Posts Tagged ‘Philip Hyde’

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.

Forgetting Winter

April 10th, 2019

Elusive Memories, Snowfall, Weather and Climate at home in the Sierra of Northern California

Mt. Hough From North Arm of Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. In this image, the snowline from the most recent storm can be seen clearly at about 5,000 feet in elevation. The top of Mt. Hough, the giant rock outcropping jutting out of the right middle, is just over 7,000 feet and the top of Arlington Ridge in the left middle of the whole mountain, is 7,232. (Click image to see large.)

Plumas County, where I am writing from, is the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges. Here the Sierra is much lower in elevation overall, while we also have much more volcanic activity, defunct volcanoes, hot springs, geothermal vents and old lava flows weaving in among the Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir Forests growing out of Sierra granite terrain.

In our milder Northern Sierra Nevada, most mountain peaks are 6,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation, unlike the High Sierra farther south, where the peaks range from 11,000 to 14,000 feet. Our mountain valleys, where most of the people live in the Feather River Region, usually range between 3,000 and 5,000 in elevation. By the time you drive two hours south of here to Lake Tahoe, you are in the Sierra proper, which usually receives much more snow, mainly due to higher altitude.

Bear in mind that the base lake elevation of Tahoe is 6,225 feet. This means that most of the tops of our mountains reach only as high as the bases of most of the mountains in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Many of the winter snowstorms that dump the heaviest in the Tahoe area bring us nothing but rain. Some years most of the Sierra receives heavy snowfall, while we do not, and other years it is vice versa. Consequently, we do not follow the various long-range forecasts all that closely, as they do not always apply.

This year was different though. We heard from many sources about the coming long, heavy and cold winter. Most of my neighbors braced themselves by getting in extra wood and supplies, putting on snow tires and updating vehicle maintenance, though we all remained skeptical. The weather itself did not seem to care whether we were skeptical, or whether the predictions were dire, either one. Winter came on very gradually and much the same as it has arrived most of the last 15 years. Our contemporary pattern, no different this year, for at least 15 years has been a little rain in October with Halloween being unseasonably warm and essentially an extension of what we used to call Indian Summer.

Following the current pattern, this season we received a little more rain in November, several flurries of snow that were just enough to stick in the first week of December and finally about one foot in one storm shortly after. This brought on hopes of a White Christmas, as well as fears we might be buried by then. However, it warmed up and dried out again for most of the month until it clouded up and threatened either rain or snow just before the big holiday. It snowed just after the Winter Solstice, just a skiff, which we thought might last a bit to give us a White Christmas, but the only weather that lasted beyond the holidays was the cold, which after all showed up with enough mojo to provide ice skating on the local pond during the weeks on either side of New Year’s Day.

Toward the end of the first week of 2019, weather reports had people talking again. The big snows were coming. Most of us went right on ahead with what we were already doing in disbelief. Then about January 5th or so, it snowed a foot in one night. Ok, we had seen this lately here and there, but then it snowed about a foot the next night. Here we go, or not? The weather skipped a few days just for dramatic effect and then snowed a foot again and again and again, not necessarily every day, but frequently enough that everyone knew this was already a series of storms more like we used to have and possibly the beginning of an old-fashioned winter, as officially expected.

Since the winter of 2011, we have not had more than a foot of snow on the ground at one time. Before that 2002 was the last heavy winter where we had more than one foot at a time. Also, besides 2002 and 2011, I do not remember the last time snow stayed on the ground more than a week at a time. From the beginning of the New Millennium and probably earlier, onward to today, the snow melted quickly, even in mid-winter. Long, cold, snowy winters require different skills and different thinking than snows that always melt in a few days. They require different patterns of grocery shopping, woodbin filling and snow shoveling prevail.

When I was a boy, I remember us getting six feet of snow in one storm more than once. It happened in 1968 when I was three years old and one or two other times. Dad made photographs of me at age three in a red snowsuit sliding down piles of snow he had shoveled in the driveway that were taller than the flat roof of the house. Once in the late 1970s, it snowed four feet on April 1st. This event we forever after called the April Fool’s snow. I also remember the snow sticking for months in the dead of winter. Most years, the snows started in October and even sometimes in September. Many winters we had snow on the ground continuously all season. Once the snow had been on the ground a while, lasting right through temporary warm spells, it usually melted a little each day warm enough to get above freezing and refroze at night. The deeper the snow and the greater the range between nighttime lows and daytime highs, the bigger the icicles grew that hung from the eves, the deck railings, water drains and spouts and any other horizontal surface close enough to the house to thaw out temporarily. I remember Dad photographing the largest icicles that grew up to six or more feet long. Usually, the icicles never got a chance to grow that long though because he either followed along after his photographing with a shovel and knocked them down, or just knocked them down without photographing them.

Dad had a rule that I followed when I took over the snow shoveling duties: always shovel all the snow off the decks every day, if at all possible. If you do not do this and the snow piles up in subsequent storms, the bottom layer of snow, or whatever portions of it you did not shovel, turns to ice. Considering we have thousands of square feet of decks, clearing them after every snowfall is not necessarily an easy or even convenient task.

I left home to go away to boarding school at age 15 in 1980 and never came back for longer than a few weeks on vacations and holidays until 2002 when Mom passed on. After moving back home to be Dad’s primary caregiver in 2002, I became lazy about shoveling snow. The average winter temperatures were warmer and cold spells lasted for less time. After any storm of less than a few inches, I hardly shoveled, if at all. This was rarely a problem since the snow tended to melt long before more snow fell. If a storm did drop more snow before the previous storm’s accumulation melted off, it never mattered much either because both would either melt or at least stay warm enough that the bottom layer never converted completely to ice. In the last few decades, there has just been a lot less ice in general. Shoveling off the front walkway between the house and driveway once eliminated the possibility that much ice would build up there. In the “old days,” that same walkway usually turned to ice even if shoveled off because more snow would inevitably fall and turn to ice, sometimes before it could be shoveled.

With so many mild winters in a row, I forgot about these nuances of snow conditions and the differences between heavy snow years and light ones. This year in early January, I still doubted we would have much snow when the first series of storms hit. I shoveled a path around the inside edge of the decks next to the house, the usual first shoveling pass, but left over a foot of snow on most of the decks. I was busy and needed to get back to work rather than spending an entire day shoveling. I also neglected to use the shovel to cut the snow back off the edge of the roof in the front of the house, where melting snow usually dripped to form ice on the front walkway.

