Upcoming Event in Yosemite National Park: Rebecca Senf Discusses Making a Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams

Friday, April 17th | 7:30-8:30 PM
Yosemite Lodge Outdoor Amphitheater*
Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park

Please join us for a Yosemite evening celebrating Rebecca Senf’s new book, “Making a Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams.” In her talk, Rebecca Senf, chief curator of the Center for Creative Photography, brings you behind-the-scenes stories of the artist’s early career, unknown pictures by Adams, rare archival objects, and some of his most iconic photographs. We’ll continue the conversation with a book signing the following day at The Ansel Adams Gallery. We hope you’ll join us!

Ansel AdamsThe Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming1943© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Ansel Adams Archive

Making a Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams first arrived in California’s Yosemite Valley as a shy, home-schooled fourteen-year-old boy in 1916. How did this young tourist, with a Box Brownie camera in hand, become an accomplished mountaineer and one of the most recognizable photographers of the twentieth century? In this intimate first look at her new book, Making A Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams, the chief curator of the Center for Creative Photography, Rebecca Senf, charts Adams’s progression from novice to mature artist. The Yosemite debut for Making a Photographer will include a short reading, followed by a behind-the-scenes exploration of how Senf leveraged primary source materials to build a new narrative about the photographer. Drawing on more than fifteen years of research, Making a Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams will deepen your understanding of one of photography’s central figures, enriching your appreciation of his formative years.

*If we experience poor weather conditions on the day of the event, we will move the presentation indoors to the Yosemite Lodge Auditorium.

Upcoming Exhibition: Martino Hoss “Yosemite Title”

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Meeting House, Davenport

Meeting House, Davenport

About this photograph – “Meeting House, Davenport”, c.1970, Polaroid, 3.5 x 4.5 inches (center) St. Vincent De Paul Church, in Davenport, was built in 1914 entirely of cement from the local Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company, which had been established in 1906. Ansel Adams made the church famous when he took the photograph above with a Polaroid camera in the 1970s. There’s a world of difference between the contemplative process of using a view camera and the instant result of a Polaroid camera. Edwin Land and Ansel Adams met in 1947 at an optics convention, and once Adams saw what Polaroid cameras could do, he immediately became a consultant. Adams was still testing films and cameras for the company up until his death in 1984. “There it was, (a Polaroid image) brown and of rather awful quality. But, by gosh, it was a one-minute picture! And that excited me to no end,” Adams said. The success of Adams’ collaboration with Dr. Land laid the groundwork for Polaroid’s later sponsorship of younger artists such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.

Gravestone and Church, Chinese Camp

Gravestone and Church, Chinese Camp

About this photograph: Travel back in time to Gold Rush country with Ansel Adams and his portrayal of yet another marvelous photograph of California history. Located in Tuolumne county, right outside of Yosemite National Park, St. Francis Xavier, was built in 1855 toward the end of the Gold Rush. The region became known as Chinese Camp due to the 5000 Chinese immigrants that lived there – first as gold miners, then as railroad workers. Reflecting the times and the stresses of both instant wealth and abject poverty, it became the site of the state’s first Tong War. First established to house miners, merchants and others looking to make their fortune in the Gold Rush, Chinese Camp is now virtually a ghost town. Restored in 1949, a few years after Ansel took this photograph, services have not been held there since the 1920s. Surrounded by graves and family plots, but once again in ruins, the Stockton Archdiocese has determined that they will save it for posterity and have started a restoration campaign. This haunting, yet intimate portrayal is now available as an original gelatin silver print, in Excellent condition and priced at $8,500 Viewed image tonality will vary with monitor type and settings.

Looking for a photograph that you do not see? We have many more original Ansel Adams photographs. Email us at fineprints@anseladams.com for information about Ansel Adams Original Photographs.

Have an original photograph that you would like to sell? We also buy and consign Ansel Adams original photographs.

