The Making Of The Landscape Photograph That Is Now A Limited Edition New Release:
“Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side, Now Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah, 1965” FROM the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series book, “Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run” by Stephen C. Jett and Philip Hyde.
(View the photograph full screen CLICK HERE.)
It was the end of November and the Northern Sierra Nevada winter set in. Long cold rains, sleet and snow alternated with ever lower night temperatures when the weather cleared. The telephone rang, Ardis Hyde answered. She set the receiver on the desk, walked out the back door and looked up to where Philip Hyde was hurriedly putting a roof on his new studio addition on a precious day of dry weather.
“It’s David Brower on the phone,” Ardis Hyde shouted. “Something about a new project.”
“Tell him I’ll call back a little later,” Philip Hyde yelled back.
“He said it was very urgent.”
“OK, tell him I’m coming,” Philip Hyde replied. He climbed down the ladder and came to the phone. David Brower told him there was not much time. There were urgent threats to the Navajo lands in Northeastern Arizona. Proposed dams on the rivers, Uranium and mineral strip mining, oil drilling, and civilization’s encroachment on the Navajo way of life were just a few of the dangers to the desert landscapes that the Navajo had called home for a thousand years undisturbed.
Professor Stephen C. Jett had written his dissertation after a “detailed study of the recreational resources of the Navajo Country.” His dissertation was “an introduction to Navajo attitudes toward land, a guidebook, an inventory, and a series of recommendations…” David Brower was emphatic, “We need to get some photographs of these areas as soon as possible and pair them with a text by Dr. Jett to spearhead a campaign to save Navajo Country.”
Philip Hyde gathered several layers of thick tarps and plywood, put them over the roof skeleton of his newly framed studio and in less than a week he and Ardis Hyde were off to Navajo Country in Arizona. He would take his chances with putting on the roof. Hopefully the heavy snows would hold off until he returned. Hopefully there would be enough clear weather to finish the roof before too many January snows made it impossible until Spring and a whole season was lost.
Ardis And Philip Hyde Explore Navajo Country In The Cold
By December 8, 1964 Ardis and Philip Hyde were on the road and by nightfall December 9 they arrived in Gallup, New Mexico near the Arizona border and the Navajo Reservation. Fortunately they did not camp out but stayed in the Ramada Inn because the low that night was 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Early the next day they drove out to catch the morning light on Window Rock. The Navajo Tribal Council was in session. The Hydes met with Navajo Tribal Council Representative Sam Day. Ardis Hyde wrote in the Travel Log, “We had a brief but illuminating talk about what we should see in the way of tribal parks present and proposed…. He is recording chants and rituals in the evenings.” Ardis and Philip Hyde visited the Good Shepherd Mission and a few trading posts. They bought a beautiful 4’X6’ Navajo rug for $22. They spent the night in Chinle at Thunderbird Ranch in a new unit for $9.00. Because the dining room was closed, Ardis Hyde cooked soup and coffee on the SVEA portable stove in place of room service. In the morning they went to the new Navajo visitor’s center to meet with the liaison officer between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Navajo Indian Tribe for more guidance on what landscapes to photograph. They also bought several reports on Navajo planning and affairs.
Philip Hyde photographed Ship Rock and other landmarks, some that had never been photographed before. By Monday, December 14, temperatures were down to 3 degrees Fahrenheit and it was hard to photograph. The next day the sun warmed the air enough to make photography easier. A Navajo guide showed the visitors into Monument Valley where Philip Hyde made two exposures that later became well-known landscape photographs, “Evening Light On West Mitten Butte” and “Anasazi Bighorn Sheep Petroglyphs” on the wall that Ansel Adams made a photograph at a different angle. In the days to follow they traveled on to Batatakin Ruin, Muley Point, the Grand Canyon and finally Canyon de Chelly. For more on these Navajo adventures see the blog posts, “Toward a Sense of Place 1” and “Toward a Sense of Place 2” by Philip Hyde. Many fine photographs went home in the 4X5 and 5X7 view camera film holders. Yet the Hydes found they had barely touched what the country had to offer.
