Posts Tagged ‘Indian Rhubarb’

Lessons in Composition From “Monet: The Early Years” and “Monet: The Late Years” at De Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco Art Museums

December 3rd, 2020

Art Show Review: Lessons in Composition

From “Monet: The Early Years” and “Monet: The Late Years”

De Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco Art Museums

Are You Rehashing Reductive Rules?

Indian Rhubarb and Reflections, Spanish Creek, Fall, Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Click 3X to enlarge.) A few people have said this photograph looks like a Monet painting. I do not make photographs to look like paintings intentionally, but if one does, so be it. I like abstract subjects and photograph them whenever possible. Paul Strand’s straight negatives were not altered in any way, but many of them were abstract and their subjects unrecognizable, though they were straight out of the camera.

Everything you have learned about composition is wrong. Most “tips” in workshops and on photoblogs are either purposely or by default overly simplistic, unnecessary and even melodramatic as presented by some teachers today. Many of the “secrets” like “never split the frame with a vertical” or “with the horizon,” “use leading lines to draw the viewer’s eye into the image” and so on, are reductive and often broken by the masters of painting, photography and other visual arts.

Today a painter or photographer starting out may turn to books or more often magazines or blogs to learn craft and technique. Contemporary art publications, online schools and forums, especially in landscape photography, teach composition as a series of logical, “left-brain” methods and techniques. They discuss the merits and limitations of the rule of thirds and drop nuggets of wisdom about foreground interest, emphasizing the subject, eliminating non-essential distractions, sweeping the edges of the frame, simplifying the image, filling the frame, finding background contrast and on and on. Some blogs have devoted large portions of content to discussions on how well participants have applied these techniques to various example photographs. Others get into dissecting and analyzing “composition conundrums faced by landscape photographers,” as one popular blog post said.

All of these serve a purpose and act as a starting point, providing some value in the early stages of learning photography. Beyond that however, if you pack all of this stuff, rattling around in your mind, out into the field and consciously attempt to apply it while making images, it will be like hauling a backpack full of rocks. It will provide little in the way of nourishment or comfort, will slow you down and more often than not result in dead, unimaginative photographs.

Many teachers today, besides presenting formulaic material, follow each other around to the same locations that have been on the landscape photography bucket list for generations. Fifty to seventy years ago, many of these scenes were fresh, but today most landscape photographers are missing one of the obviously lesser known fundamentals of seeing: great art is not necessarily about the subject. The pervasive mentality is that to make a name in landscape photography you must pursue certain views and certain types of scenes. This often sends new camera owners on a far-flung tour, with little thought other than, “I can do it too, or maybe even better if I am lucky to have dramatic light or weather.” Some photographers get hooked on travel and years later are still jet setting all over the world, when they could just as easily find great photographs closer to home, use less petroleum and develop a deeper connection to the culture and land. No wonder most of what we see online and across the industry is starting to look the same.

Throughout the history of art, examples abound of the greatest works breaking the rules of composition, while at the same time maintaining a sense of equilibrium and balance or dynamic off-balance that grabs the viewer’s attention and holds it. Which brings us to the next logical question: How did the masters learn to make successful art without enslaving themselves to rote techniques and guidelines? There are probably as many possible answers as artists, though there are also common patterns among renowned artists.

Straight Photography, Pictorialism and Photography as an Art

Abstraction, Porch Shadow, 1915 by Paul Strand. Paul Strand’s negatives were straight, not post-processed in any way, but many were abstract and their subjects unrecognizable. (Click Twice to See Large)

Like today, in the early 20th Century, until about 1930, clichés proliferated. Technique and gimmick-heavy Pictorialism ruled the day because many thought making photographs look otherworldly, unreal or like paintings was the best way to get photography recognized as an art. It did not work then and is still questionable now. What did more than anything else to establish photography as a fine art was the crisp, fresh, precision craft only possible with a camera, as made by Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and many of their students and kindred spirits such as my father Philip Hyde, William Garnett, Brett Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Minor White, Dick Arentz, Al Weber, Dave Bohne and those still living from the same lineage such as John Sexton, Bob Kolbrenner, Jack Dykinga, Charles Cramer, Carr Clifton and a few others.

During the heyday of straight photography, galleries, museums, auction houses and the art establishment had the most interest in photography. Today, the exposure of landscape photography is expanding in certain types of magazines and in tourist galleries in some of the world’s most popular destinations, but the art establishment has left behind contemporary landscapes, especially in color. Galleries, museums and other fine art venues look down on the genre with disdain. This does not have to be.

Attempting to attain dynamic balance in your work through following someone else’s tips, will mainly bring derivative results, whereas through ongoing immersion in a variety of genres and by studying the masters in many disciplines, you can develop an innate sense of what works and what does not. There are no shortcuts to mastery in art and no short list of 10 secrets will take you where in-depth study can. When Ansel Adams founded the world’s first college level photography program to teach creative photography as a profession at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Arts Institute, he and lead instructor Minor White and the other organizers required students to take a well-rounded set of electives from many of the other art departments at the school including music, ceramics, sculpture and others.

My father applied to the program and at first his application was misplaced and delayed a year. In response, another mentor and guest lecturer at CSFA, Edward Weston, suggested that since Dad had the G.I. Bill paying his tuition anyway, he might as well take some elective art classes at UC Berkeley while he was waiting to start photography school. Dad signed up for Interior Design, painting and calligraphy. His professor for calligraphy turned out to be the eminent Japanese painter Chiura Obata, who had recently been released from the World War II Japanese concentration camp at Manzanar on the East Side of the Sierra. Learning from Obata turned out to be an unforgettable experience that deeply influenced the way Dad saw any given subject. Through the example and influence of his mentors, both at UC Berkeley and CSFA, Dad became a student of a wide range of types of art. He often explained to his students in turn that Ansel Adams and Minor White hardly talked about composition, at least not in terms of quantified rules, but in the context of the relationships, forms and arrangements found in many forms of art and photography.

