Posts Tagged ‘environmental’

Book Review: A Photographer’s Life by Jack Dykinga

July 30th, 2019

Book Review of Jack Dykinga’s “A Photographer’s Life: A Journey From Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer”

How Jack Dykinga Changed

Cover of “A Photographer’s Life” by Jack Dykinga.

From time to time, we hear of a near death experience dramatically changing a life. The NDE may instigate profound insights, strengthen intuition or lead to stardom through development of a previously undiscovered skill. Jack Dykinga, before his hospital death and return, already had the tenacity, good fortune and talent to win a Pulitzer Prize in Photojournalism, leave the newsroom and jump into nature photography, become an admired workshop leader, and co-found two of the most acclaimed organizations for outdoor photographers: the International League of Conservation Photographers and the North American Nature Photography Association.

Dykinga had also previously covered Civil Rights in the tumultuous 1960s, climbed Mt. Rainier in lethal whiteout conditions, photographed wildlife and remote wilderness all over the world and been handed a large check to explore his home Sonoran Desert. In his new autobiography and retrospective with hundreds of his best photographs: A Photographer’s Life: A Journey From Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer, Jack Dykinga described life as “a series of portals where we enter one way and emerge totally transformed.” He had been changed a number of times. He had “done it all” in his field. There was not much else to be gleaned from a near death experience, or was there?

Lying in the St. Joseph’s Hospital transplant surgery unit after transferring from the Mayo Clinic Emergency Room, in the aftermath of a race against time for a lung transplant while going in and out of consciousness, Dykinga reflected on his life before these complications. “I had always been competitive” and “eager to earn and accept accolades that reinforced my ego.” Having lived with fierce independence, he observed that his fragile life was completely dependent on others. He had been leading a photo trip in the Grand Canyon when his lungs gave out. His wife, daughter and other family had put their own needs on hold to look after him. While in the hospital, an army of medical professionals, doctors, assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, X-ray techs, lab techs, physical therapists and cleaning staff all had a hand in making sure he stayed alive.

This sense of gratitude and appreciation extended out to the people who filled all of his days: the muses, guides and mentors who sometimes subtly, sometimes suddenly changed his point of view and made him the man he had become. He realized that his creativity incorporated many people’s influences and that the changes others brought about in his life were often reflected in the images he made.

A Propitious Start in Photojournalism and the Transition to Color Landscape Photography

At 20 Dykinga became the youngest staff photographer at the Chicago Tribune. From then through today, in my opinion he has been one of the best at juxtaposing light and dark. Perhaps Carr Clifton, William Neill, Charles Cramer, Lewis Kemper and only a few other landscape photographers do light and dark as well.

The color landscapes in A Photographer’s Life sing and zip with strong shapes and color. I feel some are high on the list of best landscape photographs ever made. That said, I would recommend that anyone taking the study of photography seriously not miss the book’s text for any reason. It may be one of the best for learning how to learn the art.

Beginning with his high school interest in photography, Dykinga shows us his world through his mentors and advisors. The book is a string of fascinating glimpses into who helped Dykinga accomplish so much. His senior year in high school he won the National Newspaper Snapshot Award, sponsored by Look Magazine, National Geographic and the Chicago Daily News. This encouraged him to deepen his pursuit photography. After his battles with dyslexia in high school, St. Procopius College, a small Benedictine all-male school took an interest in Dykinga and inspired in him “excitement in learning.” Their attentive approach to teaching was “exactly what I needed,” Dykinga wrote. He soon made the Dean’s List and started his newspaper career.

“Contract Buyers League, Chicago, Illinois,” 1970 by Jack Dykinga.

His long background in photojournalism contributed to making Dykinga a good storyteller. He moves fluidly and with brevity through each story of his fascinating life carrying a camera on the streets of Chicago during the upheavals of the 1960s. Reading his text you get a visceral sense of his gut-wrenching failures and his uplifting successes. The pressure, chaos and competition that Dykinga learned to excel in during in the 1960s, led him to take on landscape photography with a stronger will and diligence than most ever apply to the genre.

From covering the race riots in Chicago to earning a Pulitzer Prize by exposing the conditions in mental hospitals, to climbing 14,411 Mt. Rainier in Washington in a whiteout with extra low temperatures and high winds, Dykinga weaves his tale and shares his accompanying master works.

He began at the Chicago Tribune as the youngest staff photographer ever. At the Tribune he quickly learned the pluses and minuses of large and medium format because the paper had a rule that required either 4×5 or 2 ¼ cameras. He spent nights chasing crime and civil rights demonstrations. When the Tribune editors came down on him and heated arguments ensued for using a 35mm camera at night, he moved over to the Chicago Sun times whose editors supported his use of the smaller cameras. Switching papers was a potentially risky move when he was supporting a young wife and looking to start a family. However, it soon proved to be a successful new direction, as his work continued to improve and shine. His 35mm cameras were “unobtrusive, versatile and portable. With their fast lenses and high ISO, I could photograph in available light, which was essential to record the news without the extraneous distraction of a flash.”

Dykinga’s mentor at the Chicago Sun Times, Ralph “Frosty” Frost brought in many new gifted image makers that complimented an already talented staff. Dykinga learned from, collaborated with and competed against these associates and their rivals at the three other newspapers in town. They were young, tenacious and willing to do anything for a story. Sometimes they had to, as in one instance Dykinga describes of how he and a newsroom buddy photographed and then outran a rock and brick throwing mob when the two photo reporters became separated from police protection.

An Earlier Profound Brush With Death and Nature

“Boojum Silhouetted at Sunset, Baja California, Mexico” by Jack Dykinga.

Chuck Scott taught Dykinga a great deal from afar as his competition back at the Tribune, but he in time hired Dykinga to return and join him back at the paper where the young photojournalist had started. By then Dykinga worked on in-depth features including one out of town project that he pitched, to attend the Rainier Mountaineering School in Washington himself, train and climb the mountain himself. Once on the slopes of Rainer, he and his party came face to face with life-threatening weather. Dykinga explains in his text that it was hard to get anyone to understand later, but the experience on the remote cascade peak changed him forever. He had a first-hand encounter with the “profundity and power of nature.”

Dykinga’s interest in wilderness only deepened after his time on Mt. Rainier. He took a leave of absence from photojournalism. One excursion he made during this time took him to Tucson, Arizona, where his wife was meanwhile also looking to go to graduate school. At this point in A Photographer’s Life, Dykinga placed a 12-page section of his black and white newspaper images from the riots, protests and tumult on the streets of Chicago, not to mention a number of photographs from the series exposing the conditions in mental hospitals that earned him the Pulitzer Prize. Some people might see this group of black and white city images as out of place right after the telling of the Mt. Rainier story. However, in my view, it further drives home the point in stark reality that there was something to get away from in Chicago, as well as something to escape to in the West. It makes for good contrast and counterpoint.

“I Want to Be Like Philip Hyde”

Around this time, Dykinga read a Backpacker Article about the lifestyle and approach to photography of Philip Hyde. This sealed his decision to leave Chicago and move to Tucson, although at the time he was still committed to photojournalism. He began to see the masses of images going by as much the same. Meanwhile, “…visual reporting on the environment was non-existent…” Hyde was paving the way and establishing the need at various markets.

I began to feel that the health of the planet was the most important issue of our time. With Adams and Hyde’s works as my guide… I came to see the rate of destruction of wild places as a forecast of our extinction.

At first the plan was to visit Tucson for his leave of absence, but as soon as Dykinga discovered that he could work at the Arizona Daily Star, leaving Chicago permanently became a realistic possibility. He shares with us how his move seemed to fall into place. His hope and expectations were high that he could get into conservation photography and thus live and travel more closely aligned with nature the way Hyde did. Eventually he would meet and become friends and travel with Hyde. Hyde was the “closest thing I had to a mentor in nature photography.”

An Angel Investor, the Sonoran Desert and the Making of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

“Sycamore Leaves in Cave Creek, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona” by Jack Dykinga.

The Arizona Daily Star turned out to be more than an interim step though as Dykinga set about rebuilding the photo department. He gathered an all-star staff, most of the members of which later went on to leadership roles at major publications. In time, however, he saw more and more the limitations and biases inherent in newspapers, which are advertising funded and driven. Around the time he became most disillusioned with journalism, Ginger Harmon, the manager of a remote Nature Conservancy preserve in the mountains east of Tucson, offered him a way out by funding him to travel and photograph the area for the creation of his dream book, The Sonoran Desert, published in 1992 by Abrams, New York.

Seeking flower and cactus images for the book, Dykinga ran across Park Ranger Caroline Wilson, daughter of Bates Wilson who was instrumental in the formation of Arches National Park and the protection of other national park lands in the Southwest US. When Caroline Wilson introduced Jack Dykinga to Philip Hyde, they hit it off right away, having first sampled Mexican food together and later traveling and photographing wilderness in Arizona, Baja and Mainland Mexico together and with other photographers of note including Tom Bell and others.

Phil had a quiet grace and understated humor. He was a great listener. Here was a man who didn’t need to brag or posture. Phil was a legend. His advocacy for the land, combined with a more subtle approach to making images made him special.

Dykinga’s stories capture the essence of Hyde “to a ‘T’.” Both with and without Hyde, Dykinga continued to travel the arid lands of the Southwest working on additional projects. Abrams committed to produce two more books: Stone Canyons of the Colorado Plateau (1996) and Desert: The Mojave and Death Valley (1999). Dykinga has a total of seven books to his credit overall to date. His traveling companion, writer and collaborator from Arizona Highways, Chuck Bowden, wrote the texts in the Edward Abbey tradition. He and Dykinga modeled their work together on these volumes after the famous Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, initiated by Ansel Adams, Nancy Newhall and David Brower in the 1960s and 1970s, for which Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde became the primary illustrators when the books transitioned to color photography.

We were following a tried and true environmentalist’s tactic, initiated by David Brower, to produce the Sierra Club’s powerful large format series that documented an area while calling for its protection.

They even got Robert Redford to write an introduction to Stone Canyons of the Colorado Plateau. Stone Canyons struck a chord with Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of Interior and former Arizona governor, Harold M. Ickes, Bill Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff, whose father, Harold L. Ickes had originally proposed Escalante National Park before World War II, and with President Clinton himself. Culminating many years of work by other conservationists beginning with the Sierra Club publication of Slickrock (1973) by Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde, President Clinton established Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on his last day in office in 1996.

Emotion, Psyche, Art, Photography and Landscape

“Saguaro Cactus, Sonoran Desert National Monument, South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness, Arizona” by Jack Dykinga.

While recounting Dykinga’s life events, A Photographer’s Life lays bare the real world lessons they taught him. For anyone who loves the West, or loves the natural scene anywhere for that matter, A Photographer’s Life packs a lot more than technique or the how-to’s into it’s pages as Dykinga lays open his soul, cuts deep into his own psyche and dissects his own emotional makeup for our benefit. This is rare in a large format photography book, or any other kind of book today.

Dykinga not only organizes the book to give tribute to those who helped him develop, he mentions these influences as they came to mind while image making. Besides his chapters on each significant mentor, he sprinkles in sections on the making of various photographs. At one point in the text when he describes photographing the details of an agave plant and visually compressing the scene “to emphasize the contrasting colors,” he speaks of “walking on a trail blazed by Philip Hyde.” His reflections are on “…moments when passing bits of advice reemerge years later in the work we create.”

