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Monday, 04 July 2011


Didn't Adams shoot that image in color for a film company ad (Kodak?) and one in B&W for himself?

I don't know. I've never heard that, but that doesn't mean it's not so.


I like this B&W rainbow, if for no other reason than it's a bit unusual. Looking at how dark the conifers and blue sky are, I'm thinking maybe a red filter? That would have darkened the bluish splash of the falls while keeping yellows and reds in the rainbow at higher values. Just a guess; I'm not a zone guy. Digitally, it's quite easy to sort these things out in post. With film you have to think on your feet, which I find is one of the charms of film photography.

Adams was creatively on fire when he did his best work in Yosemite. To "get" Adams, you have to see past the literal. He hitched his powerfully abstract vision to a literal framework.

The JPEG looks much darker than the reproduction in the book, but the tiny file is not responding well to correction so I've left it alone. It's just an approximate indication of what the picture looks like--I wouldn't put too much effort into analyzing it in this form.


What's really sad is that when I look at that photo, I see a Star Trek badge.

tuna sushi? that's likely bluefin tuna, a truly magnificent creature that is very threatened due to the sushi trade. fascinating, tragic story here:


i get the avocado and cucumber.

Best regards.

Good you noted that the JPEG looks dark -- the way it is now reminds me of some BW pictures I saw taken in polar light in the Arctic, although I'm pretty sure it's not moonlight that lighting Adams' photo...

Ha! Great story -- I just had a similar experience myself at the Gibert Joseph in Paris. I was looking for a photography book for my grandfather in law, so I bought two books: La France by Raymond Depardon, and an rather nice book on photographic technique (Le Vocabulaire Technique de la Photographie) which was written by a team under the direction of Anne Cartier-Bresson (curator of Fondation Cartier-Bresson, of the photographer with the same name), which was second hand, in new condition but about 40% off list price.

So, I get home and I show them to my wife to select the one to give to Papy... and when I open up the book on photographic technique, I find that it is signed to someone, and hand written note on a torn out notepad sheet which she has written some highlights from her forward to follow up on. Needless to say, my wife said: "You've got to keep that book now, it isn't new..." so my grandfather got the other!


A B&W photo of a rainbow is certainly counterintuitive, but a good photographer can surprise you with counterintuitive images like Adams's

James Danziger just posted a note about Pierre LeHors's book "Firework Studies" -- fireworks all shot in B&W. bit.ly/mIxtZG And I treasure my copy of Lee Friedlander's "Cherry Blossom Time in Japan," also in B&W. bit.ly/kuSRXx

I guess the lesson is to question that part of our photographer brain that tells us that certain subjects only work in color or only in B&W.

You can see the photo in color on page 140 in the book Ansel Adams In Color.

OMG!! I have that book - the original $75 version, with Ansel's signature on a book plate in the front. Photo on plate or page 102 - it's quite beautiful, very much lighter. I bought the book when it first came out, put it on the coffee table and haven't looked at it in decades ... I'm so ashamed ...

The coincidence made me laugh. How do these things keep finding me like that?

Mike, they don't. You find them.

You already had the concept of rainbows in your mind when you perused a selection of 106 photographs of a National Park noted for its waterfalls. One of those 106 photographs contained one of those waterfalls. It's really not surprising. But I readily admit, uplifting.

Ah yes, the rainbow problem. Here's one I shot earlier. Not Adams, but a passing moment none the less:)


Like so much in back and white photography, we see the rainbow even with out the colours - referring to Adams' picture here.


In other weird news, an e-friend and I were discussing her Ansel Adams poster prints the day before yesterday, and this is one of the ones she has.

Funny old universe...

Speaking of old books, I learnt a huge amount from three books that I bought 2nd hand for a couple of quid in the early nineties - Time Life: The Art of Photography, The Great Themes, and The Camera. Personally I don't know why these aren't worth a fortune - I think they're amongst the best photography books I ever bought. And yet if I search for them on EBay they're still only worth a couple of quid. Maybe it's because they were part of some kind of encyclopedia series. I dunno, at nearly 40, maybe I'm too young ... Happy 4th of July Mike!