As more and more storms came through, I began to realize this was a more serious error than it had been even back in my youth. As snow does, it compacted down over time and soon I had about 18 inches of close to solid ice on my decks. The sheer weight of this could cause damage to the deck, but the longer it stayed, the harder it would be to remove and more snow kept arriving all the time. It took me about five days of shoveling over four hours a day to get all of the decks cleared. I also spent many hours chipping, scraping and chopping away at the ice on the front walkway.

I began to realize that what was happening to me and my snow management in regard to the severity of the winter in the microcosm was the same thing that had happened to mankind in relation to climate change in the macrocosm. Winter had changed from what it was 20 years ago and I had forgotten what it was like to have to remove the ice from the front walk, or how critical it was to get it off the decks right away. I had been lulled into shoveling complacence, had forgotten how we used to go about it and what the consequences were of neglect. I marveled how soon I had forgotten and felt happy to be chipping and pounding away at the ice again. All was well. Then I remembered that all is not well.

When someone in a room with a dimmer switch that is gradually being turned down does not notice how much darker the room is than before, one of the main reasons they do not notice is inaccurate or wishfully driven memory. Here in the Northern Sierra, we are generally ok with winter being less harsh. It means less work and less hardship. It makes life in the winter easier. In a dimming room, we may be happy with the room darker. Memory is an elusive critter and what it consists of is often distorted by what we want or what we like. This means that one of the main reasons we do not notice the room is darker is that we do not remember how bright it was. We do not notice or remember that the first spring flowers, snowdrops, daffodils and lupine, have been blooming steadily earlier every decade. We tend to delight in signs of spring coming earlier, even though when we pause and reflect, we know something is systemically wrong with Mother Nature. We also do not notice or remember when we have no specific markers for comparison. The particular muscle memory I have of pounding away at ice with a shovel, when I performed the act again many years later, made me realize I did not even miss doing this task. I did not ever think, “Wow, I haven’t had to chip ice off the front walkway for 20 years.” The memory was gone and with it, the awareness of any of it ever having happened.

Without the marker or any other specific records or information, I could easily have forgotten how much winter has changed. My mother’s home logs and father’s weather records kept for over 40 years tell us that in the mid-1960s the snowdrops bloomed in the second week of April. Going through the logs, over the years the bloom dates gradually shifted until, by the time I moved back home here in 2002, the snowdrops came out at the beginning of March. The last couple of years it has moved to the end of February. Thanks to logbooks and records we can circumvent our own mistaken memories. Thanks to science, we do not have to rely on our own often mistaken faculties, but we can rely on solid facts.

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

Plumas County Museum: First Venue for Agriculture West and Midwest

January 24th, 2019

The Plumas County Museum: Exhibiting Talented Artists and Serving Plumas County for 60 Years

David Leland Hyde’s First Museum Show, “Agriculture West and Midwest: Visual Stories of a Fading Traditional Way of Life From 17 States,” Raised Thousands of Dollars for the Plumas County Museum Association. The Museum Staff Chose Hyde’s Large 2017 Fine Art Print, “Horse Barn, Tall Grass, Genesee Valley Ranch” for Their Permanent Collection.

Horse Barn, Tall Grass, Genesee Valley Ranch, Spring, Northern Sierra, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. Part of the Agriculture West and Midwest Museum Show and the Plumas County Museum permanent collection. (Click to See Image Large.)

This feature blog post I originally intended for the purpose of promoting my art exhibition at the Plumas County Museum of over 110 archival photographic prints, all of which I printed and over 60 of which I personally matted and framed. However, I am now posting this as a thank you to the museum and it’s staff for all of their hard work and support of my project and to promote them going forward independent of my show as it moves on to new venues.

Some people believe museums are unnecessary. Many shun art museums in particular. Our current Oval Office Occupier abolished public support for the arts not realizing that his most successful business towers owe much prestige and high value to the neighborhood, the home of Manhattan’s premier museums. The National Endowment for the Arts website materials in 2017 stated that less than 10 percent of Americans have ever set foot in an art gallery or art museum. Why? Is it partly because schools teach the appreciation of art less and less? Are people turned off by perceived snobbery?

Is it because we are not taught in school that art adds to:

  • Community Culture
  • Business Profits
  • Neighborhood Property Values

The art of nature specifically:

  • Decreases Stress and Anxiety
  • Increases Mental Clarity
  • Improves Productivity
  • Improves Overall Health
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Lowers Risk of Cancer

Museums are important institutions in any location, but a county museum that assists and supports other area museums and preserves and catalogs the artifacts, memoirs, court records, events, history, knowledge and whatever else mattered to the people and way of life in a county is an indispensable storehouse of treasures kept in trust for all of us to enjoy and help perpetuate.

The Plumas County Museum began as an idea instigated by restaurateur Bob Moon and bankers William Skaggs and Ward Ingersoll on behalf of Stella Fay Miller, a descendant from Plumas County pioneers who left a bequest that arranged for the purchase of the land and the construction of a museum. These three community leaders gathered together a Plumas County Museum Committee that later became the Board of Trustees for the museum. Philip Hyde, a Trustee and committee member hired the architect for the museum building, Osborne and Stewart from San Francisco. Both Hyde and Ansel Adams had done architectural photography for the related prestigious firms Spencer and Lee, and Stewart, Osborne and Lee. Bill Barlow submitted the lowest bid and became the contractor for the project in early 1968, completing the building in just over a year for a dedication ceremony on June 7, 1969.

Philip Hyde donated giant 32×40 and 40×50 darkroom black and white silver prints to the museum to hang around the inside of the Mezzanine. These silver prints were part of a series called, “The Four Seasons in Plumas County.” Dad wrote about the series that the photographs “Were selected not so much to show specific places in the county, as to represent in a more general way the landscape of the county—the setting of which has changed in details, but has remained overall impression substantially as it was when the first pioneers found their way into the mountains and valleys of the upper Feather River country. These large photographs are still on view today and can be seen from either upstairs or downstairs.

Throughout the 1970s, the museum sold Philip Hyde prints. Dad’s well-known photograph “Spanish Creek,” of which original Dye Transfer prints today sell for $6,000 to 8,000 and more, in 1970 were priced at $22.50 at the Plumas County Museum. Bob Moon wrote a letter to Dad in July 1970 explaining that sales had been brisker than expected and that the prints needed to be restocked. Incidentally, Bob Moon also helped Dad get on TV for the first time during the early days of the museum. The Sacramento Public Television Station filmed a half-hour special at our home near Taylorsville. Plumas County promoted Dad’s work and this in turn brought in sales at the museum that contributed to the operating funds.