Before Impressionism Became Impressionism

The great Impressionist Claude Monet broke more of the rules of composition more often than almost anyone else, while producing a completely new kind of art that still soothes, calms and delights the world. During his early career, when he struggled to keep his family from starving, Monet had already begun to make the innovations that would shake up the art establishment.

Monet enjoyed early success when the Paris Salón accepted his first submission, but many rejections followed. He had to rely on his parents and others to survive, while despite his clear mastery of technique, critics labeled him and the group of painters he associated with revolutionaries and troublemakers. In time he would reinvent how textures were applied, develop new brush styles, specialize in portraying the effects of light like no other painter before him and play a central role in the development of Impressionism.

Monet’s departures from tradition were vividly evident in two contemporary exhibitions of his paintings that toured before the Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic began. “Monet: The Early Years” and “Monet: The Late Years,” curated by George T.M. Shackelford of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and originated there in partnership with San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museums. Both shows toured nationally and made a stop in San Francisco at the De Young Legion of Honor Museum.

Fountain and Sunburst, de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Click Twice to See Large)

My friend Ronald Schmidt and I saw “Monet: The Early Years” at the Legion of Honor. Mr. Schmidt was my 8th Grade English teacher, but moved to San Francisco years ago and became a member of many of the best museums. He invited me to see both Monet shows, but because unfortunately I never made it to see “Monet: The Late Years,” I will refer to online and book reproductions of the paintings. These paintings from Monet’s later career will also be the most accessible in some ways, though they also most dramatically break the mold of art before Monet. Having pored over picture books as a boy and become partial to the Impressionists, I was enthused to see “Monet: The Early Years,” because while both shows promised to include paintings I had not seen before, the first exhibition would tell the story of how the French master got started, long before he became one of the founders of the movement that became Impressionism.

The Legion of Honor Museum: American Home of Great European Art

Driving far up through the San Francisco neighborhoods intertwined with trees made for a dramatic build-up to seeing the show and the museum. After negotiating the curvy road through the dark woods, we emerged to see the California Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum gleaming a blinding white in the afternoon sun atop the highest point in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. From the Legion of Honor grounds we looked out over sweeping views of The City, the Marin Headlands across San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Arriving at the parking lot, we stepped out of the car and stared at the light patterns on the water of the aquamarine pool while illuminated spray from the fountain danced in the late sunlight and immediately changed our Monet frame of mind into a visceral real-world experience. During a long, surreal moment, I felt almost as if time had collapsed and I merged with the world of the Impressionists. Perhaps it seems a bit presumptuous to say that on some level I almost felt as though I was channeling Monet when I suddenly reached back into the car, grabbed my camera and made a burst of images. I also followed the light across the road to photograph the museum entrance draped in dramatic and shapely shadows. The tall gate and partially shaded courtyard contrasted with brightly lit people walking in and out with illuminated halos. Moving into the courtyard I captured a few couples in various poses and caught details of columns and shadows, but once inside the building there were only cool, stark white walls until we reached the entrance to the Monet Exhibit on the main floor.

Front Gate From Front Door, De Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

The Legion of Honor is a smaller replica of the Louvre Museum in Paris. The grounds, courtyard and interior of the Legion of Honor are permanent home to over 70 Rodin statues. As you walk up toward the front gate, you enter another world far away from the bustle of the surrounding city. Architect George Applegarth’s massive columns support a colonnade that surrounds the courtyard. Just inside the front gate, you are greeted by one of the original casts of Rodin’s “The Thinker.” Behind this powerful statue rises a low glass pyramid, reminiscent of I.M. Pei’s installation at the Louvre. See also Greatest Hits of European Art on the Hills of San Francisco. Once inside the museum, you find yourself in a large central space with galleries extending in all four directions. The Legion of Honor is the perfect setting for two exhibitions of one of Europe’s most celebrated Impressionists.

At the entrance of “Monet: The Early Years,” my friend Ron and I were greeted initially by a large wall text. The first painting could be seen beyond the wall text. The text ran from ceiling down to the floor, all in white block letters on a white background:

INTRODUCTION

Before his success, before there was even the term “Impressionism,” Claude Monet labored to define his style and promote himself as an artist. Two forces drove him: his will to be a painter and his desire to become critically and commercially successful. During his early career, Monet struggled to provide food and shelter for himself and his family while creating innovations that would turn the art world upside down.

Just past this text wall, one of Monet’s most ambitious early paintings, “Luncheon on the Grass,” dominated another large wall straight ahead. The label identified it as, “Claude Monet, ‘Luncheon on the Grass, Central Panel’, 1865–66. Oil on canvas, 97 X 85 inches. Musée d’Orsay, Paris” It was too large to contain in a photograph, but I had already tucked my camera away anyway, so as not to be distracted from viewing the paintings while inside the show. The picnic scene splashed across the whole wall and looked almost as though you could walk into it, with bright figures as large and vivid as life sitting in front of a dark, primeval forest. The figure of Monet’s first wife, Camille, who appears more than any other character in Monet’s early paintings, in “Luncheon on the Grass” gestures toward the viewer with an empty plate, as if to invite us to sit down and join the group enjoying their wine and refreshments.

