Tag Archives: Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams – a photography legend

A documentary about Ansel Adams.

• Ansel Adams – a documentary •
[Image from the video]

Images that expressed the majesty in nature.

Ansel Adams became a legend in his own lifetime. He saw something special in landscapes. That “something” bought alive the majesty we feel when we are awed by natural landscapes. Yet he was much more than a photographer. He was a musician, thinker, energetic conservationist AND an extraordinary photographer.

Special talents defined Ansel Adams

From early in life Ansel Adams was fascinated by music. He taught himself to play the piano. His father saw an extraordinary talent emerging. He took him out of school to concentrate on his music skills. He was home educated using some of the best instructors and teachers available. His musical skill developed and he exhibited great talent. Then in 1916, he encountered a book which excited an interest in the big landscapes that became his life’s work. His father took him to Yosemite with the rest of the family. He later said of the this experience…

“…the splendour of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious… One wonder after another descended upon us… There was light everywhere… A new era began for me.”
Ansel Adams

During the first visit to Yosemite Ansel Adams was given a Kodak “Box Brownie” camera. From that moment his approach to the extraordinary landscapes that he loved so much was changed. He became transfixed by his photography. However, his love of music came first. For a number of years during his 20’s he pursued a career as a concert pianist.

Ansel Adams met the woman who later became his wife in a small studio where he was practising his piano while on his summer sojourn in the Sierra Mountains. The affair was on-and-off for a number of years. Ansel Adams struggled to reconcile the two passions of his life – music and the great landscapes of the Sierra Mountains.

In the summer of 1923 Ansel Adams, then 21, had, what he later described as, a “transcendental experience” while out in the mountains. He struggled for another seven years with his artistic inclinations and his ambition to become a musician. But finally the mountains drew him back and he had grown tired of the the petty politics of the life of a musician. From that time on he dedicated his life to trying to capture the wonder and sharp detail of his earlier transcendental experience.

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Documentary… Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

• Ansel Adams •
One of the all time greats in photography. This video is about his life, thoughts and work.
Image taken from the video.

The thinker-photographer…

There is a great deal to be said about Ansel Adams. He was a great photographer, thinker and artist. He was also an accomplished musician.

This post was about Ansel Adams.

Unfortunately the video was taken down from YouTube.

We have other Ansel Adams Resources on Photokonnexion.

At the time the video was removed it did not appear available online in another place. However, the subtext for the video as it was published is below. You may find it useful to use the text in case this video becomes available again at a later date.

Subtext for the video

Published on 29 May 2013
“The American Experience” Sierra Club Productions – Steeplechase Films
Ansel Adams is the intimate portrait of a great artist and ardent environmentalist — for whom life and art, photography and wilderness, creativity and communication, love and expression, were inextricably connected. ANSEL ADAMS, a ninety-minute documentary film written and directed by Ric Burns, and broadcast on national public television in April 2002, provides an elegant, moving and lyrical portrait of this most eloquent and quintessentially American of photographers. Written by Joshua Mueller
Category: Education
Licence: Standard YouTube Licence

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Ansel Adams – Master Photographer

Ansel Adams Video

• Ansel Adams BBC Master Photographers (1983 •
Ansel Adams speaks about his photography and his development.
Picture taken from the video.

Exquisite insights to a legend.

The videos I show are usually for you to quickly watch and learn. This one’s different. It’s longer (34 mins.). And, there is so much in it that you will want to watch it over and over again. The wonderful insights run deep and some show us how much photography has changed.

Ansel Adams’ ideas, photographic insights and depth of feeling is magnetic. He was probably one of the first philosophers of photography. He was one of the undoubted masters too. I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did.

Ansel Adams – “BBC Master Photographers” (1983)

Uploaded by: Rob Hooley External link - opens new tab/page

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Seeing what you want to create

• Mushrooms •

• Mushrooms •
Photographers learn many techniques to achieve a particular outcome or ‘look’ in their images. They go beyond reality to create a specific previsualised final image.
Click image to view large
• Mushrooms • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Visualise the image you want to make.

