Ansel Adams, Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California c. 1927, gelatin silver photograph, 8” x 6”, Photo by Cea, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution License.

Ansel Adams: Predetermining the Photographic Image

Ansel Adams’ remarkably clear and detailed photographs of the majestic American landscape are immediately recognizable to most people.  Part of their power derives from their precision, which contributes to the awe-inspiring character and beauty of his work.  The precision also masks the surprising artistic process called visualization, that is similar to the way a painter or sculptor approaches the creation of a work of art in that the photographer determined how to frame, expose, develop, and print the image before pressing the shutter.

Adams made this striking photograph of Half Dome using a red filter, thus changing the bright California sky before him into a dark backdrop.  This photograph represents the first time Adams used the process of visualization.  He stated that before he took the picture using the red filter, he could see the final image in his mind.

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