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Thread: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

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    Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    For those of you who admire Ansel Adams work you may not know that he spent a good deal of time in Hawaii. Here is a slide show of some of his island images: http://www.staradvertiser.com/multim...el__Adams.html

    There will also be an Adams & O'Keeffe exhibit in July at the Honolulu Museum of Art: http://honolulumuseum.org/art/exhibitions/upcoming

    Enjoy...

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Thanks for the link, Shane. I had no idea...

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    I have all the respect in the world for Ansel Adams capabilities as a landscape photographer; he is great and his images are iconic. He deserves every bit of fame due him!

    However, I don't think that greatness necessarily stretched over to all other venues of photography. I don't think that the 13 images displayed on http://www.staradvertiser.com/multim...el__Adams.html are anywhere near the quality of Adam's landscapes and, IMO, the reason that at least one of those images (#6; the sign at the Kahulului Shopping Center) was given space was certainly not due to the quality of the snapshot but due to the fame of the photographer...

    I realize that commenting negatively on a famous photographer like Ansel Adams is tantamount to sacrilege. But, if you looked at all 13 of the Hawaii images without knowing the identity of the photographer, would you say that they were shot by a great photographer?
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 26th April 2013 at 05:17 AM.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    I'm going to come right out and say it ...

    I think Ansel Adams stood head and shoulders above his peers at the time -- and for that all the accolades bestowed upon him are well deserved. I also feel though that compared to modern works - undeniably achieved with all the advantages of modern technology - his images are pretty much "un-competitive" at the highest level by todays standards.

    I think it's a lot like formula one drivers of "yesteryear" - open seaters with no seat belts - minimal crash helmets - and high speeds; there were some great names like Fangio that stood out - but - put them in a modern car and they wouldn't be able to handle the G-Forces alone, with the level of fitness that they had. Outstanding drivers of their era, but un-competitive compared to modern standards,

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    I'm with Richard here. If you ignore knowing who shot the photos the majority are less than impressive and probably wouldn't even win a mini-competition here on cic. Although I did really like the helicopter shot and the pineapple canning line. As for the strip mall sign, i think he wanted to show hawaii acclimating to american culture. I think and correct me if I am wrong there was some resistance in the assimilation to U.S culture. If thats true it does somewhat explain the photo, but that said I still don't like it.

    Thanks for sharing. It was interesting to see these

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhoads238 View Post
    i think he wanted to show hawaii acclimating to american culture. I think and correct me if I am wrong there was some resistance in the assimilation to U.S culture. If thats true it does somewhat explain the photo, but that said I still don't like it.
    I often smile when I wonder if he's looking down on us all now and laughing because they were only holiday snaps that didn't mean anything special -- and here we all are trying to "unlock the hidden meaning"!

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Ansel Adams was absolutely great when it came to static landscapes of the "f/64 Club" variety. But when he ventured into the field of photojournalism; I don't think that he could hold a candle to many of his contemporary photographers such as Henri Cartier Bresson ( https://www.google.com/search?q=phot...w=1280&bih=582 ), Robert Capa ( https://www.google.com/search?q=phot...w=1280&bih=582 ), Margaret Bourke White ( https://www.google.com/search?q=phot...w=1280&bih=582 ) or Dorothea Lange ( https://www.google.com/search?q=phot...w=1280&bih=582 )...

    However, the iconic image of U.S. Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima (shown in the Robert Capa collecton above) is not Robert Capa's but, was shot by Joe Rosenthal for which he won the Pulitzer Prize and the everlasting gratitude of every U.S. Marine since then!!

    This is certainly not taking anything away from Ansel Adams; it's just being realistic. He was a different type of photographer!
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 26th April 2013 at 05:30 AM.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I often smile when I wonder if he's looking down on us all now and laughing because they were only holiday snaps that didn't mean anything special -- and here we all are trying to "unlock the hidden meaning"!
    It is definitely something to wonder. He took some of the most magnificent landscape photos and when you see him shoot something so mundane as a strip mall sign it makes you wonder what interested him in it.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Not sure if this is true or not but i just saw that he may have had adhd. Says the internet.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhoads238 View Post
    It is definitely something to wonder. He took some of the most magnificent landscape photos and when you see him shoot something so mundane as a strip mall sign it makes you wonder what interested him in it.
    Does that make him any different to any of us though? I for one have many landscape photos -- but many mundane "snap of the moment" ones as well.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    He may of been taking snapshots on holiday but also likely he had to take commercial material to provide money for his f/64 Art? I am sure I read that somewhere recently. When I visited the San Francisco 'A.A" place I was more interested in the work of a Japanese photographer showing then than the AA Landscapes ... that was in 1996.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    As a number of you know, I am great admirer of Adams' work (you don't spend several hundred pounds to fly to and from London for the sole purpose of spending 6 hours in an exhibition of his work that you know you'll probably never get the chance to see again, unless you count yourself 'a fan'). So, I think I know his work and understand his ways of working and thinking (insofar as he shared those with us), pretty well.