When he transitioned to color landscape photography, Dykinga’s work literally and figuratively blossomed. He became known for his images of cactus and other blooming drylands plants. A Photographer’s Life includes Jack Dykinga classics such as “Saguaro Cactus in Bloom,” “Rhododendron in Redwoods,” “Boojum Silhouetted at Sunset,” “Sandhill Cranes at Dawn, Bosque del Apache,” but it also treats us to more subtle or unusual images that could not be made by anyone else.

Dykinga shows us something different from what we typically see with two images of Saguaro in the snow. His open and stark compositions with a lot of extra space around items of interest give us the emotional equivalents of the desert. Often, as in his Silhouettes of Saguaro and of Boojum in Baja, he distills the image down to its simplest elements, or photographs simple subjects to start out with. While Dykinga’s small cactus details, Baja rock outcroppings and the silhouettes show the Hyde influence, they are graphically as good or better and more eye catching. Dykinga certainly did his own version of subtle well too.

“Monument Valley, Totem, Yei Bi Chey with Tumbleweed’s Wind Pattern Foreground” by Jack Dykinga.

Perhaps one of the most unusual images of Monument Valley ever made, but simultaneously telling of the place, is Dykinga’s winter landscape near-far with the tumbleweed isolated and alone in the foreground and mist-enshrouded monuments in the distance. Now and then Dykinga presents us with a documentary image of an area, no less beautiful, but certainly rooted in place. In contrast to this and the cactus, sand and desert rock, some of Dykinga’s best work happens when he experiments with water—using various exposures and focal lengths to go toward expressionism and impressionism. All in all, A Photographer’s Life, is a review of Dykinga’s mastery and range. Budding landscape artists take heed.

Currently there is a major exhibition of Jack Dykinga’s Grand Canyon prints from June 18 to September 14, 2019 at the Etherton Gallery in Tucson, Arizona. If you are near Arizona or not, it is worth making the trip to attend: Jack Dykinga – Grand Canyon National Park, 1919 – 2019.

Book Review: Sacred Headwaters By Wade Davis And Carr Clifton

March 12th, 2019

Book Review of The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save The Stikine, Skeena, and Nass by Wade Davis with Principal photography by Carr Clifton, Foreword by David Suzuki and Afterword by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Including Other Leading Conservation Photographers such as Paul Colangelo, Sarah Leen, Claudio Contreras, Gary Fiegehen, Brian Huntington, Tom Peschak, Joe Riis and Florian Schulz.

Landscape Photography Reader Note on Process, Life and Persistence:

Graystone Books released the first US Edition of The Sacred Headwaters in March 2012. In June, I wrote a rough draft of this review and by December I had written over five completely different drafts. Carr Clifton asked me to publish what I had on Landscape Photography Reader, but I told him I did not want to put up a blog post of the review as I still wanted to submit it to newspapers and magazines. Most publications of any significance will not publish work that has been previously published in any form elsewhere. I began work on a sixth draft in early 2013, but by then I decided it was too late to submit to newspapers or magazines. Most of them only accept reviews of books that have been out for less than six months. With life and other concerns and obligations intervening in the meantime, I also began reading a much larger body of books on the world water crisis and books about saving rivers. I have collected over 70 volumes about water and rivers to date, over 20 are large format coffee table style, and nearly a dozen are books with photographs by my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde.

My idea was to someday publish a large review for a major publication. While that dream still exists in one form or another, it has simultaneously turned into a book-length project about books that have saved rivers to potentially include the work of such greats as John Muir, Wallace Stegner, David Brower, Edward Abbey, Ansel Adams, Dad, Eliot Porter, Martin Litton, Ken Brower, Wade Davis, Carr Clifton and many others. Please pray, do a dance, send good vibes and think supportive thoughts for me that life, death, or hard times will not intervene first. Despite external factors getting in the way and myself getting in the way, from time to time I am happy to find that my skills are improving. While I struggled with this review for more than a year the first time I tried to write it and abandoned that sixth draft only a bit over half finished, when I came back to it this week, all the disjointed, jumbled pieces either discarded easily or flowed together surprisingly well in just a few days. Sometimes once the old karma is worn out, the obstacles just melt away. My sincere apologies to Wade Davis and Carr Clifton for the delay in getting this in front of the world. Blessings and a thank you to my readers. Please enjoy the review and email or comment with any questions or thoughts you may have…

Threats to the Native Homeland and the Salmon Headwaters ‘Yosemite of the North’

Cover of The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena and Nass by Wade Davis and Carr Clifton. (Click image to see larger.)

Harvard trained anthropologist-ethnobotanist and bestselling author Wade Davis represents National Geographic in up to 50 countries a year studying vanishing indigenous cultures. Indicators such as a decrease in the usage of the native language or loss of home through displacement signal the decline of a culture. Davis has seen the loss of a few houses in a native village, the loss of a whole village, or even a people’s entire homeland, but he never thought that his own home would be threatened.

Besides his house in Washington DC and his residences during research abroad, for 25 years Davis has considered his true home a fishing lodge on Ealue Lake at the edge of one of the World’s largest remaining intact wildernesses called the Sacred Headwaters in Northern British Columbia. Born in British Columbia, Davis also worked as a park ranger and hunting guide in the Sacred Headwaters during the 10 years before he built his fishing lodge. The native tribes of the Sacred Headwaters, the Tahltan First Nations, refer to their hunting and fishing lands as hallowed ground because by a wonder of geography three of the greatest salmon rivers of the Pacific Northwest, the Skeena, the Stikine and the Nass all are born in remarkably close proximity to each other in a land of jagged peaks, verdant valleys and forests abundant with wildlife and rushing water. In 2006, IBM Business Consulting sponsored an independent study that found the value of the salmon industry in the Skeena River alone to be $110 million annually.

The Tahltan could still lose this homeland to any of 41 different industrial proposals including large-scale fracking, open-pit mining and coal mining. Wade Davis’ fishing lodge on Ealue Lake lies just under Todagin Mountain, which would lose it’s top to Imperial Metals’ proposed Red Chris Mine. This open-pit copper, gold and silver mine would process 30,000 tons of rock ore per day for 28 years and pour toxic mine tailings directly into Black Lake, one of the nine lakes that form the headwaters lake chain of the Iskut River, the principal tributary of the Stikine. Besides the Red Chris Mine threat, Royal Dutch Shell’s exploration of coal bed methane gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, with gas wells, access roads and pipelines, would criss-cross approximately 10 million acres. Also, Fortune Minerals’ open pit anthracite coal mine on Mount Klappan is currently in the environmental assessment process for a three million ton per year operation. Anthracite is an extra dense, extra hard, rare and energy rich type of coal. Because of these threats, the Sacred Headwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine is number one on British Columbia’s Most Endangered Rivers list.

A National Geographic Explorer Unites With the Voices of the Tahltan Elders and Conservation Photographers

Woodland or Osborne Caribou on the Upper Slopes of Klappan Mountain, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Fortune Minerals seeks to locate an open-pit coal mine here to produce between 1.5 and 3 million tons of anthracite a year. (Click image to see larger.)

To protect their common home, Wade Davis gathered the voices of the Tahltan elders, his own moving narrative and photographs by some of the world’s leading conservation photographers today to publish The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save The Stikine, Skeena, and Nass. While Davis has authored dozens of books, a handful of which have been bestsellers, he had never before produced a photography book, let alone a large format conservation book. To plan his book Davis researched the most significant coffee table landscape photography books.

Large format nature photography books became popular after 1960 when photographer Ansel Adams, conservationist David Brower and curator Nancy Newhall launched the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, which they intended to serve as “battle books” to defend US wilderness and help found national parks. The idea for the book series began in 1955 with This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, the first book published for an environmental cause with two chapters by Pulitzer-winning novelist and conservationists Wallace Stegner with photographs by journalist Martin Litton and my father Philip Hyde. In the 1960s, my father, Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter became the primary illustrators of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that brought the beauty of America onto coffee tables around the world, helped advance the momentum of modern environmentalism, saved the Grand Canyon from dams and helped establish Redwood National Park, Everglades National Park, North Cascades National Park and many others.

Many proponents including photographer Eliot Porter and David Brower, the Sierra Club’s first Executive Director, said that the large format books were largely responsible for the massive increases in the club’s membership. Other Sierra Club leaders, including Ansel Adams, worried that the Sierra Club might go bankrupt if it continued to publish such extravagant volumes. David Brower was asked to resign for overspending on publishing and other endeavors deemed reckless by a slight majority of the Sierra Club Board. The books were downsized and all but discontinued. Few volumes of similar quality were mass published until the digital era.

Today, 20 years into the digital revolution, photographic reproduction and book production quality have both advanced dramatically since the 1960s. With the right combination of participants, The Sacred Headwaters now shows it is possible to produce a book of similar quality to the classics in the genre from the 1960s.

The Need for A Large Number of Sweeping Landscape Photographs to Match the Terrain

Black Lake, Kluea and Todagin Lakes in Distance, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Three of the nine lakes that form the headwaters lake chain of the Iskut River, principal tributary of the Stikine. If the Red Chris mine went forward, the entire valley would be buried beneath a mountain of toxic tailings and waste rock, which would leach into one of the world’s most pristine and productive salmon watersheds below. (Click image to see larger.)

Wade Davis knew he could write a good text. He had done it before. He had also made good photographs for National Geographic before too, but he knew that to make the strongest statement possible, he would be wise to obtain help. He turned to the International League of Conservation Photographers, also known as the iLCP. The iLCP is a collection of leading photographers with a mission to “further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography.” Trevor Frost, iLCP photographer and home office staffer, helped Wade Davis raise funds for and organize a multi-photographer team to go to the Sacred Headwaters on what the iLCP calls a R.A.V.E. or Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition. R.A.V.E.s aim to achieve a full visual assessment of a threatened ecosystem in a short period of time.

The photographers represented in The Sacred Headwaters who initially joined the RAVE included Paul Colangelo, Sarah Leen, Claudio Contreras, Gary Fiegehen, Brian Huntington, Tom Peschak, Joe Riis and Florian Schulz. Most of these photographers are well known. They made a good number of high-quality images, but the project was still short on enough strong, cohesive photographs for a book, not to mention that it was heavy on wildlife and short on the giant, open and sweeping landscapes that characterize the Sacred Headwaters more than almost anywhere else on Earth.

Wade Davis decided to call on landscape photographer Carr Clifton, who had learned the art of the large format photography book as a protégé of my father and had produced a dozen photography books of his own, not to mention more magazine covers than any other living nature photographer. Most importantly large landscapes have always been Carr Clifton’s specialty. He has been photographing nature for over 40 years. He was one of the primary photographers during the heyday of the Sierra Club Desk Calendars that helped to popularize nature photography. He is also the primary illustrator of nearly a dozen books including Wild By Law, The Hudson, New York: Images of the Landscape, Wild and Scenic California, Justice on Earth, Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature and others. Clifton is now one of the all-time most published landscape photographers.