Monet Effortlessly Broke the Rules of Composition and Worked Hard to Capture the Light and Mood

Luncheon on the Grass, 1865-1866, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

The first three or four paintings were innovations in breaking the rules of composition, as it turns out so also were most of the works in the exhibition. More panels told the stories of Monet’s early painting life. Camille and the other figures in the various paintings were revealed not by detail, but by Monet’s stunning observation of detail and light, as well as a stark precision of emotion and feeling. Even though Monet’s painting style left out many details, the mood and time of day in the scenes gleamed in whites and other suggested, subtle textures. Because the shapes, colors and subjects stood out well and captured the eye, the arrangements of the figures and other subjects could be random, unusual and striking.

In ‘Luncheon on the Grass,’ it is almost as though Monet shifted the frame up and to the left. Part of this shifting and imbalance of the whole composition was exacerbated by the fact that this was only the central panel of the painting, the others having mildewed in Monet’s landlord’s basement while being held as collateral for rent, but the composition would have been skewed anyway. We see only part of the dress and arm of one lady on the left, while large areas of white space and extra forest greenery open up on the right. The picnic blanket is cut off at the bottom, but yet the open, less defined forest soars far above the heads of the figures at the top.

Beach at Trouville, 1870, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

“The Beach at Trouville” cuts off interesting right side features such as the stairways and buildings in favor of showing more of the open beach, ocean and the expanse of sky, which is the largest feature of the piece. In the painting, ‘Hyde Park,’ Monet slices off a quarter of his right side tree, while including significant open space to the right of the vista. If anything, rather than creating dynamic balance and following the rules of composition, in much of his early work, Monet purposely built his images out of symmetry, but not out of balance or equilibrium. His interest seems to be in disrupting our sensibilities, not in working with them.

Monet, perhaps better than any other artist ever, mastered the portrayal of mood in settings and people. Besides choosing lighter or darker tones, his ability to see and capture the effects of light on objects and scenes and his use of great expanses of sky, though often detrimental to perfect composition, enabled him to visually show the feeling of any given place. In this sense, form, subject and the arrangement of objects within the frame, were subordinate to and less important than the emotions he wanted to elicit. Examples abound in his early and late work.

Hyde Park, 1871, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

In the paintings exhibited in “Monet: The Early Years,” for example, we can compare the somber hues in “Hyde Park” to the bright, white dominated, yet also colorful scene in “The Beach at Trouville.”

Monet also used composition to indicate what was important in a painting. For example, in “The Cradle” the baby and cradle occupied the center and were depicted in bright, colorful and white tones, while Camille sitting at the baby’s side was only a little over halfway in the frame and outlined in dark olives, grays and blacks.

The Green Wave, 1866, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

In “The Green Wave,” the top third of the mast and sails of the sailboat are out of the frame. Very little space is allowed for a large sailing ship in the distance and another boat also sailing on the same Green Wave. On the other hand, a large, open space of the ocean in the foreground dominates the painting. The sailboats are not the subject of the piece, the ocean and the wave are. Cutting off the top of the sailboat and devoting over one third of the entire painting to the nearly unvaried green wave also make the creations of man small in the face of nature, another theme of the painting. “La Grenouillére,” on the surface is a painting of the lively swimming hole on the Seine in Paris. The exhibition text explained the painting:

La Grenouillére, 1869, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

“Monet’s “La Grenouillére,” portraying a popular bathing spot on the Seine, carefully captured in color brushstrokes the effects of light, rendering a feeling of pleasure. The men and women sit leisurely at the café, converse under the central tree, partake in swimming, and prepare for a boat ride out on the sun-drenched water. Yet the true subject of this painting is perhaps the river itself. While the activity of the figures is evoked through quick, energetic dashes of the brush, Monet lavished attention on the water, its multiple colors, its reflections, and its depths.”

Monet continued to break with convention in his later work, but not to the extent he did as a young master, until the last 10 years of his life. Robert Taylor described “Monet: The Early Years” in the San Jose Mercury News as a “stunning, exuberant show of nearly 60 paintings, a revelation for art lovers who think they’ve already seen everything Monet has to offer… They haven’t seen the radical Monet, the experimental Monet, the artist whose bold, dramatic paintings are in high contrast to the placid, familiar garden settings.” Read more, “Monet, The Early Years Sheds Surprising Light on Painter.”

Shakelford, the curator of the show said, “He was taking what Gustave Courbet had done with realism and pushing it forward. He was using bigger brushstrokes. His seascapes are pretty daring, pretty tough-minded.” Yet Shakelford said as viewers move through the exhibition, “we bring people around to the Monet they expected: lovely, lighter, optimistic.”

Over and over in Monet’s early paintings he not only placed objects and people in the very center of the picture, a supposed composition “no-no,” but he also gave them extra emphasis with line and color, which further accentuated their central prominence in the work. The “imperfect” compositions serve another function as well. Because nature was most often his primary subject, imbalance within the frame helped to convey the imperfections in nature, while also showing how perfect nature is anyway, even in its imperfection, just like Monet’s paintings.

Every painting in “Monet: The Early Years” broke at least one of the rules mentioned here. Some of Monet’s creations broke all of the rules. Monet’s work and that of many of the other impressionists, cubists, modernists and postmodernists are good resources for studying why compositions that break the rules often have more impact than those that conform.

Japanese Bridge, 1899, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

A good number of Monet’s later paintings are also two-thirds or three-quarters sky, or one other element, perhaps a hay field, or a beach. He often split the horizon, placed objects directly in the center or ignored other popular aesthetic preferences. What is going on here? Perhaps if your subject matter and the light on it are depicted well enough, you don’t need the “rules of composition.” That is, if you show other attributes of genius in your work, a dissonance of composition or other departures from standard practice may be possible or even desirable.

