Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Ansel Adams Excuse


LED Abstract series 1-6
Originally uploaded by Dalantech.
This rant has been coming for a while; in fact it’s been on my mind since the very first post in this blog. I wasn’t sure how to explain it until recently but it finally dawned on me during a discussion of what makes a photo a photo. Buckle your seatbelt –the ride might get a little bumpy for some of you…

Ansel Adams is known for his mastery of the darkroom, and a lot of people use him as an excuse for why they use a certain tool in post processing. People will resort to an incredible degree of photo manipulation in Photoshop and when questioned about it will claim that they are only doing what Ansel did. Or if Mr. Adams had a copy of Photoshop then he would have used it too.

On the surface they are right…

But Ansel wasn’t just a master of the darkroom; he was also a master of light and composition. He lived in Yellowstone and he became so familiar with the weather patterns that he could tell if a sunset was going to be spectacular or if it was going to fizzle long before the sun got close to the horizon. Ansel knew when to press the shutter release, and when to pack up his gear and go home. Ansel Adams NEVER took snap shots and then tried to recover the images later in the darkroom. Granted he pushed the exposure limits of the film he was using, but he did it knowing what his post processing would do to the negative and the final print.

Mr. Adams used post processing as a tool to bring his creative vision to a print –he did not use it as a crutch to compensate for poor technique…

If you are justifying your post processing by claiming that Ansel Adams did it, or would have done it, then you are taking the man completely out of context! A big part of being a photographer is learning about all of the things that influence an image before you press the shutter release.

Note: Although it might look computer generated the image I’ve included with this post is a photograph and, like most of my images, I spent less than two minutes post processing it. As a photographer I don’t want the computer to become my primary photographic tool –that’s what the camera is for…

5 comments:

Mark said...

My thoughts exactly, MM

Dalantech said...

Thanks Mark!

Mark said...

Ansel Adams never lived in Yellowstone. I'm not even sure he visited there. He did travel to Yosemite, but he didn't live there. He did live in San Fransisco and Carmel.

Lomitus said...

Since comment moderation has been enabled, I do not know if this comment will make it live but I have to say that like the people you accuse of using Adam's as an excuse, you too have taken his work out of context. While it is true that his work wouldn't be what it is without his expert knowledge of the camera, his subject and his sense of composition, etc., likewise, his work with the camera would NOT be what it is without the darkroom work he did either. The two go hand in hand.

I'm sorry if this offends people but the truth is that this thing we call "photography" is a process and the ultimate goal of that process should always be the final print...not some pathetic competition of what someone can or can't do at the camera or in the darkroom or on a computer. You can have technical perfection at the camera end but if the image is boring to look at or your processing is really poor, you're simply no better than the person who tries to use Photoshop on those snapshots...in either case, no one is going to look at your images for long.

The work Ansel Adams created was a combination of his skills at the camera -and- his skills in the darkroom along with an outstanding sense of composition (something a lot of "technical" photographers seem to lack)...his work wouldn't be what it is without ALL these facets and your commentary really seems to miss that point entirely.

Dalantech said...

Hey Lomitus,
You should re-read my post: I did say that Ansel Adams had the entire process in mind when he took a shot.