In The Sacred Headwaters, Carr Clifton’s work from the helicopter, in particular, produced giant scenes that explode with color and show off Clifton’s awareness and mastery of how to capture light. The viewer of these pages is awakened to new possibilities in beauty, beginning with the cover photograph. These images depict the proverbial land of plenty, perhaps the last of its scope on Earth. The way Clifton uses unusual camera angles shows more of the land and more of the sky when it is interesting. Even in his Caribou image, he is not at their eye level, he is down at the height of their flanks…

Wildlife is not my forte. I was looking for landscapes when I saw those Caribou. I thought to myself that I had to photograph them as part of the story, but they are not something I would have gone after because I do not believe in bothering wildlife just for my own sake to get pictures. They are already pushed enough. Probably I crouched to hold the lens steady. It was a long lens. With landscapes, it’s not like I do it as a trick or a method. It’s just the way I see. Sometimes I get down really low and close to the subject. Otherwise, with a wide angle lens it looks like the object is down below the picture. When I get down low I can include more. I can get more of the sky and maybe something interesting in the foreground. With the Cotton Grass to show it properly you need to get close. If I shot it standing up, the grass heads would all be the same size. By getting down low and close to the nearest ones, you’re filling the frame with the Cotton Grass. If you are far back you are not going to have as much converging perspective. Still, I don’t think about all of that when I’m doing it. I’m just feeling. Just paying attention and tuning in to what surrounds me. At the same time, I don’t want the subject to take over the image, which is what happens a lot in wildlife photography. I like the design of the rectangle and that’s my art form. Just what is going on in the rectangle. I’m not trying to tell a story, though in this project the combination of the photographs as a grouping and the writing do together tell a story. But with individual pictures, I’m more concerned  with the composition and the makeup of the rectangle, the deisgn of the whole, the feeling it portrays.

A Wildlife Garden of Eden or ‘Serengeti of the North’

Paul Colangelo, besides his also unusually arranged frames of moose, bear and other wildlife, also photographed the landscape and water features from the chopper. “The land has one of the largest intact predator-prey systems in North America,” said Colangelo. He said this earned the area the nickname, ‘Serengeti of the North.’ Canadian also call the large remote and roadless part of British Columbia simply, “’The North.’”

Canoeing, rafting and of course backpacking for miles were needed to access other locations, but the newest method for me was traveling by horseback. I stopped into a cabin to ask directions to a fishing camp and the next thing I knew I was joining the cabin’s owner on an eight-day horseback trip.

Todagin Creek, Todagin South Slope Provincial Park (right side of creek), Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Todagin Creek flowing beneath the south slope of Todagin Mountain down valley toward Tatogga Lake and the Iskut River. (Click image to see larger.)

Carr Clifton logged thousands of four-wheel-drive miles on an old railroad grade that is the only ground access to the Sacred Headwaters. By air, on foot and in his truck, he covered a vast roadless wilderness of approximately 150,000 square miles. He not only participated in the summer 2011 RAVE, but also drove from California back to Northern BC in the Fall of 2011 with no compensation besides reimbursement for his expenses.

For perspective, Wade Davis compared the Sacred Headwaters to wilderness in the US:

In the lower 48, the farthest you can get from a maintained road is 20 miles. In the Northwest quadrant of BC, an area the size of Oregon, there is only one road, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, a ribbon of asphalt that goes along the side of the coastal mountains to Alaska. It is a region where distances are measured by numbers of boots worn out, and on the roads in terms of the number of axles broken during the journey.

Wade Davis wrote that in the US only one river flows more than 600 miles uncompromised by dams, whereas the rivers of the Sacred Headwaters all run free. Davis opens The Sacred Headwaters with beautiful descriptions of the country supplemented by select observations from John Muir’s 1879 voyage up the Stikine River on his first journey to Alaska. By the end of his side trip, Muir was so moved by the country that he named his dog after the Stikine. He also gave the name to his most well known semi-autobiographical short story. In his smooth effortless prose, Davis vividly summarized Muir’s observations of hundreds of glaciers a day, eagles gathering by thousands to feast on salmon runs so rich they colored the sea, immense hemlock and Sitka spruce forests, mountains dazzling with waterfalls and ice, and how Muir climbed one rocky crag, Glenora, that rises 7,000 feet directly above the river. Muir’s journals described the Stikine River valley as a Yosemite 150 miles long.

Wade Davis sprinkles his text with concrete and entertaining statistics, his writing easily rising into the tradition of such greats as Marc Reisner, Aldo Leopold or John Muir himself.

The biggest canyon in Canada, the Grand Canyon of the Stikine, which most Canadians cannot even name, less than 100 people have gone through in all written history. No raft has ever made it. The first Kayakers survived it in 1985. Nobody has ever walked the rim of it. It is far less known than Utah’s Glen Canyon, ‘the place no one knew.’

Shell Used the Standard Ploy of Promising Jobs, but Coal Bed Methane Extraction is Nearly All Automated

Cascade Falls on The Iskut River, Natadesleen Lake, Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Beyond and out of sight are Kinaskan, Tatogga, Eddontenajon, Kluachon, Ealue, Kluea, Todagin, and Black Lakes. (Click image to see larger.)

The corporations proposing the development of the Sacred Headwaters, as well as other mines and natural gas fracking elsewhere, often claim keeping oil development in North America is good for jobs. Davis disagrees:

Shell’s coal bed methane extraction proposal of over 10 million acres, would result in hundreds, probably thousands of wellheads connected by multiple pipelines. That system, once in place, would be virtually automated. This is not about job creation. That’s just a red herring. Even if you look at the Golden Bear Gold Mine owned by Goldcorp, Inc, that is now exhausted, but operated in Tahltan territory for a decade, they extracted $25 billion worth of gold and silver. In the Iskut community, none of the infrastructure improved. A few people have hockey rinks or swimming pools, but there is still no fund for the kids to go to school, no health center and so on.

Shell used the jobs ploy to help obtain approval in the U.S. for the lower half of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The company represents itself in the media as becoming more socially conscious, but spends millions annually to defeat clean energy legislation, said a Natural Resource Defense Council press release. In 2002, Shell moved toward being greener by buying Siemens Solar, the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the world. Rather than staying involved in the solar industry, Shell sold its solar manufacturing division in 2006. Shell is also presently suing 12 environmental groups including NRDC and Earthjustice over proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Shell has never commercially produced coal bed methane in British Columbia, not to mention in salmon-bearing ecosystems or vulnerable alpine environments,” said Shannon McPhail, Executive Director of Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. “I don’t think the Sacred Headwaters and our wild salmon should be their guinea pigs.”

Tahltan Nation Briefly Divided, but Ultimately Standing United in Evicting Shell, Fortune Minerals, Imperial Metals and All Other Industrial Development

Davis tells the story of how a split in the Tahltan Nation led to the threats of mining and fracking on tribal lands. A construction company called the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation, founded in 1985 by Jerry Asp, stood to gain from industrial development by building the necessary roads and other improvements. Jerry Asp through deception got himself elected chief of the Tahltan and welcomed in Shell and other corporations. The Tahltan had to withstand lawsuits by Shell, remove Asp from office and set up a blockade to keep Shell out of their lands. The Tahltan have been largely alone in the fight, but because of the continued efforts of iLCP photographers, Davis and groups such as the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, Big Wild, Forest Ethics, the Suzuki Foundation and many others, momentum shifted before time ran out.

Sunrise and Rainbow Over The Headwaters of the Skeena River, Skeena Mountains, in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. (Click image to see larger.)

Spearheading the campaign’s momentum, The Sacred Headwaters remained on the Canadian bestseller lists for over a dozen weeks, a remarkable result for a $50 large format photography book. Davis is known in Canada as a “real-life Indiana Jones,” though he is less of a swashbuckler and more a poetic writer, humanitarian, researcher and naturalist. He speaks to sold-out venues wherever he tours to support his most recent bestsellers. His meticulously researched Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest also came out in 2011 as Sacred Headwaters did. The Everest account also quickly became a national bestseller both in Canada and the US.

A reader of Davis’ Sacred Headwaters narrative does not so much begin to read, as dive into the fast-moving current of a river of ideas already established in his other bestselling books including The Serpent and the Rainbow, One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rainforest, The Lost Amazon, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, Light at the Edge of the World, Passage of Darkness, Rainforest, The Clouded Leopard: Travels to Landscapes of Spirit and Desire, Nomads of the Dawn, River Notes and many others. In his research and reporting on native cultures around the globe, he had already excavated a rich channel of knowledge and stories about the loss of native languages, herbal medicines, healing and customs under the advance of cultural domination. In Into the Silence, about the British first attempt to conquer of Mount Everest, Davis obtains a certain redemption by both chiding imperialism and making the compassionate realization that it is still within him, that it came from a less evolved self, his forefathers, our ancestors. In The Sacred Headwaters, he gave the Tahltan natives an opportunity to raise their own voices against economic imperialism as well, in addition to the many photographers and other collaborators he brought on board.

The combination not only worked as a book project, it also became the linchpin of a successful conservation campaign. By the end of December 2012, the Canadian Government, Shell Oil, and the Tahltan Central Council announced protection of the Sacred Headwaters from all oil and gas prospecting and drilling. In 2013 the British Columbia Liberal Party included a “Protection Plan for the Sacred Headwaters” in its election platform. Once the BC Liberal Government won the election, they succumbed to pressure and allowed Fortune Minerals a permit to continue coal exploration in the Sacred Headwaters. However, in July 2013, the Tahltan Central Council passed a unanimous resolution to protect their homeland from all industrial development. In August of that year, Tahltan community members gave Fortune Minerals an eviction notice from their exploration camp and blockaded their road access. In 2015, the Tahltan also blockaded Imperial Metals’ Red Chris Mine access on Todagin Mountain above Ealue Lake. Wade Davis’ lodge home and the sacred earth of the Tahltan are safe for now, but the threats will continue. My father, Philip Hyde, once said, “Environmental battles are never victorious. They have to be fought and won over and over and can be lost only once.”

For the announcement of Carr Clifton’s largest Sacred Headwaters Exhibition see the blog post, “Carr Clifton at Mountain Light Gallery.”

To read a guest feature by Paul Colangelo about his work in The Sacred Headwaters, the original iLCP RAVE and how NANPA, or North American Nature Photography Association honored him with the prestigious Philip Hyde Grant in 2010 see the guest blog post, “Big Wild, iLCP RAVE Sacred Headwaters by Paul Colangelo.”

Selling Out Environmentalists or Offering a Wake Up Call?

February 22nd, 2019

Have My Feature Blog Posts, Overall Message and Published Articles Been Selling Out Environmentalists or Offering Suggestions for How to Change Failing Methods? What do you think? Agree or Disagree?

What Is the Best Way Forward? How Can We Begin to Attain Mainstream Buy-In to Collectively Reduce Carbon Use?

Expanded from an email originally sent to 45 neighbors 12-17-18

“Every Day Is Earth Day on My Ranch,” Indian Valley, Winter, Sierra Nevada, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde.

Last July I wrote a blog post that turned out to be controversial, not because of what it contained, but because of how people interpreted it in relation to the rest of the contents of Landscape Photography Blogger, recently renamed Landscape Photography Reader, and people’s perception of the legacy of my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde. Normally I find it a waste of time to draw attention to myself and whether people are understanding me or not, or whether they believe I do think or I should think exactly like my father. However, this is as good a time as any to clear up some misunderstandings for clarity and perspective as we move into the future direction of this platform and discussions here and elsewhere of why it matters.

The Hyde Legacy Mission Remains the Same

My mission statement did not change or waver during the last two years. It is available for all to read under the “Goals” tab above in the banner at the top of this page. Or to read it with one click now go to, “Hyde Fine Art Mission Statement.” My old and new blog readers and followers from all over the world have found and read it by the hundreds every day. I am mystified that those who made sniping comments or questioned my motives somehow missed it. This Mission/Goals statement is essentially a summary of Dad’s legacy, though there may be more nuances that come all along the way here at Landscape Photography Reader.