Monet Takes Abstraction Further

“Monet: The Late Years,” turned out to be laden with departures as well. The San Francisco Weekly described the show as, “An exhibit of Claude Monet’s final 13 years that included paintings of water lilies that were never publicly viewed during the Impressionist master’s lifetime.” Read more, “The Color of Monet: Get Ready for De Young’s Blockbuster Show.” Monet’s last major metamorphosis came about late in life while he painted his own estate in Giverney, France. With the help of hired gardeners, Monet kept his gardens and water features in idyllic condition. At the same time, his own eyesight began to fade. These factors combined to manifest as greater and greater abstraction in his paintings. He was mourning the death of his second wife, Alice, in 1911 and his son, Jean, in 1914. Cataracts threatened to eliminate his sight completely, just as some of the battles of World War I backed the French army almost up to his doorstep. His paintings became more and more of an escape into an unreal world. The SFist said, “Things get downright psychadelic by the 1920s, when Monet was blind in one eye and had only 10 percent sight left in the other,” in the review, “6 Things to Know Before Going to the deYoung’s ‘Monet: The Late Years’ Exhibit.”

Japanese Bridge, 1899, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

Shakelford, the curator, argued that Monet’s late paintings were nothing less than the beginnings of Modern Art. Abstract artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Ellsworth Kelly cited Monet as an inspiration. Kelly said that Monet’s late work changed him when he saw two of the paintings in Switzerland. Indeed, Monet’s “The Japanese Bridge,” one of his most abstract late paintings came as a loan from Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Basel.

Many of his later paintings, though abstract, remained attractive to collectors because of their pleasing colors, but paintings from Monet’s last decade, made as his eyesight faded, were even more subtle and less striking. They were so subtle, there was no market for them. It took until many years later, after Impressionism took the world by storm, in most cases long after the painters themselves were gone, for some of the more obscure paintings by Monet and the others to be recognized as great and valued with the rest of the Impressionist canon. Unusual compositions in Monet’s early work did not turn off the art establishment nearly as much as the breaking of other conventions in art.

Japanese Bridge, 1918, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

We could deconstruct Monet paintings until the cows come home to eat haystacks, but regardless of the explanations, what he did in his creations worked, even if in some cases, his paintings did not please the sensibilities of the time, they brought a new awareness and eventually changed how people viewed art and how people made art. Rather than characterizing composition as merely another technique, or attainment through a series of formulas, Monet remade it. Likewise in photography, Edward Weston advised aspiring photographers that composition is merely the strongest way of seeing. Adams, Weston and the other members of Group f.64 reinvented photography by eliminating rules, not by adding to them. We don’t learn to be great artists by studying formulas or memorizing techniques, but through deep observation of our subjects, perhaps by seeing them as deeply as Monet did with failing eyesight, or as profoundly as Edward Weston did. Weston said, “To photograph a rock make it look like a rock, but be more than a rock.” We learn from how great artists before us depicted the subjects we wish to depict, even if this means, seeing beyond what is being depicted. This is perhaps why dying people wish to view Monet paintings one last time before they go. There is more in them than we readily see, perhaps a glimpse of the light beyond that Monet himself could see better near the end. We take ideas from great art and try them in our own work and ultimately in our lives. One idea works, another is a flop today, but next month, next year, or someday, perhaps an idea works in a new situation.

Japanese Bridge, 1924, Claude Monet. (Click 3X to enlarge.)

Artists whose photography or paintings endure give us a transcendent experience. Walking through “Monet: The Early Years,” my friend Ron and I discussed feeling exhilarated and awakened by the spirit of Monet’s paintings and the force of his creativity. Being in the presence of his artwork, we experienced his psyche and took a bit of it home. I can say without doubt that Monet’s paintings changed me, just as they did Ellsworth Kelly. Seeing any great artist’s creations gathered and isolated to bring out their full impact gives us a metaphysical and tangible experience, a momentary sense of another’s life. We left refreshed and re-energized, determined and full of insight. We were enriched by our exposure to excellence and by seeking it over the rehash of mundane technique.

Top 20 Photographs of 2019 – Year-End-Retrospective

December 27th, 2019

Top 20 Photographs of 2019

Year-End-Retrospective

This year I focused more on marketing and PR than making new photographs, which is starting to pay off some. Solid publishing credits through my licensing agreement with Genesee Valley Ranch and the Genesee Store included several images of mine appearing in an article for Forbes Magazine and others in a feature for Food and Wine Magazine.

In the decade from 2010 to 2019, I made the most photographs in 2015, the fewest photographs in 2010 and the second fewest in 2019. In my opinion and according to others as well, in 2019 I still made as many portfolio quality images. My goal is to continue this trend of decreasing the quantity and amount of time invested, while maintaining quality. Besides publicity, press relations, print sales and other marketing, I am focusing more energy on longer writing projects. I also need to develop and place more major museum exhibitions of the work of my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde.

I ventured out to photograph only twice in early 2019 during the winter. One of the rare photo sessions was during a storm clearing when the power went out at home in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Spring found me out a few more times, looking for green pastures, snow-capped peaks and traditionally grass-fed, hay-supplemented cows raised on year-around zestful mountain valley living and small ranches. The cattle in our neck of the woods in the Lost Sierra tend to fatten up after the leaner, colder days end. I made a set of images in June for possible real estate marketing of the Hanley-Openshaw Ranch off of Deadfall Lane in Indian Valley near my home in the upper Indian Creek watershed, part of the Feather River Region, also known as the Lost Sierra at the farthest eastern edge of the California Gold Country. For some time I had wanted to regain access to this beautiful piece of ranch or farmland with spectacular views of Grizzly Ridge and Grizzly Peak from its spring green pastures along Indian Creek.

