Posts Tagged ‘wilderness’

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. Here 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 the 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. Most people in the Feather River Region live in the mountain valleys, usually ranging between 3,000 and 5,000 in elevation. By the time you drive two hours south to Lake Tahoe, you find the high elevation terrain traditionally associated with the Sierra, accompanied by much heavier snowfall.

Bear in mind that the surface level of Lake Tahoe stays around 6,225 feet. This means that most of the tops of our mountains are at about the same elevation as the base level of the peaks 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. A smaller number of 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 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 long enough to give us a White Christmas, but the only weather that lasted beyond the holidays was the cold, which after all finally 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, weather experts said. Most of us went ahead with what we were already doing in disbelief. Then about January 5th or so, it snowed a foot in one night. We had seen this before, 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, then again and again, not necessarily every day, but frequently enough for everyone to know this was already a series of storms more like we used to get. It was possibly the beginning of an old-fashioned winter, much as expected by long-range forecasters.

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.

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, as well as 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 12 foot 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 that was warm enough to get above freezing temperatures, then 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 by day. 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.

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 accumulation melted, it never mattered much, either because it would all either melt or it stayed just warm enough to keep the bottom layer from turning to ice. In the last few decades, much less ice has formed in general. Shoveling off the front walkway between the house and driveway has recently tended to keep ice from building up there. In the “old days,” that same walkway usually turned to ice even if shoveled off. Typically more snow would fall and turn to ice 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 usually 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 happened with my snow management 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 gradually 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 measurements and solid data.

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.”

My Mother’s Christmas

December 22nd, 2018

Feliz Navidad! Mele Kalikimaka!

My Mother’s Christmas

A Poem by David Leland Hyde
Written March 12, 2005

"Happy Holidays," Electric Snow Couple, Milford, Utah by David Leland Hyde 2009.

“Happy Holidays,” Electric Snow Couple,” Milford, Utah by David Leland Hyde 2009. (Click on Image to See Larger.)

On the ground in East Quincy, I found a palm-sized Christmas stocking labeled Mom.
I picked it up and began to spin back through my days.
I fell like piles of sand through an hourglass.
I heard the music of “Silver Bells, It’s Christmas time in the city,”
My mother sang and played the piano.
It was Christmas time in the country.
Her voice a melody of tinkling glass.
The turkey in the oven,
Pumpkin pie spice floated from the kitchen.
Sparkling eyes,
Eyes so wise, knowing why.

Her mother, my grandma, grew up on a ranch,
One of four sisters with all that work.
The stuffing, a recipe handed down.
My mother never slowed down,
“Work, we must work, work, work.”
Only on Christmas breaking the spell with Carols.
Always with me through the night:
Her singing, “It’s Christmas time in the city.”
At midnight, I sneak out to see if Santa has come yet.
In the morning I play with a stuffed tiger around the tree.
My dad sets up for a picture of the three of us.

The stocking has a snowflake on the toe that looks like a star.
It brings me my mother, guiding me.
When she was alive I took her for granted.
She smoothed my way and held life together.
Now she is a benevolent force floating in the stars.
Holding a larger home.
“Silver Bells, Silver Bells, It’s Christmas time in the city.”

Do you have any special childhood memories of Christmas or another holiday you celebrate?

(Originally posted December 24th, 2015.)

Happy Thanksgiving From Hyde Fine Art and Philip Hyde Photography…

November 22nd, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

I am grateful for a good, reliable roof,

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

I am grateful for and to all of my friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Originally posted November 23rd, 2017)

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way I

July 16th, 2018

How Environmentalists Get In Their Own Way, Part One

Ways Environmentalists Sabotage Their Own Protection of the Planet

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

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

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

Other Ways Environmentalists Fail

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

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

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

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

Agricultural Adventures in the USA Heartland and an Unusual Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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.”)