People sometimes ask me if I am happy, or if I am living someone else’s life, or they suggest that I ought to do whatever fulfills me. In some situations, these certainly are important concerns and suggestions. Following your bliss or your heart can be a useful idea or course correction if you have never done it. However, in this civilization, we all have perhaps followed our own desires a bit too much and not thought enough about the collective of all life on this planet, or about where we are headed and why. We have neglected, denied or ignored the big picture and pursued our individual happiness for many reasons, not least of which because we felt this easier to impact and manage.

My father’s goals in life were never about him. He was a man of service. What kind of service do you offer each day? How are you helping? What are you doing to make the world better? These are the kind of questions he tended to ask himself. His priorities were God, family, nature, and photography, in that order. My mother, self-taught naturalist Ardis King Hyde, filled in the social piece with her priorities being God, family, nature, and community.

Where the Controversy Started and the Value of Self-Evaluation

The blog post, “How Environmentalists Get in Their Own Way,” came out of a number of experiences I had in the last few years and some actions by a small few of my neighbors in the Northern Sierra in Plumas County. Even more controversial, was an opinion piece called, “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch,” that I wrote for the local newspapers: Feather River Bulletin, Indian Valley Record, Chester Progressive, Portola Reporter, Lassen County Times and Westwood Pine Press with the online version appearing on Plumas News under a slightly different title.

“It seems to me that the good the Palmaz family is doing for the land far outweighs any impact from landing a helicopter,” said a prominent progressive property owner in Quincy, California, the Plumas County Seat, after he read the article and the 109 thoughts from readers at the end. “The comments get a little ugly, but they are a fascinating study in human psychology,” he said.

After I wrote the article for the local newspapers, a rumor began to circulate that I had “sold out environmentalists” by taking the position I did and pointing out the flaws in the logic of certain local activists in the newspaper. Sometimes people, including myself, have a hard time taking criticism, whether constructive or not. However, sometimes a review of current methods can help anyone fine-tune and improve. Self-evaluation can help you discover blind spots and areas where you may not be getting the results you want, making you far more effective and efficient in the long run.

Why and How Environmentalists Have Failed

Environmentalists individually and environmentalism as a movement, have both had some major successes, especially in the 1960s and 1970s when my father’s photography played a major role in the development of the modern environmental movement, and while land conservation enjoyed the most popularity and support from the general public. However, the same methods and approaches that worked then do not necessarily work now. More importantly, the methods that did NOT work then, work even less now. I suggest anyone who is serious about truly making a difference and not just appearing to do so enough to make yourself feel better, make a study of Dad and his associates, Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Wallace Stegner, David Brower, Martin Litton and many others and their methods and all other successful strategies for making real change and attaining significant impact. The last 20 years have seen environmental law weakened, water and air safety regulations undermined or revoked, the dismemberment of the Environmental Protection Agency down to a shadow of itself, not to mention little to no major advances or wins in the movement. Stopping the second half of the Keystone XL Pipeline through the US has been the largest environmental achievement of the new Millenium. Even major environmental leaders have declared the Death of Environmentalism or the Death of the Environmental Movement? Two other leaders, even wrote a follow-up book on the subject reviewed by the New York Times and called Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. Meanwhile, over 70 percent of Americans in polls say they care about environmental issues. Why the disconnect? What is missing? Can it all be blamed on corporate spin and criticism by Right-Wing politicians?

The Far Right Smear Campaign

Certainly, Right-Wing extremists have been smearing and labeling the green movement as the new Red, ever since the Reds were no longer a threat after the Berlin Wall fell and the U.S.S.R. disbanded. Right-Wing media and talk show hosts have been likening environmentalists to the devil, Satan and their followers. This tactic has worked to large extent. Still, there must be effective ways to remind conservatives across the spectrum that Republicans played a major role in the establishment of modern environmentalism. President Nixon and his cabinet oversaw the passing of most of the 20th Century’s most significant environmental laws. Beyond law though and even more fundamental, Republicans, Democrats, Independents and all others like to eat safe, unpoisoned food and drink clean water.

Even so, Environmentalists, including myself when I still called myself one, generally have failed to persuade society as a whole to mobilize regarding a number of disastrous environmental and human health issues, the foremost of these being Climate Change. Our politics have so become polarized and environmentalists have often taken positions just as extreme as their opponents that obtaining mainstream buy-in appears close to impossible regarding action to stave off the melting of the Polar Ice Caps. We need to get people more interested in how they can do more and why it matters, rather than vilifying various people and organizations and telling them they are wrong, especially when what they are doing may have been a way of life for many generations. Nobody is going to change overnight, especially if they are put down or marginalized. Think about it in your own life. Do you tend to want to change when someone tells you what you are doing is wrong?

While Out on the Land Photographing Ranches and Farms, I Ran Across A New Concept

One subsection of this I am currently making my focus for research and future publication is Agriculture. Despite ingrained beliefs among the anti-beef lobby that all meat is bad for the planet and that Industrial Agriculture is a major contributor to Climate Change, new and ongoing research is starting to show that small, ecological agriculture is the most effective way of counteracting the ills of Industrial Agriculture and feeding the whole world. Animal waste is not only one of our biggest problems and greenhouse gas contributors, it is also one of the best ways to regenerate soil. The seeds of the solution are within the problem.

I highly recommend that anyone who cares about keeping our Earth liveable for people and the other life forms on which we depend, anyone with an open mind and anyone who puts our continued future above any ideology such as environmentalism, veganism, and so on, if solutions are more important to you than maintaining your current world view exactly as it is, read the book, Defending Beef by Nicolette Hahn Niman. In Defending Beef, the author, an environmental lawyer and former vegetarian, not only makes the case that cattle can be raised sustainably, but that overall, depending on how they are managed, they can have a net positive impact on our atmospheric carbon problem by taking carbon out of the air and sequestering it in the ground. Cows are not only one of the best ways to rebuild our depleted soils, but they can be one of the best ways to slow down and possibly reverse Climate Change. This is not greenwashing, not Beef Industry hyperbole, but statistical fact backed up by studies and research from all over the world. One of the frontrunners of these innovations is Allan Savory, who wrote Holistic Management: A Common Sense Revolutions to Restore Our Environment, and explains his world-renowned system in his TED Talk, How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change.

A Recipe for Optimism and My Philosophy

Also, for anyone who has become pessimistic about the future of the world or who is afraid to slip into pessimism, I highly recommend reading The Upcycle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart for a fresh perspective on how radical innovation can change how we use everything so profoundly that it is possible we could eliminate pollution, repurpose waste and keep our water plentiful and pure. For more on how we can change not just policy, but our consciousness and thus have the biggest impact on healing the planet, I suggest the audio CD: Miracles for the Earth by Sandra Ingerman.

For those very few who have spread rumors and made fools of themselves by saying I have sold out environmentalists, here is your chance to find out what I really am doing, saying and writing on the subject and why it is being followed in over 70 countries:

I Would Apologize Too: A Letter To Mother Earth

Mission Statement: Goals for Landscape Photography Reader/Philip Hyde Photo/Hyde Fine Art

Art, Earth and Ethics 1 – The Abuse of Nature and Our Future

Art, Earth and Ethics 2 – Climate Change, Religion, John Muir and Leave No Trace

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way I

July 16th, 2018

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way, Part One

Ways Environmentalists Sabotage Their Own Protection of the Planet

Spring Snow, Grizzly Ridge, Heart K Ranch Pond, Upper Genesee Valley, Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Environmentalists and environmental organizations often sabotage their own causes in many ways. Even while serving a vital role in protecting natural places, decreasing the use of carbon-rich products and increasing the awareness of alternatives, environmentalists also at times adversely affect nature as much as anyone else. The following is just a short list. I am not saying by any means that all environmentalists take these actions all the time. A few do and all of us do sometimes. I know about many of these by making mistakes myself, to the detriment of the planet. I have also made a life-long study of influence and persuasion, as well as what has been effective and ineffective in the modern environmental movement. Perhaps people reading this, whether they are conservationists or environmentalists, care about nature but do not consider themselves environmentalists, or the type who typically oppose environmentalists, can think of points to add to the following list:

  1. Environmentalists often assume the worst about the people involved in a given situation, who may not be maliciously destructive of nature, but may inadvertently be having an adverse effect.
  2. Environmentalists come into scenarios operating only out of their own mindset, rather than seeing others’ views, or going to where the people are who are involved.
  3. They believe all wealthy people are evil and judge people by net worth.
  4. They judge people by good intentions and words, rather than actions.
  5. Rather than trying to understand other’s backgrounds in a situation and being tolerant of others’ knowledge or lack of knowledge of ecology and natural systems, they put people down who do things differently.
  6. They forget that we are all learning how to be more Earth-friendly.
  7. The minute they purchase a hybrid vehicle or other green technology, they immediately start confronting and putting down those who are still using older, less efficient or less effective products or methods.
  8. They believe high tech is automatically bad for the environment.
  9. They start interactions attacking and confronting, with an “us versus them” mindset, rather than listening and gathering information about people’s motivations and goals before addressing them.
  10. They assume that an enemy of a friend is always an enemy.
  11. They assume that a friend of an enemy is always an enemy.
  12. They assume that a friend who disagrees with their viewpoint then becomes an enemy.
  13. They assume all Capitalists, all Republicans, all religious people, or all of the people from any given group are the enemy of preserving nature.
  14. They use fear as their primary tool to move people. They paint doom and gloom scenarios, cite perilous natural events, natural disasters and distressing statistics to scare people into decreasing their environmental impact. Educating the public about pending catastrophe or warning of dire circumstances is important and necessary to keep people informed, but over and over tests and studies have shown that used as the primary persuasion method, fear can be paralyzing and discouraging, or easily ignored while people and corporations continue destructive business as usual.
  15. They attack environmentally destructive organizations and corporations from the outside, rather than infiltrating, educating and changing them from the inside.
  16. A few of them chose to remain ignorant of the law, believe it does not apply to them, but generally believe that through mere force of thinking they are right, they can bend the law or obtain exceptions.
  17. They believe that justice and what they think is right prevails in court, rather than existing laws.
  18. They believe that hiring good lawyers means they will win, even if they are wrong or in violation of the law.
  19. Some of them believe that all good lawyers are infallible, always tell the truth, never oversell, do not mislead, and will not lead them astray.
  20. They believe that environmental issues are policy problems, rather than problems in thinking and consciousness.
  21. They think that if they disagree with a legal definition, all they have to do is dredge up a definition by a source that is more in line with their own idea of the definition and the legal definition will no longer apply.

Other Ways Environmentalists Fail

As an example of just one major issue, environmentalists and the major environmental groups, have largely failed to convince individuals, companies and governments both large and small to take enough significant, consistent action to thwart the increasing pace of climate change. We have also failed to instigate sweeping changes that could protect water supplies into the future and have also been ineffective in slowing down the mass extinction of species that has been escalating for the last 100 years. Most environmentalists have refused to make any major changes personally that would lead to a smaller carbon footprint. People say they are afraid to go back to caveman days.” However, Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything said we would only need to go back to the living standards of the 1970s to avert the worst effects of climate change. Yet we perpetuate the illusion that we can continue to live much as we always have and not change any of our wasteful or bad habits, but rather avoid our own destruction merely by changing energy sources. Meanwhile, most of us keep blaming the problem on other people, the government and any other scapegoats we can find.

