Understanding Art
Ansel Adams

Photography is one of those arts that not everyone agrees IS art - few people would argue that a painter is an artist, but some people think that photography doesn’t belong in the same category.  Ansel Adams’ work helped changed that idea for a lot of people.  And though he died a few months before I was born, his work is still popular and beautiful.

1 - Adam’s photographs are pure love of nature.  Adams fought for new parks and to preserve existing national forests.  In his photographs of Yosemite, you are as close as you can get to the park without going there.  You can feel how big nature is, and how wild.  His prints make you want to go outside and see what there is to see.

2 - Everything is in focus.  Adams used large negative sheets - normal consumer film is 35mm about 1x1.5 inches, but Adams used negatives that were 4x5 inches or larger.  A large negative means higher resolution for larger prints, allowing him to capture small details in a large scale.  Large negatives also need a much larger camera body to lug around with you.  Adams also used a small aperture, letting light hit the film very slowly.  A small aperture allows for the background to be in focus as well as the foreground, but the camera must stay still for a long time.  Long exposures require a tripod, which meant Adams was carrying even more equipment around with him.  To get these giant scenes entirely in focus makes them dramatic, but it is extremely difficult to do (and this is the reason Adams routinely spent 18 hours a day in the darkroom).

3 -Adams wrote many books on photography that are still useful today.  Adams was a technical kind of artist, taking joy in making a perfect exposure and print.  His technical books are filled with suggestions on how to set your camera in different settings, including a system he developed called “the zone system” that photographers often use even with digital cameras.