Gottardo Piazzoni in his Studio

Gottardo Piazzoni in his Studio, 1932

About this photograph: Piazzoni was a Swiss-born American landscape painter, muralist and sculptor of Italian heritage, and a key member of the school of Northern California artists in the early 1900s. Born in Intragna, Switzerland, Piazzoni moved at the age of 15 to his father’s dairy farm in the Carmel Valley. He studied at the prestigious Académie Julian and Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, then returned to California to begin his career. Art critic Ray Boynton wrote that “One finds in Gottardo Piazzoni an artist, a landscape painter, who is also a poet and a philosopher and sometimes a prophet. His conception of landscape is idyllic. He is a romanticist whose methods are realistic.”

Specializing in landscapes in a muted palette, scholars consider Piazzoni among the “Tonalists”. He sought out the lighting effects of certain times of day, taking a “special interest in full moonrises, the viewing of which became a family ritual. Venturing up a hill, the family would cheer the appearance of the moon. Piazzoni knew the exact time for each moonrise and kept precise records.” This, the fact that Gottardo was a highly respected member of the Northern California Artists, along with his gentle personality, may have influenced Ansel Adams respect for Gottardo. His best known murals are on permanent exhibition in San Francisco’s de Young Museum and it is thought that he might have been an influence in encouraging Ansel to print in larger, mural formats. It is no wonder Ansel chose this image to be part of his Portfolio Six edition.

Viewed image tonality will vary with monitor type and settings.
Learn more about Collecting Ansel Adams Photography 
Do you have an original photograph that you would like to sell?
 We also buy and consign Ansel Adams Original Photographs.

Looking for a particular image or have a question? Email us at originals@anseladams.com for information about Ansel Adams Original Photographs.

Light from Dark: The Alternative Process Behind “The Black Sun”

(The Ansel Insider)

The Ansel Adams Gallery is pleased to offer “The Black Sun, Tungsten Hills,” a phenomenal example of Ansel’s personal work and discovery in solarization.

Ansel Adams was trekking along a small stream in Owens Valley, California, when he first pictured the sun as a point of darkness. “In this instance I recognized the potential for using an unconventional process and I visualized the outcome much as it appears here…” he wrote in Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs. That day he saw the sun not as it appeared to his eyes but as the camera might see it: a dark disk hanging above shadowy hills.

The Black Sun is considered the earliest and most famous example of overexposure solarization, a reversal effect caused by longer-than-normal exposure time.

“The Black Sun, Tungsten Hills” by Ansel Adams, Original Gelatin Silver Photograph
Negative: 1939 | Print: 1970 | 14 ¾ x 18 ⅜”
Signed “Ansel Adams”

So, how does it work?

Silver halide crystals are the magic ingredient in film. They begin to transform the moment light enters the camera. The more light there is, the more metallic and opaque the crystals become. These places of darkness on a film negative become highlights in the finished print.

Ansel knew, however, that his film stock had a peculiar limitation, common among films of the time. When the silver crystals absorbed all the light they could hold but continued to be bombarded with more light, a destructive process would set in. Inside the camera, the latent image would begin to disintegrate. The brightest highlights on the film would turn from opaque to clear. It would be like the sun never touched them at all. In other words, overexposure was his trick to darkening the sun.

“The implication in this photograph is that wherever there is significant shadow value there is light— otherwise we have nothingness” said Ansel.

From his vantage point along the stream, Ansel set up his 4×5 Linhof camera and took two identical exposures. He lingered as light spilled into the camera. How long would it take for the dark star to burn its image onto film?

Back in the darkroom, the experiment continued. He processed the first piece of film with traditional developer and scrutinized the tones. Close, but not quite right. In went the second exposure, the negative that would become The Black Sun. This time he followed an alternative process known as compensating development. For this technique, the developer is watered-down and the film left floating in the mixture longer than usual, allowing more details to emerge from the shadows.