Producing a picture can be as simple as point and shoot or as complex as a long planned production. To produce great images you often have to go beyond an elementary snap-capture. The best images are made from a careful thought process. The photographer has a goal in mind, a visualisation of what they want the final image to be.

What is visualisation?

People who use visualisation techniques seek to perform challenging tasks to achieve the visualised goal. The existence of a previsualised goal gives them a clear sense of being able to achieve the goal while trying to achieve it. Users of the technique report they gain an internal boost from having the outcome already in mind.

In sports users of the technique are taught to visualise an explosive use of energy through which they then see themselves complete a record breaking event or win a race. In business the user visualises a goal for their business and continues to enrich the detail and nature of the successful outcome in their mind while working toward attaining it in the real world.

In cinematography whole scenes are previsualised and committed to storyboard form. This creates for the director a clear, detailed mock-up of the scene(s). The storyboards augment and crystalise their mental visualisation of the scene. The latter provides a shared vision for the production team with which to pursue the quality cinematic outcome.

In still photography there has been a long tradition of visualisation. Ansel Adams and several of his contemporaries used the technique. Adams himself defined the use of visualisation as…

…the ability to anticipate a finished image before making an exposure.
Ansel Adams, The Camera, 1980

Adams continued to write about visualisation in photography throughout his life and clearly attributed much of his own success as a photographer to being able to see the finished print in mind before he took the picture.

Adams came to understand the nature of the visualisation through the creation of one of his most important pictures. While working in Yosemite making a picture of the “Half Dome  External link - opens new tab/page” he was using yellow filters to darken the sky. This was a common practice at the time used to simulate in black and white the depth of colour in a sky. However, Adams imagined that the yellow filter would provide an insufficient depth of sky tone to show the drama of the scene before him. Instead he imagined the final print would look better with a darker sky-tone. Applying a red filter instead, he created in the final print the dramatic outcome he had visualised before setting up the camera.

This proved an important moment. He became aware the camera did not simply record a scene. Instead it could be set up to achieve an outcome he had imagined before making the exposure. This visualisation became his guide to the production of the image rather than the absolute reality in the scene.

This realisation enabled Adams to see past the literal and technical capture of the plain camera and lens combination. Instead he was able to create something “expressive” that was a manifestation of the vivid image he had visualised in his imagination.

Today photographers learn many different techniques to achieve a particular outcome or ‘look’ in their images. We see deliberate under or over exposure scenarios created from daylight scenes, or dramatic blood-red sunsets over-saturated to emphasis the power of the retiring sun. The use of visualisation allows the photographer to see in their minds-eye what they want the final image to look like.

Visualisation does not ensure the success of an outcome but it does provide a powerful guide in the process of achieving success. As the photographers visualisations become more detailed and their artistic talents develop so does the visualisation.

Where visualisation is used the technique can only be successful if the appropriate technical steps are deployed. The successful rendering of the visualisation can only come out of a quality photographic process. However, there must also be an interdependence.

Visualisation can be achieved artistically without knowledge of the photographic process. And, the act of visualisation is improved with practice. At the same time, the scene conjured in the minds-eye must also be achievable by the available photographic skills. As skills develop their visualisation skills are more likely to respond to the growing range of techniques the photographer knows. In other words, as a photographers experience grows what is achievable through visualisation also develops. The strength and quality of the visualisation will also be better in areas where the photographer has practised and polished skills.

So, we can reliably infer that visualisation and skill set work together. Landscape photographers will tend to produce better sunset visualisations and images because that is their area of practice and expertise. At the same time fashion photographers will see an outcome for an image that shows off an article of clothing or a delicate facial bone structure because that is how they spend the majority of their time. Each has their specific photographic skill set and technical process. Each photographer also has their own artistic and observational skills that help build expressive visualisations for the type of images they want.