For example, I know people who condemn their wealthy neighbors for using a helicopter for transportation, while they themselves do a tremendous and far above average amount of driving per year just so that they can live far out on the edge of a wilderness surrounded by vast forests and an almost pristine valley, while also working in the nearest major city to earn a higher income.

One major mistake these seven neighbors, who call themselves the Genesee Friends, made in Genesee Valley in relation to the helicopter, besides espousing many fallacies and made up arguments with little to no factual basis, they failed to obtain the support of the majority of people in the area before launching an activist campaign. By far the majority of neighbors stand with the helicopter owners and their sustainable ranching, historical restoration and philanthropy benefitting local organizations.  The Genesee Friends also mistakenly claimed to represent all of us in the entire Genesee area, while also attacking anyone who disagrees with them.

Even more troubling, like the worst of environmentalists, this small minority of people give activism itself a bad name. When my father, pioneer photographer Philip Hyde and his associates: Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, David Brower, Howard Zahniser, Olas and Margaret Murie, Martin Litton and many others set out to make the many national parks they did in the 1960s and 1970s, when they embarked on a major campaign, they made sure they had the support from the majority of the public, or a definite plan to obtain it. Not only were the national park projects more popular than the projects to exploit the resources in the places in question, but the popularity of the parks has only increased over time. Meanwhile, the few so-called activists in Genesee only render themselves less and less popular all the time. More on this in future blog posts and in my article linked to below.

Agricultural Adventures in the USA Heartland and an Unusual Experience

Over the last two years I went through an unusual experience that has changed my perspective on who protects the environment and who impacts it adversely. Leading up to this experience and affecting how I perceived it tremendously, in 2015, I traveled to the Midwest to photograph what is left of traditional small farming. I went to the heart of the country to take its pulse and capture it as it is because I discovered that industrial agriculture has taken over. Old historic barns, equipment and methods are going fast. With the rise of industrial agriculture, our factory farms have drained our aquifers, lakes and rivers down to dangerous levels, turned many small farming settlements that thrived for 100-150 years into ghost towns and transformed our farms from one family operations into colossal corporate giants sustained by heavy doses of deadly chemical spraying and cancer-causing genetically modified crops.

When I came home from the Midwest, the unusual experience of having one of the one percent most wealthy families move into my neighborhood changed my life forever yet again. In the print newspaper and online version of my article, “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch,” I explain in more detail how I came to support this well to do family and stand behind their sustainable agricultural practices, organic farming and restoration of the old barns and other buildings of our local Genesee Valley Ranch, rather than siding with a small minority faction of my neighbors who have tried and failed to obstruct, ostracize and turn public opinion against the Palmaz Family. Fortunately for our county and for the welfare of Genesee Valley, the family’s kindness, good character and generous philanthropy in our community won over most of my neighbors and the majority of people in surrounding towns. I wrote the article originally for the weekly “Where I Stand” column on the opinion page of the local newspapers printed by Feather Publishing including the Feather River Bulletin, Lassen County Times, Chester Progressive, Portola Reporter, Indian Valley Record, Westwood Pinepress and the internet Plumas News version of all six papers.

Laying Everything on the Line, Being Attacked by Environmentalists and Trolls and What Exactly Is Entailed in Defending Natural Places Like Genesee Valley?

Also important to this subject, attached to my online Plumas News article about Genesee Valley Ranch, are  100+ pertinent, wise, and also contentious and trolling comments, along with my responses and further discussion to help people understand some of the finer points of the related issues. Check it out. When you get to the article internet page, sometimes randomly from there may be a short marketing survey by which Plumas News helps pay their bills. Take a look: “In Defense of the Palmaz Family and Genesee Valley Ranch.”

Stay tuned for the unusual personal story and sequence of events that led to me writing the above opinion piece, as well as outspokenly supporting and contracting to photograph for the Genesee Store and Genesee Valley Ranch. For more general background and the Genesee Friends side of the story see the Los Angeles Times article, “In a Rural Northern California Valley, a Development Battle Asks: Is a Helicopter a Tractor?” The main worry expressed by Elisa Adler in her statements for this article is that masses of wealthy people will move to Genesee Valley and “gridlock the skies” with helicopters. Out of the private land still possibly for sale in the entire watershed though, excluding of course the Heart K Ranch and Genesee Valley Ranch, I am curious how much of that land is zoned for agriculture? The land that is not zoned for ag, will be harder to make into sites for helipads, now with Plumas County’s new ruling. Read my article above to understand more about this. With less chance of gridlocked skies over Genesee, the only real gridlock may be in Ms. Adler’s argument. Besides, since thousands of wealthy people have not moved here yet, it is doubtful they will, perhaps possible, but probably improbable. I do not know the exact acreage of the watershed or private land in it, but from having grown up here, my guess is that most of the private land besides the two big ranches is not zoned for agriculture. The ruin of Adler’s entire life by the helicopter, as she has claimed, is perhaps more due to how she is looking at it and purposely straining her ears to hear it, than the actual noise level or potential as a gateway to further development. I suggest reading both articles above and judging for yourself…

Philip Hyde’s Planning, Travel Research and Open File Bins 1

May 30th, 2018

Philip Hyde’s Future Trip Planning Files and Other File Bins Full of Fascinating Papers

Philip Hyde’s Wishing Wall, Pre-Internet Bookmark System, In-Depth Studies and Travel Planning

Portrait of Philip Hyde by Anne Jeffery, circa 1978.

My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, planned extensively before going into the field. To this day in his studio, stands a wall of open file bins, each bin full of maps, letters, notes, brochures and other materials about locations all over North America, Hawaii, and some in Europe. While out photographing, he also discovered a long list of photogenic wilderness spots. In addition, he developed a long list of “wish list” places that he never visited. Later blog posts will elaborate on how he studied maps and read travel guides and history books on the places he intended to photograph. When in the field he navigated often by intuition, in part empowered by knowing what to look for before he arrived, but remaining alert to new surprises. He was spontaneous, but most interested in making a study in depth, to fully capture the essence of a place.

He prepared extensively for his travels and his maps reflected this. He had maps of all types, from basic highway maps, to maps that showed the types of vegetation, soil maps, trail maps, archeological maps that outlined old ruins from all ages. Still in his studio today is a large double door cabinet full of topographic maps. He usually ordered topographic maps of any place where he would spend more than a few weeks.

Maps and Legends

He studied the maps and the land forms they showed which facilitated his in-depth study of the local geology. Geology interested him greatly and he felt it key to good landscape photography. Understanding the types of rock and formations you will encounter, helps you know what patterns to seek out and where in a region to look for interesting land forms. Dad often revisited locations he had photographed before. He made notes in the field for possible future visits, when he discovered an area of interest he had not allowed plenty of time to explore. However, he usually planned his trips with time to spare so that he could deviate from his itinerary and heed the beckoning of a new place inviting him to explore further.

All of this required a great deal of time and energy compiling and distilling to an itinerary on a notebook page or two, with notes tied to a map that he drew routes on with various colors of pens. He was elated when highlighter pens came out in many colors. He could then see much better where he was going on the maps than in the days when he used various colors of solid markers.

In his studio, to this day, a whole wall of open file bins hold much of the contents as they were when he lost his eyesight in 1999-2000. They contain maps and planning information he had been gathering for various trips he intended to make some day, and some for trips he did make, though in most cases these were moved to other files. The wall of file bins made out of ¾ “ plywood that he cut and built by hand, just as the rest of the studio, has its top just below a window with a sill just over six feet off the floor. The open file bins run eight feet along the wall and start three feet off the floor, just above cabinets with swinging doors for storing office supplies. Each bin is 15 inches wide and there are six rows of bins. The shelves cut out of 3/8” particle board can be moved and rearranged to create ½” bins, 1” bins, 2” bins, 3” bins or even larger. Most of them are set at 1 1/2”. The bins are all labeled. The farthest left column of bins contains miscellaneous often used files that are not trip planning files. These start at the top left corner and are named.

Left Column of File Bins–Miscellaneous Files:

  • To San Francisco Next Trip
  • Professional Color Lab
  • Miscellaneous Processing Price Lists
  • Robert Reiter Cibachrome
  • Note Card Printing – Serbin – Singer
  • Copyright Data
  • ASMP Guides
  • PH Price Lists
  • Camera Repair
  • Chromeworks Lab
  • A&I Processing
  • Light Impressions
  • Calumet Chicago
  • Supplies – Bill Olson
  • Camera Catalogs
  • Miscellaneous Equipment

Second Column of File Bins–Planning Maps, Info, Etc.:

  • Environment/Conservation
  • Planning – Schedules by Year
  • Alaska – British Columbia – Alberta
  • Idaho – Montana – North and South Dakota
  • California – Nevada
  • Oregon – Washington
  • Utah – Arizona
  • Colorado Region – New Mexico
  • Texas Region – Misc. Others
  • Tharco Containers
  • Chemical Suppliers

Third (Center) Column of File Bins–Planning Future Trips–Major Interests–Primary Correspondence:

  • Current Workshops, General Correspondence, Other Workshops
  • Mexico Maps, Planning, Schmidt’s Papers on Chihuahua, Sierra Madre
  • Sierra Project
  • Coast Range Project
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Four Corners – Canyonlands – Arches – Grand Canyon
  • Baja Trips
  • East Coast Fall Trip
  • Hawaii Project
  • Correspondence, etc, Work Pending
  • Correspondence for Work Sent Out – Working: Prints, Transparencies Out
  • Forms for office use/FAX

The contents of the fourth and fifth columns of file bins were all moved into vertical cabinet files elsewhere in Dad’s studio.

Notes to Self, Letters, Cards and Other Correspondence Before and After Travels

As you can imagine, these various file bins are rich with interesting materials to thumb through…

For example: crumpled in the back of the Mexico File Bin, I pulled out a letter with a card paper-clipped to it. I straightened the letter written in Dad’s longhand handwriting. The card paper-clipped to the letter says in Dad’s writing at the top, “Met @ Guelaguetza, Oaxaca.” Guelaguetza is not a place. It is the 3,000 year-old Zapotec Food of the Gods Festival held in early October in the middle of the rainy season in Oaxaca. In the festival, the indigenous people offer corn, water, tomatoes, chiles, squash and beans to the gods and celebrate with music and dance.

The rest of the card reads like this:

Mexican Government Tourism Office
Secretaria De Tourismo De Mexico
Rolando A. Garcia
Marketing Representative
Texas-Louisiana-Oaklahoma
2707 North Loop West, Suite 450
Houston, Texas   77008
[Phone Numbers]

The letter is a carbon copy in Dad’s handwriting addressed to Rolando A. Garcia and dated Feb. 6, 1990:

Dear Rolando, Polly and Carlos,
Just back from three wonderful weeks in Mexico. Here is a copy of my latest book “Drylands.” Maybe you will note that some of our favorite places are in Mexico! [See Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert Sections.]
We loved meeting you and hope our paths cross again as happily as the first time.
Viva Mexico!
Ardis and Philip Hyde

I will share much more great material, or “content” as they call it now, from Dad’s file bins in future posts…

(Continued in the blog post, “Philip Hyde’s Planning, Travel Research and Open File Bins 2.”)