    I agree with what's written above. Hawaii was a bit of an 'off-topic' diversion. It was, sort of, a bit like you going on holiday/vacation and deciding to just take the P & S for amusement.

    In terms of the body of work for which he best known, you have to study that in the context of its time. I think Colin is right to that extent. If you are looking at the work to learn, then look at it from that perspective.

    I will argue that it still has so much to teach the aspiring landscape photographer in so many ways. Possibly most significant amongst these is how an image is built from it various elements and how they are all positioned in a frame; i.e. composition. I would suggest that there is a balance and harmony is Adams' great landscape images that is not there by accident.

    And if B & W is (as I believe it to be) about line, tone, shape & texture then when you see the Adams prints on a wall, you truly appreciate how good he was. The print I saw of 'Base of Upper Yosemite Fall' just completely blew me away with the richness and subtlety of tone and texture he got into that image. No reproduction in any book I've seen, can come near to capturing that.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    He may of been taking snapshots on holiday but also likely he had to take commercial material to provide money for his f/64 Art? I am sure I read that somewhere recently.
    You are right. It wasn't until quite late in his life that the fine art work started to yield him a decent income. Prior to that he had done commissioned work to support his art work. His stuff for government agencies was all commissioned.
    Last edited by Donald; 26th April 2013 at 06:36 AM.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I realize that commenting negatively on a famous photographer like Ansel Adams is tantamount to sacrilege. But, if you looked at all 13 of the Hawaii images without knowing the identity of the photographer, would you say that they were shot by a great photographer?
    I believe this scenario applies to all fields where the ability and talent of the individual is enhanced by the technology being used. As technology improves it creates opportunities for new talented individuals to become great names in their respective fields of expertise.
    It does not take away the achievements of their predecessors. Those pioneering technology to improve standards will always be considered to have been great men and/or women.

    What is emphasised by what Richard says is very true. You may be a great nature Photographer, but that does not necessarily make you a great portrait Photographer.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    As technology improves it creates opportunities for new talented individuals to become great names in their respective fields of expertise.
    I think it makes it harder because the bar is raised so much higher.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    I am neither as distinguished nor knowledgeable about photography and photographers as are Colin and Donald [and others on this site], and do not mean to disagree with them. However, all photographers of Adams' era had access to the same technology that he had, yet he was head and shoulders over everyone else in the quality of his images. Why? Because of his ability to "see" light, and shadow, and tonal variations and to understand shading and textures and how light played over all the elements of the scene he was shooting. If we had the omniscient ability to bring him back and give him the modern technology we are all using, my guess is that he would STILL be head and shoulders over us - because of that ability to see the interplay of light. That is, the technology he had, or that any of us have or don't have, is only part of the equation.

    Conversely, over and over again, we are told that great images can be made with inexpensive, low tech equipment, that we can make great images without the expense of professional grade technology. The point I am trying to make here, albeit rather poorly, is that Adams' artistic ability, his ability to "see" and understand the interplay of light, was far more important to his overall IQ than the technology he was using. If he had a 1Dx or a top of the line Nikon or Leica, with its superior glass, his images would be still better than those he made years ago.

    So although it is appropriate to judge his images in the context of his time, I'm betting he would be still better with modern technology.

    Zen

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by zen View Post
    I am neither as distinguished nor knowledgeable about photography and photographers as are Colin and Donald [and others on this site], and do not mean to disagree with them. However, all photographers of Adams' era had access to the same technology that he had, yet he was head and shoulders over everyone else in the quality of his images. Why? Because of his ability to "see" light, and shadow, and tonal variations and to understand shading and textures and how light played over all the elements of the scene he was shooting. If we had the omniscient ability to bring him back and give him the modern technology we are all using, my guess is that he would STILL be head and shoulders over us - because of that ability to see the interplay of light. That is, the technology he had, or that any of us have or don't have, is only part of the equation.

