The Masters: Ansel Adams Part Two…

Thanks to some very overcast conditions this past weekend (if it’s going to be gloomy in NYC, can I at least ask for some snow?!!!), I wasn’t able to take new landscape photos as an interpretation of Mr. Adams’ style. There goes my vision of juxtaposing cityscapes against his sweeping landscapes! Thankfully, I have a plethora of Grand Canyon photos that I re-edited with this post in mind :) For more on that trip, click here!

It just so happens Mr. Adams also composed numerous images here. When I started researching his work in the southwest, I came across a fact I had forgotten –  In September 1941, the Department of the Interior contracted him to make photographs of the National Parks, Indian reservations, and other locations for use as mural-sized prints for decoration of the Department’s new building. There are so many fantastic images that came as a result, but ownership/copyright laws were strict even for then. Many negatives, including, The Tetons and the Snake River,  having been made for the Mural Project, became the property of the U.S. Government. Here’s that image…


I have nothing to compare to the beauty above. But this is my favorite re-edit from my trip…


And so began Adams work within the National Parks system. In his lifetime, he was awarded the first of three Guggenheim fellowships in 1946 to photograph every National Park. This series of photographs produced memorable images of “Old Faithful Geyser”, Grand Teton and Mount McKinley. Ummmm….jealous!!! I’m fairly certain the Guggenheim Foundation has evolved beyond the point of awarding fellowships to photograph dusty National Parks, but if they did…sign me up! It’s a lifelong goal to visit every park and to do the way Adams did would be incredible! Here’s another of his works from the Grand Canyon…



And then mine, below. I’m actually pretty proud of this image! I think the contrast and sky make it pretty notable :)




And this one makes me think dinosaurs will appear at any moment…


Before I started this masters’ project, I knew of Ansel Adams as a master of light and forerunner of black and white photography. I appreciate him all the more for his impact on the the West, which according to Wikipedia, “became the foremost record of what many of the National Parks were like before tourism, and his persistent advocacy helped expand the National Park system. He skillfully used his works to promote many of the goals of the Sierra Club and of the nascent environmental movement, but always insisted that, as far as his photographs were concerned, ‘beauty comes first’. Realistic about development and the subsequent loss of habitat, Adams advocated for balanced growth, but was pained by the ravages of “progress”. He stated, “We all know the tragedy of the dustbowls, the cruel unforgivable erosions of the soil, the depletion of fish or game, and the shrinking of the noble forests. And we know that such catastrophes shrivel the spirit of the people… The wilderness is pushed back, man is everywhere. Solitude, so vital to the individual man, is almost nowhere.”

On our trip down and back to the Colorado River, we were very happy to only have about 11 human sightings. I feel this solitude today is still possible thanks to Adams’ work and other advocates for the National Parks system, including its “father” John Muir.



As Adams reminded his students, “It is easy to take a photograph, but it is harder to make a masterpiece in photography than in any other art medium.” Like his Redwoods series

Forest Floor


They’re no Redwoods, but the untouched beauty of the Powell Plateau was paradise…




Here ends my two-week dive into the life and work of Ansel Adams. As I said above, I am ever grateful to the impact his work has had on the parks’ system, photography, and of course, myself. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how Mr. Adams has inspired you! And stay tuned for next week, when I start to look into the life and work of Yousuf Karsh.


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