In a 1974 fundraising letter Norma J. Carr, then Secretary-Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, reported that in the first five years “the multi-purpose Plumas County Museum and Chamber of Commerce Building hosted over 300 different historical, cultural, educational and informational exhibits and functions viewed by over 80,000 visitors. With a paid staff of two persons and a great deal of volunteer help, the Plumas County Museum has already gained statewide attention and notoriety.” Today, the museum has diversified even further.

“We are an all-encompassing facility for the whole county,” Lawson said. “This is the Plumas County Museum not the Quincy Museum.” He explained that the entire region, the whole Feather River Watershed and its history are important to the museum:

Whether you use anything in the museum on a regular basis or not, the memoirs and papers of the pioneers are here, but we are not here just for people to check out information, we also hold tangible objects passed down through generations from the pioneer families. People gave us the objects and records, for us to take care of and know they will be here for future generations. A lot of these are things we may never see again. Maybe a lot of people had the item years ago, but they have been thrown away, given away, burned up or lost in floods. We have everything from textiles: clothing, shoes, hats, household items, kitchen utensils, furniture, industrial tools, cameras, photography components and darkroom equipment. We have a little bit of everything that represents what life was in Plumas County over the last 170 years for Euro-American culture, plus items that represent the life ways of the Indigenous Maidu.

Lawson said the various museums around the county each serve an important purpose as well.

We can’t do it all here. I don’t feel we are in competition with the other museums around the county at all. I’ve worked with a lot of them to help them hone their accessioning and curatorial skills: so we aren’t throwing things in a corner or letting them get damaged. I help them pick out computer systems and help them get going. We are lucky to have that brochure that shows we have 11 museums now in the county. It could be promoted more than it is, but the county doesn’t spend money on things that bring money in like museums and the chambers of commerce. A lot of people move here because of us, or after seeing our information.

He also filled me in on the history of the Plumas County Museum before it moved into the current building.

The museum has been part of County Courthouse planning since the courthouse opened in 1921. The room where the recorder’s office is now, that was called the memorial room. A lot of the cases in the County Museum now, were in that room. We were one of 19 departments. The county-funded everything: the electricity, heat and so on. After we moved to Jackson Street, they formed a non-profit group to accept donations, so they are giving us less of the general fund now. Things are better than they were for a while, but not ideal because I still have the same extended workload, I’m behind from having no help for a couple of years. I used to have three people and I’m still trying to do the work of three people. With part-time people, you don’t have as much continuity as with full-time folks. I have to spend more time running around making sure they are getting everything done.

Besides cataloging and developing a database and system for looking up everything, the museum undertakes many other endeavors. Having local people and children enjoy the museum Lawson said was one of the most satifying aspects of his job.

We have other projects like maintaining the historic buildings we care for like the Hall-Lowry House and the Old Taylorsville School. If you saw the faces of fourth-graders when they come here for their living history program where they have hands-on heritage skills: making candles, washing clothes on a washboard, making butter, cooking biscuits on a wood stove, and how excited they are about it. It makes it feel like it is worth it to do this. When I see them again 20 years later, they say that was one thing they remembered about the museum and how much fun they had. They then bring in their kids. When you get a little older you start thinking about your roots and the people before you. A lot of people who live here came from somewhere else and don’t have as much of a tie to the history here, but they still want to know, ‘Who had the house before me?’ or ‘Who lived in this valley before.’ We have that information to share.

Today, besides the museum’s many exhibits, it also offers a wide variety of services and programs including:

  • School Tours
  • Bus tours throughout the county featuring historical and cultural highlights
  • Historical and cultural presentations
  • Exhibit design and implementation
  • Local artist shows and receptions
  • 1878 Variel Home tours and restoration work
  • Maintenance of the 1860 Goodwin Law Office
  • Archival Library research and resources
  • Artifact accessioning and conservation
  • Civic and community presentations
  • 4th Grade Living History program
  • Women’s History Luncheon program
  • Spanish Peak Lumber Co. Railroad project
  • Tourism information and referral services
  • 1888 Peppard Cabin tours
  • 1857 Pioneer School tours

In 2017, museum director Scott Lawson led a group tour of Historic Sierra Valley Ranches. The tour visited the Dotta Ranch, Goss Ranch, Smith Ranch, Folchi Ranch, Beckwourth Masonic Hall and other points of interest. The museum also recently put together a grant application and received funding from the Wahl Foundation to help restore the Historic 1864 Taylorsville School, which Plumas County bought from the Native Sons of the Golden West in 2000. Furniture maker Richard Davis of Quincy rebuilt and restored the windows, among other repairs in 2018. The Plumas County Museum today remains a vital and active part of historic preservation and maintaining archives all over the county.

Details:

Plumas County Museum

500 Jackson Street (Behind the County Courthouse)

Quincy, California

Contact Info:

Scott Lawson, Director and Curator

Paul Russell, Assistant Director

530-283-6320

pcmuseum@psln.com

Trustees:

Ken Bernard                       530-283-3965                Graeagle

Charlie Brown                     283-3416                        Quincy

Don Clark                            836-2586                       Graeagle/Mohawk Valley

Pat Cook                             836-4029                        Graeagle (President)

Pete Dryer                          283-2130                         Twain

Bob Edwards                     283-1728                         Quincy

Jerry Holland                     283-5328                         American Valley

Sandra Lee                         927-7442                        Quincy

Gaye Porter                        283-0777                        Quincy

Jerry Thomas                     283-4231                        Quincy/American Valley

Diane Uchytil                     283-3305                         American Valley

Best Photographs of 2018

January 5th, 2019

The Work of Pioneer Conservation Photographer Philip Hyde Continues Through His Son, David Leland Hyde and His Favorite Images for 2018

Some Americans may not recognize my father, Philip Hyde’s name, but most have seen his iconic landscapes from the 1940s through the 1990s, which helped make many of our national parks, appeared in a solo show at the Smithsonian and with Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Martin Litton, David Brower, and others through Sierra Club Books, popularized the coffee table photography book and played a central role in the birth of the Modern Environmental Movement.

