Saturday, January 05, 2013

Ansel Adams at the National Maritime Museum

Just before the great ice rink smash up I'd been to the Ansel Adams exhibition at the National Maritime Museum.

I wasn't sure what the maritime connection was, as my knowledge of Adams was mostly linked to his great landscapes, such as the one above, but there were indeed many seascapes, including one of San Francisco Bay before the bridge was built.

It was all very impressive and there was also a looped video of an interview with him describing his method. One thing struck me: his comment that he almost only ever took one shot of each scene. There was none of this try X then Y, maybe tweak the shutter speed a bit - no, he worked out what the settings should be and then took the picture, and it was right.

Bracketing is for amateurs was his opinion: on the same trip I took over 200 pictures of which about 12 are keepers.

I'm such an amateur.

Image from: Wikipedia


O Docker said...

The cameras he used for much of his work - cumbersome large format view cameras - don't lend themselves to rapid fire work.

But beyond that, the complex method he worked out for determining exposure, processing the negative, and making the print pretty much led to only one solution that he considered 'correct'.

And then there was the question of the changing light. In this example, imagine how quickly those low clouds and the shadows they cast across the foreground were moving. Often, he couldn't load a new film holder into the camera before the perfect moment had past.

We can only wonder what he would have used today - Droid or iPhone.

JP said...

It was also pointed out that at times Adams struggled financially so it made sense to be economical with film.

At the end of the interview he was asked about new technology and he was very upbeat about the potential for "electronic cameras", so yes I wonder what he'd have chosen (micro four thirds or full frame?)