Ardis And Philip Hyde Hike 24 Miles From Rainbow Lodge To Rainbow Bridge And Back, Six Months Pregnant
After successfully finishing the roof and weathering the worst of the winter cozy at home in Northeastern California, Ardis and Philip Hyde were back in Navajo Country by April 1965. Ardis Hyde was five months pregnant when they arrived, but that didn’t slow them down. For a month they traveled around Navajo Country photographing and getting to know the land and people. May 26 they finally succeeded in lining up a pack trip from Rainbow Lodge down to Rainbow Bridge and back. The journey of 12 miles each way took several days walking on foot with pack horse support. The trail winds around sacred Navajo Mountain in one long gradual ascent punctuated by one very steep descent and ascent through a canyon. Ardis Hyde wrote in the Travel Log:
At about mile 4 the trail leaves flat terrain and enters interesting country making a transition from soft rock with ledges into sculptured rock with good views of White Mesa, Cummings Mesa, Dome Canyon, No Name Mesa and the Kaiparowitz Plateau. Just past mile 5 we ate lunch in a good spot to see the summit of Navajo Mountain with fresh snow. This was Philip’s first picture of the day and more followed around the pass. We started down a steep descent into Cliff Canyon, which narrows more at the bottom with a green canyon floor of lush grasses. On top we saw a few larkspur in bloom. Now there were brilliant yellow Mariposa Lilies as well as paler lavender ones. The wild flower display became more and more profuse until as the canyon leveled after mile 7 it was just like one continuous garden in all colors. Mallow, Asters, yellow and white daisies, larkspur, pink prickly pear cactus, spiderwort, evening primrose, Cliff Rose, Sand Verbena, wild onion, Bricklebush, Spanish Bayonet in bud and Juniper berries still abundant…
Ardis And Philip Hyde Camp Under The Stars Next To A Hopi Wood Fire
That night they camped under the Cottonwoods and stars after threat of rain had passed. ‘Sheep’ frogs made a “chorus at assorted pitches of bleating.” The Hydes could see the glow of a beautiful sunset on all of the high domes across the landscape but they nestled into their “shady enclosure with the smell of a Hopi wood fire and snug beds after a nine mile day.” The next day they hiked on in the canyon bottom slowly picking their way and “stumbling over streambed rocks most of the time.” It heated up. They saw a few pools of clear water to swim in but decided to wait until they reached Aztec Creek. However, Aztec Creek turned out to be brown with the recent storm. They climbed out of the canyon up onto the “Slickrock domes” for views of the mountains and surrounding landscape. Then back down to hot chocolate and another early bedtime. The next day as they entered Bridge Canyon they came to very clear water under cottonwoods, dense foliage and three horses grazing on wild flowers.
The View Of Rainbow Bridge
Bridge Canyon was beautiful with dense foliage and high vertical walls until the last mile before Rainbow Bridge when an inner gorge develops out of darker red sandstone in layers. Here the trail continues above a ledge and we look down into the gorge to see the stream. We pass many tempting pools and catch our first glimpse of Rainbow Bridge about 10:30 am, unfortunately in flat light. From this upstream approach Rainbow Bridge appeared finer, not as massive as from below. At the last turn above Rainbow Bridge we hear voices. We coincided with a boating group coming in. They were immaculately dressed in white and light-colored pressed clothes. There were two families of shrill children. Philip took some photographs of Rainbow Bridge from the west side on a ledge above the stream and we hurried away to each lunch in quiet upstream. Philip bathed in two pools. There were frequent overhangs with seeps apparent. At one of these we found enough water to fill our cups. Saw a bee collecting pollen and at another seep we saw a ‘Sheep’ frog up close. He had no webbed toes, a gray-black back and orange-cream sides. We heard an occasional canyon wren call. I spotted some kind of flycatcher with rufous tail, white side feathers and a horse, gargling call. The trail through Redbud pass was all in the shade. We paused to admire a butterfly with a Navajo rug design and vegetable dye colors gaining strength in his wings after emerging from his chrysalis.
From Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run
Toward A Sense Of Place by Philip Hyde
Excerpted from the blog post, “Toward A Sense Of Place 3.”
Our first view of Rainbow Bridge had been some years before, after coming up five miles from the river through a magnificent canyon of beautiful rock sculpture and delightful long, narrow pools. We were almost reluctant to go to Rainbow Bridge again after that fine, wild memory of it, knowing that it was now only a mile and a half from the rising edge of Lake Powell that is engulfing the stream that created the bridge. We had been three days in the wilderness, with all that is implied in getting close to the land and letting it get close to you. We rounded the last great curve above Rainbow Bridge and began to see tourists. I sniffed the air and—sensed something extraordinary about it… perfume, emanating from some immaculately clad yachtsmen—or was it the yachtwomen among them—busily signing the register under the Bridge. The Bridge looked the same, or did it? Was it only an illusion that it looked… a little plastic? To know what the real Bridge looks like, don’t you have to participate in the finding of it, a little arduously along the stream that made it possible, the heat and the cobbles and the water and the time that all combined to build that Bridge? I think of the land of the Navajos as a living entity of moods—of light moments and gloomy. Above all I think of color—color constantly changing with the light, color that infused the life of the people who have passed over this land. Overpoweringly, this place testifies to man’s transitory nature—and yet confirms his continuity. That continuity may end if this should ever cease to be a land of time enough and room enough.
More about the flooding of Glen Canyon in the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”
For sizes, pricing and more information, see the blog post, “Limited Edition New Release: Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side (Color)” on Fine Art Collector’s Resource Blog.
For more about Philip Hyde and his relationship with wilderness and landscape photography see the blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.” For more on wilderness backpacking see also the blog post, “The 1970s Backpacking Boom, Conservation and Photography.”