I have been going to the annual Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo off and on my whole life and have attended a few other rodeos. However, I never photographed a rodeo until 2017. The Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo only allowed one photographer for many years, but an opportunity opened up that allowed a number of us to bring in our cameras for the action in 2019. Rodeo Queen Emma Kingdon asked me to capture her two ceremonial rides in the rodeo. Quick note to animal activists: in my experience, ranchers, cowboys, cowgirls and other cattlemen care for their animals very well, much better than anyone without the same close ties to the land and to making a living from it.

After the rodeo, I walked down to “the river,” the local nickname for Indian Creek. People of all ages, especially teenagers, after the rodeo customarily ride horses bareback into the shallow water on a quiet stretch of the creek that extends about half a mile upstream from the Taylorsville Bridge. There I met a lady who was building a website for her neuroscience-based therapy business. We agreed on a trade for photographs for her online platform. It was a fun fashion-style photo shoot, but the images were perhaps a bit too contrasty for web branding purposes, though I feel they may be good samples for a potential future fashion portfolio.

Other photo excursions took me back to Sierra Valley several times to track down a number of the historic ranches I could not get to in other visits. Sierra Valley is the largest mountain valley over 5,000 feet in elevation in the world. I also revisited Greenhorn Creek near Quincy, California for the first time since 2012. One of the highlights of my lighter year in photography was capturing the Middle Fork of the Feather River for the first time.

My photographs below are all single-exposure, single-image capture with no bracketing, no HDR and no blends. I use Photoshop CC as my digital darkroom to develop and print my photographs with similar aesthetics to traditional film photographers. I do dramatically change some images, most of which are readily recognizable as altered from “reality.” I do the usual dodging and burning, also known as lightening and darkening. I control contrast, as well as shadow and highlight intensity, vibrance and saturation, making subtle shifts that bring out the natural attributes inherent in the scene. I only remove or move objects within the frame if they are small distractions with only a small effect on the overall integrity of the photograph. For many decades photographs have been considered one of the truest ways of re-creating a “real-life” scene. I chose not to risk breaking the public’s trust and expectation that photographs represent “reality.” However, I do enjoy approaching that line and playing with it. I also am starting to make art that goes on traditional photography. Stay tuned. 🙂

Blog Project Posts From Years Past:

Best Photographs of 2018

Best Photographs of 2017

Favorite Photographs of 2016

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

Best Photographs of 2014

Best Photographs of 2013

My 12 “Greatest Hits” of 2012

Best Photos of 2011

My Favorite Photos of 2010

Grizzly Peak From Stampfli Lane, Indian Valley, Winter, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click Image Twice to See Large)

Sunlight Through Clouds, Mt. Hough, Wagyu Cattle, Genesee Valley, Spring, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Indian Creek and Grizzly Peak at Hanley-Openshaw Ranch, Indian Valley, Spring, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Four Cows and Indian Head, Indian Valley, Winter, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Barbed Wire Fence, Three Posts and Reflections Detail, Snowmelt Fields, Sierra Valley, Winter, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Chet, Angela and Cattle Herd in Pouring Rain, Hanley-Openshaw Ranch, Indian Valley, Spring, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

“Wrangler,” July 4 Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo, Taylorsville, California by David Leland Hyde.

Daniella With Flag Shawl, July 4 Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo, Taylorsville, California by David Leland Hyde.

Two Generations Feeding Cows, South Side T. Dotta Ranch, Sierra Valley, Winter, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Bronco Bucking off Cowboy Blur, July 4 Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo, Taylorsville, California by David Leland Hyde.

Sunset, Hay Harvest, Deadfall Lane, Indian Head in Distance, Indian Valley, Summer, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Two Main Barns From the South, Van Vleck VV Bar Ranch, Fall, Sierra Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Sierra Wave Cloud Over Hosselkus Creek, Genesee Valley and Kettle Rock, Spring, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Fly Fisherman at Riffle on Middle Fork, Feather River, Fall, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Grasses, Shadows, Cliff Reflections, Middle Fork, Feather River, Fall, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Yellow Indian Rhubarb and Mossy Boulders, Greenhorn Creek, Fall, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Frozen Stream, C.C. Guidici East Barn, Hyde Van, Sierra Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Old Wagons, Main Barn, Granary, Dellera M. Guidici Ranch, Beckwourth Peak Across Sierra Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde.

Grace and Beef Steer, Plumas-Sierra Junior Livestock Auction, Plumas County Fair, Quincy, California by David Leland Hyde.

Rodeo Queen Emma Kingdon Prepping Tack, July 4 Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo, Taylorsville, California by David Leland Hyde.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving From Hyde Fine Art and Philip Hyde Photography…

November 22nd, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Fall Indian Rhubarb in Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Double click on image to see larger.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am grateful for warm wood stoves on cool Fall days.

I am grateful for a good, reliable roof,

For a strong, well-made house that my father designed and built.

I am grateful for and to all of my friends,

Those far away and those who have sat at my table, shared a meal and raised a glass with me.

I am grateful for rain, snow, lakes, rivers and the whole water cycle on Earth that sustains life.

I am grateful for the wilderness around me, home to my animal and plant friends.

