Ansel Adams Exhibit

I finally broke away to see the Ansel Adams Exhibit at the Arlington Museum. The exhibit closes tomorrow. Nothing like waiting to the last minute. I’m familiar with Adams’ canonical Yosemite work. I was hoping the exhibit would expand my knowledge of the artist. The collection of 48 works we selected for this exhibit that include a nice sampling of his career displayed on the first two floors of the museum.

I found the captions for each picture to be very enlightening as they highlighted the mechanics of Adam’s style. His signature elements are multiple horizons, incredible tones, and complete depth of field. When you think that he was working with 8½ x 11 negative plates and controlling his exposure by removing the lens cap, it boggles the mind at the quality of his work. I can only ape in admiration.

There is a photograph on the second floor of a fallen log in some sort of forest scene. When I first looked at it the photograph really bothered me. I had a visceral abhorrence to it. I quickly moved on. One of the elderly ladies working the museum asked me what I thought about the photo. I said honestly that I didn’t like it. It did not belong in the collection. It was… blurry. It turns out it was one of Adams’ first pictures and an experiment with a soft focus lens that was in common use at the time. It is an anomaly for this collection where all his other work is in black and white in perfect clarity.

The exhibit featured a PBS special on his life that I’ll need to watch on my AppleTV. There was only passing reference to his work in color. There was a great quote that a noted. Adams’ did not like to do much dark room magic and manipulation. He preferred to get the image in the camera. But he did talk about getting his prints onto paper. He chose simple glossy paper as the best tool to show you his images. Being a pianist he saw the negative like the music score and the print like a performance. They should be judged accordingly.

Below are three pictures that I took last weekend. I have rendered them in black and white. I did not have clear skies for my pictures. I prefer the bokeh focus on the macro for the leaves. And I did not have sixty years of practice. I am inspired to go to Yosemite and Tetons to see the places in his pictures and try for myself.


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