I was recently searching for a copy of Trent Parke's "Dream/Life" in my home town of Melbourne, Australia and was dismayed to discover that people were flogging used copies on Amazon and eBay for up to $4000. Even Trent's gallery in Sydney had none left. Eventually I gave up.

Then one day whilst on my way to Subway to buy some cookies I poked my head into the second hand book shop adjacent to it and had a browse of his collection. For the hell of it I asked if he had a copy of Dream/Life. He dug up an as-new copy from his archive and sold it to me for the princely sum of $70.

Food and book shopping is definitely a winning combination!

(I also nabbed a copy of Ralph Gibson's Chiaroscuro from him for a little bit more, but that's another story.)

The following also comes from the Adams in Color book:

in the letter you quoted from Adams' letter to the Newhalls (April 29, 1946), he also said "No discount if there ain't no rainboo!"; and,

in a letter to David McAlpin from June, 1946, he said "...they took five! Waterfalls with Rainbows, Big Trees, etc. Really quite pleased! Got $250 each, plus fifty sheets of 8x10 film, plus having my lens opticoated for nuttings! Now have enough cash to buy film for Guggenheim (Stipend will barely cover travel expenses...)"

Sunsets can make fair B&W material too...



P.S. Nice catch on the book!

Just to have the issue completely sorted (or is it inconsciously to appear as a tad obsessive?), on my copy of 'Ansel Adams in Color' (First edition, second printing, 1993, ISBN 0-8212-1980-4) it is on page 118, together with the aforementioned citations.

And btw, I'm deeply sorry if I go against your resolutions, but I found this book very interesting (there are a few others color versions of well known B&W images) and well printed.

You know I have never really been enamored of Ansel Adams work. Whilst I could never deny the technical brilliance of his landscape prints, I always found them a little sterile and lacking in soul. Whenever I view them I find myself wanting more. They never really satisfy me.

It's not that I mind B&W so much, I just don't think many people know how to make it sing. AA certainly did, but he put a huge amount of effort into contrast management. Ingmar Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock did as well.

Which is the nub of the issue for me. Of the thousands of B&W internet images I see, only a tiny percentage actually have any level of depth or dynamism, as if the mere act of desaturation is supposed to convey artistic merit. It does not.

The biggest issue is usually lack of global and regional contrast. Blacks are grey and whites are...er...grey and the subject and foreground are poorly separated. In fact they look just like cheap B&W prints done on low contrast paper and underexposed.

I have converted perhaps 1% of my digital images just to see what they look like. Perhaps 10% of those work, but they take a huge amount of colour filtering to create believable skies and contrast manipulation in photoshop to look "natural", by which I mean three dimensional.

This is one of the reasons I think B&W is far more subject dependent - if there is too little tonal different between the subject and background elements, and you remove colour information as well, the former is effectively camouflaged.

Colour on the other hand is more light dependent. You can shoot B&W in high contrast situations in midday sun which completely desaturate colour images. So, quid pro quo I suppose.

But more of an irony to me perhaps is that, whatever the subject, good B&W conversion in digital requires far more detailed photoshop work than colour.

Yosemite and the Range of Light was a Bar Mitzvah gift from my parents. I probably look at it more these days than I wear the watch I got, and the fountain pen disappeared long ago.

I'm still a fan of B&W rainbows and sunsets and generally keep an eye out for such opportunities.

Many pictorial photographers seem to have been musicians. Having a tin ear, all waterfalls look and sound the same to me.

I can remember looking through an old travel coffee table book and being surprised to find a sunset in black and white. Same idea as Mike Nelson Pedde, but this was actually published in an old book, not on somebody's flickr page. This was nothing like Ansel Adams -- just a book that a visitor to Scotland or the Oregon coast or some such scenic place might buy. I guess the fact that we find that odd shows how visually spoiled we are -- what richness of visual entertainment and representation we are used to.

In the credit where credit is due department, the quote about resisting everything except temptation is from Oscar Wilde.

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