Best Photographs of 2017

January 4th, 2018

David Leland Hyde’s Own Favorite Photographs of the Year

The end of 2017 blasted right by and I almost missed the 11th Annual Blog Project: Your Best Photographs of the Year hosted by Jim Goldstein at JMG Galleries Blog. However, having participated every year since 2010, I refuse to quit now. At least this year most of my best images are lined up in select folders, making them easier to gather. Soon Jim will be making his follow-up blog post with the list of all of the “best of the year” blog posts from all of the participating photoblogs. I believe one year there were over 300 blogs participating.

My photographs below are all single-exposure, no bracketing, no HDR, no blends. I am not against these processes per se, but I find I do my strongest, simplest work without them. Particularly when photographing people, in the field I work intuitively, often slowly, but with faster lurches when necessary. My nature images come from a deeper, tranquil place, though I am developing a rougher and quicker approach to post-processing and in time plan to present work with more grain and noise, especially in street, industrial and some abstract scenes.

I develop my work in the digital darkroom much the way traditional film photographers like my father, conservation photography pioneer Philip Hyde, did in the wet darkroom. I alter most images little, doing the usual dodging and burning, or lightening and darkening, plus controlling contrast, shadow, highlight intensity, vibrance and saturation as mildly and tastefully as possible with similar aesthetics to traditional darkroom methods. However, I generally have much more control over all areas of the image and the resulting archival color or black and white prints.

Grizzly Peak From Near Nelson Street Bridge, Northern Sierra, California.  I have been photographing this view for many years. With a digital camera in this spot it is a bit challenging to get both the whole field and mountain sharp. Though still not completely perfect, this is one of the more pleasing and most appealing in print form of the photographs I have made here. The black and white prints also look good.

Indian Head Across Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California. In early April, we had a beautiful snowfall of about 8-10 inches combined with spectacular clearing storm clouds. I spent most of the day photographing around Indian Valley, but this photograph near the end of the day when most of the clouds were gone I liked best.

Sunset, Ridge Lakes, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Cascade Range, California. After checking out the annual summer art show at the Visitor’s Center, I took this short, steep hike to catch Ridge Lakes after they had calmed for the evening, but lingered a bit too long and had to finish the end of my hike back to the Sulphur Works in the dark.

Eclipse Day Sundown and Catamarans on the Shore of Bucks Lake, Bucks Lake Wilderness, Northern Sierra, California. I have intended to photograph Bucks Lake for some time. The day of the eclipse, not long after the Minerva Fire, the light was unusual. I explored a number of areas around Quincy including downtown, Spanish Creek, Greenhorn Creek and finally up through Meadow Valley to the Bucks Lake Wilderness.

Aspens in Breeze, Thompson Lake, Bucks Lake Wilderness, Northern Sierra, California. Later in the evening on Eclipse Day, I stopped at Thompson Lake and made a few images before sunset and then stopped again later after sunset for this photograph and a few others in twilight.

Ranch on North Side of Sierra Valley, Northern Sierra, California. This photograph was another from a full day of great clouds from a clearing storm in Sierra Valley. I photographed a number of the ranches, found some unusual perspectives of the valley and wound up at sunset at the Beckwourth Barn complex.

Kettle Rock, Hosselkus Creek, Genesee Valley, Spring, Northern Sierra, California. Late in 2016, the Palmaz Family, new owners of the Genesee Valley Ranch, gave me an assignment to photograph the Genesee Store ‘Before’ and ‘After’ historical renovation. While working on this assignment and having the family acquire other images as prints, I began making many more images of Genesee Valley from angles and locations I had not yet tried. Fortunately, between these photographs and the many I have made going back to 2009, I was ready when the Palmaz Family began asking me for images to use in promoting the renovated Genesee Store, Genesee Valley Ranch, Brasas Beef Club and Genesee Valley in the Palmaz Vineyard in Napa, California. This is just one of many of my photographs the various Palmaz brands will use online, in social media, print advertising and for other promotional uses.

Fall, Indian Rhubarb in Spanish Creek, Northern Sierra, California. Finally this year I made quite a few Indian Rhubarb images worth keeping.