This year I was fortunate to hang my own conservation photographs in my first museum show at the Plumas County Museum in Quincy, California, which Dad co-founded in the late 1960s. The exhibition was called, “Agriculture West and Midwest: Visual Stories of a Fading Traditional Way of Life From 17 States With Special Emphasis on Plumas and Sierra Counties.” Below, please find some of the images from the show, as well as other photographs made this year. I have selected my favorite 18 photographs of the year in accord with the 12th Annual Blog Project by Jim M. Goldstein.

In addition to landscapes, my conservation photography focuses on agriculture for a number of reasons:

  1. People like images of old barns, farms and ranches
  2. Agriculture is a hot and controversial subject currently because industrial agriculture is putting simpler methods and smaller farms out of business across the country, leaving American rural areas and small-towns destitute and abandoned.
  3. Industrial agriculture is also controversial because it is the primary producer of climate change triggering greenhouse gases worldwide, while small, sustainable agriculture is the most effective way to regenerate soil and reverse the damage done to public health and ecosystems by industrial agriculture.
  4. One industrial agriculture myth is that it is the only way to feed the world, whereas small, sustainable agriculture already successfully feeds over 70 percent of the world, while industrial methods only feed 30 percent.
  5. Besides striving to bring to light the differences between industrial agriculture and smaller, more sustainable ways, I also have been photographing our disappearing agricultural history.
  6. The highest purpose of an artist is to be a bellwether of the times.
  7. The art of agriculture has a rich tradition going back to the Dustbowl and Great Depression and including Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Philip Hyde, Edward Weston, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, Morley Baer, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, Grant Wood, George Stubbs, Peter Paul Rubens, Claude Lorrain, Andrea Sacchi, Théodore Rousseau, Hendrik Meyer and many other luminaries.

While my landscapes have also been used in land conservation campaigns and on behalf of various environmental causes, my primary focus currently is on artfully depicting cultural restoration, declining historical resources, as well as sustainable farming and ranching. At the same time, early in 2018, I decided to cut back on making images and focus much more on getting my work out to the world. Therefore, the photographs you see below come from a much more limited selection of frames made during the year overall, compared to previous years.  I am building out my website and adding more images all the time: HydeFineArt.com

Barn on North Valley Road, Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Old Barns, Grizzly Peak, Genesee, Genesee Valley Ranch, Winter, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Horses Standing in Snow, Old Mormon Barn, Saddlehorn Ranch, Winter, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Wagyu Cattle Near and Far, Genesee Road, Palmaz Hangar, Genesee Valley Ranch, Winter, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Horse Barn Detail, Genesee, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde.

Stumps, Forest and Reflections, Shore of Snag Lake, Fall, Lakes Basin Recreation Area, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Looking Down Indian Creek at Mt. Hough, Winter, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Indian Creek, Wheeler Peak, Early Winter, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Leaning Tree Detail, Upper Sardine Lake, Lakes Basin Recreation Area, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Sunset, Maddalena Barn, Sierraville, Sierra Valley, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Broken Gate Shadows, Willow, North Barn, Lemmon Canyon Ranch near Sierraville, Sierra Valley, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Snowmelt Lake, Cows and Large Western Barn in Shade, Thompson Valley near Quincy, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

North Wall, Renovated Genesee Store, Night, Genesee, Genesee Valley Ranch, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Ranch Manager Connecting With Wagyu Cows, Winter, Genesee Valley Ranch, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. Color Version From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Roping and Branding, Openshaw Ranch, Mt. Hough, Indian Valley near Taylorsville, Plumas County, California by David Leland Hyde. From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Fence Posts and Collapsed Filippini Barn, Sierra Valley, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Rider and Horse, Galloping West, Long Valley Ranch Near Cromberg, California by David Leland Hyde. (Click twice to see large.)

Wagyu Cattle, Genesee Road, Grizzly Ridge, Genesee Valley Ranch, Winter, Sierra Nevada, California by David Leland Hyde. Color Version From “Agriculture West and Midwest” Museum Show. (Click twice to see large.)

Blog Project Posts From Years Past:

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

 

Renowned Photographers Son Carries on Historic Legacy With the Art of Small Agriculture

August 2nd, 2018

For Immediate Release

August 2, 2018

Contact Info:

Scott Lawson or Paul Russell
530-283-6320
pcmuseum [at] psln [dot] com

David Leland Hyde
info [at] hydefineart [dot] com

Renowned Photographer’s Son Carries on Historic Legacy With the Art of Small Agriculture

Dogs, Farm Hand, Horse, Overlees Farm Near Franklin, Nebraska, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Even if some Americans today do not recognize his name, most are familiar with Philip Hyde’s iconic 1960s and 1970s natural landscapes that appeared in a solo show at the Smithsonian, spearheaded conservation campaigns to establish many US national parks and helped popularize the large coffee table photography book. With Bob Moon, Philip Hyde also co-founded the Plumas County Museum, which now fittingly will host the first show of David Leland Hyde’s exhibition, “Agriculture West and Midwest: Visual Stories of a Fading Way of Life from 17 States with Special Emphasis on Sierra County and Plumas County,” from September 7 through December 29, 2018.

David Leland Hyde set out to make historically significant, yet aesthetic and artful photographs to preserve the memory of barns, farms and ranches that are vanishing all over the country. He also has brought out some of the differences between industrial agriculture and more sustainable or traditional methods. The art of agriculture is also a rich tradition itself, particularly going back to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Hyde said one of his father’s teachers from photography school, Dorothea Lange, has had a profound influence on his work and on the genre. Ansel Adams, who founded the photography program at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, Minor White, the lead instructor and other renowned guest lecturers such as Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham photographed agriculture. Also another Adams protégé, Morley Baer photographed barns in California particularly well, as did Carr Clifton, a neighbor and protégé of Philip Hyde.

Philip Hyde himself photographed cauliflower field’s and other agrarian subjects in a number of Bay Area Counties as early as the mid 1940s. By 1948, Philip Hyde photographed barns and ranches for the first time in Plumas County. He also gave his only son a Pentax manual only film camera and taught him the basics of how to use it when David was just 10 years old. For decades the younger Hyde made no more than a few hundred images. However, after 2009 when he bought a Nikon digital camera, David Leland Hyde has made over 80,000 images, more than one third of which depict agricultural subjects. He produces archival prints in limited editions of only 100 from single capture master files. He uses Photoshop mainly for the same adjustments film photographers like his father used in the darkroom.

