Philip Hyde At Home In The Wilds 2

July 28th, 2010 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

The Now Defunct Darkroom Photography Magazine: Masters of the Darkroom Series Presents Part Two Of An Interview With Philip Hyde By Merry Selk Blodgett

At Home In The Wilds

CONTINUED FROM THE BLOG POST, “Philip Hyde At Home In The Wilds 1.” For more on early color printing and the dye transfer process, see also the blog posts, “The Legend Of Dye Transfer Printing 1,” and “The Legend of Dye Transfer Printing 2.”)

“Even after five years, I haven’t been able to get into all the refinements of the dye transfer process.”

Mt. Brooks, Brooks Range, Denali National Park, Alaska, 1971 by Philip Hyde. This photograph Philip Hyde made with the same tripod setup as his horizontal of "Mt. Denali, Wonder Lake." After he triggered the shutter on the Mt. Denali image, he swiveled the camera about one frame's width to the left and made this photograph. Edward Weston used to do this too. Actually, the two Philip Hyde Alaska photographs overlap. David Leland Hyde at age six was present for both on this rare sunny day in Denali National Park. This digital image and the prints made from it so far were from a flatbed Creo scan of a dye transfer print. You would think that scanning the print directly would cause the scan to match the dye transfer print. However, this image took more photoshop work to match the color balance, contrast and other qualities, particularly the sharpness of the original print than did "Mt. Denali, Wonder Lake, Alaska," which we drum scanned from a transparency. Recently we made a drum scan of the original transparency of the photograph above, "Mt. Brooks, Brooks Range, Alaska." The resulting file will help assure that future large archival fine art digital prints of this photograph will maintain Philip Hyde's high standards of sharpness, detail and color fidelity.

(To see the photograph full size, Click Here.)

(To see “Mt. Denali, Wonder Lake (Horizontal)” full size Click Here.)

(To see “Mt. Denali, Reflection Pond (Vertical)” full size Click Here.)

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: How does your dye transfer printing relate to your primary objective of portraying nature?

PHILIP HYDE: I have always wanted to interpret and express the beauty of what I see in nature. My major objective is producing a print that, as Ansel Adams says, carries out the score of the negative. So I orchestrate the dye transfer process to produce a print that conveys the colors and beauty of the original transparencies. Sometimes getting everything just right can be very time-consuming.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: Are you ever tempted to go back out into the field and let a custom lab do the darkroom work for you?

PHILIP HYDE: No…it would be very hard for me to sell a print made by a lab as my own work. That’s really why I’m doing dye transfer printing, because I can carry the process all the way from start to finish. I make the print the way I want. Also, there’s a cost factor. A single dye transfer print from a custom lab costs $200 and up.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: You mentioned before that the longevity of the dye transfer process appealed to you. How long do you expect your prints to last?

PHILIP HYDE: Well, that’s hard to say; hundreds of years I’d hope. The nice thing about dye transfer is that not only is the final color image quite stable, but the intermediate films, the separations, which contain all the color information, are actually black and white. So a basic record of the color image exists on black and white film, which, if archivally processed and stored, can last for thousands of years. That’s more than permanent enough for me. Another reason I’m into making dye transfers of my transparencies is that I have to send out my originals for reproduction in books and magazines, and they are often returned after reproduction with thumbprints or dirt all over them. If I’ve made dye transfer separations beforehand, I’m protected.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: How did you first get interested in photography?

PHILIP HYDE: When I was 16, I went backpacking in the Sierra with the Scouts. I took a folding Kodak with me, and I got hooked on it. I guess it’s just like falling in love with anything. When I sent the films to the druggist, I thought the results were completely inadequate, so at age 17, I set up a darkroom and started working. Though I now work in color, most of my early work was black and white.

“Imogen Cunningham is a wonderful example—she just kept on being a photographer until she faded away.”

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: Over the years, you’ve collaborated with the Sierra Club to produce books that have been instrumental in saving wildernesses, books like Slickrock, about the southwestern Canyonlands, and Alaska: The Great Land. How did you first become involved with the Sierra Club?

PHILIP HYDE:  When I returned to San Francisco from the service in 1946, I enrolled in Ansel Adams’ new photography program at the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute. I became interested in what the Sierra Club was doing at that time, so Ansel introduced me to Dave Brower (then Sierra Club Executive Director), and that was the beginning of a life-long relationship.

DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY: Do you ever think of retiring from photography?

PHILIP HYDE: I can’t think of what I’d retire from, or for, or to. It disturbs me to slow down when there’s so much more to be done. Imogen Cunningham is a wonderful example—she just kept on being a photographer until she faded away. That’s a great way to go.

