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Chasing Ansel Adams


Adamsjeffrey_pine_copy     I think there are millions of park goers who tote cameras with them on their forays into the national parks, hoping to capture that one moment, that one image, that comes close to an Ansel Adams' image.
    Of course, we're all being unrealistic. Adams was a master when it came to national park photography. What he could do with black-and-white film in a park setting was, and still is, incredible.
    Yet, there are those who like to measure their skills against Adams. One who comes close is Kaz Takahashi, a Japanese-born photographer who was inspired to chronicle America's national parks when he first visited Yellowstone.

    Adams' use of black-and-white required a deft eye for composition, as there were only hues of black and white to portray the scene, no splashes of color to help bring out definition, to add depth. And, in my opinion, he succeeded tremendously.
    The power that Adams was able to wield with his images is simply breathtaking. And yet he could also bring out the softness in nature, such as in his photo of leaves in Glacier Bay National Park or of white branches rising out of Mono Lake just east of Yosemite National Park.
    Takahashi, on the other hand, seemingly uses color to capture the emotion in a setting, to bring it to life as opposed to merely document it. The blue sky in the picture of Vernal Fall adds depth to the mist kicked up by the waterfall, catches your eye and leads it down into the picture.
Kazvernalfall_copy     Of course, that's only my opinion. I'm sure there are others out there who interpret the works of these two photographers much differently. But that's part of the beauty of art. It's so subjective.
    You can read a bit about Takahashi's decision to spend seven years photographing America's national parks at this link, which promotes a show the photographer currently has in a Tokyo gallery through July 25th. If you can't make it to Japan this month, check out Takahashi's photos and learn more about his background and his thoughts here.
    As for Adams, perhaps the best commercial site for his photos comes through the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite.


I have an Ansel Adams print in my house of Bridal Veil Falls. It has been hanging on a wall for over two years. I look at it nearly everyday, and I am amazed that I still find new detail and artistry in the photo that I had not noticed before. For a time I was shooting Black and White, but, as you describe in your post, it is much more difficult to create a "great" photo without the touches of color that help draw the eye through the photo. The other thing that amazes me about Ansel is that he was creating all his prints before the age of PhotoShop. All his prints were painstakingly crafted by hand. What a talent he was.

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