D. H. Day Barn From North, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

“I strive to observe mundane scenes, everyday objects and simple beauty in an unusual and more present, mindful way,” Hyde said. “I look not just for light contrast, but psychological. I look for redemption in ruin, rebirth with decay, tolerance next to hate, yin within yang.” In 2015, he traveled over 10,000 miles around the US Heartland photographing for three months in a 1984 Ford van his dad converted when new from a cargo van to a specialized field photography camper. In the Midwest a reporter told him the state of Minnesota alone loses more than 300 barns a year. Meanwhile, in the West it has become common to use chutes to hold calves still for branding. However, David photographed local ranchers this year in Indian Valley who still do it the old way, roping and rustling the calves by hand.

Restoration has stabilized the base of the Olsen Barn in Chester, preventing potential collapse under heavy snow or wind. However, many old farm structures no longer get much use to justify the high costs of maintaining them. Hyde hopes his project can bring awareness and funding for historical restoration efforts. Additional shows of his agricultural work and a book are also in the works.

“We are excited to have a fund-raising exhibition here,” said Scott Lawson, Plumas County Museum Director. “It is noteworthy that David’s work will be displayed on the Mezzanine Gallery near his father’s 40×50 darkroom prints which have graced our walls since 1969.” David Leland Hyde plans to donate to the museum half of all proceeds from the sale of his fine art prints and other collectibles. Please enjoy the show and support the museum. The first 50 people to arrive at the opening will receive a keepsake gift.

Details:

Opening Reception: First Friday, September 7, 5 to 7 pm

Artist’s Talk: 6 pm, September 7

Exhibition: September 7 through December 29, 2018

Plumas County Museum
500 Jackson Street
Quincy, California
530-283-6320
pcmuseum [at] psln [dot] com

 

More Photographs From the Show:

Open Gate and Big Red Barn on Chandler Road near Quincy, California, 2013 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Amish Teenage Brothers and Horse Cart Near Holton, Michigan by David Leland Hyde (Click on image to see large.)

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

Horse Barn, Tall Grass, Genesee Valley, Spring, Northern Sierra, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Ranch on North Side of Sierra Valley, Plumas County, California, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Horses on the Run, Central Wyoming, 2016 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Farm Workers, Strawberry Fields Near Oceano and Guadalupe, California, 2014 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Spanish Peak and Dyrr Barn, American Valley, Quincy, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Broken Gate Shadows, Willow, North Barn, Lemmon Canyon Ranch Near Sierraville, Sierra Valley, California, 2018 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Amish Horse & Buggy, Menno-Yoder ‘Brown Swiss Dairy’ 12-Sided Concrete Barn, Shipshewana, Indiana, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Keith Round Barn Under Tornado Skies, North Platte, Nebraska, Black and White, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Old Farm Machines, Outlaw Trail Ranch Near Escalante, Utah, 2014 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Fritz & Andy Roping, MH Branding, Openshaw Ranch, Mt. Hough, Indian Valley, California, 2018 by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

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.”)

Book Review – Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks

April 27th, 2018

Book Review

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by Q. T. Luong

The Ethics of Protecting and Promoting Our National Parks

Cover of Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by Q. T. Luong. (Click to view large.)

Americans invented National Parks and in return, National Parks and other wild lands of the new continent shaped Americans. Yet the influence of cities and automobiles has eclipsed that of the national parks in all ways except through our collective imagination and grandest vision of all that makes up an ideal civilization. We must be careful to perpetuate these fragile image ties to our wilderness past, or forever lose our identity as part of nature. Maintaining this vision will also ensure our national parks remain wilderness untrammeled. Otherwise, we lose the piece of our core selves closest to our heart.

The age-old debate still rages over whether to invite more people out to enjoy nature and thus develop a larger fan base, or keep quiet and try to stop people from increasing the wear, tear, vandalism and man-made infrastructure necessary to simultaneously maintain access and protect our national treasures.

“For every place there will always be people that want to exploit it,” my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde said. “And, there will always be people—hopefully—that want to save it and keep it as it is. Even with the risk of inviting the crowds into paradise, better to publish your photographs and rally the troops. What’s in the frame of the photograph matters artistically, to be sure, but what’s outside the frame can destroy it.” Later in life, in the early years of the millennium, after hearing how overrun and trampled certain locations had become, Dad said he still wondered whether his books benefitted or harmed nature.

The Advantages of Large Format Film and of a Well-Written Text

Grand Teton from Schwabacher Landing, Midday, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see large.)

If this best in class large format book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, with text and photography by Quang-Tuan Luong were a film, it would win multiple Academy Awards as one of the best efforts ever for recruiting new national park fans and encouraging old fans to renew themselves through new visits. My impression is that Mr. Luong accomplished such a masterpiece through sheer will, discipline and diligence.

When you open Treasured Lands for the first time you revel in the sublime realism and beauty that can only be achieved by large format film or a $40,000 digital camera rendered through the subtle, well-balanced color palette of a well reproduced photography book. To be fair, Tuan Luong informed me that the photographs in the book were not all made with a large format camera. Nonetheless, they all exhibit large format acumen by the photographer and they all have an unmistakeable large format aesthetic, portraying the full spectrum of nature, rather than nature dressed up only on her best day.

To accompany this colossal collection of effective and moving illustrations, Q. T. Luong wrote a text that flows and delivers just as well as the images. His punchy prose keeps your interest. It is loaded with facts, but not everyday facts, novel, captivating facts, figures and surprising observations that give you the feeling of having smartly and efficiently obtained the essence of each place. Just starting at page one and turning a few pages to the contents showing all the parks, I felt like I had already embarked on an adventure. I was learning, absorbing and celebrating our national heritage. I held in my hands all the parks in one monster volume.

Art, Propaganda and Photograph Location Disclosure

Cannonball and Badlands at Night, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

But is it art? Critics and others might ask. I would say the book itself is a work of art, the photographs are mainly documentary but contain artistic elements, some of them more than others. Some art critics might say the book is propaganda. They might perceive it as a kind of glorified guide book because Luong provides specific directions to each of his compositions in each park. Some art connoisseurs, gallerists and museum curators consider any art that is not solely for the sake of art itself is propaganda. This traces back to critics John Szarkowski and Nancy Newhall, as instigated by Ansel Adams and Beaumont Newhall around the time they co-founded the first museum photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ansel Adams in workshops and his student and teaching associate Philip Hyde in a number of places, both in writing and in interviews spoke against giving directions to image locations. Both photography mentors felt the practice inhibited student resourcefulness and creativity, as well as hobbling the development of individual vision. I usually tend to agree with Dad and Ansel and believe these details are a flaw in Treasured Lands.