Practice and development

Visualisation is a dynamic and evolving skill. As you become familiar with new techniques your ability to achieve a particular visualisation develops. Visualisation is a skill that develops with awareness of the potential and an ability to imagine a great image before you produce it. The earlier you start to try deliberate visualisation and planning for its fulfilment the more likely you are to take control of your development as a photographer.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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Three photographic heroes (pt 1) – Ansel Adams

Photo-montage - Portraits of Ansel Adams

Photo-montage – Portraits of Ansel Adams

Its good to have heroes!

In contemporary culture they are often elevated to super-beings. My photographic heroes are of the old school. They’re people to look up to, people who represent thought and development in photography. So here are three photographers who I admire. They have all been influential in my thinking and development as a photographer. In part one of this short series I briefly cover Ansel Adams. I hope you will find his example inspirational as I do.

Ansel Adams (Feb. 20, 1902 – Apr. 22, 1984)

I admire thinking photographers. Adams was definitely a thinker. He is widely quoted both in photographic circles and outside them – his ideas span music, conservation, photography and many other subjects. As a conservationist he was one of the early protectors of the environment and as a photographer he produced some of the most iconic photographs of the national parks in the USA.

In particular Adams brilliant photographs of Yosemite National Park in America captured the imagination of a generation. Adams first went there when he was sixteen and returned to photograph the magnificent scenery on many occasions throughout his sixty year career. He also captured, in fantastic tonal detail, many other of the amazing wilderness locations in the USA. All of this was before these places were subject to the stresses and damage caused by tourism.

While photography was what he was mainly known for, he was only a practising hobbyist until well into his twenties. He intended to be a professional musician and worked hard at it from the time he taught himself the piano aged twelve. His schooling was limited but his concentration on music and photography proved sufficient to sharpen his intellect. He possessed an eidetic memory (or photographic memory) and and this could only have enhanced his excellent understanding of tonal control and landscape structure in his compositions.

Adams is best known for his black and white landscapes, but also produced the first presidential portrait photograph and worked with colour photography. He developed the Zone system in photography – a method of optimal exposure control for photographers. He taught a number of student photographers who went on to become influential themselves. He also developed a number of important photographic and compositional techniques. As a writer and photographer he published a number of books about photography and of his own pictures as well as work about his photographic discoveries.

Adams legacy lies not only in his superb landscape work, but in his tireless work to elevate photography to a true art-form. In his later years he worked with galleries and institutions worldwide to promote and develop photography. He will be remembered mostly for his pictures. But in fact he influenced a generation of photographers and several generations of the public by the work that he did in conservation and art development. Later in his career he was honoured with both photographic and general honours including the highest civilian honour in the USA. He published a number of books and worked with photographers, politicians, academics and publishers to build a better understanding of photography as a public domain. He should be remembered not just for his amazing photographs, but also for establishing photography as a form of public expression and passion. He was a remarkable man who will live on through his pictures.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

The meaning in a photograph

 The upstream struggle

• The upstream struggle •
Does the meaning of the photo always come across? Has the photographer succeeded if there are different interpretations?
• The upstream struggle • By Netkonnexion (Flickr)External link - opens new tab/page

What does a photographer mean by their photograph?

Photographs are open to interpretation. In fact people see all sorts of meaning in photos as in other forms of media and art. So is there really meaning in photographs? Does the photographer really have a clear point to make?


Everything is open to interpretation. Art is a particular case in point. We see what we want to see in a photograph especially if the message is not clear. If the photograph is a good one however, then we understand it and it helps us to feel, know or understand something. That is what lies behind the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Nevertheless, a picture is only worth those thousand word if it speaks to the viewer about the point of the photograph. If every viewer understands the point, then the picture probably is worth a thousand words.

