This is a compilation of statements recorded in Ansel Adams’ book, “Examples”. My intention is to point out some of the “goofs” of one of photography’s patron saints that have probably been perpetrated by all of us at one time or other.
The objective is to generate a little levity in a world sometimes beset by ponderous pomposity, ego and arrogance. Of course I’m not any of these nor do I make these errors – however I’m not sure about you.
1. Page 4 "I made a picture of the North Dome complex, but I overexposed it (I think I forgot to stop down the lens!)."
2. Page 4 "I had only one plate left, and was aware of my poverty."
3. Page 12 "And, unfortunately, when I developed the film a month later, I apparently used fatigued … developer."
4. Page 41 "…I could not find my Weston meter! The situation was desperate: the low sun was trailing the edge of clouds in the West, and the shadow would soon dim the white crosses."
5. Page 42 "Because of my unfortunate disregard for the dates of my negatives…."
6. Page 57 "Several times previously I had struggled through the steep sands with a heavy pack only to find I was too late for the light or I encountered lens-damaging wind-blown sand."
7. Page 69 "I have made many prints that are too heavy because, in trying for maximum richness, I simply over-printed them. I have also made prints that are too light, as a thoughtless rebound from the heavy images."
8. Page 72 "The picture haunts me." … I have not yet made the print I desire."
9. Page 72 "Experience and practice usually recognize such value-control problems, yet I admit I have failed on many occasions because I accepted the visual, rather than anticipating the film's response to values and colors."
10. Page 76 "… I was unloading my gear from a float plane to a small launch and the case containing all the exposed film of the trip fell into the shallow water."
11. Page 77 "Mosquitoes are a real threat; in reversing the back of my view camera I have trapped them in the bellows and they came to rest on the film, appearing as silhouettes of airplanes in the skies of some negatives."
12. Page119 "I sometimes trust my intuitions over my meter, and not always with good results."
13. Page 129 "…but I had lost my blue filter . I used a green filter (Wratten No. 58), which better defined the sunlit areas; it also darkened the shadows in the recess."
14. Page 139 " I have had disheartening failures because I overlooked some significant detail."
15. Page 142 "I have not yet made a print that fully satisfies me."
16. Page 145 " I was very excited and fumbled my meter, dropped my focusing cloth and inadvertently kicked the tripod leg."
17. Page 150 "…I stupidly used a film speed of ASA 64 for Panatomic film instead of ASA 32."
18. Page 155 "While drying, the roll slipped out of the clothespin on the drying wire, fell to the floor and was stepped on!"
This is a wonderful text, easily read and understood. Mr. Adams speaks in a frank and honest way on topics that we should all be aware of when on assignment. It is a peek into the very approachable personality of one of the world’s good photographic image-makers and instructors.
The text is from Ansel Adams “Examples: the Making of 40 Photographs”, Little. Brown and Company, 1989. ISBN 0-8212-1750-X
Just goes to show you that no matter how much time passes and what your artistic goals were when making a photograph and whether or not those goals were achieved, that you'll still always look at a certain photo and think, "Damn! That was the one where I kicked the tripod!"
Ah...well, A.A. is a light weight when it comes to mistakes....perfect example...place film holder on camera...remove the dark slide on the sheet facing the ground glass not the lens...
Try and top that....:P
I had noticed his mention of most of those fumbles when I read 41 Examples, but it's really impressive to see them all together. I have noticed that large format photographers seem to be humble about their abilities. These contraptions seem to be a great equalizer.
Since we're chatting about Ansel...
On my trip to the US I got to see an AA photograph at the Museum of Natural History in DC. Hard to believe but I've never seen an original print of his. I was very impressed and at the same time relieved. In the past flipping through his photo books I always felt I would never have a chance to pull off work like Ansel's. Seeing one of his prints in real life I was able to examine every inch of it, and as fantastic as it was, it was not as 'super human' as I imagined it would be. I got a feel for what went into it and how it was created, and I felt like reaching that level IS possible for anyone who is driven and dedicated enough. He nailed the subject matter, exposure, film development, enlargement, paper development, and display. It was really inspiring and I can't wait to begin my LF journey...
#12 is my favourite, an example I have emulated on numerous occasions.
On the other hand, I went to an exhibition of "160 years of photographic art" last week. I could spot the sole AA print right across the room...
On the third hand, I could also spot no fewer than three original Julia Margaret Cameron prints from the same distance, and she was never known for her technical perfection ;)
The quote on page 145, (16.) is from a session which yielded my favorite portrait ever. When I saw it I immediately went out and bought an 8 x 10. He never made a better picture.
Here's one. When photographing one evening in Tennessee many years ago the exposure was long becasue the light was failing. When the 10 minutes I had calculated were up I added another 10 and then yet 7 or 8--the light was fading very fast. Exposure over, I removed the lens from the camera, put it in my lens bag and only then realized that I had forgotten to put the dark slide back in.
Michael A. Smith
I am sure we all have had similiar goofs, forgeting to pull the slide, not loading both sides of the film holder, getting the chemestry in the wrong order.
Here is a funny experience I had years ago. I was in south Jersey shooting the front of the Noyes Museum with my 4x5 Sinar F when a gentleman approached me and asked, "Where's the rest of the camera?" Obviously he was joking, so I said, "There's plenty of camera right here." He then showed me what he was carrying, an oil painting of the legendery, demonic "Jersey Devil." He said he was going into the museum to see if it was worth anything.
I then asked him very seriously, straight faced, "Now, did he pose for that or did he give you a photograph to use?" He then gave me a shocked look as if I was the Jersey Devil himself, and without saying a word, hurried away in silence, leering at me from over his shoulder.
I wasn't joking, was I? :wink: