Ansel Adams had more influence on me than I thought.


I’ve been slowly working my way through Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs. I would say “reading”, but it’s mostly photographs. In any case, I’m really enjoying this extensive collection.

What’s most interesting to me is that the book breaks his works into decades. I made it through the 40’s last night and it’s really neat to see the progression from seemingly documentary, to much more artistic and skillful compositions.

I also ran across some surprises. I know that Ansel’s work has influenced my style to some degree, but I didn’t realize how similar some of our compositions were. For instance, I didn’t realize that he had photographed at Bodie until I saw this photo in the book.

Ansel Adam's 1938 photograph of Bodie, California

Ansel Adam’s 1938 photograph of Bodie, California

Unaware, I took almost the same composition when I was there.

"Downtown" (2012)

“Downtown” (2012)

Judging from the background hills and buildings, I think he was a bit closer than I was and used a wider angle. It was also a different time of day and probably season, and of course I was blessed with some awesome clouds which I based my composition around. But when I saw his photograph, I was amazed. I felt connected to him, like we had the same vision of this place.

The same thing when I saw his “White House Ruins”.

Ansel's "White House Ruins"

Ansel’s “White House Ruins”

I had seen this photograph before, and loved it, but I hadn’t studied it closely or commited it to memory. I love Ansel’s composition, but I actually prefer the contrast and detail of Eliot Porter’s version. The contrast in this particular photograph is part of what inspired me to process my photographs the way I do. There are more highlights and shadows than there are mid-tones, giving it a very stark and textured quality.


Eliot Porter’s White House

So my take was a blend of both, except I cropped out all the foliage at the bottom to keep it “clean” and included two buzzards in the sky, which I think completes the photograph.

White House - After ProcessingIt’s actually a difficult site to shoot because the ruins themselves are fenced off so it’s impossible to get close for a wider angle. That’s why most compositions of the location end up looking similar overall. It’s the minor details and processing that sets them apart.

Anyway, if you’d like to study some of Ansel’s work and don’t have access to his photographs on display, this is an excellent book.