Thank God we live in a country with a Constitution and where the spirit of the law keeps us free.

I am grateful for the internet, as much as I like and dislike it, it gives power to the people,

It helps us communicate, show photographs, organize and keep our rights and freedoms.

I am grateful that people here and everywhere are willing to fight for our way of life.

Thank Heavens we are willing to fight to have economic equality, clean water and air.

I am grateful that in this country so far, I do not have to fight all the time,

I am fortunate to have peace of mind, quiet and a place away from the worst troubles of the world.

(Originally posted November 23rd, 2017)

Favorite Photographs of 2016

January 2nd, 2017

David Leland Hyde’s Personal Favorite Photographs of 2016

Jim Goldstein at JMG Galleries Blog first started this group photoblog project in 2007. The blog project has run every year since. I have participated each year since 2010. The concept is simple: each photography blogger who wants to take part, near the end of each year, puts together his or her “best” or “favorite” photographs from that year. Once each respective photoblogger posts a blog post of his best photographs of the year, he then fills out a small form on Jim Goldstein’s blog. After a certain date, Jim then makes another blog post containing a list of all of the “best of the year” blog posts along with a link to each of them.

During the year 2016, while I concentrated on writing and other projects, I made fewer exposures than in any other year since 2009 when I switched to digital. I made about 10 percent or less of the number of images I made in 2015. Not only did I photograph less often, I made far fewer images each time I went out. Still, I discovered that not only did the overall quality go up, I made a much higher ratio of portfolio worthy or near portfolio worthy images than ever before when I was less selective. My hard drives and extra disk spaces are thanking me. It is satisfying and confidence building to know you do no have to make hoards of images to “get the shot,” or to make meaningful photographs, whichever of the two you prefer.

The below photographs are all single-exposure, no bracketing, no HDR, no blends. I am not against these processes per se, but I find I do my strongest work without them. Particularly when photographing people, in the field I work intuitively, more often quite slowly with faster lurches when necessary. My nature images come from a deeper, tranquil place, both outside and within, but even with landscape photography, I like a less-perfected, rougher and quicker approach to post-processing. I do bracket for exposure, but rarely end up using the resulting files in combination. I often find a single image within the bracket works just as well in much less time, or I end up using a different photograph.

I replace the traditional film darkroom methods of dodging and burning, that is, lightening and darkening certain areas, by using Photoshop for post-processing. I control contrast, shadow and highlight intensity with Photoshop levels, curves and a hopefully tasteful limited application of vibrance and saturation. In this way, I use the tools of the digital darkroom for similar purposes as film photographers use traditional post-processing. However, I generally have much more control over all areas of the image and the resulting archival chromogenic and digital prints than even the old large format masters like my father, conservation photography pioneer Philip Hyde. For more information about each image and to see them even larger visit my new website: Hyde Fine Art at http://www.hydefineart.com/ . Not all of these “Sweet 16 for 2016” photographs are up on the site yet, but they all will be soon.

Mt. Lassen From California Highway 89, Winter by David Leland Hyde. I have always wanted to make a photograph from this spot, but this was the first time I could get up there after a fresh snow and under the right conditions for a decent image. I was on my way to a meeting and stopping to make a few exposures made me late, but it was a “now or never” situation.

Fall on Spanish Creek Near Quincy, California by David Leland Hyde. I love roaming Spanish Creek and Indian Creek with or without camera in the autumn of the year. Fall in Plumas County in the headwaters of the Feather River is like no other place on Earth. Certainly there are no other “California rivers” quite like Spanish and Indian. As much as I love it, my life is usually in high gear coming out of the summer and I often miss the peak Indian Rhubarb moment, which lasts just a few days and varies as much as a week or two on arrival each year. This year I caught it a little past the peak, but the bright colors were still going strong and worked well with the dogwoods, willows and alders that were already turning. This year more than others, everything seemed to peak at different times, so this idyllic blue sky day on tranquil Spanish Creek represented the happiest medium possible. If there was ever a place to get lost in time and drift away to another world, this was it and will hopefully long be it. It has changed little since the days of the California Gold Rush.

Empowered at the Waterfall on Ward Creek, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde. One of my best friends I grew up with and two of his boys and a friend of theirs went on a secret hike near my home. I say “secret” because it is on gated, fenced private property that nobody else can enter, unless you know the owner. We hiked past a spooky old falling down mine we used to visit as kids to the waterfall on Ward Creek, a tributary of Indian Creek. I photographed the group standing in front of the waterfall, the waterfall by itself and the boys in various poses and clowning around. At one point Landon stepped up onto that rock in the center and made a pose facing the camera, then turned and faced the waterfall. Though the falls were so loud in the narrow gorge that none of us could hear each other, Landon clearly had a feeling come over him as he faced the falls. His pose here was the spontaneous result.

Yoga-Like Poses, Bonneville Salt Flats, Great Salt Lake, Utah by David Leland Hyde. Towing a U-Haul trailer loaded to the gills with fire safes and stuff from Colorado to Northern California, I stopped for a much needed rest from the road at this rest stop on Interstate 80. At first I had my camera on my tripod photographing the salt flats and the distant mountains. However, I soon got more interested in the people who kept walking out on the jagged rough salt and making all sorts of stretching and other strange motions. This group was off to the far side, but started doing exercises like pilates or yoga. I panned back and forth making a series of images of the various tourists against the white lake bottom background.

