Image © John Clements

For anyone interested in Landscape photography and its history, one of its leading lights and a name that often rolls of the tongue of many is Ansel Adams. Too many photographers he simply was the leading light end of story.

Clements On Adams
Yes I know I have a cheek as I am far from qualified to offer a comment or two but here goes:). Ansel Adams was not just a legendary photographer, but accomplished pianist and very talented individual. Best known for his Landscape photography in and around Yosemite Park in the US, he holds for those images a ‘legendary’ status for many down the decades since. But his photographic fame I believe owes as much too his technical mind. While famous for many more, three particular books of his became a ‘bible’ for many shooting monochrome film. One was called ‘The camera’, one ‘The Negative’ and one ‘The Print’. These were technically a road map that was and still is taught too many. While he did use the smaller 35mm format in the form of Leica’s (if I remember my photo history for all of this correctly), he was most at home with Large Format black and white imagery.

What came out of this was the ‘Zone System’ and for those who have maybe come to photography only in the digital age, let me just say using the Zone system used correctly for ‘pre visualisation’, exposure, development and printing was (and is if you still do), too me, a far more exciting and enticing tool than multi pattern metering these decades later. What you shoot will probably determine if you can use it as a process, but for the photographer not the camera wanting accuracy and artistic control it takes some beating.

I went some twenty years ago to see an exhibition at the Barbican in London having been taught about the man and read books during my photographic education. If I am honest, there have been times when I think I could see why so many rated him so highly for his landscapes, but others, when I just could not see it. That is probably as much to do with my limitations and less than great repro of his images in some books etc.

Those comments may upset some affectionardo’s but I certainly do not mean to. But by doing so let me remind everyone that this ‘photography thing’ is a personal experience and satisfying yourself should be as high on your list as anyone else enjoyment, otherwise we end up with ‘the kings new clothes’ scenario.

Image Info:
This was an image shot specifically to help me show the basic concepts of the ‘Zone’ system, made famous by Ansel Adams in a talk I gave encompassing ‘The Digital Zone System’.
Shot using a Nikon F6 film camera loaded with Kodak’s BW400CN chromogenic black and white film, processed in a high street lab through the C41 process it was then scanned using a Nikon SuperCoolscan 5000.
A 14mm f/2.8 AF-ED Nikkor lens was used tripod mounted and the camera spot metered with manual exposure control.
My concept was to be able to show how amongst other things, a mid tone meter reading (Zone V) correctly exposed would enable other values to fall naturally into place. And while people who have not had the benefits of the zone system properly explained may find that, now whats the technical term…oh yes mumbo jumbo, it is also a good way to set a basic exposure still today. © John Clements.
Nikon F6 > C41 process > Nikon SuperCoolscan 5000ED > Nikon NEF  file > Adobe Photoshop CS3

End. (02/11/09).