However, times have changed and photography in many cases is self-taught or no longer taught with the same rigor. Many photographers today find location specifics an asset and have praised Treasured Lands most of all for this reason. Either way, still today the best guidebooks offer suggestions and ideas, but do not give exact specifics. Nonetheless, even for purists like me, Luong somehow gets away with providing specific directions because the sheer scope of his undertaking and achievement force us to take him seriously as more than a mere tour guide. To go with the directions, I would have liked to see an outdoor ethics statement, or the Leave No Trace Principles. However, between the photographs and text, Luong portrays and describes these natural places with such reverence and admiration that his readers will hopefully take on at least some of his tone and outlook, which will hopefully cause them to treat our amazing national treasures with respect.

With new adventures on every page turn, my resistance to location disclosure fell away almost immediately under the sheer power of what I was seeing and reading. Unfortunately, I did find the maps a bit hard to read due to their tiny type font. However, I enjoyed reading how to reach a smattering of the photo locations. Meanwhile for the most part I became caught up in reading other content, which while obviously extensive and geologically rich, came accessibly served up in one to two page bytes. These are rewarding and satisfying because each section acts in part like a mini-tour of the park it covers. The text is well thought out, well-organized, captivating, diverse and packed with actionable instructions and tips to make your travels more enjoyable and photographically productive.

The Many Reasons Treasured Lands Is Not Propaganda

Haleakala Crater from White Hill, Midday, Haleakala National Park, Hawaii by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Regardless, I have other reasons not to dismiss Treasured Lands as mere propaganda. At face value, rather than feeling commercially viable at all, Treasured Lands feels so heavy in weight, so chock full of striking imagery and so bulging with smart information that once you have it in your hands you feel that you have made a great deal to have it for under $100. The publisher’s retail is $65 for an autographed copy from TreasuredLandsBooks.com. Currently you can even get it for as little as $44.19 with free shipping from Amazon.

Large two-page evening panoramas sprinkled across the pages bring the parks depicted into vivid awareness while taking us partially into abstraction with the extreme light and shadows of dusk. Sweeping vistas throughout the book give a sense of place and overwhelm us with the vastness and remoteness of wilderness. Luong visited many of the parks multiple times, which translates to years of hard work, days and nights of grinding travel in all conveyances and over all manner of terrain, which also translates into daunting logistics and planning.

By no means did Q. T. Luong make the expected photographs of each or even many of the national parks. In Lassen Volcanic National Park, as one example of many, he skipped the most popular views, especially of the mountain, but with the exquisite detail and texture of large format film he captured frames that showed the character of the park just as well without being cliché. In discussions with other photographers, I found most of them said that the book has a good balance between more innovative images and what some might call “the obvious shots” that are all but required to identify certain landmarks in some parks. Besides, in the visual arts people are drawn to at least a nuance, if not a good amount of familiarity, as Atlantic editor Derek Thompson points out in his book, Hit Makers. Hits are made from images that look new, but also remind us of other images before in some way.

Some of the Best Illustrative Landscape Photographs Ever Made

Cove of Arches and Cove Arch at night. Arches National Park, Utah by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Speaking of hits, in some of the national parks, Luong managed to make what I consider some of the best photographs ever made of certain areas. This was true in a number of unexpected places such as in Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite, where Luong shows us the only photograph I have ever seen that lives up to the early 1900s Bureau of Reclamation vision of what the reservoir would look like, as sold to the American public. Pinnacles National Park is challenging to photograph. Perhaps his many visits enabled Luong to do something extra special there by knowing the most striking compositions and capitalizing on the best possible light. In the Sierra, he photographed snow caked on Giant Sequoia trunks, but did it better than it has been done before, with more majesty and more mood. I love Luong’s photograph of Alabama Hills. It is more about the Sierra Crest and the terrain, than any gimmicky cliché pseudo-arch foreground window framing the distant peaks. Luong omits the Merced River altogether in Yosemite, except in the higher elevation roaring cascades below Vernal Falls.

The differences between documentary and art photography are blurring anyway, but Luong is perhaps one of those who push the two definitions inward toward each other. His photographs for Treasured Lands overall are documentary, but even the most representational and least creative works are artistically strong and well seen from a design perspective with luscious forms and beautiful lines. It is quite evident that Luong has studied the great works of photography and art and applied what he has observed. Documentary, almost standard issue images that essentially say, “Ok, here we are at Joshua Tree,” are the best working basis for a large book on all of the national parks. However, Luong keeps his book fresh by mixing in nighttime photographs, ridge silhouettes, a few wildly tilted horizons and other Pictorialist effects such as slow shutter speeds for silky water, movement blurs and wind blurs. Luong also puts in the extra effort and expense to provide variety in other ways by getting up in airplanes, scaling mountain peaks, climbing walls, swimming underwater, chartering various boats horses, burros and other unusual transportation. Meanwhile, he also mixes in enough expected imagery such as the lava dripping into the ocean in Hawaii, Tunnel View from Yosemite, the Teton Barn, Mt. Denali and Wonder Lake and the circular petroglyphs on Signal Hill near the Tucson Mountains in Saguaro National Park.

Realism, Hard Work, Diligence, Feedback, Revisions and Quality

Margerie Glacier from Tarr Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Another significant reason large format film was the ideal medium for this national parks project lies in how the high fidelity gives reflections, textures and details a much more interesting and realistic look. With large format, a nature photographer can go after and make ordinary objects extraordinary. The resulting photographs also work better when they contain flaws and extra grit, rather than having to be sterilized by over retouching in Photoshop. For example: I love that Luong left the house in his Zion photograph of Towers of the Virgin. Many digital photographers take it out of their images of this iconic location. The large format color is also so lush and true without any false-rendering of tones or over-saturation.

