This is a long story and might not be interesting, but it was such a coincidence that I have to tell it.
Regular daily readers will probably recall a series of a few posts a few months ago in which I talked about becoming aware of my pack-rat tendencies, and my efforts to battle back. Following the onset of this insight I got rid of boxes and boxes of books, sold a bunch of equipment here and on Ebay, and have been trying to make some inroads into simplifying my possessions. One of my resolutions has been to stop being tempted by bargain books—what I want to do from now on is to add fewer, but better, books to my collection.
So I was headed out to eat last night. I like sushi bars when I'm by myself, because it's not rude to read a magazine when sitting alone at a sushi bar. But I didn't have anything to read with me, so I planned to stop by the Barnes and Noble and pick up a magazine.
Unfortunately, I got there a little past 7:00, and the B&N was closed. So I headed over to the used bookstore just on the off chance that it might be open on a Sunday evening.
It was. I picked up an old copy of Car & Driver to browse through over my tuna and yellowtail. But of course—as long as I was there—I couldn't resist a quick browse through the photography shelves.
And they had a hardcover first printing in very good condition of Ansel Adams's Yosemite and the Range of Light—aged, but not worn—for $8.95. Not a valuable book now, but a nice one, and one I don't have, and one I distinctly remember not being able to afford when it was published at $75 in 1979. That was quite a high price for a photo book in those days—and the book was very large for the time, too, although at 15.25x12.25" it's not all that big by today's norms.
Resolution or not, how could I resist that?
I had a nice time reacquainting with it last night. The reproductions are generously sized and of the best quality for 1979 (the year I would have graduated from college, if I'd earned a degree), and they still hold up well today. It's really the work that was closest to Ansel's heart—he talks about his "symbiotic" relationship to Yosemite, and mentions sorting through many thousands of negatives to pick the 116 presented in the book.
So now recall what I wrote about yesterday—black and white vs. color, and photographing rainbows.
And there it was, near the end of the book, plate 104: Nevada Fall, Rainbow, Yosemite Valley, c. 1947 (below). In black and white, of course. A picture I know, but hadn't remembered when I was writing yesterday. The coincidence made me laugh. How do these things keep finding me like that?
(This JPEG looks too dark and closed-in in the shadows, so don't take this as a good representation.) So anyway, I guess you can photograph rainbows in black-and-white—at least, if you've got the confidence of an Ansel Adams.
Although I have to say, even so, that this is one Adams I think would have been better in color [Note: see Addendum below]. Too bad he didn't have a RAW file to "re-interpret" later.
Let's be careful out there
I'm off to Spring Lake with the GXR, all charged up, and a couple of cards, to spend the day with friends and fireworks. Happy Fourth of July to all my fellow Americans—be careful not to start any brushfires!*
ADDENDUM: A reader named James, in the Comments, remembered that Ansel had photographed this in color as well as B&W, which I didn't know. Then reader Leslie Ashe wrote, "He did photograph it in black and white and in colour. Quote from Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs about 'Nevada Falls, Rainbow': 'The Eastman Kodak Company paid Adams to make hundreds of colour transparencies in the 1940s and 1950s. In April 1946 Kodak commissioned him to make colour photographs with rainbows. In one of his almost daily letters to Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, he wrote: "High Ho!! Believe it or not the Eastman Kulak (I mean Kodak) Co. are paying me $250.00 per shot for at least three 8x10 Kodachromes of Waterfalls mit rainbows! Some new experimental film. Hushhhhhhhhhh. So, next week I go off to that hole in the ground Yosemite and click some shutters." He photographed this scene in black and white and colour. Adams relied on commercial work to "keep the wolf from the door," as he said. It was not until the early 1970s that he could afford to decline such assignments.'"
And reader Sergey Botvin found this about the picture, on p. 122 of Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs: "I made a color photograph first, before the afternoon light became too warm."
Finally, Jim Bullard reports that the color version appears on p. 140 of Ansel Adams in Color, a book I guess it's obvious I don't have.
Thanks to James, Leslie, Sergey, and Jim.
*In normal years large tracts of this vast country burn, but this year has been especially bad so far. Many communities in tinder-dry areas of the west and south have banned fireworks this year.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
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