Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Ansel Adams

I have always been interested in photography, I even had my own darkroom many years ago. There were colour film available then, but somehow I always loved the black and white images much more than colour. I did play around with making colour prints. However, I never had the satisfaction of creating the colour prints to the quality I always wanted. My favourite black and white film was 35mm Ilford Pan F and mostly I went for Ilford paper. 

I had my first camera when I was about ten years of age. It was a Viscount Coronet and the roll film size was 828. The 828 format uses the same film as standard 35mm film, but the film lacks the sprocket holes. 

The standard image format was 40 × 28 mm. This provides a 30% larger image compared to 35mm standard 24 × 36 mm. The film length was also much shorter, with a standard of 8 exposures per roll.

In those days, money was tight and I also had to take my films to the local chemist for processing. I only managed to afford about 3 or 4 rolls a year. 

A few years later I purchased my first 35mm camera which was a Russian made Zorki 4. The quality of the lens was very good and it was known as the poor mans Leica IIIf. I still have the camera.

This was combined with a Weston Master 5 light meter which was considered to be quite an up market light meter back then. Complete with diffuser and leather case. I still have the light meter. Later still I purchased a Praticka 35mm Single Lens Reflex Camera. This camera had TTL (Through The Lens) light metering. One day I managed to leave it behind on a bus, it was of course the last I ever saw of it.

For my birthday or was it Christmas one year? I was given three books by a photographer called Ansel Adams. The books were titled The Camera, The Negative and The Print. (I still have the books) The trilogy explained in great detail Ansel's techniques for getting excellent quality images in black and white. I was hooked. 

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) was an American photographer and environmentalist, best known for his black and white photographs of the American West, especially in Yosemite National Park. Over the years I have had Ansel Adams desk diaries and wall calendars with a selection of his images to admire.

Along with another photographer called Fred Archer, Adams developed the "Zone System"" as a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. The resulting clarity and depth characterised his photographs. The Zone System provides photographers with a systematic method of precisely defining the relationship between the way they visualise the photographic subject and the final results. Although it originated with black-and-white sheet film, the Zone System is also applicable to roll film, both black-and-white and colour, negative and reversal, and to digital photography.

My favourite all time Ansel Adams photograph is "Snowy Night in Woodstock"  taken in Vermont in 1940.

Now, the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich in London has brought together more than 100 of his best pictures. I will be taking time out to pay a visit. 


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