Part of what lifted up the text and images to far above average, was the amount of advice and feedback Quang-Tuan Luong asked for along the way. He was wise to get Gary Crabbe to help him edit the photographs and to get advice from many other experts at each stage in the production process. The first time Tuan and I met in San Jose, he asked me for ideas on how he could come out with yet another national parks book and make it different from any that had been done before. This was a smart question to ask about such a book and a good place to start in attracting my interest and participation. My first answer was that we do not need another book on the national parks. However, as I began to think about how Tuan opened himself up to input and ideas, I felt I had to offer more. Besides, when he asked me about making it a guidebook for photographers as well as a picture book for everyone else, I told him I did not like guidebooks. Some help I was. Yet he patiently and gently persisted in asking more questions and asking me to read some of his text. I agreed to do so, somewhat reluctantly. It took me a long time to offer much feedback, but as I began to, I saw that Tuan had put a great deal of thought and effort into the project, the text no less than the photography. As the book took shape and began to emerge from the realm of ideas, the quiet strength of what he was doing became evident. Let this be a word of caution to all aspiring creative people out there: never give up on what you love or on your big idea just because it has been done before. Do it better. Q. T. Luong certainly did and the world and the field are far richer for it. However, he did it not by force of will or ego, but through good listening. Remember that too, above all else. He also did it with kindness and generosity. My copy of Treasured Lands is the limited edition version that Tuan personally sent me. He numbered it by hand 77 of 150, signed it and wrote me a personal note. How cool is that?

A Tribute to the American Land, the Art of Place and Our National Heritage That Will Live On

Cypress trees Reflected in Cedar Creek from Canoe, Congaree National Park, South Carolina by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

It may be due to the large format camera, or perhaps Luong and his sensibilities, or all three, regardless an outstanding sense of place permeates every page of Treasured Lands. Many are close behind, but the national park depictions deserving the most recognition in establishing place in my opinion are Cuyahoga Valley, Death Valley, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier Bay, Great Sand Dunes, Guadalupe Mountains, Haleakala and Yellowstone. In Yellowstone, Luong includes Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs and a fairly unique framing of Yellowstone Falls, but also shows us many locations with which we are not familiar. In Death Valley, Luong gives us perhaps more of the usual images than in other places, but the additional images show us so much more as to render the place very well overall. Luong exhibits a certain flair for Alaska as his images in each of the parks there for the most part are both unexpected and extraordinary in the lexicon of all landscape photographs.

Q. T. Luong’s massive work consists of not so much a single unity of style, but of several style themes that run throughout the book. This cohesiveness is quite an accomplishment for a project that took so many years to complete. With all of the elements that went into making the book creating a synergy that lifts it above other work in the genre, it also transcends its minor shortcomings, or perceived structural flaws that we readers bring to it based on our own biases.

The sheer volume of work, in and of itself is impressive, but the consistent quality and exemplary execution make Treasured Lands a truly monumental achievement. Even as the son of Philip Hyde, or perhaps especially as the son of Philip Hyde, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Treasured Lands is one of the greatest large format landscape photography books ever published. It will live on and influence photographers for years and perhaps even generations to come. These statements, considering what has been accomplished in the genre before, hopefully transcend anything else I could say, or have said above, whether critical or supportive.

Living the Good Life 6: Search for the Good Life

February 27th, 2018

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Six: Ideas From and Review of Chapter One—We Search for the Good Life

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences.“)

“Such is the superiority of rural occupations and pleasures, that commerce, large societies, or crowded cities, may be justly reckoned unnatural. Indeed the very purpose for which we engage in commerce is, that we may one day be enabled to retire to the country, where alone we picture to ourselves days of solid satisfaction and undisturbed happiness. It is evident that such sentiments are natural to the human mind.

~ John Loudon, A Treatise on Forming, Improving and Managing Country Residences, 1806

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Lower Lawn, Raspberries, Apple Orchard, Raised Beds, Midsummer, Rough Rock, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. After return from Midwest travels.

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I interviewed her for possible magazine articles about her locally popular organic gardening, preserving and food preparation. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living. They lived a low impact sustainable lifestyle long before “sustainable” became a word or a trend.

Because Mom passed on suddenly, I only ever made one tape recording of me interviewing her. I regret not having started sooner and filled a cabinet full of tapes of her. After that first recording session on a bleak January day, she gave 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 to her heart, put it in my hands with weight and gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

This series of blog posts looks at 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 Six: Searching for the Good Life—Based on Chapter One

After the Hydes experienced a series of setbacks and mishaps while attempting to make a life and a living in Carmel, they first moved to Casablanca, Morocco, where they worked for an American company that planned and built military bases. Stay tuned for more on Morocco in future blog posts. Working in Morocco with little overhead helped them get ahead financially and rebuilt their confidence as Dad had great success at work mentoring another photographer. Don’t miss the earlier blog post in this series, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.” Also for more about the Hydes’ early career, rising to meet life challenges with mentoring from Ansel Adams and touching briefly on their adventures in Morocco, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 5,” and “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 6.”

The blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel,” ends with Mom and Dad returning to the mountains and finally acquiring land where they could build a home. However, before this became possible, they did a great deal of soul searching, home location research, and made a study of various gardening approaches, building methods and house designs.

In Living the Good Life, Helen and Scott Nearing described how they lost their livelihood in the Great Depression and grew weary of the worsening conditions and limitations of city life. By the time the Back to the Land Movement gained momentum on the West Coast after World War II, the Hydes and their like-minded contemporaries wished to escape the city and “Live in the country, in a decent, simple, kindly way,” as the Nearings put it.

In an interview by the now defunct Darkroom Photography Magazine, more recently republished in the blog post, “Philip Hyde at Home in the Wilds,” Dad disavowed the idea that he and Mom lived “too far” from any cities or even large towns.

“I don’t think it’s isolation, I think it’s insulation,” Dad told the Darkroom Photography interviewer. “We’re insulated from a lot of urban influences that I’m not all that interested in. Don’t get me wrong… I like people… But I guess I like them in small quantities… What’s most important to me is to be able to look out the window and see the changes of the seasons, or the rain pouring down, or the stars at night…”

While livelihood stood out among other considerations in looking for the Good Life for the Nearings, Dad had a sense, even a kind of faith, that if he lived in the wilderness that he wished to defend with photography, prosperity would follow. Mom and Dad made their exodus from the San Francisco Bay Area during the boom just after The War, while the Nearings left New York City during the Great Depression twenty years earlier. The Nearings’ observations at the time apply just as much today, now eight decades later and certainly applied during the cold war when Mom and Dad were settling in the mountains.

