Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams by Arnold Newman.

Ansel Adams by Arnold Newman.

Ansel Adams is known to some as much for his technique as he is for his actual photographs. I can understand why this is the case for some, considering the perfection he demanded from his prints, and especially in considering the work he put into teaching and promoting his techniques. Though some balk at the idea of valuing precision so highly, I take inspiration from his desire to produce the best possible image.

The easy part of this inspiration comes from such simple concepts as making sure detail remains in shadows and highlights, and this is certainly good. However, it was Adams' unwavering demand to accomplish what he saw in his mind's eye that helps him stand out among the photographers who have influenced me.

The way Adams patterned his Zone System and therefore his concept of images after musical scales helped me visual photography in a different way. His endless test printing, measuring and refining of technique helps inspire me to go the extra mile.  His talk of "previsualizing" the image still helps me understand what I want to accomplish and learn how to achieve it.

Reading about Adams' breakthrough with Monolith, the Face of Half Dome helped me understand I was not just trying to document what something looks like, but that I also want to record how something feels.

I have had the fortune of learning from and working for O. Rufus Lovett, longtime Kilgore College photography instructor, who was able to attend and then teach at two Ansel Adams workshops before Adams' death. Through well-kept handouts and recollections, I have been able to glean some insight into Adams and at least learn several things in merely second-hand fashion. It seems silly, but I do truly appreciate the close ties in my education.

Though I am increasingly influenced by more contemporary photographers, the groundwork of my photographic education and mindset are firmly planted in the ideas and work of Ansel Adams.