“It was gratifying to see both negatives as experiments and one, The Black Sun, as a striking surrealistic image. It was proof that the subject may prompt ideas, ideas crave visualizations, and craft makes their realization possible.”

This photograph is in excellent condition and includes a Certificate of Authenticity from The Ansel Adams Gallery. Call 888-238-9244 or email us at originals@anseladams.com for more information about this photograph or other Ansel Adams Original Photographs.


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A Private Guided Session to Vernal Fall

The Ansel Adams Gallery offers the once-in-a-lifetime experience of exploring Yosemite’s wonders with a private guide. Each guided session is different from the last, tailored to participant interests and curiosities.

Recently, staff photographer Brittany Colt conducted a private guiding session to Vernal Fall. Her participant craved adventure and wanted to travel to the spot near where Ansel captured one of his famous photographs of Vernal Fall.

Picture taken of Vernal Fall during Guided Session

During the guided session, Brittany and her participant hopped in the car and traveled to the trailhead of the falls. Brittany took them to a spot free of tourists where they experienced a very similar view to what Ansel saw when he set up his camera to capture his iconic shot.

And what did they see along the way? RAINBOWS…lots of them!

Hiking to Vernal is not a long walk, but one filled with lots of rainshine on a sunny day. To ascend atop the falls, you must pass by a part of the trail that is notoriously wet from waterfall mist. It is said that standing in the rain can be drier. A sturdy raincoat can combat the heavy mist, and with all the water, often times rainbows abound!

Traversing the wet terrain does come with spectacular perks!


Photographing the falls after the ascent up to the top

If a privately guided hike isn’t what you’re looking for, choose a drive through the park to its most mesmerizing look-out points, or a half-day excursion photographing lakes and streams. Your options are endless in a guided session.

Vernal Fall, captured with a cameraphone during the Guided Session

Whatever you choose, you will find yourself immersed in extraordinary views, following along to intimate stories about Ansel Adams and his beloved Yosemite.

Sign up for your very own private guide to make the most out of your next Yosemite experience!

Ansel’s Teenage Years: Largely Unknown Images

In his late teenage years, Ansel spent quite a bit of time falling in love with Yosemite, traversing the park and discovering many of its wonders. Some of these wonders he documented by camera.

Circa 1920, when he was 18,  Ansel traveled to Tenaya Canyon and captured “Fall in Upper Tenaya Canyon, Yosemite National Park.” Looking at this photograph, it almost feels as if you are flying above the canyon, with an incredible bird’s-eye-view of the sun-struck waterfall below. Luminous against its granite surroundings, the fall claims its place carving right down the center of Ansel’s sweeping scene. One can only imagine how the artist might have been standing, leaning ominously forwards, to have captured such a view!

Image result for fall in upper tenaya canyon ansel adams

“Fall in Upper Tenaya Canyon, Yosemite National Park, California” by Ansel Adams, c. 1920. Image courtesty of the Museum of Modern Art.

Around the same time, also circa 1920, Ansel photographed another two remarkable early works titled “Vernal Fall through Tree” and “Back of Half Dome.” Even though Ansel was very young in his photographic career when he captured these images, they show a very sophisticated sense of composition. They only exist as small contact prints made around the same time as the negatives.


“Vernal Fall Through Tree, Yosemite National Park, California, 1920” and “Back of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California” by Ansel Adams. Image is a picture taken from the book “Ansel Adams 400 Photographs”

About four years later, circa 1924, Ansel photographed “Simmons Peak, In The Maclure Fork Canyon” on another adventure in Yosemite.


“Simmons Peak, In The Maclure Fork Canyon, Yosemite National Park, California, c. 1924” by Ansel Adams

Because Ansel neither published these images in articles or books nor included them in any exhibitions, they are largely unknown. Though these four images have not been openly shared by the artist himself, they offer a fascinating window into his early experimentations with composition, along with the fundamental Yosemite expeditions that captured his heart and inspired his artistic passion for years to come.