    Conversely, over and over again, we are told that great images can be made with inexpensive, low tech equipment, that we can make great images without the expense of professional grade technology. The point I am trying to make here, albeit rather poorly, is that Adams' artistic ability, his ability to "see" and understand the interplay of light, was far more important to his overall IQ than the technology he was using. If he had a 1Dx or a top of the line Nikon or Leica, with its superior glass, his images would be still better than those he made years ago.

    So although it is appropriate to judge his images in the context of his time, I'm betting he would be still better with modern technology.

    Zen
    I hear what you're saying - but I'm still not so sure I agree. He certainly was great at "seeing the light and the composition", but as you point out, advancing technology really doesn't have an influence on that part of it - and the bottom line is that there are a LOT of photographers who are as competent (or even more so) at "seeing the light & composition".

    I suspect that if he were alive today then that (unchanged) ability would probably place him alongside the greats of today ... but not head and shoulders above him.

    Interestingly, I like to use the example of Michael Schumacher; Formula 1 driving legend - head and shoulders above his competition for many years. He retired - and a few years later - made a comeback - but (with equal hardware) was comprehensively beaten by his team mate (Nico Rosberg). Now that Nico has a new team mate (Lewis Hamilton) he is in-turn getting out-paced most of the time. Conclusion? Michael Schumacher as a driver is no better than several of the current generation. Or put another way, many of the current generation are as a good a drivers as Michael was at his prime.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I hear what you're saying - but I'm still not so sure I agree. He certainly was great at "seeing the light and the composition", but as you point out, advancing technology really doesn't have an influence on that part of it - and the bottom line is that there are a LOT of photographers who are as competent (or even more so) at "seeing the light & composition".

    I suspect that if he were alive today then that (unchanged) ability would probably place him alongside the greats of today ... but not head and shoulders above him.

    Interestingly, I like to use the example of Michael Schumacher; Formula 1 driving legend - head and shoulders above his competition for many years. He retired - and a few years later - made a comeback - but (with equal hardware) was comprehensively beaten by his team mate (Nico Rosberg). Now that Nico has a new team mate (Lewis Hamilton) he is in-turn getting out-paced most of the time. Conclusion? Michael Schumacher as a driver is no better than several of the current generation. Or put another way, many of the current generation are as a good a drivers as Michael was at his prime.

    Yes, I am aware of Schumi's troubles, but I submit that that example is less than 100% valid. F1 driving, indeed other series as well, is far more physical than is photography. Race driving requires raw courage, instantaneous reaction time and physical endurance under high pressure in high temperatures. Photography, on the other hand, does not require those abilities, but is much more cerebral. In Schumi's case, age decimated his physical abilities, and the entire package was weakened.

    Adams' encroaching age did not deteriorate his talent; if anything, his maturity made him even better. It was his innate ability to "see", or as someone else said either here or on another site, to visualize the printed image before he even set up his gear, that made him great. Thus, in his hands, the improved technology we enjoy today would have made his shots even better today than they were.

    I do not mean to say that the best photographers of today are deficient in any way, just that Adams would be better - because of his superior ability to see.

    Zen
    Last edited by zen; 27th April 2013 at 09:14 PM.

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I hear what you're saying - but I'm still not so sure I agree.

    I suspect that if he were alive today then that (unchanged) ability would probably place him alongside the greats of today ... but not head and shoulders above him.

    Interestingly, I like to use the example of Michael Schumacher; Formula 1 driving legend - head and shoulders above his competition for many years. He retired - and a few years later - made a comeback - but (with equal hardware) was comprehensively beaten by his team mate (Nico Rosberg).
    .
    Or, Bruce Lee. How will he fare vs the UFC champs of today?



    [ btw, there are no records of Bruce actually fighting in the ring/quad or where/whenever.]

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    Re: Ansel Adams & Hawaii

    Wow - An interesting conversation has certainly developed on this thread! I do agree that these were not some of Ansel Adams best shots but I did find a couple interesting and am looking forward to the exhibition in July.

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