Ansel Adams... Famous for a reason

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by D-50, Apr 20, 2008.

  1. D-50

    D-50 TPF Noob!

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    I just wanted to hear peoples thoughts on Ansel Adams. I think his work is beatufil but I see so many people knock his work. I dont understand where these people are coming from. If you just hate landscape photography I guess I understand but short of that his photography is well exposed, well composed and captures some of the most breath taking scenery in America, what is to dislike?
     
  2. EricBrian

    EricBrian TPF Noob!

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    I think his work is great. I wish I were that talented.
     
  3. JIP

    JIP No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You got another fan here. I think some people just want to be contrary so if they hear all about Adams they figure if they don't like him that will somehow make them different.
     
  4. crh428

    crh428 TPF Noob!

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    Personally I think his work is absolutely amazing... I think you have to think about what he was working with, old technology, no digital, no photoshop, no autofocus. His photographs are a lot better than a lot of people can do with all of todays tech.
     
  5. AnselAdams

    AnselAdams TPF Noob!

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  6. Antithesis

    Antithesis No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Ansel Adams was famous for his incredible darkroom work and his ability to get an enormous amount of tonal range. Read some of his books, you can understand why his work is so beautiful. He puts a serious amount of thought into every little part of a photograph.

    He also became famous because he was working during a turning point for photography. Photography was just starting to get viewed as fine art, and there were relatively few people working in the industry compared to today. He used his initial fame to champion nature conservation which made him even more famous, and helped protect a multitude of todays national parks. The list of his achievements is pretty long, but he was famous for more reasons than just good photography.

    I agree that people who knock Ansel Adams work probably don't understand what it took to get those images. Just because any jerk with a d40 and a PC can make an HDR doesn't make them talented. And they will certainly never, ever be remotely as talented as Ansel Adams.
     
  7. christopher walrath

    christopher walrath No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I wrote this article a while ago and posted it over on APUG. It's a bit long winded but I think it is a fitting tribute. Here goes ...


    In 1997 I was given my first SLR camera, a Minolta XG-M 35mm with a 50mm lens and a camera bag. At the time, my mother was getting Outdoor Photographer magazine with a subscription and I would pour over the pages when it arrived at our stoop. I was realizing little by little that photography could be an outlet for creative expression and as a result of this I was beginning to develop opinions of professional photographers, based on the emotions I experienced when viewing their work. I have always believed that you could tell a good deal of a person by simply observing that which gives them the greatest pleasure. Private lives aside, the greatest measure of a photographer is the craft over which they labor and toil and so greatly enjoy.

    My first mentor of the photographic mind was Galen Avery Rowell. As a columnist for OP (the least among his awesome accomplishments which include Everest, K2, Fitz Roy and National Geographic) he was a photographic influence to which I was exposed (no pun intended) early and often. It’s easy to be impressed by a technically perfect image made by an individual who was precariously perched on a half-inch crack, suspended as if in midair by chalky fingertips, shoe leather and sheer willpower halfway up a 4,000 foot sheer granite face with only a single belay line staving off certain death from a precipitous plunge. A quote comes to mind. ‘The best reason to climb a mountain is because it’s there.’ The only reason to brilliantly capture such fleeting Zen-like moments while in the midst of such arduous pursuits is an appreciation for life and being at one with your surroundings. (However, a smattering of insanity must be accounted for as well.)

    As I learned more and my photographic horizons began to expand I came to notice the works of other photographers and some of those came to the foreground of my awareness, including Edward Weston, Dewitt Jones, Alfred Stieglitz, William Neill and Henri Cartier-Bresson. But I have not been moved, touched or challenged so much by any other as I have been by the legacy of Ansel Adams. That master of the Sierra (not Sierras, AA would roll in his grave at that insult), that King of the Yosemite, with his broken nose, cowboy hat and modified Woody wagon. When I first saw a copy of his print ‘Winter Storm’ I was knocked over by the detail and emotion that played out before me. But it was not until after delving into Adams’ literature that I realized that the masterpiece before me was more than just placement of the camera and composition before the click of the shutter. It was also his knowledge of his subject, his mastery over light, his meticulous attention to detail in the darkroom, his visionary seeing that brought about his beautiful work of art. I had in my possession an example of true perfection.

    After reading his books, his autobiography, his articles and anything I could find that revealed a portion of the mind of this great photographer I find that not only can I learn from him but that as a photographer and as a man I relate to him. Though passed from this world some twenty-three years ago his body of work, both photography and literature, continue to move, challenge and inspire me. I had never had the privilege to meet this legend, but through his legacy to photography I know him: his aspirations, his frustrations, his despair and his joy.

