The enduring inspiration of Ansel Adams




Yesterday I watched a documentary on Ansel Adams and as usual after something like that I started converting a few images into black and white. I'm never going to do anything with them and its just for fun.

But one of the greatest ever landscape photographers was certainly an inspiration to me, and I'm sure many others. I hadn't long started to take photography seriously when I encountered his dramatic images of the American west, and while I never wanted to work in black and white, use a plate camera or get to know the zone system, I was moved to try to find my own method of expressing what I saw in the landscape and what it meant to me, in a photograph.

His career and his importance to both photography and conservation is well known and I still remember going to an exhibition of some of the last prints he ever made and marvelling at the tonality and almost 3-D look he achieved with black and white. I also have a book of colour photographs of his taken on very early Kodachrome sheet film which have been scanned and colour corrected and show what he might have achieved had colour film been better than it was when he was photographing. 

Above all I value how he showed photographers to "get to the point" of a landscape image and concentrate on the elements that will transmit just what a wonderful experience it was to "be there". I've never visited Yosemite, nor am ever likely too, and anything I came up with would only be a pale imitation of what he achieved, having spent a large part of his lifetime trying to capture its essence and grandeur. But I take that as another lesson. Though I live in an environment that is far removed from the extraordinary places that he photographed, I have made it my mission to "do it justice" photographically, and while I spend some of my time shooting images for stock, it is the anticipation of photographing the landscape and its constant surprises that gets me out of the door every time. 

Mostly as photographers we have to make do with the workmanlike, in the knowledge that every now and then the special may present itself to us. We may find our "voice" we may not, but surely we owe it to ourselves to try. 


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