Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Nevada Mountains’

Genesee Valley Ranch Agreement Brings Major Publishing Credits

December 28th, 2020

Forbes Magazine, Food & Wine and Others Publish David Leland Hyde Photographs With Articles About the Genesee Valley Ranch

Ranch Manager Connecting With Wagyu Cows, Winter, Genesee Valley Ranch, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California by David Leland Hyde. A print of this photograph appeared in the exhibition, “Agriculture West and Midwest” at the Plumas County Museum. It has also been the most widely used photograph in articles and other PR efforts on behalf of the ranch. Special thanks to Ranch Manager Michele Haskins and to the Palmaz Family. (Click 3X to See Large.)

Living in the Lost Sierra Northern California paradise that I do, I am fortunate to be surrounded by forests and mountain valleys where agriculture operates on a small scale. Here ranchers raise cattle and other livestock nearly all grass fed, the meat produced is “all natural” by default, and ranchers and farmers use zero to far fewer pesticides and other poisons, GMO or growth hormones such as rBGH and rbST.

This does not mean mountain valley living and agriculture are idyllic by any means, as many of the benefits mentioned above make the business more challenging in many ways, especially on small ranches in remote areas. In addition, profitable enterprises here not only have all the challenges found elsewhere, but must deal with the difficulties of cold, snowy winters, long and distant supply chains, sometimes unreliable food supplies, rugged terrain, inclement weather and far away veterinarian services.

Agrarian entrepreneurs in the mountains must innovate or die. As a result, here in Northeastern California, farms and ranches have developed and combined different approaches than used anywhere else in the world. For example: many of our producers are involved in a combination of farm-to-table and more traditional distribution models.

Many Plumas and Sierra County ranchers winter their cattle at lower elevations, often in the San Joaquin Valley or Sacramento Valley. This requires unusual partnerships and lease arrangements.

Surprisingly, with more people getting out of agriculture than into it, the Palmaz Family, known for the Palmaz Heart Stent, invented by Julio Palmaz, and Palmaz Vineyards in Napa, among other enterprises, in 2016 purchased Genesee Valley Ranch, just a few miles up the road from my home. The Genesee Valley Ranch was first homesteaded as the Hosselkus Ranch. The Hosselkus Ranch was historically significant to the area during the California Gold Rush as a stage stop and way station for travelers across the Sierra to the Central Valley and the rest of the California Gold Country. It was a cattle ranch predominantly, but also raised other livestock such as goats and hogs. The ranch changed hands a number of times after the original Hosselkus family owned it. Charles Clay and his family owned the ranch for most of the second half of the 20th Century, with Paul Neff purchasing it in 1992. It has been leased to cattle grazing off and on, but not run as a cattle ranch since the 1800s.

Cousins of the Napa Palmaz Family have been in ranching in South America since the 1940s. Julio Palmaz’ son Christian Gastón Palmaz said as a family they had always seen ranching as a healthy happy way to live. Christian remembers his time on ranches as a boy as some of his fondest memories. As a family they wanted a place to get away to and wanted to get back into ranching, but to do it differently than most commercial spreads and more like other small operations in the High Sierra. More importantly, Palmaz Vineyards had become known for sustainable and ecologically friendly practices at the Winery in Napa. The family wanted to continue that tradition by raising organic grass-fed and grass-finished beef, followed by potential diversification into other organic livestock and crops. In researching cattle breeds, they ran across Japanese Wagyu, a.k.a. Kobe Beef Cattle. One main advantage to Wagyu cows is that they are hearty and do well in cold and snow. This means the Genesee Valley Ranch does not have to send cows out to winter elsewhere. Wagyu is just catching on in the US. So far it is more popular in the Rocky Mountain States and in the Midwest. As of yet there are still few purveyors on the West Coast.

Besides the Wagyu Beef, Genesee Valley Ranch Manager, Michele Haskins, has a five-year rollout plan for a community gardens and a diversity of farm animals and other “natural” interdependencies and intercropping that will help fend off disease and other pests naturally. The Genesee Store, right on the ranch property, has now been completely converted into a full-service fine dining restaurant, with a state of the art kitchen, bathrooms, ADA access and other amenities. The Genesee Store serves Genesee Valley Ranch Grass Fed Beef, the main ingredient of many items on the menu. Ranch plans also include renovating the barns, creamery, stables and other outbuildings. Eventually they hope to make cheese at the Genesee Valley Ranch to be sold at the Palmaz Vineyards in Napa.

Genesee Valley Ranch is evolving to be just as high tech as the winery, which hosts the world’s first sustainable high tech wine cave with zero water waste. GVR uses aerial infrared technology to monitor pastures to move the cattle around thereby evenly grazing the native grasses and naturally keeping pests such as Star Thistle at bay. Meanwhile, the ranch hires local experts, cowhands and restaurant staff. Despite this focus on helping the local economy, directly benefiting local workers and letting local emergency EMTs and EVAC Helicopters land and take off at the GVR helipad in emergencies, a small handful of people in Genesee opposed the Palmaz use of their helicopter to travel to and from the ranch and to do their infrared pasture mapping. This minor dust up has all been resolved now. If you want to read more about it, you can do that elsewhere. I wrote a defense of the family myself in the local paper and in Plumas News. By far, the majority of people in Plumas County and in Genesee itself support the Palmaz Family and their cattle ranching outfit.

