Lessons from Photography Masters: Ansel Adams


We know you’ve enjoyed learning from some of the most notable photographers throughout history, so we’re bringing back Lessons from Photography Masters, this time, focusing on one photographer at a time. Let’s begin with the words of wisdom from celebrated landscape photographer and conservationist, Ansel Adams.

One look is enough to tell us that a lot goes into a great photograph: creativity, practice, experience, skill, and patience. It’s always worth trying to get a “perfect shot,” and should you decide to put your photography skills to the test, you’re going to need all the lessons and advice you can get. So, in this new series, we’re bringing to you some of the most inspiring words, lessons, and photographs from some of the most notable masters of photography.

Ansel Adams with a large format camera, his weapon of choice for shooting landscapes. Photo via Wikipedia

As Lomographers, many of us are enamored with the vibrant hues rendered by slide films. But, when stripped of bright colors and saturation, landscape photography becomes a new challenge. Rarely do we see perfect landscape photographs in glorious black and white, but should you decide to try it yourself, allow us to give you some words of wisdom and inspiration from the master of landscape photography, Ansel Adams.

“The Tetons and the Snake River” and “Mountains” by Ansel Adams. Photos via Wikipedia and Codger Apps

On Photography Itself

  • Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.
  • Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.
  • The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.

On Taking Photos

  • You don’t take a photograph, you make it.
  • There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
  • There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.
  • To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.
  • You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.
“Navajo Woman and Infant” and “Navajo Girl” by Ansel Adams. Photos via Archives.gov

On The Importance of Good Photos

  • When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
  • A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.
  • There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.
  • A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.
“Castle Geyser Cove”, “Long’s Peak from North”, and “Grand Canyon National Park” by Ansel Adams. Photos via Archives.gov

On Landscape/Nature Photography

  • Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.
  • Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.
  • No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.
  • The whole world is, to me, very much “alive” — all the little growing things, even the rocks. I can’t look at a swell bit of grass and earth, for instance, without feeling the essential life — the things going on – within them. The same goes for a mountain, or a bit of the ocean, or a magnificent piece of old wood.
  • Both the grand and the intimate aspects of nature can be revealed in the expressive photograph. Both can stir enduring affirmations and discoveries, and can surely help the spectator in his search for identification with the vast world of natural beauty and wonder surrounding him.
Photo via Ansel Adams Gallery, University of California

Sources and additional readings:
Ansel Adams -- Brainy Quote
Ansel Adams -- Good Reads
Ansel Adams -- Great Quotes
Ansel Adams -- Think Exist

written by plasticpopsicle on 2011-11-22 #lifestyle #nature #medium-format #black-and-white #tribute #landscapes #lessons #ansel-adams #ansel-adams-week #weekly-tribute #lessons-from-photography-masters #landscape-photography

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  1. deff1
    deff1 ·

    Great Article!

  2. plasticpopsicle
    plasticpopsicle ·

    @deff1 Thank you, glad you liked it!

  3. sharpwaveripple
    sharpwaveripple ·

    Ansel Adams is probably the photographer I most aspire to be like... Something about the meticulous nature of large format photography is enrapturing, but I'm only just getting to learn the process now.

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