For the story of how Philip Hyde finally did go see the blog post, “Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands.”



  1. Richard Wong says:

    I love this photo, David. The color of the sky is awesome and great reflection of Mt. Brooks.

  2. Thank you for checking in Richard. Yes, I was surprised when the staff at Scott Nichols Gallery and other people who know thought this image stronger than the similar photograph of “Mt. Denali, Wonder Lake.” Even though Dad was one of the first to make it popular in color besides Ansel Adams’ powerful black and white, Mt. Denali has been photographed many times since. This photograph contains all of the same spectacular elements as the other, but without the familiar mountain. Besides, Dad’s vertical of “Mt. Denali, Reflection Pond” is such a strong classic and so much more striking than the horizontal of “Mt. Denali, Wonder Lake” that I can see why people like this one better.

  3. Richard says:

    Either one or both, this has got to be an amazing place. I’m flying off to Alaska early tomorrow morning so it should be quite the experience even if it rains the whole time.

  4. Hi Richard, thank you for the comments. That’s great that you are going. I hope you have a journey you always remember. I certainly have never forgotten that trip to Alaska in 1971. I look forward to reading about yours on your blog when you return. Mt. Brooks would be a towering peak anywhere else and it even is in Alaska, but Big Muh, as I called Mt. McKinley when I was six years old, now called Mt. Denali, is unmistakable. This may happen to you. I remember the first three or four days we were in Denali National Park. At first I was asking my parents and the Park Rangers at the Visitor’s Center which one of the mountain bases we could see below the clouds, was Mt. McKinley. Of course one Ranger answered, “None of them.” After the Ranger gave me that answer I felt vindicated to hear him give the same answer several times to different people who asked the same question at various intervals. And when it did clear off, which sometimes only happened for a few minutes, but once in a while happened for a whole day or even two, Mt. Denali was awe inspiring in all its glory. After all, Mt. Denali and the Brooks Range rise from not far above Sea Level to just over 20,000 feet. Denali is one of the most spectacular mountains in the world. However, if you haven’t been there before, all of the mountains are so huge and amazing, the whole range is spectacular, that you think Denali could be any one of them until you see the real Denali just once. Your comment helped remind me to write down that snippet from when I was six. I can remember being in the Visitor’s Center like it was yesterday, staring out the windows at the bottoms of what looked like huge mountains with half of their mass obscured by cloud. From the Visitor’s Center though, when it is socked in like that, you can’t even see the snow-covered base of Mt. Denali, or any of the higher slopes of the Brooks Range. You are actually looking at timbered foothills that look as high as many mountains in the Sierra. Your comment also gave me the idea to put links to all three photographs at the top of this blog post so that people who haven’t been there can understand what in the world I am talking about in regard to the various views and which famous Philip Hyde Denali National Park photograph is which.

  5. pj finn says:

    I love his response to the retirement question.

  6. Hi PJ, thank you. Yes, he planned to photograph until one day when he was very ancient and he knew it was his time, he would walk off into the woods and perspire the way the elders of some Indian tribes have done. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. He lost his eyesight and could no longer make photographs or even work with them. At the end his brain issues became bad enough that he would not have made it out into the woods very far or at all before either circling back or falling over something. Fortunately the way he did finally go with the massive stroke, he did keep some dignity and didn’t have to live long enough to degrade completely, as I have seen some do when they have Alzheimer’s.

  7. I enjoyed all of these shots, David. The delicate balance of blues and golds was so well handled by your father.


  8. Yes, Sharon, appreciate your comment. That is true both of the original transparencies and of the prints he made of these photographs. Carr Clifton and I worked hard to match those prints. There was a lot of back-and-forth. The most well-known photograph, the vertical “Mt. Denali, Reflection Pond” was also beaten to death from sending to so many publishers. It took a great deal of cleanup to get all of the pock marks, scratches, dirt, lint and other junk out of the raw scan. Matching the colors, particularly those blues of the dye transfer prints was not easy. I think we both learned a lot and it helped us realized that it was no accident that Dad was considered one of the greats of fine art landscape photography.

  9. Marilyn says:

    This photograph of Mt Brooks, Alaska is absolutely beautiful….There’s something about getting out in nature with the challenge of capturing some of the amazing beauty around us.
    Over the past year, I have found myself in the freezing cold, (I’m from Canada) braving snowfalls, and sliding over the ice in winter, then attacked by mosquitoes and black flies in summer, all in the hopes of capturing a glimpse of nature’s beauty with my camera…

  10. Hi Marilyn, thank you for the comment and sensibilities toward nature. Good to have your perspective here.

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