After I professed my support of the ranch and the family’s organic approach, the family invited me out to the big ranch house for more than one meal. Christian Palmaz and I went to lunch at Young’s Market in Taylorsville and other local hangouts as well. At one of our fun meet ups, I showed Christian my raw files that I had just photographed of the ranch. He was impressed. He also read and shared with the rest of his family one of my articles about my father Philip Hyde and his conservation photography that helped make many of the national parks of the West. Julio Palmaz sent me a photograph of himself reading Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde. How fun and cool is that? Meanwhile, when Christian saw my raw files and read my article about Dad, he said he wanted me to photograph for the ranch. He also wanted to acquire a license to use my previous landscape photographs of the area. I have been photographing Genesee since 2009. I was more than happy to have my images put to use for a good cause. Little did I know what a win it would be for my career, as well as for the ranch. The Palmaz marketing staff put my photographs up on the Genesee Store, Club Brasas Food and Wine Society and Genesee Valley Ranch websites. They also often use my images in other outreach and in articles in the mainstream press.

Genesee Valley Ranch has now been written up in a good number of national magazines and my photographs have been the main visual compliment to the articles. Forbes Magazine did a beautiful feature you can read online called, “How Tech Developed for a Vineyard Is Helping This Grass-Fed Cattle Ranch Grow,” by Bridget Shirvell. Two of my photographs appear in the piece, one as the header image. Foodie magazine favorite Food & Wine did an article headed with my photograph of the ranch manager connecting to the Wagyu cows (see above). Food & Wine appropriately titled the feature, “The Cattle at This Zen California Ranch Basically Run the Joint: Genesee Valley Ranch Takes Every Possible Step to be Extremely Respectful of Their Cows,” by Kristy Mucci. Southbay Magazine’s feature article, “Raising the Steaks” cannot be found online, but write-ups about it appear on the Palmaz Vineyards Blog, Genesee Valley Ranch Blog, Club Brasas Blog and on Moontide Media online. The luxury lifestyle magazine, Iconic Life, recently ran an article titled, “A Choice Cut: The Best of American Wagyu Beef,” by Laura Baddish. Iconic Life used five of my photographs of Genesee Valley and the Genesee Store. Golden State magazine also used four of my photographs in their article, “In the Hills That Sparked the Gold Rush, Genesee Valley Ranch Is Raising a Special Breed of Cattle.”

At the Genesee Store, when it opens inside again after the Covid-19 pandemic settles down, you can also view my landscape photographs of the ranch on slow rotation on a giant closed circuit TV while you enjoy their choice prime cuts of organic beef and other delicious natural and organic fare in sight of the mountains and green pastures where the Wagyu roam. Stop in some time at 7201 Genesee Road and have a bite or currently get a meal to go. You will be very glad you did. Call the store for hours and reservations at 530-280-0300. During the pandemic you can get curbside takeout and take and bake as well by calling or visiting Geneseestore.com.

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

December 3rd, 2020

Art Show Review: Lessons in Composition

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

De Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco Art Museums

Are You Rehashing Reductive Rules?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Straight Photography, Pictorialism and Photography as an Art

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

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

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

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

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

Before Impressionism Became Impressionism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monet Takes Abstraction Further

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ardis Hyde’s Garden 1: Digging Stumps, Beginner’s Luck and Mom’s Green Thumb

November 5th, 2020

Ardis Hyde’s Garden One

Feature Blog Post

Gardening Background From the Sierra Nevada to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Back

What Ardis Hyde Left Behind

Fall Color, Japanese Maples and Other Ornamental Trees, Ardis Hyde’s Garden, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (To view large click image.)

My mother, Ardis Hyde, was a self-trained naturalist, botanist, kindergarten teacher, neighborhood garden buying club organizer, Audubon birder, food preserver, cook and green thumb gardening enthusiast, teacher and networker.

She not only grew a bountiful vegetable garden every year, she and my father, pioneer conservation Photographer Philip Hyde, left to me here surrounding our home called Rough Rock, an ornamental tree and shrub garden including Forsythia, Butterfly Bushes, Lilac, Snowball and many others. Her a 120-foot-long rock-wall-edged raised bed flower garden still blooms every year from February to October. I also inherited her three plum trees, an apple orchard with four apple trees, a raspberry patch, parsley, sage, lavender, chives, rhubarb, Indian Rhubarb, oregano, a few volunteer strawberry plants, concord grapes, green grapes, a mountain stream fed lawn, and a garden shed full of garden tools, pots, peat moss, hummus, and other supplies. Now almost two decades after her passing, her Clematis bush still blooms bright white in the fall, followed by a dazzling array of fall leaf color displayed by Japanese Maples, Big Leaf Maples, several types of dogwood, aspens and of course the native California Black Oaks.

