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06-30-2008, 11:34 PM   #1
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K20D, Yosemite and Ansel Adams...

I would assume that all readers know who Ansel Adams was. If not, read a little about him here.

Ansel Adams is probably the most influential photographer of all time.

There is this continuing debate about post-processing images being sort of cheating as the final results are not exactly what the original photograph looked like. Ansel Adams modified his negatives in the darkroom to where the final results weren't exactly like the original shot. He called that "Visualization" and as he said himself in the following video clip; "I come across something that excites me, I see the picture of my mind's eye, and I make the photograph. Now I give it to you as equivalent to what I saw and felt. The whole key lies very specifically in seeing in the mind's eye, which we call visualization".

Ansel Adams post-processed his negatives in his darkroom to where the pictures weren't necessarilly reality as he had seen them, but the way he had visualized the photographs in his mind's eye. It is very much the equivalent of today's digital photographs, post-processed in a digital darkroom. If it was okay for him, it must be okay for me.

I use Adobe Lightroom in my workflow and I always tweak my pictures to what my mind's eye saw. We are so lucky to live in a time where we have so much latitude in our creativity.

See the video and interview of Michael Adams, son of Ansel Adams, and Ansel Adams himself toward the end of the video.

http://www.fastcompany.tv/video/michael-adams-yosemite

I saw the above link on a forum, posted by "Fredrik Rygge" and I thought it was very interesting and worthy of sharing it with all of you. I hope you enjoy it.


P.S. I am taking a week vacation starting on July 3rd, and I will be spending the week in Yosemite National Park, actually in Tuolumme Meadows which is on the East side of Yosemite. I am bringing all my Pentax gear but, specifically, I will be trying the K20D and the K200D and the new DA*200mm and 300mm lenses. I will post photographs and a photographer's review of the cameras and lenses upon my return.

Thank you for reading and commenting,

Yvon Bourque

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07-01-2008, 02:32 AM   #2
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"I come across something that excites me, I see the picture of my mind's
eye, and I make the photograph. Now I give it to you as equivalent to
what I saw and felt."

I have always found this a redundant and ambiguous statement. Assuming I
understand what Adams was trying to get at it is more clear to me if he
would have simply said:

I see the image in my mind, and I make the photograph. Now I give it to
you as equivalent to the image in my mind.

Is it ever really possible for any image to convey simultaneously both
what was seen (the objective truth) and what was felt (the idiosyncratic
subjective truth)?

This in no way questions his work only his explanation of his work.

Wildman
07-01-2008, 04:49 AM   #3
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IMHO, you can't get what you see/feel totally because you're missing the 3D aspect. E.g., I've gone on a few hikes where what you see is awesome but the photos end up being flat or "2D"....e.g., Cannon Beach, or the view from the top of mountain into a valley.
07-01-2008, 06:50 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote


Is it ever really possible for any image to convey simultaneously both
what was seen (the objective truth) and what was felt (the idiosyncratic
subjective truth)?

This in no way questions his work only his explanation of his work.

Wildman
If you have ever seen an original Adams print (I have), you wouldn't need to ask that question. I have the last set of "The Camera/The Negative/The Print" series that Adams published. One of the revisions dealt with the then budding world of digital imaging. To paraphrase Adams, he said that the new technology was very exciting, and that the next generation of photographer was going to have some remarkable tools.
Do I think Adams would have "Gone Digital"? Yes, I absolutely think so. I suspect he would have been the original image stitcher, since even now, a single DSLR capture doesn't hold up when compared to 4x5 inch or larger film.
Part of the magic of Adams work (and any LF work) is the ability to walk up to the picture, and examine it from a few inches away and see detail, not noise or grain or the smooth, detail free mush that we get with digital when it is magnified past its size limit. This inability to resolve really fine detail at large print sizes would likely have been the only thing that would have hobbled digital capture from Adam's point of view.

07-01-2008, 07:20 AM   #5
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I've always admired Adams' work but now I am starting to delve into his technical works slowly. Wasn't the "visualization/previsualization" the basis for the creation of his Zone System? Or am I confusing two different things?
07-01-2008, 08:24 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
I've always admired Adams' work but now I am starting to delve into his technical works slowly. Wasn't the "visualization/previsualization" the basis for the creation of his Zone System? Or am I confusing two different things?
The two were inseparably intertwined for him The Zone System was an attempt to quantify visualization.
07-01-2008, 08:36 AM   #7
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That is what I had thought. To me though it seems that all modern photographers use a form of the zone system when doing Post Processing. I feel that any type of curve manipulation is an extension of the zone system. Would that assumption be correct?
07-01-2008, 08:53 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
That is what I had thought. To me though it seems that all modern photographers use a form of the zone system when doing Post Processing. I feel that any type of curve manipulation is an extension of the zone system. Would that assumption be correct?
Hmmm.....
Zone System:
1)Visualization
2)Metering and exposure
3)Film development using +/-/n development times to expand or contract the exposure range of the film.
4)Print film using dodging/ burning etc to do the final fit of film to paper.

Digital Photography:
1)Visualization
2)Metering and exposure (so far, we've done the same things)
3)File "Development" (RAW converter), using conversion tools to expand or contract the exposure range of the sensor, equivalent to the film processing step.
4)Post Processing (for me, the digital equivalent of the printing phase), where we use the tools in the editing software to do the final fit of the image to the paper.

To me, the Zone System ends at step 3 in both instances, and if it has been done correctly, in both instances as straight a print as possible should be able to be made (minimal dodging and burning, etc, in the case of the film print, minimal post processing in the case of the digital print)


Last edited by Wheatfield; 07-01-2008 at 11:40 AM.
07-01-2008, 08:55 AM   #9
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Never was a big fan of Adams.

