, busying myself with climbing the volcanoes and other peaks in the Pacific Northwest. These activities were carried on when I was not occupied with my studies at the University of Washington, or perhaps I should say, I went climbing when I should have been occupied with my studies. I had aspirations to visit other mountain areas also, such as the Sierra Nevada. One day I walked into a bookstore and spotted the following book: The Climber’s Guide to the High Sierrawritten by Hervey Voge and published by the Sierra Club. Immediately I purchased the book from the meager funds I had available at that time.

At the first opportunity, I sat down to look through the book and began to plan climbing objectives in the Sierra Nevada for the time when my financial situation would allow me to go there. At the front of the book were 17 black and white photographs. Six of the photos were by Ansel Adams, whose name I had heard only recently at that time. However, as I looked at all the images, my gaze quickly settled on one that was my favorite–the   now iconic black and white photograph of Lake Ediza and the Minarets with the rock slabs on the left side of the picture. All the elements fall into place perfectly. It turned out that the photographer was Philip Hyde. Years later I heard that Ansel Adams had remarked that he liked Philip Hyde’s rendition of the Minarets better than his own.

It was to be a number of years before I made it to the Sierra Nevada, but it was not nearly so long before I learned more about Philip Hyde and his outstanding contribution–through his photography–to the conservation movement.

I remember looking with fascination at This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers(1955) with an introduction and chapter by Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner and photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. Somewhat later I pored over Island in Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula(1962) by Harold Gilliam and Philip Hyde. Philip’s books were all aimed at protecting diverse wilderness areas in the Western US. He provided more photography for the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series than did any other photographer.

Igloo Camp at about 13,500' (4115m) at Windy Corner on Mt. Denali (was Mt. McKinley) 20,320' (6194m) June, 1958. Climber Fergus O'Connor is on the right. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo. Alaska.

Igloo Camp at about 13,500′ (4115m) at Windy Corner on Mt. Denali (was Mt. McKinley) 20,320′ (6194m) June, 1958. Climber Fergus O’Connor is on the right. Copyright Ed Cooper Photo. Denali National Park, Alaska.

In these years my climbs became increasingly difficult, but I found that I had a penchant for photography myself, progressing from an Ansco Panda box camera, to two 2 ¼ square folding cameras, and finally to my first 4×5 camera—a Speed Graphic in 1962. Later I progressed to actual view cameras, 4×5, 5×7 and 8×10. I found myself becoming more interested in capturing images on film than reaching summits or climbing large cliff faces.

I made what might be considered a pilgrimage about 1969 to meet Philip in his home in the northern Sierra Nevada. He was gracious; there was no air of pretentiousness about him. He wowed me by showing me his studio work area and many samples of his darkroom prints.

The Exhibit Format Series packed a powerful punch. How powerful it was I did not realize until February of 2012, when I received a letter from Bill Douglas in Annapolis, Maryland. I had done photography for The Alpine Lakes, a de facto wilderness area in the Cascade Mountains not far from Seattle. This book was published in a large format edition, similar to the Sierra Club Books, by the Seattle Mountaineers in 1971. The pressure by the mining, logging, and other interests to exploit this area was intense.

Bill described how President Ford had been persuaded to sign the bill to protect the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Washington’s then Governor Dan Evans had flown to Washington for an appointment with President Ford to try to persuade him to sign the bill, but had forgotten to take a copy of The Alpine Lakes book with him. Bill Douglas and Dan Evans were hiking buddies who had talked about the importance of this meeting. Bill ended up taking his own copy of the book to the White House, where Dan showed the book to President Ford. Words were not needed. Ford exclaimed something like “This is beautiful country – it’s gotta be protected,” and signed the bill. Bill still has that book with the inscription “To Bill Douglas, with warmest best wishes, Gerald R. Ford.” That is the power of conservation photography.

Photographer Ed Cooper with special telephoto set-up for large format. An 8x10 Eastman Kodak view camera was attached to a 36" Dallmeyer lens (former aerial spy lens). Two tripods were required to support this set-up. Ed Cooper installed a Packard shutter triggered by a red bulb. September 1970 in the White Mountains looking towards the Sierra Nevada. Copyright Debby Cooper Photo. California.

Photographer Ed Cooper with special telephoto set-up for large format. An 8×10 Eastman Kodak view camera was attached to a 36″ Dallmeyer lens (former aerial spy lens). Two tripods were required to support this set-up. Ed Cooper installed a Packard shutter triggered by a red bulb. September 1970 in the White Mountains looking towards the Sierra Nevada. Copyright Debby Cooper Photo. California.

While Philip’s books resulted in the protection of many wild areas, conservationists will always remember with regret the place that got away. I refer to Glen Canyon, flooded when Glen Canyon Dam was built to create what is now Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona. I am sure Philip felt this regret acutely, as he had spent time capturing one-of-a-kind images of this now flooded national treasure. On a visit there just recently in 2011, I saw large areas of ugly mud flats left behind by receding Lake Powell with the reservoir level at that time down more than 100 feet.

