Ansel Adams

The Art of Photography
and the Range of Light
The Grand Tetons and the Snake River (1942)
Thundercloud, Lake Tahoe
El Capitan, Winter Sunrise
(Yosemite NP, 1968)
Tenaya Creek, Dogwood, Rain (Yosemite NP, 1948)
Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada (from Manzanar, CA, 1945)
“We all move on the fringes of eternity,
and are sometimes granted vistas through the fabric of illusion.”
2/20/1902 – Born in San Francisco
1916 -– Family vacation in Yosemite National Park, photographs with first camera
1920 -– First of four summers in Yosemite as Sierra Club custodian
1927 –- First masterpiece and “visualization”: Monolith, The Face of Half Dome
1928 -– First solo exhibition at Sierra Club, San Francisco
1931 –- Solo exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC
1932 –- Founding of Group f/64; Frozen Lake and Cliffs
1936 –- NYC solo exhibit at Stieglitz’ An American Place
Move to Yosemite to operate Best’s Studio, 5000 negatives destroyed in fire
1940 -- Development of the Zone System; Clearing Winter Storm
1941 –- Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico
1942 –- The Grand Tetons and the Snake River
1944 -– Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, Lone Pine
1945 –- Mount Williamson from Manzanar
1948 –- Tenaya Creek, Dogwood, Rain; Yosemite and the High Sierra; Basic Photography Series
1968 –- El Capitan, Winter Sunrise
4/22/1984 -– Dies of heart failure aggravated by cancer
“Stieglitz taught me what became my first commandment:
Art is the affirmation of life.”
“The only things in my life that compatibly exist with this grand universe are
the creative works of the human spirit.”
“The whole world … is very much “alive” – all … growing things, even … rocks.
I can’t look at [anything] … without feeling the essential life [within].”
“To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surface.”
“Life is your art.
An open, aware heart is your camera.
A oneness with your world is your film.”
I. Composition: Viewer, Vision and Visualization
1. Go where your passion directs you to find inspiration.
2. Take multiple exposures and experiment freely.
“A good photograph is
knowing where to stand.”
“A great photograph is a full expression
of what one feels about what is being
photographed in the deepest sense, and
is, thereby, a true manifestation of
what one feels about life in its entirety.
[This] expression … should be set forth
… [with] the utmost clarity and perfection possible under the conditions of
creation and production.
Simplicity … precision and patience,
and devotion to the capacities of the
craft, are of supreme importance.”
“In photography, technique is frequently exalted for its own sake ….
Of course, ‘seeing,’ or visualization, is
the fundamentally important element.
A photograph is not an accident – it is
a concept. It exists at, or before, the
moment of exposure of the negative.
From that moment on … the process is
chiefly one of craft … [wherein] the
pre-visualized photograph is rendered
in terms of the final print.”
“For photographic compositions I think in terms of creating
configurations [order] out of chaos, rather than following any
conventional rules…. [In this way I have been] able to express
… the monumental qualities of the subject that I responded to
so intensely at first sight. . . .
I have made thousands of photographs of the natural scene,
but only those visualizations that were most intensely felt at
the moment of exposure have survived the inevitable winnowing of time.”
-- Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs (p. 11,
Monolith, The Face of Half Dome (Yosemite NP, 1927)
Galen Rowell, Rainbow over the Potala Palace (1981)
f/64 Philosophy: “Very Sharp Focus and Full Tonal Scale”
1. Maximize depth of field/focus by
using a small aperture.
1. Maximize tonal detail: “expose for
shadows and develop for highlights.”
2. Use Large/Medium Format.
2. Use the Zone System for exposure
and development.
3. Integrate Hyperfocal Distance.
Frozen Lake and Cliffs (Sequoia NP, 1932)
“Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes
God made in establishing tonal relationships.”
Moonrise (Hernandez, NM, 1941)
1. Take the time to make a great
picture into a truly great one.
1. Don’t be discouraged—great photos
are stunning precisely because they
are so rare.
2. Push post processing to the limit.
2. “Twelve significant photographs in
one year is a good crop.”
3. “Landscape photography is the
supreme test of the photographer—and
often the supreme disappointment.”
Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada (from Lone Pine, CA,1944)
Composition and Pre-visualization
 LCD and Histogram as visualization tools
Equipment and Technique
 Helicon Focus and Focus Stacking
 Spot Metering and Exposure Compensation
 High Dynamic Range and Exposure Blending
Post Processing and Printing
 Nondestructive Editing and Virtual Copies
 Photoshop: Curves and Levels for Overall Contrast
and Layers for Selective Adjustments
 Lightroom: Blacks, Whites, Clarity and Contrast sliders
Curves Adjustment
Adjustment Brush for Fine Tuning

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