|"The Tetons - Snake River," Ansel Adams|
|"Moonrise, Hernandez, N.M." (1942), by Ansel Adams|
|"Daybreak," by Maxfield Parrish|
|Dignowity Cemetery, San Antonio, TX|
Typically Adams would spend hundreds of hours in the darkroom laboring over the making of his prints, altering the look of his original negatives very much like people today spend hours with photo editing software programs. He turned what he considered to be water into wine for the masses. I was kind of surprised when I learned this years ago, as I had thought Adams to be such a purist, with the Zone System and all that. In fact, a straight print of the Moonrise negative shows the sky being much lighter. Adams would darken it because this is how he 'visualized' the scene.
In his book, Celebrating the Negative, John Loengard quotes Ansel Adams: "During my first years of printing the Moonrise negative, I allowed some random clouds in the upper sky area to show, although I had visualized the sky in very deep values and almost cloudless." So the next time you feel you've "manipulated" an image too much with Photoshop, consider Loengard's comment:
"Photographers do this and more. Since light shines through a negative but is reflected off a print, making a print from a negative is a bit like translating a novel from French to English. Such translation is an art, and it is wise to remember that what is translated is the original work of art." - John Loengard
One of the things I like about using a Holga (or any analog camera) is that the film original really is a work of art, in the sense that it would require a 40 MP digital camera to produce an image with the resolution of a 120mm negative! I also like the fact that with a Holga, you simply cannot be very calculated (which is why Adams would have hated them.) The camera has no controls to speak of, so your results are based solely on a wing and a prayer. Do I succeed? Not often. I'm lucky to get one or two usable images off a 12-exposure roll. My four images in this article come from two rolls. Sometimes I have to tweak the image of the scanned negative to achieve what I intended when I snapped the shutter, to achieve the result I 'visualized.'
|San Jose Burial Park, San Antonio, TX|
|The Alamo (San Antonio, TX)|
And what better way to end this article than with a photograph of the latter, as a tribute to Ansel Adams' creativity. In addition to mountains, he photographed many of the mission churches in the southwest - the Alamo, or Mission San Antonio de Valero, being one of the more famous ones.
Ansels Adams' photography in the Public Domain
Shooting Cemeteries with a Holga
Learn about "The Alamo"