Philip Hyde said: “For every place 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. Even with the risk of inviting crowds into Paradise, 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.” Truer words were never spoken.

We are fortunate to have David Leland Hyde, Philip’s son, continuing to bring his father’s legacy to us in digital restorations of many of Philip’s images that were crucially important to the conservation movement, as well as the stories behind them. Both the stories and images might otherwise be lost.

This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness EXTENDED

February 28th, 2014

El Capitan, Clouds, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. A giant 32x40 archival print of El Capitan, Clouds greets visitors to This Land Is Our Land show.

El Capitan, Clouds, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. A giant 32×40 archival print of El Capitan, Clouds greets visitors to This Land Is Our Land exhibition.

This Land Is Our Land

Philip Hyde and the American Wilderness

Show Extended through March 18, 2014

Due to popular demand, we have extended the Philip Hyde show another two weeks, until March 18. We look forward to seeing you in the gallery.

Philip Hyde (1921-2006) dedicated his life to photographing and defending the western American wilderness, working with the National Audubon Society, Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, and other environmental organizations during a career that lasted more than 60 years. After studying at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Arts Institute, under Ansel Adams, Minor White and Edward Weston, Hyde went on to make of some of America’s most respected landscape photographs, many of which were key elements in campaigns to protect the Grand Canyon, Point Reyes, California coastal redwoods, North Cascades National Park, and other sensitive lands.

Smith Andersen North Gallery
20 Greenfield Ave
San Anselmo, California

Tuesday – Friday: 10AM – 6PM, Saturday: 12 – 5PM, and by appointment.

For more about Philip Hyde, Smith Andersen North and the exhibition see the blog post, “Major Northern California Philip Hyde Exhibition.”

New Silver Gelatin Black And White Prints

February 5th, 2014

Son Hand Prints New Silver Gelatin Black And White Prints From Philip Hyde’s Original Negatives


Granite Arrow Shaped Rock, Hemlock Tree, High Sierra Near Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park, California, 1950.

Granite, Hemlock Tree, High Sierra Near Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park, California, copyright 1950 Philip Hyde. One of those darkroom printed in 2014 by David Leland Hyde and Stefan Kirkeby.

In October 2013 and January 2014, David Leland Hyde and Stefan Kirkeby darkroom hand printed brand new contemporary silver gelatin prints from Philip Hyde’s best vintage original negatives of Alaska, Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, the Redwoods and Point Reyes. In October Hyde and Kirkeby printed 10 images for a total of 62 contemporary prints and in January they printed six images for a total of 28 prints.

In most cases, the vintage prints of these particular negatives are nearly or all sold out. More importantly, with these new prints, the public can obtain darkroom prints in the same tradition that Philip Hyde made his own, with much less outlay. The black and white estate prints made by Imogen Cunningham’s heirs are valued at $2,500 and the contemporary black and white prints of images by one of Philip Hyde’s classmates, William Heick, are priced at $1,800. The contemporary darkroom prints of Philip Hyde’s top black and white photographs are valued at only $1500. As soon as the new silver prints begin to sell in any one image, the subsequent prints will go up to $1,800.

Hyde and Kirkeby only made 3-8 prints of most of the images. Most of the new silver gelatin prints are available only in a limited edition of 10 prints per image, though a few of the photographs are limited editions of 20. For ins and outs of limited editions see the blog post, “Why Photography Galleries, Curators And Collectors Like Limited Editions.”

“We made these darkroom prints in collaboration to maintain coherence between the new and old silver gelatin prints, “ explained Stefan Kirkeby. “Making prints in the darkroom like this carries on the legacy of all the early darkroom printers. We do it out of respect for the medium.”

Stefan Kirkeby has helped other black and white photographers make new silver gelatin prints including Golden Decade photographers Stan Zrnich, David Johnson, William Heick and the heirs of Don Whyte, Benjamen Chinn and many others.

“We used Ilford warm tone fiber-based paper,” Stefan Kirkeby said. “It contains the most silver of all Ilford papers. That’s why the prints have such beautiful warm tone blacks like Philip Hyde’s prints from the 1940s and 1950s.” At Stefan’s darkroom in San Rafael, we used a Durst Laborata 1200 for the 2 ¼ and 4×5 negatives. We also made some contact prints from two of Philip Hyde’s early 8×10 negatives: “Looking Down Merced River At El Capitan” and “Aspens, Conway Summit” that appeared in This Is The American Earth, the first book in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall. For the 5×7 negatives we rented a darkroom at Rayco in San Francisco where they had a Durst 8×10 Enlarger with a 5×7 easel.

“Philip Hyde did a lot of work and did not get enough recognition,” Stefan Kirkeby said. “So many people are using the parks without knowing that he helped protect those lands with his photography. We are printing and sharing his photographs out of respect for his hard work.”

Have you ever been in a darkroom or made silver gelatin prints?