Zenfolio | D W Orr Photography | The Influence of Ansel Adams

The Influence of Ansel Adams

October 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Many nature and landscape photographers of today have been influenced by the images of the American West created by Ansel Adams (1902-1984).  I too have drawn inspiration from Adams' works taken of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and the Yosemite Valley.  Adams most famous is an image taken in 1941 titled "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico", known to some as "Moonrise Over Hernandez".  As Adams tells it, the capture of this image was very fortuitous and helped by years of technique development. "The values here are very intense.  I think there's an interesting narrative about it. It shows that sometimes we really do have the Lord with us.  I had been working in the Chama Valley and struggling with a tree stump.  The stump won.  I got disgusted and said, 'Let's go home' - back to Santa Fe.  Driving down, I looked out of the window and saw this extraordinary subject.  The reactions were immediate.  I practically ran the car into a ditch, got out my tripod, camera, etc.  I could not find my exposure meter, but I recognized one value.  I knew the moon was about 250 candles per square foot luminance and I placed this on Zone VI of the exposure scale and exposed accordingly.  I made the one exposure, on an 8x10 Isopan film.  I then wanted to duplicate it.  While turning the film holder around and pulling out the slide, the light went completely off the crosses!  This is probably my best known photograph.  I've made more prints of it than any other subject I have.  I got it by a 12-second grace.  Now, if the stump had been more tractable or if I had been a little slower or faster, I might have completely missed this moonrise event!  So, it points to the fact that contrivance in photography is sometimes a rather questionable approach.  You have to recognize what happens out there, and you have to be ready for it.  That's the great advantage to having a technique - an instant command of camera control, exposure control - in other words you know what you're doing.  At least you hope you do.  As Pasteur said, 'Chance favors the prepared man'."

This past September, while I was preparing to capture (what Adams termed as pre-visualization) the image shown below, "Moonrise Over Corolla", I was immediately struck by some similarities to Adams iconic photo.  Motivated by the beauty of the Hernandez photo, I carefully set the exposure so that the gibbous moon's detail would be in proper luminescent harmony with both the low level clouds forming over the ocean and the setting sun-lit seaside homes.  I hope that you find as much enjoyment from viewing my image as I had in taking it.

I have also included two other well known photos by Adams.  "Winter Sunrise" was taken in the Lone Pine Valley and shows the daunting peak of Mt. Whitney (highest mountain in the continental USA) in the background.  To understand what it is like to hike up to the peak of Mt. Whitney at 14,505 feet, read my blog here.  For scale, take note of the horse on the valley floor in the foreground.  "Clearing Winter Storm" captures the wonder of the beautiful Yosemite Valley with its El Capitan granite monolith and Bridalveil Falls.


D W Orr

Environmentalist, Historic Preservationist, Weimaraner/Dachshund Companion, Blogger, and Photographer

Harford County, Maryland

October 23, 2016

"Moonrise Over Hernandez", 1941, by Ansel Adams

Moonrise Over CorollaMoonrise Over CorollaInspiration from Ansel Adams

"Moonrise Over Corolla", 2016, by D W Orr

76577032, Thu Apr 23, 2009, 4:43:51 PM, 8C, 7500x9598, (0+38), 125%, Various_16x20, 1/30 s, R33.8, G22.6, B31.3

"Winter Sunrise", 1944, by Ansel Adams.  See Mt. Whitney in far right background.  Refer to my Mt. Whitney Blog.

"Clearing Winter Storm", 1937, by Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams, taken between 1947-1950, and colorized by Loredana Crupi


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