Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Remembering working with film...

My father sent yet another video.  This time it is on Ansel Adams and the Zone System of exposure.

Of course, with digital equipment most of these considerations have been effectively automated.  We seldom consider these kinds of details and certainly not in this specific way.

Watching the video reminded me of two things surrounding the development (LOL!) and use of the Zone System.

First, Phil Davis wrote "Beyond the Zone System" where he helped us understand that film/developer combinations subtly moved the color spectrum up and down the tonal curve.  While not as flexible as performing human perception conversions of digital color to monochrome, I think that anything that leads to a better understanding and control of one's tool set very helpful.

Second is something I find incredibly ironic about Ansel Adam's Zone System.  It involves the history of the development (2x LOL!!) of this system of exposure control.  

One of the photography professors that he taught with at the California School of Fine Arts had suggested this method to Mr. Adams.  This professor apparently picked up on the idea from William Mortensen.  Reviewing the early Camera Craft books that William wrote where he talks about a very specific series of exposure placement and development perhaps you can see what I'm getting at.

If you know the history of Saint Ansel, the Group 64, and their collective hate for William Mortensen, perhaps you will have already guessed at the irony of the Zone System.  I use the word hate because Mr. Adams wrote in a letter that (that was curiously published in his autobiography) he wouldn't be sad if Mr. Mortensen were dead.  

I have no idea what would provoke such a strong response from certain West Coast Photographers, but there you have it.  A little photo-history drama.

Not to make too much out of the whole episode, here's a video on the works of one of Ansel Adams sudents, John Sexton.  

Viewers seldom care about process.  Good photography should speak for itself, right?


Friday, December 11, 2020

Ansel Adams ~ early film

My father sent me another video -

I didn't realize there had been a movie camera there to record the event.  It's pretty interesting to see how they did the climb and to catch a glimpse the stills camera being set up.

Of course this day led to the making of one of the most iconic images Saint Ansel ever made.

By contrast (pun intended?), our current imaging equipment automates nearly everything to perfection.  Who remembers how to balance shutter speed and aperture against the sensitivity of the light gather materials?  Who cares about film/developer combinations and their effects on local contrast?  No, we have it rather easy these days, don't we?

Then, just the other day, I stumbled on an interview with a photographer I've known nothing about.  I thought she has some rather interesting things to say about technologies and their relation to image creation.

How we "see" appears to be linked to the tools we use.

NOTE: if you haven't already seen this, it, too, is quite good, but from a different perspective.