Official New Release: Sierra Portfolio

May 29th, 2013 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Announcing David Leland Hyde’s All New Sierra Portfolio

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

New Sierra Portfolio By David Leland Hyde On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



  1. NIce portfolio, David. We can make awesome images with any camera when we look at our world as you do. Thanks!

  2. Monte, I appreciate the vote of confidence. I feel the same about how you look at the world and your photographs.

  3. pj says:

    Interesting to read more about your background and approach David. I like your idea of photographic bioregionalism — I feel pretty much the same way. Guy Tal and Greg Russell both have recent posts along similar lines.

    I looked through your new portfolio… you have some fine work there. I can’t really pick any favorites yet without spending some more time with them, which I will, but the strength of the abstract #22 grabbed me right away. Excellent.

  4. Hi PJ, That “Abstract Rock Shadow, Feather River Canyon” seems to have struck a chord with certain people. I’m just finishing the labels, which ought to make it easier to refer to the images by name. Photographic bioregionalism is easier on the planet too, of course.

  5. pj says:

    True enough about being easier on the planet.

    I was just sitting here thinking about what my favorite places would be if I had to pick just one to concentrate on. They would be the Selway-Bitterroot up in Montana, as well as the Glacier and Yellowstone backcountry, or Hollywood/Koreatown here in LA. Quite the extremes, eh?

    It’s kind of ironic that if I was to stay here and work solely in these neighborhoods, it would be easier on the planet than if I was was to roam around up there getting to these wild areas. Go figure…

  6. Those all sound like fascinating places, PJ. Generally there’s more driving involved in roaming Montana, but whether or not living in Los Angeles is truly more earth friendly, might be worth a closer look. I’m not sure whether you would have less impact because you’re sharing your impact with so many others, or whether in a number of ways you may be contributing more to global warming or climate change living the Hollywood lifestyle, not living like a movie star or rock star, per se, but all that you have to do to live in that concrete jungle. You might be more environmentally responsible living a simple, low impact lifestyle and growing your own food in the countryside. However, in the rural environment everything has to be trucked to get to you. Only you know what you use in each place to compare. Either way, you still get karma points for not globe trotting all over the world for trophy photographs of Hawaii lava, Arctic Aurora Borealis, Greenland Polar Bears, Iceland Icebergs and other exotic locations and subjects. Those subjects are not so bad as subjects, but getting to them is the issue. Photographing icebergs and Polar Bears can bring awareness, up to a point, but by now we’ve all seen them over and over and all that travel is part of the problem. “Landscape photographers are multiplying by the minute and they all have to get their trophy icons just like everyone else to round out their portfolios. Google is essentially encouraging waste and redundancy, though it’s not really Google’s fault as there are ways of getting Google working for you even better by concentrating on a few locations rather than scattering fire all across the range of possible subjects and locations.

  7. pj says:

    Good points, and though I’m not saying LA is a particularly earth friendly place, based on the way I live and on my actual location here if I had to pick one or the other based on my impact on resources and such, I’d have to give LA the edge. I’m of course speaking only to my own situation. Fortunately, seeing as I don’t need to make that choice, what I’m saying in this thread really doesn’t mean anything and should be rightfully ignored… 🙂

  8. PJ, my friend, don’t dismiss yourself so easily. What you’re saying is important. In fact these discussions, whether they come to any great revelations or valuable conclusions immediately or not, are important conversations to be having in this day and age. In fact I would go so far as to say that this is THE important discussion of the times that is missing from the mainstream media and most of the forums I’ve seen on photography or any other subjects for that matter. People talking about their impacts and speculating, no matter how aimlessly, is extremely productive and at the very least a step in the right direction. I realize you know all of that too, but give yourself a break. Your ideas matter.

  9. QT Luong says:

    That’s a fine portfolio. I like the intimate scenes with water the most: eg 4,8,15,16,22.30.

    Not sure about LA and its sprawl, but I believe urban living, if done in a sustainable way, reduces the strain on the environment by centralizing, sharing and, thereby, reducing resource consumption.

    As for “trophy hunting photography”, how you define that ? Does that include well-traveled photographers such as Art Wolfe or Frans Lanting ? My own work in Hawaii and Alaska, part of my National Park project ?

  10. Hi QT, I knew I might have to face you and answer some hard questions, as we all ought to on this subject. I’d have to ask you more about your photography, how you do it, what the images are used for and more details about it. I think you’re different from the trophy photographers in that you seek out unique subjects like Vietnam and others. What I object to is every photographer having an Aurora Borealis image just because most everyone else does. If you were the first or even one of the first, that’s another matter. I believe photographs that support a cause are immune to criticism. However, any excessive travel in the course of photographing may be worth re-evaluating. Have you seen Chasing Ice? He even did a lot of travel to bring home his point. However, whether the general public will admit it or not, we are in the beginnings of a crisis that we are all just now waking up to how deep our denial has been. All I’m saying is, take a look at it. There’s nothing wrong with a more local focus. I also admire Art Wolfe and Frans Lanting for some of the same reasons, but do feel they perhaps have also put too much emphasis on travel. I understand Art’s travels for the sake of his TV show, but we all need to cut back. Yes that means you, and me too. We are all guilty. Don’t lose any sleep, but it is something to start to consider. Eventually we may all be forced to change lifestyles due to shortages and $10/gallon gas.