Wild Mustangs, Hazy Morning, Tall Grass, Central Wyoming Open Range II by David Leland Hyde. Somewhere in Central Wyoming this herd of wild horses grazed peacefully along the freeway. I stopped and walked back toward them with camera off my tripod and ready for action photographs. At first they were skittish and ran a little ways away, but slowly and seemingly curious, they came back toward me as I waited in silence. I made my best attempt at horse whispering to get them to walk toward me. After a little time went by, they were playful in front of the camera and acted as though they were familiar with being photographed. I was able to make some exposures of them walking, standing, grazing and on the run. Thank you Wyoming and my new four-legged friends. This was a special gift because throughout my summer 2015 17-state, 10,000 mile trip to the Midwest photographing farms, I came back with only a few photographs of horses. Though these Wyoming wild mustangs’ coats were a little scrappy and their tails had burrs, they were big and lean and more muscular than most domestic animals.

Storm Surf, Point Pinos, Pacific Grove, Monterey County, California Beaches by David Leland Hyde. With only an afternoon left in Monterey, a local large format photographer recommended I check out Point Pinos. The surf turned out to be larger than usual, which made for a number of interesting frames.

Fall Alders, Indian Creek and Grizzly Peak From the Taylorsville Bridge by David Leland Hyde. One afternoon coming home from Quincy and having photographed fall color on Spanish and Indian Creek most of the afternoon, as I crossed the Taylorsville Bridge, I saw what could be a keeper image. This is probably one of the most, if not the most photographed place in Indian Valley. My father made a number of large format photographs here in different seasons, going back as far as the early 1950s. If I was going to stop, it had to be good. I still would like to get a lot of snow on the mountain with fall color sometime, but the timing here turned out well with the interesting light and shadow in the middle distance and the lines and shapes that echo from the foreground beaver dam, beach and reflection to the distance.

Fields of Flowers With California Poppies, Mokelumne River Near Jackson, California, Sierra Nevada Foothills by David Leland Hyde. Though my father was crazy for photographing wildflowers, I have not been big on it so far, though flower photography is growing on me. This year a photographer friend in Jackson who helped me scan some of Dad’s collection, also showed me the wildflower mother lode near town. People say this type of photograph makes good wallpaper or large wall decor. Maybe this could even work for a matted and framed fine art photography presentation as well…

Olsen Barn and Meadow, Evening Sierra Mist, Winter, Lake Almanor, Chester, California by David Leland Hyde. This photograph has special meaning to me because I am a member of the Stewardship-Management Group for this Feather River Land Trust property. I made this photograph as a plume of smoke or Sierra mist came in low across the meadow just after a cloudy sunset several hours after a meeting of our committee at the barn. I made several images over the space of about 10 minutes and suddenly the mist or smoke was gone.

Wall Murals, Detour Sign, Carpet Warehouse, Oakland, California by David Leland Hyde. One morning driving out of Alameda I saw this wall mural on a carpet store and had to stop because of the vivid colors. I made quite a few exposures of details and from different angles, but this one stood out most. I wonder if a certain photographer friend who lives in Alameda has photographed this store…?

Fund Raising, Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood, San Francisco, California by David Leland Hyde. I love street photography. Here I just roamed up and down the Haight and surrounding streets at night with camera hand-held, photographing whatever I liked. This young hippie couple had obviously just eaten. He was reading the Bible and she was rocking the electric guitar… and I do mean rocking. She started out very slow with acoustic-like finger picking and gradually built up energy until she was standing up and blasting the neighborhood with her bell-clear voice and grungy bar chords. What a great smile too. All the time I was connecting with her and making a lot of photographs, her companion hardly moved, but just kept his head down reading away.

Hippie With Coffee and Phone, Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood, San Francisco, California by David Leland Hyde. This man had a warm smile and agreed right away to let me make his photograph. What a scene with the cafe windows, colors, coffee, red chairs, his backpack and the gray, spot stained sidewalk. I wish I had talked to him more. He seemed as though he had great tales to tell, like a Hobbit, Elf or some other traveler from distant lands.

Sunset Clouds, Carmel Mission a.k.a. Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California by David Leland Hyde. This trip I arrived at the Carmel Mission less than half an hour before closing. By the time I got in, made a donation and started photographing I had 15 minutes to catch what I could of the Basilica interior and grounds of the Mission. I thought to myself that I could chose to get stressed out, cry, moan, complain, swear a lot, leave without trying or think of it as an exercise. Ok, 15 minutes, go… I was off. I made quick decisions, photographed the key subjects and most important angles. Surprisingly enough, all of my images were strong with few throwaway frames between. All in all a good exercise. Try it sometime. It is important to note that this approach is the exact opposite of what I typically use or recommend. However, mixing it up now and then, shaking up the routine, breaking all rules, including your own, builds not only photographic skills, but character and a sense of humor as well.

Sunset, Barn Skeleton and Playground Equipment, San Mateo County Coast, California by David Leland Hyde. I saw this rundown barn silhouetted against the setting sun, but there was no place to stop or turn around. I had to jog back over half a mile while the sunset was in motion. Still, all turned out ok. I even made it further down the coast to San Gregorio for more photographs before daylight faded all the way to night. Anyone who believes online jpegs do photographs justice compared to prints is probably looking through the wrong end of the kaleidoscope of history, or at the very least the distorted viewpoint of a throwaway device. Possibly they are being fooled by new screen technology on a computer with a perpetually outdated updating agenda.

Twilight, San Gregorio State Beach and Lagoon, San Gregorio, California by David Leland Hyde. I arrived at San Gregorio Beach with little more light than an orange glow on the horizon. I kept going for longer and longer exposures as I photographed the beach and lagoon from different angles into complete darkness. The people on the beach were the biggest challenge and asset to the images. I tried to catch them while standing still, but some exposures show them in motion on the whole spectrum from slightly blurry to transparent ghost figures.