    However, through the further expansion of my photographic horizons I get the feeling that the name of Ansel Adams is a sort of dirty word among many of the new breed of photographers today. I continually find the need to defend my admiration of Adams and his work. It is as if others have the viewpoint that to admit to being a follower of Adams’ techniques and an admirer of his life’s labor amounts to no better than dropping a name to impress others with your choice of association. And with the advent of digital technology and the attempt to put an automatic camera into every hand in the world, the pervading opinion seems to be that Adams is an outmoded, archaic, prehistoric savant who’s contributions to our craft have passed their time and are now, somehow, unnecessary and superfluous. ‘Why take the time to learn what I can now just go out and do anyway?’ I know that digital photography is the next and logical step up from film photography. It enables the masses to bypass the developing and printing processes of yore in favor of near instant gratification. It’s what the people crave and I cannot fault them for that. After all, it holds appeal for me as well. But when people sacrifice knowledge and persistence for convenience and simplicity, something invariably suffers. In my humble opinion this is where photography is right now. As for me, I cannot turn my back on a thing that I love, that is such a part of me. I find peace in manually calculating exposure with an off-camera meter. I love anticipating the right moment rather than always bracketing and praying for rain. I love getting an exposure right at the camera and making adjustments later rather than making the changes because I could not get it right the first time.

    I am a disciple of Ansel Easton Adams because he challenges me. Not to mimic his images but to find my own vision. Because he inspires me to be prepared, to not trip the shutter until I have exhausted all of the controls at my command to make the best exposure I can and not to fly be the seat of my pants. Because in him I find a fellow photographer and intellect, a kindred spirit, not an idol to be worshipped and imitated. Bacuase I strive to mirror his hard work and dedication, not his classic view of the Grand Tetons behind the Snake River. Because I share his need to pass on any and all knowledge that I may have that can help another fellow photographer to get it and I am willing to try new things and ways that had not previously occurred to me. Because I share his ethic and diligence. Beacuse I strive to be my own photographer, using him as a springboard and guide, not as an identity to don when it suits me. His legacy is not a goal for what to become, but rather a benchmark of what is possible.

    So when I say I like Ansel Adams it’s not hero worship. It is respect and an affirmation of that which the greatest photographer of the twentieth century stands for and means to me in terms of self-education, preparedness and vision in my chosen craft.


    Christopher A. Walrath
    November 9th, 2007
     
  8. Samriel

    Samriel TPF Noob!

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    I'm quite new to SLR photography and the forum, and I must admit I haven't heard of Ansel Adams before some forum members mentioned his name. After he got mentioned and praised XX times, I decided to check out his legend.
    From my beginner point of view, his photography is techically and artistically well done, especially the tonal range, as Antithesis mentioned, is really good. However, personally I don't like his images THAT much. I'd say they are OK at best when it comes to conforming to my own sense of beauty. One of the reasons (probably the main reason) is because landscape photography in general is not something that appeals to me so much at the moment.
    Of course the images are well done, especially if you consider the tools they were taken with. What I like about his images is that they had a point, and I think the best part of his photography that in the context he sets (wildlife preservation), they are truly amazing pictures that nail their point. Out of the context they do not seem so interesting.
    Yet I must admit that sometimes I do feel there is a bit too much Ansel Adams hype going on here, and some people sometimes seem to want to make a "Church of Ansel Adams".
     
  9. RMThompson

    RMThompson the TPF moderators rock my world!

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    I agree. Ansel Adams was an amazing photography, and benefited for photographing the country in a way that the world had never seen before; especially the amazing shots of the Southwest.
     
  10. rob91

    rob91 TPF Noob!

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    For the most part I don't care for his work. Safe, quiet, and boring, I find it too nicely composed, tidy visual geometries that fit all too neatly inside the frame, coming across as inhibited as opposed to expressive. He had loads of talent, too bad he didn't have anything more to say outside of the fact that nature is pretty.

    It's also important to make the distinction between technical proficiency and quality art.
     
  11. Samriel

    Samriel TPF Noob!

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    +1 :thumbup:

    Especially the "inhibited VS expressive" part.
     
  12. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    Pioneer to say the least. If you haven't already be sure to see his prints up close and personal. I do not dislike his work and doubt that anyone does. I agree with rob91 safe quiet and boring.

    Love & Bass
     

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