The man was an innovator and pioneer who not only developed some of the modern techniques that brought photography into the modern age, but the images that he captured are still reprinted and sold today, cementing his legacy of one of the greatest photographers to ever hold a camera.
Introduction Of The Zone System
One of the greatest contributions from Ansel Adams photography is the zone system, which he developed with his friend, Fred Archer.
Although Adams openly admitted that this system was not an invention that he created, he did refine the ideas of past photographers and organized them into a system that was easily accessible for everyone.
With the Zone System, photographers can easily separate their overall images into different components in order to properly judge exposure and focus. In fact, whenever you are looking through your DSLR and you see dots or boxes in your viewfinder that you can use to fine tune your settings, you are using his system.
Found Image Philosophy
Ever the lover of all things nature, Ansel Adams was a huge proponent of the found image philosophy. This philosophy that is followed by so many nature photographers states that photographs should simply be found in nature by keen eyes, rather than created for the enjoyment of the viewer.
This means that photographers should never change or damage the beauty of the natural beauty of the subjects that they are capturing, but rather use their instincts and talent to capture what is already there in the most appealing and captivating way.
Adams really began supporting this idea during one of his many nature walks through Yosemite National Park. On this walk, he came across a clearing where another photographer had taken it upon himself to clear and area on an outlook of any plant life that got in the way of his camera.
In doing so, he created a huge hole through the natural branches and shrubbery of the area in order to set up and get his shot. The damage that he created was now a permanent part of the park and the pristine virginal beauty of the area would never be seen by anyone ever again.
The Founding Of Group f/64
In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, Ansel Adams, along with a group of likeminded photographers, created Group f/64 as a response to the growing number of people involved with the pictorialist movement in photography.
Much like his stance on found images, this group stood for visual styles that expressed natural, well composed images that told their own story, rather than the newer movement that manipulated the natural state of things in order to tell the story that the photographer wanted to tell.
Once again, in the story of Ansel Adams photography, he stood up for the natural beauty that encompasses the world, rather than changing it to suit another person’s ideals. These philosophies can still be seen battling each other today. All you have to do is compare an image from National Geographic to anything that can be seen on social media or photographers who rely heavily on Photoshop.
Reading about Ansel Adams photography is simply not enough if you enjoy his visual style. His legacy also includes many technical books that are still printed to this day.
Covering subjects from cameras and lenses, all of the way to natural versus artificial light and even printing out your work, these books are a treasure trove of information that is still useful to this very day.
In fact, even though most photographic work takes place in computers, by understanding how it was done in Adam’s day, you will gain a much deeper understanding of what it is that you are now doing with the click of a mouse, not to mention where all of those strange Photoshop words like “dodge” and “burn” really come from.
In understanding what these techniques actually were, you will; have a much better understanding of why they do the things that they do on you monitor.
Legacy Of Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams died in 1984 and left behind a massive collection of work in the form of both prints and negatives. These testaments to his skill and talent are still printed under the supervision of his publishing trust.
His work was so beloved by people at the time of his passing that an archive is still on display at the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Very rarely does someone come along and leave such a mark on the world. Ansel Adams was a very singular person whose raw talent and gift for learning the technical trade made him an icon who should inspire every new photographer today.