Shots were well-exposed, though.
07-01-2008, 10:49 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by kenyee Quote
IMHO, you can't get what you see/feel totally because you're missing the 3D aspect. E.g., I've gone on a few hikes where what you see is awesome but the photos end up being flat or "2D"....e.g., Cannon Beach, or the view from the top of mountain into a valley.
I kind of think that was one of the aspects of Adams point with regard to the mind's eye vs what was seen. I think one of the purposes in processing photos (adjustment, etc) is to do justice to the 3D aspects of the scene within the limits of the 2D form.

This is something I've always grappled with, although I didn't realize it until until I took up another form of art (painting) and began to appreciate sculpture (a 3D form of art). My own mind is very dimensionally handicapped in terms of 3D and perspective in the visual arts and in terms of music as well. Learning to overcome these limitations has really helped me respect them and get better at dealing with them including photography. Reintroduction to SLR photography and this forum even have even furthered it.

I've really gained appreciation of Adams works from this point of view and I think that is what really makes me like his landscapes, panoramas, etc much better than his close-ups / macro / portrait type work (not that they aren't good though).

By the way, UC Riverside (if I remember right) has a great online archive of less typical Ansel Adams photos and images that are neat to look through and possibly even available to purchase. It's been a while since I've looked at it, but I think it is pretty easy to Google.
07-01-2008, 02:00 PM   #11
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There are examples of his landscapes of Yosemite here:
Ansel Adams Photography - Yosemite Special Edition Photographs

Still, what I see is flat...it's not the 3D effect you see if you were there in real life. Sort of the on the lines of looking at Grand Canyon photos and thinking "yeah, so?" but when you see it in person, you appreciate the massiveness of it and think "wowwwwww".

Here's more on the zone system of exposure which is a good technique though I have no idea if the K10D/K20D's meter is narrow enough to use like this:
Zone System
07-01-2008, 02:41 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by kenyee Quote
There are examples of his landscapes of Yosemite here:
Ansel Adams Photography - Yosemite Special Edition Photographs

Still, what I see is flat...it's not the 3D effect you see if you were there in real life. Sort of the on the lines of looking at Grand Canyon photos and thinking "yeah, so?" but when you see it in person, you appreciate the massiveness of it and think "wowwwwww".
Well, this is somewhat true of any other flat art. However, if you look at a real Adams print rather than a poorly rendered computer screen image, you might get a glimmer of understanding about the quality of a photograph.
I can't have Monument Valley in my living room, by your logic I should take my prints from there off the wall, since they aren't as big as the real thing, and we should all just give up on landscape photography altogether.
07-01-2008, 06:21 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
I can't have Monument Valley in my living room, by your logic I should take my prints from there off the wall, since they aren't as big as the real thing, and we should all just give up on landscape photography altogether.
I haven't given up, so why should you?

My comment was on the "see/feel" part of the initial post. I think you can get some "feel" by composing an image to focus on something interesting, but wanted to mention that a lot of the "feel" from seeing landscapes involves the 3D aspect of being there. I was just wishing I could capture that as I'm still in the middle of processing pics from Cannon Beach that had a sort of misty/gloomy feel while I was there last week...
07-01-2008, 08:43 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by kenyee Quote
I haven't given up, so why should you?

My comment was on the "see/feel" part of the initial post. I think you can get some "feel" by composing an image to focus on something interesting, but wanted to mention that a lot of the "feel" from seeing landscapes involves the 3D aspect of being there. I was just wishing I could capture that as I'm still in the middle of processing pics from Cannon Beach that had a sort of misty/gloomy feel while I was there last week...
For me, a lot of the joy of photography is that I get to be where the nice photographs are. I don't necessarily bring them home.
Think of it as a catch and release sport, not big game hunting....

I shot some very nice stuff at Cannon beach, but what I remember about being there is helping a fellow catch a common gull and unwrap a fishing line and hook from it, thereby giving it a shot at survival.
07-02-2008, 02:56 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
If you have ever seen an original Adams print (I have), you wouldn't need to ask that question. I have the last set of "The Camera/The Negative/The Print" series that Adams published. One of the revisions dealt with the then budding world of digital imaging. To paraphrase Adams, he said that the new technology was very exciting, and that the next generation of photographer was going to have some remarkable tools.
Do I think Adams would have "Gone Digital"? Yes, I absolutely think so. I suspect he would have been the original image stitcher, since even now, a single DSLR capture doesn't hold up when compared to 4x5 inch or larger film.
Part of the magic of Adams work (and any LF work) is the ability to walk up to the picture, and examine it from a few inches away and see detail, not noise or grain or the smooth, detail free mush that we get with digital when it is magnified past its size limit. This inability to resolve really fine detail at large print sizes would likely have been the only thing that would have hobbled digital capture from Adam's point of view.
My question was one of esthetics and psychology not one of hardware and
technology and it's limitations.

Other than, perhaps, photojournalism, I'm not interested in what the
photographer in fact saw but rather what he thinks he saw - in Adam's
own word what he "felt".

So when Adam's says:
"Now I give it to you as equivalent to what I saw and felt." I have to
wonder what this means.

If Adam's purpose in taking a shot is to only convey as accurately as
possible exactly what was in front of him at the time he pressed the
shutter - in his own words what he "saw" than that reduces the
photographer to a mere technician.

If however his purpose is to convey what he "felt" rather than a mere
technical facsimile of the scene in front of him that's a very different
purpose.

It seems to me these two purposes are mutually exclusive - that they are
a contradiction in terms. To the extent you favor one you must,
necessarily compromise the other.

BTW I have seen original Adam's prints.
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