Evening Sun, Grizzly Ridge Across Genesee Valley, Northern Sierra, California. This was one of the photographs that the Palmaz Family liked both as an archival fine art digital print they hung in the winery and to license for use in promoting Palmaz brands.

Creamery, Tall Grass, Genesee Valley, Spring, Northern Sierra, California. One lazy summer day while wandering around in the pasture photographing cows with the mountains as backdrop, I discovered this view of the Creamery between the apple trees in late afternoon light. It will add a bit of a historic feel to my California Barns Portfolio.

Genesee Store, Front Entrance, Winter, Genesee, California. I processed this image into a number of versions that each make it look old in a different way. The designers made the new Genesee Store logo from this photograph.

‘Skute or Die’ Boxcar, Sky and Sage, Sierra Valley, Northern Sierra, California. On the same special clearing storm day in Sierra Valley, I found a string of old boxcars newly “painted” by graffiti artists.

Lady Looking and Boy With Camera, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California. After spending the night in San Francisco’s Marina District nextdoor, I arrived at the Palace of Fine Arts just after sunrise. An advertising film crew already set up in the middle of the main arch were chewing up pixels of two models together: an early 30s lady and a boy around eight years old. The director kept telling the boy to point and make photographs, or for the lady to point and the boy to make photographs, but the poses they made naturally were much better than “the look” the director was going for, whatever that was.

Jeep and View From Kettle Rock, Northern Sierra, California. My lifetime friend and next door neighbor took two of his sons and a few of their friends and me in his jeep up to the lookout on Kettle Rock. When we left the Jeep to hike the last several hundred feet, the Jeep with mountains all around it, looked like the ideal Jeep advertisement.

Steer Riding, Taylorsville Junior Rodeo, Taylorsville, California. Having grown up around the Taylorsville Silver Buckle Rodeo, for years I have wanted to try photographing the rodeo. My chance came when I heard the Junior Rodeo was on at a time I could get away. I made a lot of photographs of the people around the rodeo, but getting good action photos proved more challenging. This is one that came out fairly well, though I wish I had been more in front of the steer. Notice the only thing not in motion in the whole frame is the rider’s boot. There will be other rodeos other years for practice.

Two Bareback Riders, Indian Creek, Taylorsville Junior Rodeo, Taylorsville, California. During the Taylorsville Junior Rodeo the smoke from nearby forest fires was thick, which made the light good for photographing the young people riding bareback in the river.

Cowboy Leading Horses, Indian Creek, Taylorsville Junior Rodeo, Taylorsville, California. The July forest fire light helped make this photograph and others as an assortment of rodeo participants and observers paraded in and out of the water to cool off their animals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only A Little Planet by Philip Hyde

May 10th, 2017

Only A Little Planet

The Plumas Lantern Newspaper, Greenville, California, March 1973

Opinion Column by Philip Hyde on Behalf of Nature with a Call to Action for Public Lands

Buckskin Gulch, Paria River Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, 1969, from Drylands by Philip Hyde. Now in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, which is under threat from the Trump administration. When Philip Hyde made this photograph, Buckskin Gulch was relatively unknown. Today it is a very popular destination for canyoneers and photographers, as are other locations within Vermillion Cliffs National Monument boundaries. “The Wave” is considered one of the top photography destinations in the world. (Click image to see large.)

“It is only a little planet, but how beautiful it is,” wrote the acclaimed poet Robinson Jeffers from Big Sur. His lines expressed the basic theme of this column: the inter-relatedness of all things. “The greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken.”

Our purpose here will be to communicate the love of Planet Earth that underlies every effort to conserve it. We are here to share the surpassing beauty and the relationship between all things on “this green ball that floats us through the heavens,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson called our home.

Our subject matter in this column will be the ever-expanding range of environmental problems and concerns, which we will explore through commentary, book reviews, related experiences and essays about natural beauty.

