Letters From The Ansel Adams Color Photography Workshop

August 14th, 2013 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Philip Hyde Letters Home To Ardis And David From Yosemite Valley

Wednesday, May 29, 1974, 8 am

Yosemite Lodge, Yosemite National Park, California

Cottonwoods, Merced River, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. This is the original 2 1/4 Hasselblad framing. Philip Hyde often cropped his 2 1/4 photographs to 4X5 dimensions and composed accordingly.

Cottonwoods, Merced River, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. This is the original 2 1/4 Hasselblad framing. Philip Hyde often cropped his 2 1/4 photographs to 4X5 dimensions and composed accordingly. Click on the image to see it larger with the 4X5 cropping.

Dear A & D,

Cooool this morning! – Very hot Sunday and Monday, but more like May on Tuesday. I’m really enjoying this workshop. Lots of talk – some interesting people and especially enjoying my “colleagues” and getting acquainted. Doing plenty of talking myself – a “loosed tongue.” Learning something.

Workshop seems pretty well organized. I’m having trouble sleeping – being “over-stimulated” I guess. Went to bed around 11 pm. Woke up at 5:30 this morning  and not tired. This is really good for me!!! 😉 Not just the shorter sleep, but stimulation, talk, interchange, etc.

Yosemite Falls brimming – I can hear its thunder from my room at night – a  pleasant kind of noise, not distracting… I think now I might stay a day or two here as I won’t be making many pix while workshop is on. But more of that later.

Hope all is well with you two.


Sunday, June 2, 1974, 6:30 am

Yosemite Lodge

Dear Mommio and Davio 😉

Well, here I am again! To bed last night after a critique until 1:30 am. Awoke at 6 am and couldn’t sleep any more, so here I am waiting for Steve Crouch to come by the room so we can have breakfast together. It’s Sunday morning and after breakfast I’ll check out and go over to the Gallery for a farewell session with everybody. It’s been a very full week and at this point I’m a little tired but still exhilarated. I’ve enjoyed the exchange with people immensely and think it’s been very good for me. The group has been a very heterogeneous collection of people and that’s been stimulating. There were also some whose talent stands out and that is a miracle to me to observe.

In sort and in all it’s been an experience I was ready for and needed and I feel like I have done something with it. For once I haven’t been frantic to make photographs but seemed to be aware on many levels of consciousness what I was really here for. Perhaps – or maybe I should say – surely my photography will benefit far more by this than if I had merely made pictures on this occasion.

Gotta go – love to you two.

Me  😉


Tuesday, June 4, 1974, 8:15 pm

Campground, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park

Dear Sweetie and Son,

It’s 8:15 pm and I’ve just finished the dishes after dinner. It was good talking with you two tonight. I’m enjoying my stay in this beautiful place that has meant so much to the Hyde family. It never palls on me and always seems that there’s more that I haven’t seen before. This morning Jim Speer and I walked up from the campground along the river to Happy Isles. As always I found lots to photograph and I really enjoyed having Jim along too.

This week has been a monumental talk fest and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! Though there were all levels of accomplishment and ability, everyone was serious and interested in photography. I feel that I got completely out of my usual – I should say, former self-consciousness. I relaxed and enjoyed the people and the interchange. Jim told me he thought I am an extrovert! Funny how the barriers come down when you forget self and stop worrying about what other people are thinking about you. I could do this in our sessions, even when I was talking about my work, career, experiences, etc. Many people commented on the good mix of personalities among the four staff and I think, too, that it made for a more interesting interchange for the students – though, unfortunately we didn’t really have a lot of chance to talk with each other, except sometimes at meals and odd times.

I sat in on a Steve Crouch critique and several of William Garnett’s critique sessions. Though not actually scheduled for any myself, after the first day or two, people began asking me if I’d look at their work. I ended up having unscheduled critiques three of the evenings. I enjoyed this, particularly since many of them were young people. I’m now going to make an astonishing statement: I think I would enjoy teaching! Not full-time, but as a periodic thing – a change of pace and a kind of recharging of my own interest. I can already feel changes there. Of course, some of this is the magic of Yosemite – but it is also the magic of getting rid of the feeling that I don’t like people. That feeling was never really part of me, or natural to me, and I feel that “the scales have fallen away from my eyes.” With more openness and generosity toward people, it’s wonderful to see how they respond. I feel like a great weight of negativism has been taken off me. Surely I’m not the same now after this experience. How good that I saw it as an opportunity and didn’t shrink from it. May I have good judgment to recognize such opportunities in the future.

Another thing this whole experience teaches me is that I need this kind of interchange for my own growth. It is Spring here in more ways than the obvious – your shrinking violet has bloomed, Love. It’s a sweet scent and I have such a good feeling about it. What a phenomenon. Well it’s getting on toward 9 pm and I’m going to be early and will start early in the morning. The afterglow is gone from Half Dome, which I see clearly from my campsite, but the afterglow is still in my heart.

