Following the Master

February 22, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

As it was Ansel Adams's birthday a couple of days ago, one of his most well known photographs, Tetons and the Snake River (https://www.anseladams.com/the-tetons-and-the-snake-river/) showed up on social media. That reminded me that a few years ago I had the opportunity to be very close to where Adams stood to take that photograph, at the Snake River overlook in Grand Teton National Park. I was fortunate to have a dramatic sky similar to the one in Adams's photo, and of course the landscape does not vary in a few decades.

Snake River Overlook, Grant Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2011Snake River Overlook, Grant Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2011Snake River Overlook, Grant Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2011 But of course there are many differences between our results (aside from the media: digital SLR vs. large-format camera, film, and chemical darkroom; and the fact that I cannot approach Adams's skill): I made a panoramic view to capture more of the Teton range, but part of the Snake River is obscured by trees at lower left. It appears that Adams had a higher viewpoint -- he often used a tall tripod and a platform on his car (https://www.instagram.com/anseladams/p/C0HXRTtL11i/), so was several feet higher than I could get.

While I tried to get a lot of detail and contrast in the processed image, Adams's version is rendered much darker for dramatic effect. I've added my color version for comparison. Guess I prefer the black&white that highlights the forms and tonalities of the landscape as opposed to the somewhat blah colors. (This was processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom combined from a panorama sequence of four vertical frames, each comprising several bracketed exposures in HDR.)

Snake River Overlook, Grant Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2011Snake River Overlook, Grant Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2011Snake River Overlook, Grant Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2011 Adams discouraged photographers from trying to find his tripod holes, preferring that folks find their own compositions and style, But I think it can be an instructive exercise to help understand why a particular viewpoint can result in a more powerful composition. In this case, the curves of the river lead our eyes toward the mountains (more so in Adams's cropped view) and the juxtaposition of the foreground trees, mountains, and cloudscape create a pleasing balance.

#anseladams, #blackandwhite

 


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