Fuzzy concepts vs. powerful meaning

We only feel compelled to push the shutter button when we have something ‘worth’ capturing. This ‘value’ is how strongly we feel about what we create and whether the photograph reflects the effort we made to capture the scene. For a photographer to feel that the picture was worthwhile they have to know, each time they look at it, what they felt when they took it. The meaning for them is in their connection to the moment of capture. The photographer, however, needs only a weak conveyance of meaning from a photograph. Their connection is supplemented by memory.

What about the general viewer of the photograph? They have no memory of the capture and so must find one hundred percent of the meaning in the shot. This a is greater and more intense problem than the photographers own satisfaction. For the viewer to get the message without a memory connection the message must be clear and on target.

I think this is where the true photographer departs from the happy snapper. Some people take joy in snapping merrily away at things they like. This is a great pass time and a fun activity. All photographers probably started with the sheer joy of capturing a scene. Then, later, feeling the moment come alive again when reviewing the pictures.

What makes a true photographer, I think, is in a question. When a photographer asks themselves, “How can I best capture this scene so viewers will understand what I feel right now”? Or, a similar question, “What is the best way to capture this so viewers know what I am showing them/explaining to them”? The photographer is essentially looking to create value in the picture so the viewer will find it worthwhile taking time to look at it.

Ansel Adams, the famous landscape photographer once said…

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.
Ansel Adams

The fuzzy concept idea relates to how well the photographer answered the appropriate question(s) above. Adams is saying, “it’s all very well to be technically excellent, but if you cannot convey feeling or meaning the picture is worthless”.

By asking how to phrase the picture for someone else, who was not at the capture, you are actively looking for ways to clarify the message of your picture, to give it clear meaning. When you have a clear message, meaning, or can convey a strong feeling, you have connected with the viewer. The concept is no longer fuzzy.

This idea about the ‘worth’, or ‘value’ of a picture provides a defining concept. The happy snapper is pursuing the pass time of photography for self-gratification.

The photographer on the other hand is creating images. These are pictures that are designed to conjure up feeling or meaning in the viewers mind. The photographer is actively seeking to stimulate minds other than their own with clear ideas conveyed through an image. Ideas that are not supplemented by the capture-memory.

The upstream struggle for the photographer is clear. Their work is to distil from a scene a clear meaning or feeling that is readily understood by others. The photographer is gratified when others are satisfied, pleased or stimulated by the image.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Five S’s for super shots

"Washday abstract"

“Washday Abstract”
Simplicity is one of the keys to making your image.

A list to help you make a good image

I love a good list. It helps me remember what I have to do. Here is a list of five S’s that will lead you through the basics of making a photograph…


The subject of your picture is the most important thing. Concentrate on your subject. It is too easy to put all sorts of things into the picture. If you do so you will confuse the viewer. Isolate your subject from things around it so that it is obviously the focus of your image. Never let your subject merge into the rest of the picture.


Actually, sharpness is a variable. Un-sharp parts of your picture are as important to the image as the sharp areas. This point is about the ‘way’ you use sharpness. Having a sharp subject and throwing the rest out of focus is one way to concentrate the viewers attention on the subject. It may be important to have sharpness right through the shot, or it may not. Sharp or un-sharp – ensure it is what you intended and that it helps your image.


Sometimes you can create a very simple shot. Other times not so simple. Whatever you manage, there is no doubt that the more complicated a scene, the more difficult it is to focus the attention of the viewer. This is a reminder to remove all distractions from the shot. Keep It Simple and Sweet (the KISS principle).


Composition is the one constant in every photograph. Study composition with all your energy. It is the fundamental that teaches you the way to set-up your scene in the image frame. It is a lifetime study.


A wise photographer once said,

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.

Ansel Adams
It may be satisfying for you to take a picture. But it is only a winner if you make it satisfying for the viewer. When you are taking your shot consider the viewer. Think about what they will see, try to understand what they will be visualizing. Try to pull them into the image, give them something compelling to see.

By the way

If you have stared at my image and think you know what it is and why it’s titled that way… leave a comment below!

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.