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  1. #21
    Maris's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Noosa, Queensland, Australia.
    Multi Format
    Like a lot of stuff in photography I tend to think of the black sky effect backwards. Sure, Ansel knew how to use a deep red filter against a deep blue sky to darken it. That part is easy. It is the additional darkening in the final gelatin-silver photograph by "burning in" that thrills me.

    Making a sky dark by exposing paper to more photons is easy but why is the foreground not darkened too? Because something has been interposed in the exposing light beam to stop it getting to the foreground part of the picture. This process is, I believe, called "dodging". It seems that to "burn in" a sky is effectively the same thing as to "dodge" a foreground.

    I once went through the actions of hand dodging a landscape photograph without the negative in the enlarger. Instead I inserted grey filter material of an average density equivalent to the actual negative. Intriguingly I got an image (blurry and out of focus, of course) and realised that it must be a primary photograph of my hands. Because photographic paper is negative acting primary photographs of sillhouetted hands are pale.

    Next I put the negative into the enlarger and did the exposing and dodging in the conventional way. The final picture on gelatin-silver paper could be considered as a primary photograph of two things; the negative in the enlarger head and my hands in the light beam.

    I have a small Ansel Adams photograph (all I could afford) that is strongly burned (= dodged) and I get goosebumps to realise that the in paler part of it, mixed up with all the image detail, is a primary photograph of Ansel's shadow play in the enlarger beam.

    As I say, a strange way of looking at things.
    Photography, the word itself, invented and defined by its author Sir John.F.W.Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society, Somerset House, London. Quote "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..". unquote.

  2. #22
    CPorter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    West KY
    4x5 Format
    Quote Originally Posted by jovo View Post
    A master, absolutely, but capable of missteps...absolutely as well.
    Yes, he was very aware of his own fallibility.

    But I don't know that I could characterize it as a misstep; I think it certainly points to a later interpretation of his Mt. McKinley negative. For whatever reason, he printed it with a heavier mood. Just my two cents.


  3. #23
    Vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Humboldt Co.
    8x10 Format
    Quote Originally Posted by agenkin View Post

    I've recently been to an Ansel Adams' exhibit, and one thing, with which I was puzzled, was that in many of his landscapes the sky was really dark. Like, for example in the famous Monolith.
    Just for general information. I was talking to a friend tonight on the phone. He just got back from Arizona and he got a look at the original glass plate negative of the Monolith. It is in five pieces. It had survived the studio fire(somewhat damaged), but not the test of time.

    I am not particulary fond of overly darkened skies. As a steady diet, I find them a bit boring...just like photographers who shoot color, but never take the polarizing filter off their camera.

    But unlike Jovo, I will not judge another photographer's decision-making ability by my own likes and dislikes. An apprentice may judge a master's work, but at the risk of sounding a little petty. I can understand if Ansel has played a piece light and airy for a long time, that he might decide to pound the keyboard a little harder once in awhile.


  4. #24
    KenM's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Calgary, Alberta
    4x5 Format
    One thing I don't think I've see mentioned is that as Ansel aged, his eyesight started to fail. As a result, he may have been striving for more contrast in his prints, which led to heavier printing...

    Carlos Hererra (who used to run the Workshop program in Yosemite), through conversations with people who used to work with Ansel, was told that the workshop assistants used to do the final toning of the prints, since Ansel would take them much too far - he just couldn't see as well to judge when the prints where 'done'.

    So, in addition to a printers interpretation changing over time, physical changes may also play a role...


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