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People: Ansel Adams

Ansell Adams National Archives 1

This week I am going to be changing it up and starting a new series of blogs on people, photographers past and present who have contributed to the world of photography and my photography in one way or another.

Ansel Adams an American landscape photographer who lived from 1902 to 1984. His work captured the majesty and grandeur of nature and its landscapes in the areas in and around Yellowstone. He also contributed largely to the introduction of some of the national parks in the region as he took his passion as a conservationist alongside that of a photographer. Even going so far as to have a both the Ansel Adams Wilderness and Mt Ansel Adams named after him.

That however just scratches the top of his achievements. Along with his amazing archive of photos and prints (which you can see here). He was a founder of the group F/64 (you can read about here) which was comprised of other great photographer of the era who all valued the grain free, sharp images which often displayed high contrast and pushed its members to use large format cameras with incredible slow apertures (where the name F/64 comes from) to capture such images. He also was an early adopter of ‘editing’ in a darkroom using cutouts to literally dodge and burn, the prints from his film to create the perfect images just as many photographers do today with photoshop, and yes that is where the dodge and burn tools in photoshop got their name.

Ansell Adams National Archives 2(Above: The Tetons and the Snake River)

This is one of his most famous photos, The Tetons and the Snake River. Recently donated by the U.S. National Archives it is available here. Though this is just one scan/reproduction of the image, a Quick Google search will come up with many other reproductions of this image which can show the huge difference that could be made when dodging and burning in a lab. A similar camera to what he used looks like this Linhof or something similar to this Hasselblad.

Along with these he also introduced the theory of the zone system as one of my favourite Youtubers Nerdwriter1 talks about in his video on Ansel Adams. This is the system which provides a calibrating scale from zone 0, black, to zone 10, white, to determine correct exposure of an area of inside an image by which the developer or editor can correctly dodge, burn, lighten or darken the section. This is even applied today in cinema editing as well as photography as it was found that along with the benefits of drawing the eyes in an image and directing them as desired across the image, by having a total black (zone 0) and white (zone 1) on screen the colors pop more and even a dark frame seems to have more color. (this can be seen in more and more movies such as The Avengers and other Marvel wonder movies).

Ansel Adams received a number of awards across and after his life, and his affects on me and my photographic journey have been great ones.

Rest in piece Ansel Adams (20th February, 1902 – 22nd April, 1984).