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The Forest on Film : A New Book Displays the Many Subtle Moods of the Angeles


A waterfall rushes down a canyon wall north of Arcadia. The wind heaps snow on a Joshua tree near Valyermo. Early-morning sunlight illuminates a mountain peak by Mt. Wilson.

In 107 photographs spread over 80 pages, the Angeles National Forest comes alive in a new book.

"It might sound corny, but it's like a wedding picture," said the book's photographer, Roy Murphy of Covina. "The forest has many moods. The book shows the forest in its best light."

Published by the Big Santa Anita Historical Society, the book, "Angeles National Forest," is a joint venture by the nonprofit conservation group and the U. S. Forest Service.

Depicting scenes from Pyramid Lake in the northwest reaches of the forest to Mt. Baldy in the southwest, the photographs show subtleties of four seasons on the 651,000-acre forest--the largest chunk of publicly owned land in Los Angeles County.

"We believe that unless we can share what the forest is all about--with the average person--then what good is it?" said Glen Owens, president of the Arcadia-based historical society. "If we can introduce the forest as a friend, then it will remain a friend for life and people will cherish it."

The price was set purposefully low at $9.95, Owens said, so it would be more affordable. "It's expensive to print, but we're selling it cheap," Owens said, noting that a Forest Service contribution of $18,000 made the reduced price possible.

The book includes half a dozen historical black-and-white pictures, as well as short essays by San Gabriel Mountains historian John W. Robinson, naturalist Elna Bakker and Angeles Forest Supervisor Michael J. Rogers.

In addition, Murphy wrote about how he works, noting that because the San Gabriels are an east-west range, "the cross-lighting is superb."

But the bulk of the book is Murphy's color photographs, which span 25 years of shooting in the forest.

Murphy, a short, sturdy man of 74 who traipses through the woods with a 30-pound pack and tripod, describes the Angeles as "an old friend."

When Murphy moved from Canada to Southern California in 1953 and saw the San Gabriels of the Angeles, he was amazed and began photographing them right away.

"I couldn't see why people didn't just flip over the mountains," said Murphy, who grew up in a small town near Toronto where the terrain is flat. "But people took them for granted."

Initially, as he was photographing in the Angeles in the 1950s, Murphy worked as a commercial illustrator in art studios. By 1960, he had opened his own free-lance photography studio in Covina.

Often accompanied by his wife, Julie, he has photographed forests and mountains throughout the West, on assignments for the U. S. Forest Service, the Sierra Club, the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy.

As a photographer, Murphy said, he "looks deeper than most people normally do. That's what this book is about: to get people to look deeper at the forest so they will have more respect for it."

Murphy takes a special pride in the wilderness not far from his own back yard. "My whole life's work has been . . . to show the Angeles as strong as anything you see in the Sierras."

The book is available at the U. S. Forest Service Angeles headquarters in Arcadia, 701 N. Santa Anita Ave.

It is also for sale at Forest Service district offices, the forest's visitor center at Chilao, and at bookstores.

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