  11. Wade Thorson says:

    Really miss the Sierras. Have a trip planned for October. Nice portfolio. I like the presention, however the images display rather soft. I like the first and last ones the most. I love the quote “You bloom where your’e planted.” So true. You’re more intimately aware of that which surrounds you. In turn your images will convey more intimately and personally to your audience. I’ve been considering selling (& buying) carbon credits to offset my travel, then offering them for sale to my clients. That depends how they respond to guilt, of course. Besides hitchhiking that’s the only thing I can think that can help.

  12. Thank you, Wade. Glad you will visit the Sierra again. Dad used to always point out that Sierra is already plural and doesn’t need the “s” on the end. I guess I’m just a self-appointed critic today. Hope you take that as a positive pointer, not a criticism. Speaking of which, I believe I just fixed the softness problem on most of them and am finishing it up on some others. Anyway, I like the idea of selling carbon credits, but wonder whether guilt is the right approach. Maybe we ought to be more guilty, if that’s what it takes for us to stop polluting the air we breathe. Maybe some will change without guilt.

  13. Greg Russell says:

    Hi, David. First of all, wonderful portfolio; not only are they fine images, they are rooted in a true sense of place, and you know how I feel about that quality of photography.

    I’ve personally never traveled far from home, and a “big” trip for me is up to the Sierra or Colorado Plateau. Still, I have thought much about my impact, and try minimizing it as much as possible. While I think that photographers should work close to home, both for the good of the environment as well as their portfolios, I still would like to see Macchu Piccu someday–why not? I understand that just because I want to see it doesn’t mean I should build my portfolio around it.

  14. Hi Greg, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I too have wanted to travel to the Pyramids of Egypt, Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China my whole life and am determined that I will at least visit some of these landmarks of the world some day. However, just because I can doesn’t mean it is a worthy goal to photograph as many of the exotic places of the world as I can. People ask me about the “earth-friendliness” of traveling back and forth from Colorado to California a few times a year. My answer is that even with all that back and forth, I still drive much less than the average American. I believe that if you photograph locally your whole life and go to Switzerland and Italy like my parents did late in life, your point is well taken: why not? You’ve earned it. My concern is that so many photographers are now going to Greenland, Iceland, Antarctica, Hawaii, etc, etc, because they are trying to compete with other photographers who photograph far away places. It’s like a photographic arms race. Where does it end? A local focus with an exception now and then is different from traveling great distances regularly in quest of the next great icon. A deep sense of place is less evident in such photography. Seems like it’s much more like trophy hunting, in my opinion. With realities as they are here on planet Earth today, we ALL need to cut back on our consumption of oil and gas. The watchword of our time and going into the future is conservation. The best time to start is now.

  15. Richard Wong says:

    Thanks for the mention, David. I totally agree. Even when I lived in Kentucky briefly, I found it to be an awesome place to photograph yet it’s not really on most people’s radar when it comes to photography.

    Congrats on the portfolio as well. Very nicely done.

  16. Richard Wong says:

    Oh, and I’m fairly confident that Kentucky will never blow up on the photo tour circuit like Iceland did or Myanmar will soon be. 🙂

  17. Hi Richard, Appreciate your compliments and the mention of Kentucky and indirectly places like it that hold great natural beauty, yet as you say will never wind up on “The Grand Tour” or photographer’s icon hit list. In high school when I first rode in a school bus through Kentucky on the way to Washington D.C. from boarding school in St. Louis County on our Spring Break trip, I was surprised at the lush beauty of the rolling hills of Kentucky compared to the flat yellow-brown Mid-Western farmland of Southern Illinois and Indiana.

  18. Hi David
    It is always nice to read a bit more about your upbringing and development as both a person and photographer. I am certain it was a youth that many of us envy. 🙂

    Your portfolio is filled with some fine images. Can’t say I have a favorite as each has its own appeal…..well, I am a little partial to the Grazing Mule Deer.

    As far as travel goes, I don’t do much and when I do it is mostly to Maine and because I love the experience of being there and the beauty I find. And, should I travel to the Sierra or anywhere else it would be for the experience and not my portfolio…but I would still practice photography, of course. As you may have noticed on my blog, I revisit many of my local spots and find a lot of satisfaction keeping close to home (with the exception of Maine where I just spent a week) and capturing the beauty I can find in my backyard…oftentimes literally. However, it is also true that for a professional photographer in the editorial business travel is fairly essential. It would be hard for someone in that realm to survive on local images only.

  19. Hi Steve, good points about travel. I enjoy reading your blog because the images are made and rooted close to home for you.

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