Ansel Adams is probably best
known for his images taken in the Yosemite National Park, California.
This is a collection of three of his best loved images printed
together on a single picture. Between them they cover 41 years
of his incredibly productive career. Yosemite had a special
place in Adams affections, he was to visit the park every year
of his life from his first visit aged 14 in 1916.
Larger images of the three are
shown to the left and they can be purchased as separate prints
in their own right if preferred by clicking on the images to
A summary of the making of the
pictures is given below, but fuller descriptions can be seen
by following these links to the relevant pages, make sure you
pop-up the Triptych box
Links to full information pages:
El Capitan, Winter
Monolith the Face of Half Dome -1927
1/ El Capitan,
Winter Sunrise - 1968
Adams was up at dawn on a cold
winter morning driving around Yosemite national park looking
for photographs. There was a certain amount of cloud around
swirling around the peaks until the sun rose and they cleared.
On this day, there was an unusual and fortuitous high altitude
haze which stopped the full power of the sun and diffused the
light somewhat. Often in bright sunlight with snow, extremely
high contrast can be a problem.
He positioned himself at one
of the classic El Capitan viewpoints, from where the full 3000
feet of the cliff was visible. He set up his tripod in deep
snow taking care to securely push each of the legs down to a
stable layer below so that settlement didn't cause any movement.
On this occasion a 4 x 5 inch
camera was being used that had considerable movements of
the lens and film plate unobtainable in smaller formats. This
meant that the equipment could be arranged to avoid such features
as the convergence of the pine trees in the mid-ground.
A particular feature of the scene
that Adams wanted to capture was the swirling cloud passing
above the trees and in front of the cliff, for all his visualization
experience (this picture was taken 41 years after his first
successful application of the technique) the behaviour of such
cloud was unpredictable.
This image is also a good example
of how one photographer would develop an image to show a scene
differently to another. The picture has received comments that
the trees are rather dark. If one were present at the scene,
they will have been lighter than they are shown here in relation
to the rest of the view. Adams manipulation of this shows how
he was able to bring about his own visualization of the scene
to give the effect that he wanted.
As he says himself when writing
about the image, "In an overpowering area such as Yosemite
Valley it is difficult for anyone not to make photographs that
appear derivative of past work. The subjects are definite and
recognizable, and the viewpoints are limited. It is therefore
all the more important to strive for individual and strong visualizations."
2/ Nevada Fall,
Rainbow, Yosemite - 1947
This pictures was taken on a
spring day around 1947 - though he was very meticulous with
photographic detail and could remember details of exposures
and development, Ansel Adams was not so good when it came to
remembering the dates of his pictures - even to the year!
His 8 x 10 inch view camera,
two lenses, filters and six double film holders, along with
the necessary tripod to set out to photograph Nevada Fall had
been packed. The fall was in full spate at that time of the
year, carrying the melt-waters from the winter snows, in particular
the subject was to be the rainbow formed from the mist in front
of the fall.
The volume of water cascading
over the fall meant that it was producing billowing clouds of
mist that rolled down the canyon for over half a mile. He took
the longer trail to get to his chosen viewing spot as he feared
that the shorter Mist Trail that passed by Vernal Fall would
wet his equipment. Adams still arrived hours before he knew
that the conditions would be right for the photograph he wanted
with the sun in the right position.
When all was arranged on the
ground, the sun still had to move around to the ideal position
and so he waited patiently. There would not be much time
to get the picture he had visualized as shortly after it was
in position, the sun would disappear over a ridge.
Some have claimed that this picture
is simply a photograph of some scenery and not art, an opinion
that surprisingly carried little weight with the photographer.
It is easy for those who are
simply the observers of pictures, (rather than the creators)
whether of art or not to be ignorant of the difficulties, subtleties
and efforts that go into producing photographs like those of
Ansel Adams. Perhaps it is a reinforcement of the skill and
dexterity with his medium that the observer of Adams pictures
can see the image and imagine themselves in the picture possibly
producing the same image themselves. That very few have ever
matched the standard of these photographs let alone surpassed
them is indication that his photographs are far more than just
being of "...a bit of scenery".
3/ Monolith -1927
This was the first widely
recognized and acclaimed picture that Ansel Adams produced.
It was this image that really
showed the world the future potential that Adams had. It was
taken on April the 17th in 1927 on a day when Adams was climbing
and taking photographs with his then fiancee Virginia Best and
two friends Charlie Michael and Arnold Williams.
He was 25 at the time, and laden
with his 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch Korona view camera with two lenses,
two filters, a wooden tripod and twelve glass plates that were
his negatives. Adams had already exposed ten of his twelve
plates with varying degrees of success before he turned to the
face of Half Dome. He arrived in position at about noon
when the subject was in full shadow and so waited until "early
mid-afternoon" when the sun began creeping up on the scene
before setting himself up to take the photograph.
The picture is significant
in that it represents Adams very first conscious "visualization"
of the final image as it would appear with the filter in place.
This was a technique that was to become more and more important
over the years as he became more competent with increased experience
at applying the technique.
The excitement of seeing this,
the first visualization come true when removed it from the fixing
bath was described as "..one of the most exciting moments
of my photographic career."