Enduring Images: Interview of Jack Dykinga for Outdoor Photographer Magazine

September 15th, 2016

Enduring Images: An Interview with Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist, Celebrated Nature Photographer and 2017 NANPA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Jack Dykinga by David Leland Hyde

Including Previously Unpublished Interview Sections and Materials

Cover of Outdoor Photographer September Special Issue - Photography with a Purpose

Cover of Outdoor Photographer September 2016 Special Issue – Photography with a Purpose. (Click Image to see larger.)

Jack Dykinga won the Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism while documenting the turmoil of 1960s Chicago. In 1970 he read a Backpacker magazine interview of my father, conservation photographer Philip Hyde. The article by environmental photographer Gary Braasch inspired Dykinga to move West and begin photographing landscapes. He eventually met and became friends with Dad, who mentored him in the ways of conservation photography. They even photographed together on a number of trips, some with a few other photography friends around the Southwest U.S., as well as on mainland Mexico and Baja California.

Jack Dykinga over the years also became a pillar of Western nature photography, working with the acclaimed International League of Conservation Photographers, National Geographic, Arizona Highways and other renowned organizations. The North American Nature Photography Association plans to honor Dykinga with a Lifetime Achievement award this year, much as they did Philip Hyde and David Brower back in 1996.

My interview with Mr. Dykinga touched on how he made the transition from a Midwest urban setting to photographing the wide-open wilderness spaces of the West. It also revealed the sensibilities he discovered were necessary to photograph nature and wildlife for conservation purposes. Our discussion ranged from his experience at various well-known magazines to the refinement of his approach over the years with input from Dad. Dykinga gave insights into a number of conservation projects and the making of a number of his successful books for various causes, including the upcoming new release of A Photographer’s Life: A Journey from Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer, in which Dykinga wrote an entire chapter about Dad.

My interview ran over 26,000 words, but I kept only 2,800 for the Outdoor Photographer piece. Some of the remaining 23,200 words will go into my book, but a few sections I will share with readers here. In one section I asked Jack Dykinga about Eliot Porter and Robert Glenn Ketchum. I specifically cut this portion from the Outdoor Photographer version because I did not feel the magazine article was the place to grind the axe about how Eliot Porter has received credit for a number of Dad’s and other’s accomplishments. At the right time and place, in the appropriate venue, a more detailed version of this discussion will be pertinent. For now, Landscape Photography Blogger is more appropriate than Outdoor Photographer for starting to bring some of it to light. The Outdoor Photographer audience is interested in learning from all of these greats of nature photography, not necessarily hearing why one or another have been over or under-recognized. In my opinion Dykinga’s response, while favoring Dad, was well-considered, balanced and tactful. Let’s see what you think when you read it below… In another section, Dykinga shared his experiences and impressions while working with National Geographic and while obtaining more personal, land and place oriented photographs.

David Leland Hyde: John Rohrbach in Regarding the Land: Robert Glenn Ketchum and the Legacy of Eliot Porter, made the exaggerated claims that Eliot Porter invented color nature photography and “almost single handedly saved the Grand Canyon.” Rohrbach also wrote that Robert Glenn Ketchum was the primary photographer carrying on Eliot Porter’s legacy. It was common knowledge among those who were there and widely known thereafter that Dad led the charge spiritually and produced the most photographs for the Grand Canyon campaign. Dad’s photographs illustrated three large format Sierra Club Books and were the cornerstone of Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, the one book specifically produced to prevent two dams above and below the National Park in the Grand Canyon. Eliot Porter’s Glen Canyon book enjoyed wide readership during this time mainly because the campaign to prevent the Grand Canyon dams took on global proportions. The book Time and the River Flowing landed on the desk of every member of Congress and other Washington leaders, as well as quickly fulfilling significant international demand and distribution. As Time and the River Flowing went out all over the world, it effectively advanced the momentum of the global letter writing campaign that ultimately swayed American politicians and stopped the dams. Not all of Philip Hyde’s books in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series sold as well as Eliot Porter’s In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, but Island In Time: Pt. Reyes Peninsula came out the same year. Several other photographers including Litton, Brower, Adams and others were nearly as prominent as Hyde and Porter in bringing color to landscape photography. As far as any photographer taking over Eliot Porter’s legacy, late in Porter’s life when he was ill before a Truckee Meadows Workshop, the organizers called in Hyde to take over Porter’s teaching position, not Robert Glenn Ketchum or anyone else.

Jack Dykinga: Eliot Porter was a great photographer. I will say that right off the bat. Right almost in the second line of his autobiography, without even taking a breath, it says he was a medical doctor who gave that up to be a photographer. Your dad was a self-made person who wanted to be a photographer. He wasn’t a doctor that wanted to be a photographer. He didn’t have either the baggage or the promotional ability that Porter did. A guy like Robert Glenn Ketchum had Ketchum, Idaho named after his family. He lives in Bel Air and Hollywood and he’s done a lot of good conservation work, but the hardship that your father had to go through, made him stronger. Your dad was the kind of person who had to really work for everything he got. I don’t think he had time to blow his own horn. He was trying to make a living. If I had it to do over again, I sure wish I had a lot more money. I wouldn’t have to worry about the next check. But, I think that lack of money also gives you an edge, I don’t mean a winning edge, I mean there’s a certain edge to your life where you’re really having to push pretty hard to get things done and it helps you. Porter’s work had a totally different look, whereas your father’s strength was that he gave you the monumental look of the American West. Your father did a lot more trail hiking than Eliot did and really showed us the land without showing himself.

Hyde: In the early 1960s, the whole direction of the large format books shifted. At first there was the big black and white sensation, This Is The American Earth by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall, but then suddenly everybody was really excited about color.

Dykinga: Your father was more of a documenter of wild places. He would look at things as more of a narrative and a project. That’s more akin to what I do. A lot of my friends that I go camping with are what I call single image photographers. They go out and want to get the most powerful shot that day, where I’m more likely to be wrapped up in a concept. That’s because I’m the journalist. You get publishable shots every single day. They may not be the art you want to hang on your wall, but you may want to put them in a book to tell somebody a story. If you try to submit only those that whisper, you’ll never get published, but you can hang them on the wall and live with them and love them.

Hyde: With National Geographic are you doing more or less what Joel Sartore does?

Dykinga: I am a contract photographer. He is a contract photographer on their first list. I used to be on their first list. I have a deep connection with the magazine, but their overall view of landscape is erratic. We have different opinions.

Hyde: Their idea of landscape is always putting a person in the frame.

Dykinga: There you go. You hit it perfectly. The classic example would be the last issue on Yellowstone National Park with people, butchering animals, traps and cowboys. There’s not one sense of place in the whole article. Here we are in this dramatic, incredible landscape that just gets really short shrift with the tact they have taken. The current editor is a journalist. She was the editor of Time Magazine.

Hyde: Would you say that National Geographic goes after the culture more than the place or the wilderness?

Dykinga: You could say that. That’s sort of subjective. I was there when Chris Johns was editor and he loved my approach to landscapes. That went away when he went away. It changes all the time. I still work for them occasionally. A full feature is a 100 day contract and it’s pretty good money, except when you have things blow up, it maybe not as good as you thought.

Hyde: You were in Stephen Trimble’s book, Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography. I don’t know that he necessarily found all of the “Who’s who” of Grand Canyon photography, but he included many.

Dykinga: I spend less and less time in cliché locations. They may be visual touchstones for most people, but they’re not interesting to me because even more than the place the solitude is important to me.

Hyde: Like Ansel talked about with the experience?

Dykinga: Yes, a deeper connection. You can’t do that if you’re on a crowded boardwalk in Yellowstone with about 30 Chinese guys with selfie sticks like I just experienced. People now are interested in showing “me there,” more than “there.” I think there’s a profound shift with people being more anthropocentric.

Hyde: We have less and less connection to nature as decades go by and more and more words and noise surrounding ourselves when we do get out there.

Dykinga: I see it all the time where people really go on and on explaining their work. Your father’s message and his voice came through the image. If you go on and on about divinity and God and everything else, that’s maybe what you’re reading into it. A lot of us are just very happy when people see the place and make their own decisions based on their own divinity or lack thereof. That’s as good as you can go. It’s more of a Buddhist approach.

To read the best published portions of the above interview pick up the Outdoor Photographer September Special Issue still on newsstands now for a few more weeks, or available online in October.

Outdoor Photographer Special Feature: Philip Hyde and the Art of Making National Parks

June 9th, 2016

Outdoor Photographer June National Parks Centennial Special Issue

Centerpiece Feature: Philip Hyde and the Art of Making National Parks by David Leland Hyde

Outdoor Photographer Cover, June 2016 National Parks Centennial Special Issue, cover photograph Mount Deception, Brooks and Silverthrone, Wonder Lake, the Alaska Range, Denali National Park by Carr Clifton.

Outdoor Photographer Cover, June 2016 National Parks Centennial Special Issue, cover photograph Mount Deception, Brooks and Silverthrone, Wonder Lake, the Alaska Range, Denali National Park by Carr Clifton. (Click on image to see larger.)

Outdoor Photographer magazine has come a long way lately. The magazine is under new ownership, Madavor Media, L.L.C. out of Braintree, Massachusetts. Wes Pitts, who worked for the previous owners for more than 17 years and apprenticed under Rob Sheppard, is the new Editorial Director/Editor. The articles and headlines now appeal as much to seasoned photographers as to beginners.

There are still many articles about gear and locations, but these are done more tastefully, while more articles about the art and craft of photography are appearing. Some of the best writers from the Rob Sheppard and Steve Werner eras are back like Lewis Kemper, Carr Clifton, James Kay, Mark Edward Harris, Art Wolfe and others. Columnists such as Amy Gulick, Frans Lanting, William Neill, David Muench and others continue to produce excellent advice and insight. David Leland Hyde has been named on the masthead as a Contributing Editor.

The reproduction quality still has a ways to go, but they are working internally on improving this and other aspects of the magazine to make gradual refinements over the coming months and years. The editor has expressed the objectives of bringing in more conservation photography and more quality coverage by the experienced professionals in the field.

Currently for June, the Outdoor Photographer editors and staff put together a National Parks Centennial Special Issue with cover photograph and personal experience feature article about the “Wildlands of the National Parks” by Carr Clifton. They invited David Leland Hyde to write the issue’s centerpiece feature article called, “Philip Hyde: The Art of Making National Parks.” Ben Horton wrote an excellent article about getting off the beaten path in the parks and long-time contributor William Sawalich wrote a fascinating feature profile of George Grant who, “Toiled in obscurity for nearly three decades as the first official photographer of the National Park Service.”

The Philip Hyde centerpiece feature immerses the reader in the conservation campaigns that made many of our Western National Parks. From Harvey Manning, author of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series book Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland, to David Simons, long-time resident, explorer, photographer and land conservationist in the North Cascades of Washington, from David Brower, Ansel Adams and Martin Litton to Eliot Porter, Point Reyes National Seashore, Dinosaur National Monument, Edward Weston, Minor White, the Bureau of Reclamation, Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, Howard Zahniser, Edward Abbey, Slickrock, Canyonlands National Park, The Last Redwoods, Gary Braasch, Jack Dykinga, Backpacker Magazine, William Neill, Chris Brown, Lewis Kemper, Carr Clifton, Alaska: The Great Land and Wade Davis author of a new book, The Sacred Headwaters, this is an in-depth look at Philip Hyde’s career, his influences and those he influenced in the field of conservation photography.