The “little planet” theme is at once a shrinking, and an expanding concept. While some exploiters are hurtling through space to make a revolution of our planet in minutes, others are looking into inner-space more deeply than ever before, studying its intricacies more carefully, and not a moment too soon. We need to know all we can about our only home, to learn again what John Ruskin knew two hundred years ago, that “there was always more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly.” We need to sense this one world we have in its wholeness, and to see our own wholeness in it. It can be no longer logical – if it ever was, to suggest that a problem of Earth’s is someone else’s. This is too much like saying to a fellow passenger, “Your end of the boat is sinking.”

History, we believe will record that the most important thing achieved by the epochal moon-walks of our times was not so much that man then first walked on the moon, but that he looked back from the moon to his own planet and saw it complete, a beautiful brown, blue and white ball sailing through the immense depths of space. Man looked back at Mother Earth from enough distance to see her perfection and isolation and to sense as well, even though nearly unseen, the presence of his own umbilical cord of dependence stretching to connect to Earths life-support systems.

It is good to remember when thinking of the sophisticated technology so widely extolled these days, that the spaceship that put those men on the Moon was not so much a result of inventive genius as it was a conscientious, but rather crude imitation of the naturally contrived life-support systems evolved through millions of years of life on Earth, which, though assaulted by many of men’s activities still continue to make possible our lives here. This has brought a dawning recognition that we need to do more to preserve and protect these life-preserving systems to continue to survive.

There is an absurd charge made by some who would like to ignore the magnitude of this recognition, that those who view nature as necessary to survival are an “elite” who want to keep it for themselves. Such a fantasy would be ludicrous, if it were not tragic. The ranks of conservationists are filled with people with a large experience of nature. Were they indeed selfish “elitists” they would not be getting the word out as widely as possible and encouraging more and more people to go on trips and wilderness outings. Conservationists are not keeping it to themselves.

When I was growing up I tried, sometimes in vain, to lure my friends into the mountains by citing John Muir’s invitation, “To climb the mountains and get their glad tidings.” Muir published his invitation widely, and since my earliest pilgrimages, my work has consistently proclaimed to all who would look and listen, the beauty and joy of life close to nature. Nature enthusiasts’ advocacy and willingness to share with anyone is widely confirmed by the heavy and growing use of natural areas in all parts of the country. Many of these early friends, now in their middle age, are today joining the young to walk the old trails. If I had been an elitist wanting to keep it to myself, I would have been better off to never publish any photographs, or write a line in praise of nature, and admonish my mountain friends to refrain likewise.

Invariably, those who make the “elitist” charge are unwittingly speaking of themselves, for without exception, the nature they would make available to all is a nature plundered and maimed after the extraction of something translated into material wealth. These practical industrialists would convince us that we should choose the forest of a Weyerhaeuser ad over the real thing, or a dug out pit in raw earth filled with poisoned water and called a lake, rather than a natural mountain meadow. These are the economic elitists of the country working in the realm where the dollar is king, and there are no reservations for any lesser loyalties. Buckminster Fuller called them “The Last of the Great Pirates.” Fortunately for Earth and its other inhabitants this breed is dying out, and being replaced by those more responsible who can better read the signs of the times.

Landscape Photography Blogger Call to Action for Wilderness Public Lands:

Currently a long list of national monuments are under review of their status as national monuments and for possible sale, oil drilling, coal mining and other exploitative one-time uses rather than the ongoing lower impact, more profitable, more enduring and fun tourism use by we the owners. The US Department of interior has released the following list of Antiquities Act Monuments under review and announced a formal public comment period starting May 12. Be sure to make your voice heard and your plea made, either short or long, in favor of keeping our national heritage as it is: Interior Department List and First Ever Formal Comment Period.

Favorite Photographs of 2016

January 2nd, 2017

David Leland Hyde’s Personal Favorite Photographs of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Project Posts From Years Past:

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

Best Photographs of 2014

Best Photographs of 2013

My 12 “Greatest Hits” of 2012

Best Photos of 2011

My Favorite Photos of 2010

Enduring Images: Interview of Jack Dykinga for Outdoor Photographer Magazine

September 15th, 2016

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

Including Previously Unpublished Interview Sections and Materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hyde: Like Ansel talked about with the experience?

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

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

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

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