Standing (literally) in the footsteps of Ansel Adams
If you've ever been inspired to photograph something after seeing an image created by another photographer, this story in the New York Times will resonate. The article is written by Dr. Kim Beil, an art historian at Stanford University, who spent weeks trying to figure out where Ansel Adams photographed "High Country Crags and Moon" (pictured above).
Beil conducted loads of research, including working with astronomers to determine the exact day, time and year Adams pressed the shutter on his view camera. Armed with that newfound information, Beil and her husband then hiked fifty miles over four days to find the exact spot where Adams once stood, see the landscape with their own eyes, and take their own photo.
As we climbed, a vast wall came into view to the west. Several hundred more steps took us up another set of switchbacks and onto a sloping rocky shelf. The Horn broke the horizon just north of the setting sun. I dropped my backpack and headed out farther onto the rock, following the remnants of an old trail. Pat called me back. Right at the intersection, where trail crews had placed knee-high boulders to funnel hikers to the modern route, the view nearly matched Adams’s photograph. The sun sank behind the ridge, and we inched the tripod around until all the striations on the rock lined up with Adams’s picture. We’d found it. Now we just had to wait for the moon.
Although Beil was clearly attempting to capture the same exact photo, with the same exact composition and light, I do not believe she was trying to copy Adams. Rather, I believe Beil was trying to untangle the mystery surrounding a photograph she clearly adored. To venture out into a remote landscape, stand on the same ground, and feel a deeper connection to Adams and his work. To see and perhaps better understand what drew Adams to that particular spot amongst miles of open desert landscape.
Looking at Adams' photo, it's understandable why she felt so captivated, with its moon perfectly counterbalancing the crag at frame left, the bright, sunlit beam of rock cutting across the frame, and the dark, foreboding shadow in the foreground. I haven't seen Adams' original negative, but my hunch is that Adams filtered the sky to turn it black, then aggressively burned the foreground in his darkroom to mirror the shape and tonality of the sky.
Some photographers would have likely discarded the photo for being too harsh and contrasty. But in black and white, and with Adams' legendary darkroom acumen, a graphical, abstract image was created that invites the viewer to see the natural world from a different angle. A contemporary take on the western American landscape, captured nearly a century ago.
The article also includes historical background on Adams and the important role his photography has played, so it's a good primer for those unfamiliar with his work. The article is unfortunately behind a paywall, but as a subscriber I may "gift" the article to a few others. If interested, try the link below to check it out.
Recommended: Landscape photography with Joe Cornish and Colin Prior
Sigma UK has launched a three-episode series of landscape photography videos on YouTube starring Joe Cornish and Colin Prior. The beautifully filmed series follow Joe and Colin as they photograph the highlands of Scotland, a place I hope to visit someday and photograph myself. Sigma's involvement is mostly just product placement as Joe and Colin discuss photographing Scotland, their favorite focal lengths, composition, and light (of course). An enjoyable way to spend some free time. Check out the trailer below.
Sneak preview: Freewell K2 filter system
Freewell will soon be launching a new, all-in-one filter system named K2 that supports magnetized variable NDs, solid NDs, plus special effect filters including diffusion mist, gradient NDs and "cinamorphic" light streaks. I've been using K2 for the past few weeks, and will be sharing a complete review when the product goes live on Indiegogo.
You'll receive another email from me when that happens, but if you'd also like to receive official updates from Freewell, head over to their K2 Indiegogo landing page and enter your email address.
$50 off Video AI from Topaz Labs
Now through March 31 you can pickup Video AI for $249 (that's $50 off its regular price). I reviewed this app a few months ago, and found it to be an indispensable tool for creating slow motion footage from any source (see example above originally shot at 24fps in Iceland using a drone). The app also intelligently stabilizes shaky footage, removes noise, upscales video to higher resolutions (eg, HD to 4K), and also does a great job enhancing clarity and detail in general. I used Video AI on a number of clips in my recent vintage car junkyard photography video.
If you work with video, Video AI is pretty fantastic. If interested, click the button below to download a free trial and also get $50 off if you dig it and decide to pick up a paid license.
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