Ansel Adams was born February 20, 1902, in San Francisco, California. Ansel took an interest in music at an early age. He taught himself how to play the piano and enjoyed the surroundings of nature. In 1916, he and his parents went on a trip to Yosemite National Park where he received his first camera, the Kodak Box Brownie. His first photographs recorded their vacation. Ansel fell in love with Yosemite National Park and would return every summer. He worked four summers as the caretaker of the park’s club headquarters. During this time, he became an expert mountaineer and conservationist and gained vast of experience as a landscape photographer. Ansel struggled between two professions, photography and music. In 1920, he decided to become a concert pianist. For seven years he gave piano lessons and concerts. After viewing Paul Strand’s wonderful work, Adams decided to switch careers to photography.
A short time later, he joined “f/64”, a group dedicated to the concept of photography that looked like photography, not like an imitation of other art forms. Ansel stands as one of America’s greatest landscape photographers. His career was punctuated with countless elegant, handsomely composed, and technically flawless photographs of outstanding natural landscapes. His strength as an artist is largely attributed to his diligent investigation of the methods of photography, developing a careful darkroom technique of exposure and development he called the Zone System. In each of his images, Adams aimed to vary the range of tones from rich black to whitest white in order to achieve perfect photographic clarity. His reputation has been firmly established by exhibitions in virtually every major American art museum, three Guggenheim Fellowships and a score of publications.
One of Ansel’s landscape photographs is Forest of Aspen. Forest of Aspen is an excellent example of chiaroscuro. The focal point is the tree on the left side that looks as if it is illuminated by the sun. Ansel was good at producing black and white photographs that had the whitest whites all the way to pitch black. The tree is a bright white while the rest of the photograph is a variety of grays and blacks. There are several skinny tree trunks behind the bright tree extending to the top and width of the photograph. Some grey leaves can be seen at the vary top of the photograph making the bright tree look like a younger tree. Between the skinny tree trunks there is black space. The skinny tree trunks are a variety of grays starting from light gray to black as they retreat out of sight. Just to the left of the bright tree there is another tree a bit smaller. This tree isn’t bright, but rather a light gray. Small gray and black shrubbery occupies the lower portion of the photograph. When looking at this photograph, one wonders how the sun seems to shine only on the small tree located on the left.
Another photograph taken by Ansel Adams is Moonrise, CA 1966. This is another example of chiaroscuro. This photograph is looking at the campus of UC Berkeley and the sky. The top of the photo till midway is pitch black. Then in the middle but a little to the left is a small white circle which is the moon. Below the moon is a small section of sky that is still lit up. This section of sky contains scattered clouds. Under the skyline there are silhouettes of several buildings and trees. Some of the buildings details can be seen while others are black. The lower section of the photo is hard to make out. There appears to be a car in the lower right section indicating a possible parking lot. This photo shows excellent representation of the transforming sky from day to night. Ansel captured this transformation in mid-form. The sky contains both the pitch black night sky and the bright white sky with scattered clouds.
Ansel Adams was a man who loved photography. He showed this love through countless studies he did with photography. No one could print his negatives the same way he could. Ansel was the best black and white photographer of his time. The ranges of black and white he could print were outstanding. I thought the film that we watched was very dry and dull but the photographs that Ansel Adams took were amazing. He truly was an artist. I have worked a little bit with black and white photography and the variety of color he got from his negatives was truly incredible. I have respect for Ansel because he loved photography. He showed this love through his photographs; and when he died in 1984, he arranged for all his photographs and negatives to go to the University of Arizona. Now his negatives can be observed and even reprinted to help the study of photography continue. This shows that he was a very giving person. He did whatever he could to help advance photography. He even tested and promoted the Polaroid Land camera, which he sent over 3,000 memos to Polaroid. Ansel Adams was dedicated to photography.
Courtney from Study Moose
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