1958 Documentary About the Single Most Influential Landscape Photographer

In this documentary from 1958, we'll get to see first hand what founding father of modern photography, Ansel Adams, dropped in his camera bag before he went on a shoot in Yosemite National Park, as well as some rather juicy technical tidbits.

One of the most influential (landscape) photographers has to be Ansel Adams. Adams, who together with Fred Archer invented the Zone System, as a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print; a prelude to post-processing in digital photography.

The resulting clarity and depth characterized his photographs. Adams primarily used large-format cameras. Their high resolution helped to ensure sharpness in his images.

While Adams did not work exclusively in black and white, he preferred working like this for two main reasons, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Firstly, he felt colour could be distracting, and could therefore divert an artist’s attention from the achievement of his full potential when taking a photograph. Adams argued that he could get “a far greater sense of ‘colour’ through a well-planned and executed black-and-white image than he had ever achieved with colour photography."

The second reason was that Adams was a control freak. He wrote many books about technique, and along with the development of the Zone System, Adams advocated for the idea of previsualisation, which involved the photographer imagining what he wanted his final print to look like before he even exposed the film. This approach was intended to give the photographer the highest possible degree of control over all of the variables that factor into a final print. Because of his love for control, Adams disliked colour since he believed that the colour processes available at the time lacked the technical controls that he had mastered with black and white.

With this original footage documenting the creative life of Ansel Adams, this 1958 documentary reveals Adams' technical approach to photography, the cameras and related gear he carried to the field, and his thoughts on the artistic horizons of photography.

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6 Comments

Spy Black's picture

When I first got into photography I was a total Adams freak, shooting B&W and doing the whole 10-tone system thing. Around '75 Time-Life put out a limited edition signed picture book of Adam's work, which I bought. When I got the book I went through it and marveled at all the perfect 10-tone mountains, 10-tone forests, and then I came upon a beautiful scene that included a perfect 10-tone....................................rainbow.

I never shot another roll of B&W again...

Simon Patterson's picture

The article is a well written introduction to Adams and the attached video. Great work!

Is there an article coming up soon about a new Canon lens? Maybe that's where the missing "L" from this article's headline went... ;-)

Um, lol?

Alex Cooke's picture

Thanks!

Simon Patterson's picture

I see it is now fixed, good work F Stoppers! :-)

Rodford Smith's picture

Adams, himself, credited the work of photographer Carleton Watkins with sparking his interest in Yosemite.