Ansel Easton Adams (1902 – 1984) was an American photographer and environmentalist, best known for his black- and white photographs of the American West especially Yosemite National Park. His large-format view cameras and glass plate negatives were heavy and difficult to use but ensured sharpness in his images. He would lug large cameras up steep inclines to get the shot he wanted. He would use red filters to darken the tonal values of the sky. He was known for his use of narrow apertures, like f64. He founded the Group f/64 along with fellow photographers Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham, which in turn was instrumental in formation of the Museum of Modern Art’s.
In 1940 Ansel Adams lobbied the American Congress to set aside Yosemite, sequoia and the Grand Canyon as National Parks. This was the beginning of the national park movement.
With Fred Archer, he developed the zone system, to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. The resulting clarity and depth characterized his photographs. He produced large monochrome prints that were heavily edited in the dark room using “dodge and burn” techniques. He was criticized for his approach. Ansel however was quoted “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” He has made a lasting impression and his prints are still popular 30 years after his death.
Ansel Adams & Fred Archer – Zone System
A spot exposure meter will expose whatever object it is pointed at towards a neutral grey. However this may be inappropriate if you are photographing white snow or a black stallion. Adams and Archer proposed a zone system where exposures are adjusted
according to the photographers perception of the object. They proposed 11 zones from black, 0 to white, 10 (conveniently 1 stop apart). Adams declared zones 1 to 9 to be the useful dynamic range of a negative and only 2 to 8 to contain all of the textural information of a scene. Adams used the zones in his dark room technique to create prints that demonstrated a wide range of tonal values.