by Bailey Dolenc
Ansel Adams is one of the most influential and innovative early photographers of the United States. His black and white photographs of the great American West have inspired many. Even more inspirational to many photographers today is Adams’ Zone System, which helps the photographer find the best gradient for a picture and is an essential tool when creating black and white prints.
Adams photographed many American West landscapes, including Yosemite National Park, which is conveniently packed with an endless number of interesting natural subjects. Trees and mountains prove to be Adams’ forte. Because of this, Adams lugged his very heavy, large-format camera up mountains and through forests in order to capture the grandeur of the scene with the highest resolution and the greatest clarity. Besides the use of his zone system and large-format camera, Adams also utilized the art of burning and dodging to create a more dramatic atmosphere. For example, in Adams’ picture of Snake River and the Grand Titans in the background, he used the technique of burning to highlight the mountains, sky, and perhaps the river as well. Dodging was probably applied on the forests surrounding the Snake River. Another of his many techniques, Adams used bleach to dramatize the picture even further; however, he used it brilliantly and sparingly. This small application of bleach does wonders for the trees in the foreground and makes an otherwise uninteresting photograph timeless and mysterious.
National Archives and Records Administration: Public Domain.