Ansel Adams

Feb 20, 1902 - Apr 22, 1984

Photographer, Environmentalist

Ansel Adams's Inspiration

Ansel's influence on my photography is foundational. When photography was merely a curiosity, it was both Ansel's body of work and his educational writings that guided my path. His emphasis on the craft of photography and the ability to control every aspect of the photographic process convinced me to make my first camera system purchase, an all manual Nikon FM-2N with two pro-grade lenses. I worked for a Bank at the time and took out my first bank loan to pay for it, a nearly $5,000 expense. While the camera is retired, the lenses are still used today.

Ansel's book series, "The Camera", "The Negative", and "The Print" were instrumental in my initial development. While I photographed in color, I eventually adopted a modified version of Ansel's Zone System for my own exposure practice which I still employ today. And Ansel's concept of visualization still informs my ability to see the potential of photographs in the field as final Cibachrome prints in the darkroom.

Digital photography co-opted Ansel's photographic philosophy in many ways that trouble me. You couldn't read a single issue of the popular Outdoor Photographer without an article referencing Ansel to inform some modern day context of photographing. The recurrent theme in many of these articles was "Be like Ansel". Nothing philosophically could be further from the truth of Ansel's intent. Ansel's dedication to photography was to educate and empower students to develop their own unique skills and vision.

I am one of those lucky students.

About Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams, a landscape photographer and environmentalist, is best known for his black and white images of the American West. He was a founding member of the photography club “f/64” along with other avant garde photographers such as Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham. Together they helped move artistic photography away from the heavily manipulated “pictorial” style of the Edwardian era into a new “straight” style, focusing on sharply focused, carefully framed images in a full tonal range. A lifelong environmentalist and member of the Sierra Club, for which many of his photographs have become synonymous, Adams had a profound influence on the creation and conservation of wilderness parks and reserves in the American West. For his work in protecting and expanding the National Park System, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.

A young Ansel Adams with view camera

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.

- Ansel Adams