Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment – Ansel Adams
Born nearly 115 year ago, Ansel Adams is, today, still regarded as “the master photographer of the American West”.
Ansel’s career lasted nearly 60 years, with the Photographer producing everything from etching designs, to soft-focused imagery. Adams later settled on a intensely exposed shooting style, with a sharp contrast, to produce such depth and defined prints.
Many of the monochrome photographs taken by Ansel have been widely used within literature such as books, calendars and posters. Photographing mainly Yosemite National Park of California, Ansel’s work rapidly developed into capturing the close up details of mountains, rivers and other large forms.
Ansel Adams has been credited as the longest running environmentalist, throughout American history, with his work helping expand the National Park Service and it’s reservation sites. In 1968, Adams was awarded the Interior Department’s highest civilian honour, the Conservation Service Award.
“In recognition of your many years of distinguished work as a photographer, artist, interpreter and conservationist, a role in which your efforts have been of profound importance in the conservation of our great natural resources.” – the Conservation Service Award
To help determine the optimal exposure setting on a camera, Ansel Adams and Fred Archer founded the Zone System.
As described by Adams, the system “is a codification of the principles of sensitometry,” it provides photographers with a structured method, to help define the relationship between the photographic structure and the final result.
The Zone System is applicable to many different photographic film formats, such as:
- Sheet Film
- Roll Film – Both black and white and colour
- Negative Film
- Reversal Film
- Digital Photography
Based on the work of Ferdinand Hurter and Vero Charles Driffield (also known as Hurter and Driffield), nineteenth century photographic scientist. The system brings structure to photography, via the use of sensitometry – the study of light sensitive materials – and densitometry – the numerical measurement of the optical density (absorbance) within sensitometry materials, such as photographic film and paper.
“Beauty comes first” – Ansel Adams
Founded by seven San Francisco based twenty century photographers, Group f/64 was formed to oppose the current photographic style of pictorialism.
Wanting to produce a modern aesthetic, based on perfectly exposed imagery of found objects and natural forms, Ansel Adams, Willard Van Dyke, John Paul Edwards, Imogen Cunningham, Henry Swift, Edward Weston and Sonya Noskowiak, thus created Group f/64.
During the Great Depression, many people began to admire the works of Ansel Adams and the America West, describing his photography as a “pictorial testimony…of inspiration and redemptive power.” Because of the social change amongst photographers, many found it hard to redefine their mediums and what it represented, thus allowing the establishment of Group f/64 to laydown a foundation of common aesthetic principles.
The phrase f/64 comes from the small aperture used on a large format camera, thus resulting in a great depth of field and an evenly sharp image.
“His efforts to preserve this country’s wild and scenic areas, both on film and on earth. Drawn to the beauty of nature’s monuments, he is regarded by environmentalists as a national institution.” – the Presidential Medal of Freedom
My personal favourite photography taken by Ansel Adams, is the Yosemite Valley Bridge.
Capturing nearly every aspect of the natural world, Adams brings all his childhood memories of Yosemite National Park together, to create this highly detailed and dramatic shot. Compared to his previous works, Adams expands his focus and begins to include more man-made elements, such as the Yosemite Valley Bridge.
Personally, I love the way the natural elements, such as the rocks, the river and the trees contrast well against the later manufactured bridge. I believe that it brings a sense of beauty to the natural land, in which humans have inflicted upon this world.
“Everything I have done or felt has been in some way influenced by the impact of the natural scene” – Ansel Adams
“I hope that my work will encourage self expression in others and stimulate the search for beauty and creative excitement in the great world around us.” – Ansel Adams