Masters of Photography: Ansel Adams

Hello Photoion students and photography fans. It’s time for another entry into our Masters of Photography series, where we look at the lives and work of some of the most famous photographers of the 20th century.

This time we’re looking at American Photographer, Ansel Adams, who was famous for his stunning landscape work.

Born in California in 1902, Adams’ love of nature and the world around him began at an early age. He had a few friends as a child, but spent most of his time exploring the area around his home facing the Golden Gate Bridge. As a boy, Adams’ father would often take him to the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton where they would gaze at the stars together.

Masters of Photograpy - Ansel Adams
This love of nature and the world around him would come to define Adams’ work. Withdrawn from school at age 12 for being restless and disruptive, Adams’ was free to pursue the things that interested and excited him.

His early passion was actually piano, and he studied for many years under well-known teachers, including the composer Henry Cowell. Though photography eventually replaced piano as his profession, the discipline and precision he learned for the instrument became invaluable to his pursuit of photography.

Masters of Photography - Ansel Adams
Adams’ first real experience with photography came in 1916 during a family trip to Yosemite National Park, where his father gave him a Kodak camera and he captured his first images.

This experience started Adams on the path to becoming a professional photographer. Over the next few years he consumed all the material he could regarding photography; reading magazines, attending camera clubs, and visiting exhibits.

Masters of Photography - Ansel Adams
At age 27, Adams joined the Sierra Club, a group that dedicated themselves to preserving natural treasures. Adams was hired by the club to be the summer caretaker of Yosemite Valley, a perfect excuse to get his camera out into the nature of the park.

Adams’ work is renowned for its incredible sharpness and clarity, which is in part thanks to the Zone System, a method to achieve the correct exposure and contrast for an image, which he developed with fellow photographer Fred Archer.

Masters of Photography - Ansel Adams
Adams also used large format cameras wherever possible to give him a higher resolution image, which went a long way in creating his stunning landscapes.

Masters of Photography - Ansel Adams

Adams continued working, capturing many incredible images of American National Parks, until the 1970’s, when he took a step back from so much active photography to work on the vast collection of negatives he had collected during his career.

Masters of Photography - Ansel Adams
Adams passed away in 1984, but his work continues to be loved and sought after to this day. In 2010, one of his pieces, Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, sold at auction for over $700,000. It is no surprise when one considers the vast body of incredibly images Adams captured over the course of his life, all of which have allowed people the world over to enjoy the beauty of American nature.