Trying To Understand Ansel Adam's Books
I'm very serious about my B&W photography, shooting as well as darkroom. I'm coming from a creative angle, but I do want to understand the technical or scientific side of what's taking place. So, when I start reading for instance "The Negative", I find it frustrating and difficult to comprehend, let alone relate to.
Keep at it. It eventually begins to make sense.
Yeah I still don't have it all down. I am on the third read of "The Negative".
Is there a particular topic that you find difficult or all chapters are confusing?
I happen to enjoy the author's writing style and it is one of my favorite readings on B&W. It is a slow reading, though.
Anything Ansel Adams or Zone System related is not a "Instant Coffee" moment. It will take many readings and likely attempts at replicating the images (or frustrations related to that end) to get under the philosophy related to this level of artisan imaging. If you know of a Analog photog in your area.......this is all worth a conversation.
Best of luck, it is a great journey (it never ends).........
Originally Posted by DF
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Read, Try, Scream, Read Again
I read through "The Camera" pretty quickly and I have gone back to read some sections a few times for some specific information.
But I have read and re-read "The Negative" numerous times. I probably should have put a black tick mark inside the front cover for each time but I am back at it again. There is such a huge amount of information presented there that it is impossible for me to assimilate it all at once.
My reading process for this book is like this:
A - Read the book, or parts in the book.
B - Go out and try to do the things presented in the book.
C - Partially or completely fail,
D - Go back and read again.
E - Continue to practice until I actually begin to master the technique.
F - Move on to another section.
The same thing holds true for "The Print."
I have read a bunch of books on photography, and there are several I rely on, but these three really are my basic photography textbooks. I may outgrow them one day...maybe.
The Negative is quite vague in places, paradoxical in others and does not carry over well into active practice. I've spoken with many photographers that have a disdain for Adams and his teachings, preferring to learn to meter their way (this includes me: I mastered spot, duplex spot, incident and reflective long before I came across the first Adams book!) through trial and error; this has merit of course on an individual basis. Adams was a method photographer and his methods are solid foundation in reasoning and theory, but many do have difficulty grasping what is being said. Here is a suggestion. Put the book down. Just go out with a spot meter and meter a scene v.i.z., hi, midtone, low then average, then shoot. Work your way along there and take notes as you go.
“The photographer must determine how he wants the finished print to look before he exposes the negative.
Before releasing the shutter, he must seek 'the flame of recognition,' a sense that the picture would reveal
the greater mystery of things...more clearly than the eyes see." ~Edward Weston, 1922.
I really like Adam's Photography and I have used the Zone System. Nevertheless, I found Adam's description of the ZS in The Negative the most frustrating, obtuse and confusing description out there. Why flounder around trying to understand something presented in such an opaque manner. Go get "The Practical Zone System" by Johnston. Read it and follow the lessons. The zone system will then make sense. Then go back and read Adams--all will finally fall into place.
My dad gave me a copy of The Negative and The Print for Christmas. OK I already had them, but still not an unwelcome gift.
I just picked up on his advice to have Dektol and Selectol Soft stock on hand and mix them in various proportions to get intermediate grades... Now why didn't I do that 10 years ago when I first read it? Why don't I do that now, especially since I am committed to graded paper? Well maybe since I only have one bag of Selectol Soft. But so simple an idea. And how many times you can read a book cover to cover and not pick up a detail.
That's why I love these books, sure they are full of information. But you can go back later and get something you missed before.
I guess that's what's so great about photography. You can excell at it reguardless of whether you're left-brained or right. 'Course if you left-leaning, it'll show in your photos - aesthetically that is.