If profit accumulation in the hands of the rich and powerful continued to push the economy toward ever more catastrophic depressions; if the alternative to depression, under the existing social system, was the elimination of the unmarketable surplus through the construction and uses of ever more deadly war equipment, it was only a question of time before those who depended upon the system for livelihood and security would find themselves out in the cold or among the missing. We disapproved of a social order activated by greed and functioning through exploitation, acquisition and accumulation.

The Nearings explored Europe, Asia and much of North America before deciding to remain in the Northeastern U.S. for the seasonal aesthetic beauty of big snow in the winter, budding greenery in the spring, heat and swimming in summer and the “burst of colors in the fall.” Physically they discovered that “the changing weather cycle is good for health and adds a zest to life.” As can be read about more in the blog post, “Living the Good Life 3: The Change of Seasons,” Mom, Dad and myself in my time, all have loved the change of seasons.

The Nearings had a threefold purpose they sought in the ideal life:

  1. “A life based on the values of simplicity, freedom from anxiety or tension, an opportunity to be useful and to live harmoniously.”
  2. To make a living in conditions that “enlarge joy in workmanship, give a sense of achievement… promote integrity and self-respect… assure a large measure of self-sufficiency… and make it easier to guarantee solvency…”
  3. “Leisure during a considerable portion of each day, month or year, which might be devoted to avocational pursuits free from the exacting demands of bread labor, to satisfying and fruitful association with one’s fellows, and to individual and group efforts directed toward social improvement.”

“I’m not really trying to play the money game,” Dad said. “Photography has provided a living, not a bad living at all, but when I left the city… I knew that I was leaving behind the opportunity to make lots of money. I think that when I first chose photography, I knew I was choosing the pleasures of creativity over the consolations of wealth. I define success for myself in terms of lifestyle. Success is freedom and opportunity to do what I want to do.”

For the Nearings the “road from New York City to the wilderness was short in miles but far-reaching in social consequences.”

We were leaping from the economic and social sophistication of a metropolis to a neighborhood in which few of the adults and none of the youngsters had ever visited a large city, in which every house was heated with wood and lighted with kerosene. In the first year of our stay we piled the children of several neighbor families in the back of our truck and took them to get their first glimpse of the ocean, to see their first train, to attend their first movie and treated them to their first ice cream soda.

The Nearings started as “summer folk,” who are disliked by the local population because they “do not intend to stay long or work much.” “Summer residents do no great harm if they occupy abandoned land, or marginal land unfit for agriculture. However, many of them let their pastures go back to woodlots, which is detrimental to the agriculture of the state when the land goes out of production. The more summer people the more demand for factory goods and specialties in stores shipped in from out of state. “Summer folk,” for the most part, obtain their dollars out of state and exchange them for canned goods in the local market rather than growing their own produce.

The social consequences of turning the countryside into a vacationland are far more sinister than the economic results. What is needed in any community are individuals, householders, villagers and townsmen living together and cooperating day in, day out, year after year, with a sufficient output of useful and beautiful products to pay for what they consume and a bit over. This is solvency in the best social sense. Solvency of this nature is difficult or impossible except in an all-year-round community.

Therefore, the Nearings soon became all-year-round residents of Vermont. The Hydes also started as summer residents in the mountains. Their first residence in Plumas County at Lake Almanor was at the Fox Farm, a small community where they knew the Kurtzes and the Kurtzes knew most of the others. The summer of 1948, when Dad worked in the Cheney Mill in Greenville, was Ardis and Philip’s first summer after their marriage in June 1947 and their first summer in the mountains. The next summer they also spent in the wilderness. Ansel Adams helped the Hydes obtain a job at the Parson’s Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. They were to live in the renowned McCauley Cabin for two months and act as caretakers of the Sierra Club owned Parson’s Lodge for the summer, talking to visitors about the Sierra Club’s work and making photographs. Dad sung the praises of mountain life:

Went out this afternoon in the late low angle light and made more negatives of rocks, trees and Cathedral Peak, a photogenic, but difficult scene. We’re really beginning to realize what we have here in Tuolumne Meadows. We have no clock or watch. We eat when our stomachs announce the time for it and go to bed when it seems like the thing to do. We get up when we’ve had enough sleep. We feel no strain toward getting something completed by a certain span of time—it just takes until it’s done. This is altogether a wonderful way to live. We’re busy now laying plans for making it a permanent way of life. Why strain for security in the city when you can live in the mountains each day to the utmost—never seeking for tomorrow because you’re busy living today? Living is a full-time job—why relegate it to the leisure hours left after a hard day at the office? Why slave for retirement at 65 when all you mean by retirement is freedom to live. You can live now, live today. These Tuolumne days seem to bring out ever more clearly the things hinted at in our Greenville days and these sojourns in the mountains bring us into increasing contact with those who have found ways to live in the wilderness.

The Nearings 20 years earlier in Vermont were also looking for ways to live in the mountains full-time. They laid out their garden to produce a year around crop that more than fed their family. Another piece of the income puzzle turned out to be saving and buying properties in the neighborhood to operate as wood lots for firewood. Land was still very cheap at a handful or two of dollars an acre. The forests were good sources of income for many rural towns.

One piece of property the Nearings bought from Frank Hoard. He had licensed his land to Floyd Hurd and his wife and 11 children to harvest the maple syrup under a share agreement when the sap ran in the spring. The Nearings continued the same share agreement, ended up with half of the maple syrup harvest, and discovered that “maple syrup in Vermont is better than cash. It sells readily and does not depreciate.”

Here was something on which we had not counted. In a syrup season lasting from four to eight weeks, owning only the maple trees, the sugar house and some poor tools, and doing none of the work, we got enough syrup to pay our taxes and insurance, to provide us with all the syrup we could use through the year, plenty to give away to our friends and to sell. We realized that if we worked at sugaring ourselves, syrup would meet our basic cash requirements. We were surprised and delighted to learn that here might be the answer to our problem of making a living amid the boulders scattered over the green hills of Vermont… The possibility of sugaring for a living answered the second question: how to finance the good life. Our next job was to determine the way in which the good life was to be lived.

The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living The Good Life 9.” The next two blog posts, Parts 7 and 8 in the series, will cover the ins and outs of various plans and designs for Living the Good Life. Part 7 will further examine the similarities and differences in methods and lifestyles between the Hydes and Nearings.

(Read more, “Living the Good Life 7: Nearings’ vs. Hydes’ Design for Living.”)