Growing Up Digging Out Stumps and Hauling Manure

When I was a boy starting at about age 11, one of my main jobs in her garden was to dig out stumps the old fashioned way by hand using a pick, shovel, mattock, various sizes of hoes, crowbars and often one or two Come-Alongs at the end just for good measure. Read more about various influence that got me started in gardening: Living the Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences.

My other garden job was to go to various ranches nearby in Indian Valley or American Valley and clean out horse stalls, or piles of old manure, hay, sand or dirt and shovel and pitchfork them into our old ‘52 Chevy pickup that Dad originally bought from Brett Weston. Read more about Mom and Dad’s road trips and adventures in our old Chevy truck before it was old in this blog series starting with Covered Wagon Journal 1.

When I was about 10, Mom helped me organize and plant my own little garden about seven feet square. I am still looking through Mom’s Home Logs to try to find her description of us making that garden together. I will update this post or write another in this series when I find it.

Beginner’s Luck in New Mexico With Help From Mom, a Good Neighbor and Kokopelli

After my own first garden, I continued to help Mom with her gardening, but never grew another plot myself until almost two decades later. In 1995 not far from my place near Pecos, New Mexico, my friend and neighbor Michael Kaczor, an expert gardener, had an impressive extra large yard full of plants of all kinds and more quality produce than I had ever seen. He had sunflowers 15 feet tall, zucchini two feet long and strawberry plants with berries nearly as big as apples. After watching him cultivate hundreds of pounds of produce a year, with his encouragement, I decided to try to raise my own harvest.

We had an abundance of sunshine at that latitude in “The Land of Enchantment.” With the Southwest sun as a given, many times Michael emphasized that soil was the most important factor in gardening success. One day he stopped by my place and after walking around my yard for about three minutes he said, “You have even better soil than I did before I started.” I was lucky to live about 100 feet from a small stream in a meadow. “You are right in the bottomland,” he exclaimed. “You really need to grow a garden here and see what happens.”

He taught me a number of other key gardening secrets and tricks that I will go into in posts to come in this series as I share more about that garden and why it was an example of massive beginner’s luck, mainly due to circumstances, location, hard work, good advice, a little luck and the good medicine brought to me by living where the natives had lived and thrived. Not to mention that there was an ancient, unmarked Native American, possibly even Anasazi burial grounds several hundred yards away and the previous owner’s metal sculpture of the mythic humpbacked flute player fertility deity Kokopelli left on site.

From Butterflies to an Interview With Mom and a Caretaker’s Garden For My Father and Me in 2003

During that time I also consulted my mother often about various details of gardening. One time I was visiting my parents back home at Rough Rock in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of far Northeastern California and I got an idea to write an article about butterfly gardening, which was one of my mother’s specialties. She agreed to sit down with me and do an interview on tape about how to attract butterflies with various flowering plants. It turned out to be a delightful audio track of us discussing her favorite subject, but we wandered around over so many diverse subjects, I did not get enough about butterflies to write an article. She passed on only about six months later. I probably could have read up on butterfly gardening enough to at least write a short piece, but it all suddenly felt very personal and raw. Even though the article was a loss, the interview was one of my gains of a lifetime. It still inspires me as a delightful keepsake that I play from time to time to remember her by. Looking back, I wish I had made a whole cabinet full of tapes of her. Read more about how my parents were part of the 1950s Back to the Land Movement: Living the Good Life 2: From City to Mountain Paradise.

Between my mother’s talents and skills and those from New Mexico, I longed to get back into horticulture again myself. However, it was not until 2003, when I moved back home to Rough Rock in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains to be the primary caregiver and cook for my father, that I had a chance to resurrect Ardis Hyde’s Garden. It took a lot of time and work, which took me away from the critical task of watching over my 80 plus year old Dad, who had lost his eyesight to Macular Degeneration not long before. He was pretty down after losing the two loves of his life: photography and mom. He kept saying he was ready to die and wanted to wander out into the woods to do so like the Native Americans used to do. However, he did manage to stick around for four years, which were the most challenging, yet rewarding years of my life. Raising a garden at the same time was difficult, but I’m glad I did it at least that one year because it was not until 17 years later, this spring in 2020 that I replanted the raised beds I had built in 2003. In upcoming blog posts in this series, I will share my latest gardening adventures with the idea of helping people learn and remember with me, not just about gardening, but also about putting food by, storing, preserving and rebuilding the rest of my parents’ system for food independence, health resilience, self-reliance and harmony with nature. For more on self-reliance, see the blog article, Living The Good Life 3: The Change of Seasons, Self-Reliance, Money and Freedom. The kind of skills largely forgotten or overlooked in our contemporary culture. Knowledge that we and the planet are in great need of now for survival and long-term abundance. For more on how to survive the next 20 years: Art, Earth and Ethics 1 – The Abuse of Nature and Our Future.

Top 20 Photographs of 2019 – Year-End-Retrospective

December 27th, 2019

Top 20 Photographs of 2019

Year-End-Retrospective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Project Posts From Years Past:

Best Photographs of 2018

Best Photographs of 2017

Favorite Photographs of 2016

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

Best Photographs of 2014

Best Photographs of 2013

My 12 “Greatest Hits” of 2012

Best Photos of 2011

My Favorite Photos of 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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