I love you,


For more about photography workshops taught by Philip Hyde in Yosemite National Park and elsewhere see the blog post, “Photography Workshops Taught By Philip Hyde.”

What is your experience? Have you ever been in a social or learning situation where the human interaction inspired or changed you creatively or otherwise?


  1. It is very interesting hearing of your Dad’s reticence to interact with people and how the workshop rid him of the hesitancy. I have always been reluctant of taking part in workshops for similar feelings and reading that Philip overcame that encourages me to give it a try.

  2. I neglected to say thanks for sharing these letters, David.

  3. Thank you, Steve, for reading and posting a comment. You aren’t the first to be surprised that my father was quiet and even shy, though he could become quite talkative once he became comfortable with the company he was in. People often believe well-known people have everything going for them and that’s why they are successful. However, having been the son of a renowned landscape photographer, I can say he was just like everyone else. He had many fears, self-doubts, hesitations and challenges. It took him a long time to overcome his own doubts about himself and his ability to communicate in a way that people would find interesting. I think in some ways this is more inspiring to regular people like us than a super-human teacher like Galen Rowell, who was highly inspiring because of his charisma, energy and enthusiasm. However, if anyone can say after meeting you, “Maybe I can do this too,” that may inspire even more people than the born leader type. An unpolished approach in some ways can work just as well as having it all together.

  4. pj says:

    Always interesting to get a glimpse of the man behind the work. I really appreciate reading these bits of your dad’s
    (and yours and your mother’s) history David.

    As far as social situations go, I couldn’t say — haven’t had to endure one in a long time… 😀

  5. PJ, some people like you and I handle social situations well, but generally prefer to stay away from crowds, crowds of people that is. I like crowds of trees, rushing water, birds, or quiet. I like people in smaller quantities usually, unless they are giving me a standing ovation for best screenplay at the Academy Awards.

  6. pj says:

    One of my favorite quotes comes from the one and only Edward Abbey:

    “Generally speaking, for myself, I like people. But not very much…”

    Not really the way I feel, but it’s always good for a chuckle.

    I agree with you — I enjoy meeting interesting people one on one like you and I met some time back, but once it starts turning into a crowd I find myself looking for the door.

  7. Crowds are fun too, now and then, but generally, I’m with you PJ, though I do have training in stage acting and performance art, but that is a different, richer relationship with the people. There is a difference between a crowd and an audience, but my father was shy around either one, until he discovered through many, many more workshops than the Ansel Adams Color Workshop above, that the synergy fed his soul, not to mention his muse. I too was very shy as a boy and young man. However, I forced myself into situations that helped me overcome my social ineptitude, which I still have plenty of at times. This is one of the reasons why I don’t buy the concept of people being inherently introverts or extroverts. People are what they are conditioned to be, or how they are raised to be, but they can certainly change it by re-wiring themselves. I remember the first time I went to college, the best way to overcome shyness was to go to huge TGIF beer kegger parties, drink to excess and then start acting like you weren’t shy any more. Seemed to work well. The reality is that we don’t need the alcohol to do it, but sadly we believe we do. For many years I was very social, but now I find as I get a little older, I am becoming more and more like my father again. I now value peace, quiet and nature more than a lot of socializing.

  8. Thoroughly enjoy reading this post. I wonder how many nature photographers are introverts rather that extroverts?

  9. Good question, Monte. Maybe people reading here will have some thoughts on the subject. From my experience and observation, many artists tend to be more introverted, but it seems to be those who can flip in and out of both introvert and extrovert mode who seem to become the most well-known, not that “well-known” is necessarily a measure of quality, but those who speak and write well about their art, seem to develop a wider audience sooner or later.

  10. I do so enjoy the glimpse into your family’s past that you share with us David!

    Nicely done!

  11. Thanks, Derrick. Coming from professional museum staff like you and a photographer who specializes in cool photos of old relics and historical structures, I appreciate your enjoyment of these family posts from days of yore. While many believe Dad’s work is mainly historical, which much of it is, he was way ahead of his time. Dad’s work will become increasingly relevant to the present and what is happening today and into the future as time goes on, especially in the areas of water conservation, river ecosystems, watershed protection and restoration and the Colorado River and Grand Canyon specifically.

  12. Greg Russell says:

    As always, thanks for your work in helping to share these sorts of things.

    I have experienced inspiration and creativity at scientific conferences–it’s almost contagious, infectious. I can imagine it would be much the same at this sort of workshop like your Dad attended. I think we try mimicking that sort of experience today by sharing images on social media, or perhaps a little better, on online critique forums, but it really just isn’t the same. There’s something about that one-on-one interaction with others that we really just need.


  13. Thank you, Greg. Having the online forums allows more interaction than people had in the old days, but I agree, nothing compares to interaction in person.

Leave a Reply