“You Are Beautiful,” Central Wyoming by David Leland Hyde. Somewhere in Central Wyoming off Interstate 80 there is a lonely service exit with some road building materials and a good wide gravel area to park for a nap when tired on a long drive. I slept for a few hours from around 4:00 am to daybreak. I photographed the sunrise over a corrugated shed and saw this scene behind my van just before getting back on the road. It reminded me of the beautiful cinematography and hand-held imagery of a plastic bag blowing in the wind in the film American Beauty. To me this scene contains warmth in coolness, humanity in loneliness and beauty in the mundane. It is a reminder to find beauty in yourself and in even the most plain or “ugly” of places. Ugly is only in the eye of the judge. It is not “real” in any sense, except that given to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Project Posts From Years Past:

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

Best Photographs of 2014

Best Photographs of 2013

My 12 “Greatest Hits” of 2012

Best Photos of 2011

My Favorite Photos of 2010

Northern Sierra Nevada Fall Color

November 9th, 2011

Fall Color In The Northern Sierra Nevada Of Northeastern California

Indian Creek Above Indian Falls, Fall Color, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Single exposure. I saw this scene with the sunlight on a large area of the trees making an array of reflections as I drove home from the annual Apple Harvest at the Dawn Institute near Indian Falls. By the time I turned around, came back, parked and set up, the sunlight had faded down to this one small spotlight. There were no more still afternoons on Indian Creek when I looked before the trees lost most of their leaves.

Autumn 2011 has been the strangest Fall color season yet in the Sierra Nevada of Northern California. Many types of trees in the Northern Sierra have had a leaf disease. I have seen it mainly effecting black oaks and some maples, but also showing up on the leaves of some Indian Rhubarb. The leaf disease has caused many deciduous trees to turn brown and not produce any Fall color at all. Because of erratic weather and temperatures, some trees without leaf disease dropped their green summer cloaks slower than usual, others changed into their Fall color dressing much faster than usual.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service puts out a report called Pest Alert. The following is what Pest Alert said about this leaf disease:

A phenomenon known as Sudden Oak Death was first reported in 1995 in central coastal California. Since then, tens of thousands of tanoaks (Lithocarpus densiflorus), coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia), and California black oaks (Quercus kelloggii) have been killed by a newly identified fungus, Phytophthora ramorum. On these hosts, the fungus causes a bleeding canker on the stem. The pathogen also infects Rhododendron spp., huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), bay laurel (Umbellularia californica), madrone (Arbutus menziesii), bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita), and California buckeye (Aesculus californica). On these hosts the fungus causes leaf spot and twig dieback. As of January 2002, the disease was known to occur only in California and southwestern Oregon; however, transporting infected hosts may spread the disease. The pathogen has the potential to infect oaks and other trees and shrubs elsewhere in the United States. Limited tests show that many oaks are susceptible to the fungus, including northern red oak and pin oak, which are highly susceptible. On oaks and tanoak, cankers are formed on the stems. Cankered trees may survive for one to several years, but once crown dieback begins, leaves turn from green to pale yellow to brown within a few weeks. A black or reddish ooze often bleeds from the cankers, staining the surface of the bark and the lichens that grow on it. Bleeding ooze may be difficult to see if it has dried or has been washed off by rain, although remnant dark staining is usually present.

Indian Rhubarb Near Indian Falls, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Single exposure. The wild Indian Rhubarb had just begun to change color as I made this photograph. I probably missed the peak of the Indian Rhubarb because I haven't made it back since.

I have seen the red ooze or the dark stain on many leaves of many trees this Fall season. Some disease has also infected the aspens, the leaves of which in many cases this Fall turned straight from green to brown, or from green briefly to gold and then to brown. Before the last storm, some of the Indian Rhubarb looked like it was starting to show some good color. At first, in early October, it seemed all the tree species leaves were turning faster than usual, then for about a week everything turned very slowly. It was unusually warm into early October. We went skinny dipping in Indian Creek on October 1. It was a bit too cold to feel the elation Walt Whitman described in Leaves of Grass, but it was the first time we have ever swam in Indian Creek that late in the year without wetsuits and river rafts. In early October the oaks were just starting to go yellow and I’m sure the aspens were already turning up high. In the second week of October I heard that the aspens at higher elevations had gone straight from green leaves to brown. Here the few my mother planted were normal: their leaves turned from green to yellow and gold.

Maple Impressions, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Single exposure. I tried a number of soft focus images of this composition. This was the frame that seemed to work best, but I'm still not sure if it is as I would like it to be.

After being warm enough to skinny dip on October 1, it snowed the morning of October 5. The temperatures dropped from 85 plus degrees Fahrenheit in a few days down to 34 degrees with a light dusting of snow. The temperature drop brought on the Fall color. During the first week of October, in a sea of green leaves I saw only one yellow Indian Rhubarb leaf. Today I will go check on more patches of wild Indian Rhubarb, but I believe I missed the peak of the Fall color for the Indian Rhubarb, which is a shame. I had looked forward to a lot of Fall color photography this year, but it has been for the most part a disappointment, except for in my mother’s garden right around the house where her dogwoods and Japanese maples were consistently brilliant in oranges, yellows, and reds as usual. The Virginia Creeper also proved disappointing, changing straight from green to red without much in between this year. For more contemporary landscape photography see the blog post, “David Leland Hyde Archival Print Pre-Launch.”

Was your Fall color season unusual this year? Where did you photograph?