The Outdoor Photographer June National Parks Centennial Special Issue is on newsstands now and is one of the best issues of Outdoor Photographer yet. Do not wait because the special editions of Outdoor Photographer often sell out. This is not just a sales pitch. You can go online now and read Philip Hyde: The Art of Making National Parks, but if you want the special issue in the paper version, I would get it as soon as possible. Find it at Barnes and Noble and other booksellers and magazine racks, wherever magazines are sold.

To read more about the George Eastman Museum Exhibition America’s National Parks, see David Leland Hyde’s guest post on the Outdoor Photographer Blog. To read an in-depth overview of the exhibit including special programs and lectures see Philip Hyde in Photography and America’s National Parks Exhibition–Programs and Lectures.

Living The Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences

March 18th, 2016

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Five: Agricultural Influences

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.”)

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”

~ Aldo Leopold from A Sand County Almanac

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Fall Maples, Aspens, Black Oaks and Fresh Snow on Grizzly Ridge From the Garden at Rough Rock, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Fall Maples, Aspens, Apple Trees, Black Oaks and Last Sun on Fresh Snow on Grizzly Ridge From the Garden at Rough Rock, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Scene when I arrived home from the #Heartland. (To see large click on image)

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I asked to interview her about her locally popular organic gardening, homemade preserves and all natural cuisine. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living, their low impact lifestyle and long-term sustainability way before the word “sustainability” existed or the philosophy became a trend.

While the tape recorder ran, my mother joyfully began to answer my questions about more than 56 years of vegetable gardening, flower cultivation, ornamental breeding, gardening for butterflies and birds, natural pest control, fruit tree pruning, grafting and much more.

Unfortunately, we only made one tape. She died suddenly while I was 3,000 miles away on the East Coast before the interviews could continue. The afternoon after that fated first taping, she handed 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 and look at it for moment, put it in my hands with gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

The Nearings and their methods as professed in Living the Good Life, spiritually led and inspired the 1950s “Back to the Land” movement. The Hydes were at the early edge of this movement, leaving the Bay Area in 1950 to settle first in Indian Valley among the remote mountains of the Northern Sierra, then on a rocky flat bench of land on a branch of the Feather River Canyon, looking down on Indian Creek and up at Grizzly Ridge towering more than 4,000 feet straight up above the house they carved out of the wilderness.

This series of blog posts examines 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 One serves as an introduction, citing sections of the book and how the Hydes applied them. Part Two reviews Ardis and Philip Hyde’s respective childhoods and how their influences brought them together and eventually to their own land in the country. In the third episode of “Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde” I reflected on the changing seasons and passing years as their dream home and their way of life continue here. Part four of Living the Good Life, came from my interviews of Dad about defeated attempts to establish a home in Carmel near the photography market as he and my mother were advised to do by his mentors and friends Ansel Adams, David Brower and others. Failure in Carmel surprisingly took them overseas to Morocco in Northern Africa and eventually back to California where they built their dream home in the Sierra. More on Morocco in future articles and blog posts.

Part Five: Agricultural Influences

Before continuing the more or less chronological story of the Hyde’s “Living The Good Life” dream with the construction of their home to include passive solar and other green or passive energy features in future blog posts this series, in this post, Part Five, I will share how my mother’s ancestors helped found part of Sacramento and through their ranch contribute to the agrarian lore of the Great Central Valley. My mother orchestrated at least a start in agricultural knowledge during my childhood.

My father, born and raised in San Francisco, sought out nature all over the Bay Area. His father was an artist, draftsman and furniture designer and maker who also loved nature and loved the Sierra. He descended from a long line of schoolteachers. For more on my grandfather Leland Hyde and Dad’s other early influences, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 4.”

In contrast my mother’s ancestors were early pioneer families of the California Central Valley. My mother grew up in the greater Sacramento area, spending most of her childhood in the rural outskirts away from the town that is now downtown Sacramento. My mother’s maiden name was King. Ardis King Hyde’s father, Clinton Samuel King, Jr. grew up on the King ranch outside Sacramento. Mom’s mother, Elsie Van Maren King grew up on the Van Maren Ranch. The King’s sold their ranch when my mother was too young to remember. However, my entire life, until my mother passed on, she talked about her vivid memories of the Van Maren Ranch.

The Van Maren Ranch was located in the part of Sacramento that is now called Citrus Heights. The Van Marens were one of Citrus Heights founding families. Van Maren Boulevard was named after the family. The main ranch house, roughly in the center of the 1,000-acre ranch, stood on a hill that has now been removed where a shopping mall now sprawls.

One Van Maren family myth had it that during the Great Depression, my great grandfather Nicholas Van Maren exclaimed one day in exasperation that his greenbacks were worth so little that he might as well pave the lane into the ranch house with them.

“I’ll call it my Greenback Lane,” he cried out. From then on the family and their friends called the road Greenback Lane. This was how the familiar Citrus Heights thoroughfare received its name.

The main crops on the Van Maren Ranch were wheat, oats and barley, with a secondary production of grapes, almonds, apples and olives. There were also a number of milk cows, horses, chickens, goats, lambs and pigs to supply the family pantry. My grandmother Elsie had three sisters and no brothers. The four girls grew up doing the farm chores that in those days were usually done by boys, in addition to the household chores as well. My grandmother was a superb cook, who could easily feed a few dozen people. My mother, who had three brothers and no sisters, as the only girl in her generation, was constantly in the kitchen with her mother. Some of my mother’s best recipes were handed down from generation to generation.

My mom remembered trips out from the suburbs to the rural area that is now Citrus Heights to the Van Maren Ranch on weekends one or two times a month. She learned to ride a horse on the ranch as a little girl, milked cows and helped out with all of the tasks on the ranch that her mother had grown up doing. Mom loved visits to the ranch and did not mind pitching in and working with her grandfather around the ranch and grandmother in the kitchen. Mom was quite capable and hard working, even as a child. Her grandparents in turn enjoyed the companionship and help of their eager, inquisitive suburban granddaughter each time she visited. She remembered hauling water from the hand-dug well to the house by bucket the old-fashioned way and making everything in the kitchen by hand.

Both my mother and grandmother were tough as nails. They could out work and out rough-and-tumble any boy or man their whole lives. Part of what attracted Dad to Mom years later was how comfortable and fearless she was in the outdoors, yet how she also carried herself with grace indoors.

Besides being an artist in the kitchen, my mother was what gardeners call a “green thumb.” She could make flowers grow from rocks, which is essentially what she did for close to 60 years at our home in the Sierra Nevada. She had not had her hands in the soil much at all though for many years when my parents finally bought the property in December 1955.

Soon after, Mom and Dad walked the property with their friends Cornell and Pat Kurtz from nearby Lake Almanor, who also were accompanied by their four-year-old daughter Kit. A tangle of branches, decimated small trees and bulldozed piles of dirt and rock, the house site had been a logging staging area. Not much dirt mixed in with the Grizzly Formation igneous andesite rock. Indian Creek over geological time cut down through a giant rockslide that came down off of Grizzly Ridge and dammed up the creek. The bench a few hundred yards above the present riverbed consisted mainly of angular fracturing Grizzly Formation rock with some dirt in between to further wedge in the rock and make it hard to move.

This was more than 15 years before the publishing of Dad’s renowned book, Slickrock with Edward Abbey, but Dad and Mom had traveled much in the Southwest where the name “Slickrock” was common as were other names with “rock” in them such as “Smooth Rock” or “Balanced Rock.” For more about Slickrock see the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?”

Recently Pat Kurtz described that she and Cornell had visited the Hydes in 1956 while they were still living in one of the neighbor, Bill Burford’s houses, before Mom and Dad started building our home in 1957.

“I remember picking up the sharp, pointy rocks on your land,” Kit Kurtz added. “The rocks I were used to at Lake Almanor were rounded. I was already thinking, ‘this is rough rock.’” While showing the Kurtzes the land, Dad mentioned that they could not think of a name for the place.

“Your Dad looked down at Kit,” Pat Kurtz said. “He asked, ‘What do you think?’ and Kit said, ‘Rough Rock.’” Dad and Mom looked at each other and at Kit with smiles of acknowledgement and agreement.

“That’s it,”Dad said. “That’s the name.” Our home has been Rough Rock ever since. I will say with great assurance that to this day it lives up to its name in spades, or despite and intensely in spite of spades, or any other digging implement.

Dad even had to blast or chip a few giant rocks. Tons more he removed to pour the foundation. The rocks taken out of the trenches for the foundation were distributed along the hillside to make terraces. My parents filled in behind them to build the soil for a garden. I was not born until 1965, but the pickup truck hauling program was far from over when I got old enough to wield a shovel or pitchfork. I remember a childhood filled with trips to nearby ranches and farms to clear manure, used hay or combinations of the two out of horse stalls. We made those trips in an old 1952 Chevy Pickup we called the Covered Wagon when it still had a corrugated steel camper shell-like canopy on the back. For more on the adventures of Covered Wagon all over the West see the blog post, “Covered Wagon Journal 1.” We also hauled dirt, sand, grass clippings, straw, wood chips and just about anything else that would make soil. I will write more about the gardens and gardening in future blog posts.

Besides being a laborer and off and on participant in Mom’s gardening efforts, thanks to my mother I was exposed to other agrarian influences. As a very small boy, probably around age three, my mother took me to a nearby dairy farm, introduced me to the farmer and to his dairy cows up close. Mom and I watched while the farmer milked his cows. We tasted the milk and I even took a turn at milking. When I was young we had milk delivered by a milk truck as part of a regular milk route. Later, I would go with my mother to pick up whole milk directly from the dairy farms that sold it. Mom skimmed the cream off the top and used it to make butter or to whip cream. We also made homemade ice cream from local whole milk.

My mother raised me on unpasteurized milk. I lived a highly active, sports-filled life and never broke a bone until I was in my 40s far away from my childhood home. I have never had any allergy problems either. A substantial body of scientific evidence links pasteurization, hormone supplementation and genetic modification of milk and dairy cows to food and pollen allergies.

My mother and my mother’s brother, Nick King, taught me how to care for, prune and organically fertilize our apple trees. For more on my uncle’s nursery, apple farm and beekeeping, see the blog post, “Actor, Photographer, Apple Farmer and 1960s Activist Nicholas King’s Memorial.” Every year Dad and I helped Mom pick apples in our mini orchard of three trees. Mom tried many other types of fruit trees, but few of them bore much fruit in our mountain climate and elevation of 3600 feet above sea level. Just before she passed on in 2002, Mom planted a plum tree in front of the house that just started bearing fruit four years ago. It produced a heavy limb-bending crop of plums one year, but unfortunately the raccoons ate most of them.

Another agricultural, small farm activity Mom instigated at Rough Rock when I was a kid was raising chickens. They were bantam hens named Henny Penny and Peg Leg. They laid a slightly smaller egg than most chickens, but they each produced one to three a day, which was all we needed. Dad built them a chicken wire cage inside our garden shed. They would go in at night and out during the day. I fed them around the same time each day as I fed Pad, our German Shorthaired Pointer dog.

Pad was our primary domesticated animal. Pat Kurtz originally found her for us and named her P. – A. – D. after Philip, Ardis and David. The Kurtzes had a long line of their own German Shorthaired Pointers for many years. Pad would stay with them when we traveled. Pad was also good with the chickens. She hardly even went near them. She ignored them with disdain and distaste. We never knew why. After a few years Peg was taken out one day by what must have been a raccoon, or possibly a Bobcat or even Mountain Lion. All we found were a few feathers. Penny lasted a few months longer before suffering a similar fate.

