Ansel Adams – Creative Photography — Sandra Wagner

The discussion on Andy Goldsworthy push me to share Ansel Adams – He is most famous for his photography journey through Yosemite. His medium is the camera and black and white film. We spent 5 days camping in Yosemite this past week and renewing the wonders of his art. He is my all time favorite artist who stands behind the camera. Most of his work has been the natural wonders of the high country and the valley tucked into the Sierra Nevadas. He was born in CA in 1902 and at the age of 14 made his first trip to what was to become Yosemite Natl. Park – he wrote “from that day in 1916, my life jas been colored and modulated by the great earth-gesture of the Sierra” (Our National Parks Ansel Adams). He did not help to build nature only to preserve it for all. He spent his life fighting to aquire more national parks and save our earth

I have included some pictures from the “Our National Parks” book. My favorite of his photos is the Moon over Half Dome (my husband and I climbed Half Dome – from the back side on our honeynoon 50 yr. ago). I don’t have any questions regarding this just wanted to share my love of the art – after being sparked by Goldsworthy.


View into Yosemite Valley entrance from the south, Yosemite National Park, 1935


Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point, Yosemite 1948


Death Valley National Park, Zabriski Point, CA 1942


Devils Post Pile National Monument CA 1946


Sand Bar, Rio Grande River – Big Bend National Park, Texas 1947


In the Crater of Haleakala, Clouds, Haleakala National Park, Hawaii 1948


One of mine – the canopy from the valley floor. 2007

9 Responses to “Ansel Adams – Creative Photography — Sandra Wagner”

  1. 1 sandyw June 20, 2007 at 11:37 am

    June I don’t work serenely since what I see in my head does not always translate well to the fiber so then I see it as not complete, good etc and sometimes end up going the safe route to get it done and out of my sight.


  2. 2 June June 20, 2007 at 8:42 am


    You may have hit on why I am currently in a state of irk-dom about Adams — it’s because I’m trying to find my own way with landscape and his images loom altogether too large in my mind. I have to wrangle with him a bit (Jacob and the angel?) to make my way to my own vision.

    I often find this is the case for me — I sort of fight my way through to my own style, and arguing (if only with myself) about those giants who block my view is one way of figuring out the battle plans. Terrible metaphor, sorry.

    Does anyone else have to mentally engage in wrangling and arguing and fighting with other’s visions in order to achieve one’s own? Or do you all work serenely, happy in your studios with fabric and texture?

  3. 3 sandyw June 19, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    June I know I will never be able to do the landscape either in fabric, paint or photography and I guess that is why I love his work so much. Also we spent our honeymoon in Yosemite covering so much of the area and I guess I just have a soft spot for the landscape and his work.


  4. 4 sandyw June 19, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Tricia how close we came to each other we were there from 6-10-15th and covered many of the places you were at.


  5. 5 June June 19, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Eileen and all,

    Not just cranky but incoherent as I now re-read what I wrote. Sorry.

    Perhaps my crankiness comes because I myself can’t get away from seeing what Adams showed us, even when I want to. Or if I don’t see it, it’s because I’m hot and tired (and cranky) and miss it.

    A funny response — just the kind of rebellion that might seem good in a 20 year old but a lot less charming in a 65 year old (insert snort)

    It would be foolish of me to see Adams as less just because I can’t be more….. My most ‘umble apologies.

  6. 6 Tricia McKellar June 19, 2007 at 11:50 am

    I was camping in yosemite last week! (June 9-16) Some of my photos are here: That collection includes photos I thought interesting for family and friends and the raw photos did not get proper processing– maybe I’ll post more of the 700+ water shots I took and post a link. I bought a book there– “Art of an American Icon” which is art inspired by yosemite, but haven’t looked at it yet. When composing landscape shots, I did invariably hear a voice asking how far I was from the ground zero of Ansel Adams Perfection. It wasn’t necessarily a bad question to ponder. — Tricia (Raleigh, NC)

  7. 7 eileen doughty June 18, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    I have two reproductions of Adams’ work in my home. One if of Denali (Mount McKinley), the other is taken straight down, of ferns. The two are obviously at opposite ends of the “vista” spectrum. My husband and I bought them many years ago at the National Gallery in Washington, DC. I can’t remember why we chose those two, but I enjoy them now partly because when I look at them they don’t register to my eye as simply black and white. Adams was a master not only of composition but also of value.

    Several years ago I saw a TV special, no doubt on PBS, about his life and his work. I recall watching him work in his darkroom and learning that there was more to developing a photograph than dipping film in a tank. He was doing all kinds of “dodging” and other methods to bring out or tone down contrasts to specific areas of the photographic print. Now we can do that so easily in programs like Photoshop or Gimp, playing with various commands and numbers and curves (and hitting ‘reset’ if we don’t like the results). It was a revelation to me back then that photographers could ‘edit’ their photography during processing; that the success of the photograph wasn’t entirely decided at the moment of pressing the shutter button.

    and June, you do sound a bit cranky and a bit unfair to modern landscape photographers. Or is it like seeing drip painting and only being able to think of Pollack? Maybe we should think back to the painters of huge landscapes pre-photography, like Albert Bierstadt or Frederick Church.

  8. 8 June June 18, 2007 at 8:28 am


    At the risk of being thought cranky, I have to ask if we aren’t in some sense spoiled by Ansel Adams. Let me explain.

    It’s almost impossible to take photos of awesome landscapes without doing an Adams-only-not-so-good photograph. We see the landscape through his eyes and so can’t help but imitate him. All big landscapes are now awesome, magnificent, throat-clenching.

    2nd, it’s almost impossible to see a landcape except as an Adams’ imitation. Except, when you are there in person, the “Adams’ landscapes” are sometimes terrifying (heat, height, rattlesnakes), dangerous, scary, boring (they look like photographs), and/or ugly. Or so I can testify, having traveled with a whining 2 year old hundreds of miles in a VW beetle to get to an Ansel Adams’ viewpoint.

    We forget there are other ways to see those views.

    I think just because of Adams I want to see more Hockney and other photographers who refuse the “like-A.-but-less” view. I’m trying to remember the name — Rackstraw Downes? — of the photographer and painter who does industrial landscapes (like Hockney, from varied viewpoints collapsing them together to make you feel slightly out of synch.)Ah, found him —

    Or maybe I’m just jaded and it’s Monday morning. But I do think Goldsworthy’s humility in the face of dead herons and his insistence of the largeness of smallness, if you will, is one way to overcome the ubiquitous nature of Adams’ views. It isn’t Adams’ “fault”, of course, that he captures what we would like life to be. But I still think that to see afresh we have to get around him somehow.

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