The Influence of Fine Art Landscape Photographers on the Amercan West

David Hyde, son of Philip Hyde is actively educating the public about the influences of Philip Hyde, Ansel Adams, and others on the conservative efforts of these photographers to preserve e the wilderness for the future generations.  Now a timely e-mail to me, from David Hyde shares blog information by Guy Tal, who interview David Hyde.  Guy blogged the idea better, that I was trying to express.   This blog information can be found at Guy Tal’s blog at in the public domain.

Guy Tal blogged, “I often tell the story of my first introduction to the American West through the writing of Edward Abbey. It was also through Abbey’s writing that I was first exposed to the work of Philip Hyde in a collaborative Sierra Club book titled Slickrock. And, it was the works of Hyde, Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter that introduced me to the writing and works of legendary Sierra Club executive director David Brower. These four men elevated conservation photography to a powerful form of expression, leveraging it to win some of the greatest battles in defense of America’s wild places.

Indeed, while many credit Jazz with the honor of being the quintessential American art form, I would argue that fine art landscape photography deserves a similar honor, and possibly more so.”

Many National Parks and one National Seashore and several National Recreation Areas were created by Congress after a blitz of photography books was sent to the members of Congress by the Sierra Club wanting to preserve wild areas. Kings Canyon in California was one of the parks created by Congress after the photo book blitz on Congress, and the Pt. Reyes National Seashore in Sonoma County is another.  Elliot Porter wrote The West in 1988 and included images of monument Valley Utah, images he created in 1944 and images created at Tesuque, New Mexico in 1957, where he lived at that time.,  and one image of the Big Sur coast in California, he created in 1975.  Porter looks to have toured the Western States of California, Oregon and Washington in 1975 and I see a Washington of 1979 as well.  He took a lot of macros, and closeup of lichen and mosses on rocks and showed the detail of plant life as well.  He recorded Native Plants in their natural environment and photographed a beaver home on Maroon Lake in Colorado in 1975.  All of this is in his book The West self-published in 1988.  His huge anthology by the name of Eliot Porter published in 1987  is better known than The West… and includes more photographs from the full range of his working years than any of his other books.. Images were selected for this project with the help and assistance of Elenore Caponigro, the wife of Paul Caponigro and she was very good at getting books ready for publication.  The Amercian Conservative public first got a glimpse of the work of Porter when he wrote a paperback Called “The Place No One Knew, Glen Canyon on the Colorado River.”  The public saw the images and were incensed that the river would be flooded and places like “Cathedral in Desert” would be lost to them under 100 feet or more of water by the planned Dam project on the river.

Now years later Resurrection, Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the Amercian West was published in 2009 by Annette McGivney and Photographs by James Kay, documenting a lot of the restoration of the Glen Canyon after new dam allocations and years of drought revealed previous landmarks, and places of beauty off the side canyons of the Colorado through the 200 mile stretch of the Colorado, called Glen Canyon… so named for a naturalist and explorer who walked and wrote of it, to Congress, in the 1800’s.  There is flood debris and  layers of sediment in the old water channel and the restoration project is slowly continuing.  Lake Powell is the name of the lake that had flooded Glen Canyon.  The area is so large that the Glen Canyon Dam was actually in Arizona but most of Lake Powell is in Utah.. Part of the area map in the McGivney book shows  a National Recreation Area.  Why did Congress flood the canyon… The Sierra Club wanted the Dinosaur National Monument not to be flooded and Philip Hyde photographed at Dinosaur Nat. Monument are before it was so designated (see “Steamboat Rock”, et. al.)  and there was also a book blitz in support of preservation of this Dinosaur National Monument area…  [at this point I am going to ask for further input from David Hyde….so I don’t explain it incorrectly.]

My class report this semster will be about the photography of Philip Hyde.. I previously reported on the contributions to photography and to color photography by Eliot Porter who was a chemist, a Medical doctor, then stopped his teaching at Harvard, to take up photography full time.  He met Ansel Adams who was a mutual acquaintance of his brother’s friend and his brother arranged him to have dinner at the friend’s home, and Ansel Adams was there. They had each brought photographs to show… The result of the gathering had Ansel recommending equipment to Eliot, and the two were in touch, from time to time. Eliot had been  advised early on by Ansel Adams about a better camera, and enough said, for now…

I own a copy of Slickrock by Philip Hyde and will save that discussion for my class report in November.  David Hyde has graciously assisted me with a lot of information about his Dad which I shall share in class.  Two additional books by Philip Hyde which I have acquired are Range of Light, and Island in Time, the Point Reyes Peninsula.

Philip Hyde’s book Island in Time, The Point Reyes Peninsula was a book sent to the members of Congress by the Sierra Club, and resulted in the protective district called the Point Reyes National Seashore.

We, as photographers, have a responsibility to steward the land, and to educate others about the process of preserving land for other generations.  Just since beginning the study of photography, I have developed a new awareness of land use, and the public’s right to want to preserve wild areas for future generations, and to restore wetlands.  The San Francisco area has been making great inroads in restoration of salted wet lands even as recently as this week, and some of the restoration work was televised on the evening news on September 17, 2011, here in the SF Bay Area.

Fine Art prints of landscapes are available online at, thanks to the ongoing work of David Hyde, his son, and the prints are explained at the Web site.  The Fine Art print, even if about a common object, is not commonly made.  Many of these are from large format film cameras, or from plates originally created by the photographer but printed new, with old processes.  These are worth a lot of money and increase in value as collectors items.  My report will have a Bibliography when completed.

I look forward to learning  more about the conservation movement to preserve the wild land in America.


NARROW DEPTH OF FIELD, WIDE APERTURE…  Did you know that photography , from the Greek, means “light writing”?   What happens when you use a wide aperture of, say a flower, when pointing the lens at the flower and the background is sunny?  then at the flower with a shaded background?  First off, with the wide aperture focused on the flower, there is a shallow depth of field meaning the background is blurred in the first sunny image, and the background is black in the second image. Why?  This is because with the wide aperture, the light comes into the camera quickly from the flower to make a correct exposure and any light in the shade is not seen, does not enter the lens…   you can hide something in the shade, and photograph the flower as usual, with the wide aperture,  and the hidden object will not be seen as long as you create the narrow depth of field with the low aperture number… Put the same object in the sunny background, and though blurred, it is seen.  Light reveals and shade conceals..

Something About a Layer Mask in Photoshop…

w hen working with the Photoshop layer masks to paint on the mask with black or white, the white reveals, and the black conceals…  If I stack two images in Photoshop and add a layer mask to the upper layer, I can see the upper layer as long as the mask is white.  When I brush that mask with black, it conceals the upper layer where the mask is, and allows the lower layer to show .  Now let the lower layer be in color and the upper layer be desaturated or a bleach bypass (color faded)… Put a layer mask on the upper layer… paint only one object or a couple of objects with the black paint brush to let the color of the lower layer show.  It’s a nice dramatic way for a student to see a mask at work…

Masking and painting on the mask to let a lower layer color come through. (Dbl-click to see larger image)

18 September 2011



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