I am grateful to my mother for introducing me in small ways to farming and ranching. While I did not grow up on an actual working farm or ranch, I had at least enough taste of it to understand what the lifestyle was like and what producing your own food is like. Farming is hard, but highly rewarding work.

(The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in future posts in this series. The next post, Part Six, covers the process of finding and choosing a place to put down roots and establish a modern homestead, “Living the Good Life 6: Search for the Good Life.”)

What Is Behind the Wilderness Idea?

November 3rd, 2015

What Is Behind the Wilderness Idea?

Excerpts of Howard Zahniser Speech with Introduction By David Brower

Sierra Club Bulletin, January 1956

Introduction by David Brower

Plunge Pool, Tributary to Coyote Gulch, now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, 1978 by Philip Hyde. Original version from Slickrock with Edward Abbey.

Plunge Pool, Tributary to Coyote Gulch, now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, 1978 by Philip Hyde. Original version from Slickrock with Edward Abbey. Philip Hyde worked with David Brower to help establish many national parks of the West. Hyde also knew Howard Zahniser, talked with him about projects by phone and met with him in Washington DC when Hyde’s exhibition opened at the Cosmos Club there.

Howard Zahniser, executive secretary of The Wilderness Society and editor of The Living Wilderness, presented an address at the National Citizen’s Planning Conference on Parks and Open Spaces for the American People, held in Washington, D.C. May 24, 1955. His remark, in which he proposed the establishment of a national wilderness preservation system, included passages on the underlying philosophy of the wilderness idea that have been widely quoted. Following are some of them. (For more about David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.” For more  on Howard Zahniser see the blog post, “The Oregon Cascades’ Impact on Conservation.”)

Excerpts from Speech by Howard Zahniser

In addition to our needs for urban and suburban parks and open spaces, in addition to the need for a countryside of rural loveliness, a landscape of beauty for our living, and in addition to the needs for parkways and parks and well-developed areas for all kinds of outdoor recreation, there is in our planning a need also to secure the preservation of some areas that are so managed as to be left unmanaged—areas that are undeveloped by man’s mechanical tools and in every way unmodified by his civilization. These are the areas of wilderness that still live on in our national parks, State parks and forests…

These are areas with values that are in jeopardy not only from exploitation for commodity purposes and from appropriation for engineering uses. Their peculiar values are also in danger from development for recreation, even from efforts to protect and manage them as wilderness…

I believe that at least in the present phase of our civilization we have a profound, a fundamental need for areas of wilderness—a need that is not only recreational and spiritual but also educational and scientific, and withal essential to a true understanding of ourselves, our culture, our own natures, and our place in all nature.

This need is for areas of the earth within which we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment—areas of wild nature in which we sense ourselves to be, what in fact I believe we are, dependent members of an interdependent community of living creatures that together derive their existence from the sun…

We deeply need the humility to know ourselves as the dependent members of a great community of life, and this can indeed be one of the spiritual benefits of a wilderness experience. Without the gadgets, the inventions, the contrivances whereby men have seemed to establish amount themselves an independence of nature, without these distractions, to know the wilderness is to know a profound humility, to recognize one’s littleness…

Paradoxically, the wilderness which thus teaches modern man his dependence on the whole community of life can also teach him a needed personal independence—an ability to care for himself, to carry his own burdens, to provide his own fuel, prepare his own food, furnish his own shelter, make his own bed, and –perhaps most remarkable of all—transport himself by walking…

We are a part of the wildness of the universe. That is our nature. Our noblest, happiest character develops with the influence of wildness. Away from it, we degenerate into the squalor of slums or the frustration of clinical couches. With the wilderness we are at home.

Some of us think we see this so clearly that for ourselves, for our children, our continuing posterity, and our fellow man we covet with a consuming intensity the fullness of the human development that keeps its contact with wildness. Out of the wilderness, we realize, has come the substance of our culture, and with a living wilderness—it is our faith—we shall have also a vibrant vital culture—an enduring civilization of healthful happy people who, like Antaeus, perpetually renew themselves in contact with the earth…

Do you feel people need wilderness? Why or why not?

Save The Historic Olsen Barn: Campaign by Feather River Land Trust

August 13th, 2015

Olsen Barn and Meadow Campaign

A Number of Photographers and Other Local Artists Including Jan Davies, Betty Bishop, Sally Yost, Sally Posner, David Leland Hyde and Many Others Have Donated Rights to Use Photographs, Originals and Prints to Feather River Land Trust to Help Save A Northern Sierra Legacy

October 23, 2015 Update:

Individual donations were up to $413,467 as of 10-1-15. This more than met the amount necessary to complete the land transaction. On September 23 Feather River Land Trust Executive Director Paul Hardy exercised the option to purchase the 107 acre property and Olsen Barn. Formal Closing took place October 23, 2015. As of October 1, Feather River Land Trust received 541 donations from 439 individuals from as far away as Alaska and New York. The total raised for the land transaction through October 1 was $798,000. Funds already raised for taking care of the land and barn total $15,467. A land and barn stewardship committee, including David Leland Hyde, has formed to establish land use, maintenance and restoration strategy. David Leland Hyde in particular is researching the viability for this property of joining the National Register of Historic Places.

 

The Imminent Demise of the Olsen Barn, a Plumas County Cultural Treasure

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near Chester, California, Sierra, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This photograph has been actively used by Feather River Land Trust in the Olsen Barn Campaign.

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near Chester, California, Sierra, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This photograph has been actively used by Feather River Land Trust in the Olsen Barn Campaign. (To see large click on image.)

Barns die in many ways: they are crushed by falling trees, blown down by high winds, dismantled for wood, demolished, set on fire and sometimes pushed over by bulldozers. However, the majority of barns don’t burn out, they just rot slowly away.

More barns give up the ghost each year than people build in the US. Around the West and Midwest dismantling barns is big business, but fortunately for historic barns there are also many friends of barns who are in the business of preservation.

One historic structure already falling apart is the Olsen Barn on the East edge of Chester, California on the shores of Lake Almanor where the Northern Sierra meets the Cascade Mountains. This cultural and community icon is one of the largest barns in Plumas County and the surrounding counties. For many years it has been restored in fits and starts, but mainly left to decay and crumble away if significant reconstruction does not occur soon.

Olsen Barn, Chester and Mt. Lassen Near Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large, click on image.)

Olsen Barn, Chester and Mt. Lassen Near Lake Almanor, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large, click on image.)

Besides stunning views of Lake Almanor and Lassen Peak, the 107-acre Olsen Barn property includes lush stands of trees and a riparian creek corridor where the North Fork of the Feather River flows through from Chester into Lake Almanor. Norwegian pioneer settler and carpenter, Peter Olsen, originally built three barns for his dairy farm, of which today’s Olsen barn is the last one standing, but it is getting more shaky all the time. One major beam has fallen destabilizing one end of the structure. Also, many windows and doors are open and in other places the wooden walls are wearing thin, disintegrating and in danger of collapse.

Feather River Land Trust Tour Group, Interior Olsen Barn Near Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large, click on image.)

Feather River Land Trust Tour Group, Interior Olsen Barn Near Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. This photograph has also been used in the Olsen Barn Campaign. (To see large click on image.)

Still, several owl species continue to live in the barn. The meadow around the barn provides habitat for many species of wildlife and wildfowl, including a number of endangered species. Collins Pine owns an old railroad grade that runs through the property West of the barn and connects the fields around the barn to other areas of Chester Meadow. Collins Pine plans to restore the old railroad trestle crossing the North Fork Feather River and convert the railroad grade into a walking, hiking and possibly a biking trail. This will improve public access if the property owner is cooperative to such land use. A developer could wipe out the barn and fill the land with houses, as has been done so many times all over the west.

Fundraising Video Shows Historic and Natural Values

In a YouTube video raising funds to acquire the property for preservation, Paul Hardy, Executive Director and Founder of Feather River Land Trust said:

The property and barn are for sale on the open market and the right to public access could be lost forever. The barn has survived fire, floods, heavy snows, but most of all, development. Feather River Land Trust will keep the space open to everyone who wants to enjoy nature right outside their door. We also want to ensure that the Olsen Barn is standing for another 150 years.

Olsen Barn Across North Fork of Feather River and Riparian Area, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Olsen Barn Across North Fork of Feather River and Riparian Area, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see large click on image.)

Since before the arrival of White settlers, the Chester Meadow has been a resource for people of the community to fish, picnic, explore and enjoy access to the shore of Lake Almanor. Originally the open grassland around the barn was part of the Maidu settlement now under Lake Almanor called Big Meadows. The area is now the last remaining remnant of Big Meadows, a Maidu trading and cultural center.

“Development of the Olsen Barn property would permanently erase an important village site of the Mountain Maidu people,” said Kenneth Holbrook, Maidu Summit Consortium Director, also in the Olsen Barn Campaign fundraising video.

Lenticular Clouds, Mt. Dyer and Chester Meadow Near Olsen Barn, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see larger click image.)

Lenticular Clouds, Mt. Dyer and Chester Meadow Near Olsen Barn, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (To see larger click image.)

The property is for sale for $798,000. The total Save Olsen Barn Campaign with pre-acquisition costs, restoration and management of the property will total about $1.2 million. Partly by meeting an early fundraising deadline, the project received $400,000 from Plumas County through California Proposition 50 on behalf of the Chester River Parkway. The current total fundraising from Feather River Land Trust private donors, as of August 4 is $243,108. This amount added to the $400,000 from the Prop 50 Grant makes a grand total to date of $643,108, leaving $154,892 needed by September 26 to successfully complete the purchase.

October 23, 2015 Update:

Even though the land transaction is now complete, funds are still much needed for ongoing land stewardship and barn restoration.

How You Can Make A Difference

Olsen Barn Through The Willows Across The North Fork Feather River, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. The Mountain Maidu used willows to make baskets that were unique in all the world. (To see larger click on image.)

Olsen Barn Through The Willows Across The North Fork Feather River Near Lake Almanor, Chester, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. The Mountain Maidu used willows to make baskets that were unique in all the world. (To see larger click on image.)

Time is running out on this gem of the Sierra. Here are some ways you can be part of this historical restoration project and support the Feather River Land Trust Olsen Barn Campaign:

Help Out By Check: Please make checks out to FRLT or Feather River Land Trust and Mail to: FRLT, P.O. Box 1826, Quincy, CA 95971 or take to the Chester branch of Plumas Bank.

Online Contribution: Go to Olsen Barn Fundraising page, scroll down, click on the large orange link button and under Donation Type choose Olsen Barn Campaign.

Stock or Mutual Fund Donation: Call Karen Klevin at 530-283-5758. It’s easy to make a stock donation and it is particularly beneficial if you have appreciated stock.

FRLT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

To find out more about the Olsen Barn Campaign and the Feather River Land Trust directly from Paul Hardy, Executive Director and Founder, attend The Common Good Community Foundation hosted talk and dinner (optional).

Almanor Legacy, a Talk by Paul Hardy
August 13, 2015
Lake Almanor Tavern (Next to Dollar General)
384 Main Street, Chester, CA   96020
530-258-2100
Hors d’Oeuvres, No Host Bar: 5:00 pm
Talk: 5:30 pm
Dinner: 6:00 pm
(Call to make reservations for dinner by August 11, 2015)