An Astronomer Solves a 70-Year-Old Ansel Adams Mystery

Ansel Adams was a genius with a camera, but he wasn’t so great about taking notes. The famous 20th century landscape photographer did not keep careful records of the dates he took his photos, leading to some debate over the origin period of certain images, including Denali and Wonder Lake (below), taken in Denali National Park in Alaska sometime in the late 1940s.

To settle a debate about when the photograph (known as Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake until the mountain’s name was officially changed in 2015) was taken, Texas State University astronomer Donald Olson looked to the sky, using astronomical hints to determine the exact date, time, and location it was shot. Olson—who has solved other cultural mysteries related to topics such as Edvard Munch’s paintings and Chaucer’s writing using the night sky—writes about the process in his new book, Further Adventures of the Celestial Sleuth.

Adams did take some technical notes during his photography shoots, writing down the exposure time, film type, filters, and other settings used to capture the image, but he wasn’t as meticulous about the more mundane parts of the shoot, like the date. However, during his research, Olson found that another photo, Moon and Denali…read more

Stunning Ansel Adams print of Golden Gate before the bridge could fetch $250K at auction

An original Ansel Adams photograph showing a San Francisco scene that hasn’t existed in nearly 85 years is hitting the auction block for the first time.

“The Golden Gate Before the Bridge” will go up for sale at Bonhams in New York on Monday. It depicts a wild and natural Golden Gate without its celebrated landmark spanning the picturesque coastlines of the Marin Headlands and the Presidio.

“This is the last glimpse of the Headlands before the bridge was built,” says Laura Paterson, Head of Photographs at Bonhams New York. “For people who aren’t photo buffs, it’s a wonderful, pure recollection of a period of time in San Francisco’s history when it was still quite a small place and at the edge of the American frontier. It’s an important historical document as well as a really beautiful fine art photograph.” read more SF Gate

Ansel Adams worked to help less fortunate

Son recalls father’s support for Japanese-Americans in WWII; to give talk in Port Hadlock

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When Japanese-Americans were forcibly relocated and interned at camps in the U.S. during World War II, it didn’t sit well with famed photographer Ansel Adams, according to Adams’ son, Michael.

Ansel Adams “did a very extensive photographic project with the Japanese-Americans who were forced to live in Manzanar Relocation Camp near Lone Pine, California,” Michael Adams said in an email interview with The Leader.

“He made several trips to the camp in 1943-44, and I went along on two of them. An exhibit and a book, entitled: ‘Born Free and Equal’ came of this project,” Michael Adams said.

“His feelings for these American Citizens incarcerated in these camps at that time, were very strong, and the ‘Born Free and Equal’ book revealed those sentiments.”

In a letter to the Library of Congress in 1965, Ansel Adams wrote, “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment…. All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use.”


Michael Adams talks about his father’s work during an exhibit, reception and dinner on Sept. 30 at the Old Alcohol Plant in Port Hadlock.

“I am very happy that my father’s photographs are on display. I will be giving a talk and will exhibit much more of his work in Yosemite, the Southwest, California and the National Parks,” Michael said.

Michael is also to talk about Ansel Adam’s life and legacy, including the photographer’s youth in San Francisco and his exposure to music. The talk is to be accompanied by a slideshow of some of Ansel Adams’ most beloved photographs.

“I remember coming to Port Hadlock in 1947 after returning from a trip to Alaska with my father,” Michael recalled.

“I remember the Old Alcohol Plant as a big, concrete structure with a lot of vegetation growing in and around. My father told me stories of the plant, and we looked for the home that he remembered when he visited in the 1910-15 era. I came back to Port Hadlock in 1962 on my honeymoon and showed my wife the plant … very similar to the earlier experience. We again came to Port Hadlock in the 1980s with our children and again showed them the abandoned concrete structure.”

Several of Ansel Adams’ photographs are on display at the plant.

“My favorite photograph is the ‘Moon and Half Dome’ image, which was first seen as our wedding announcement in 1962. Another is ‘Moonrise, Hernandez, 1941.’ I was with Ansel when that image was taken,” Michael said.

All proceeds from the fundraising dinner is to benefit Bayside Housing and Services, which is part of a unique partnership with the Old Alcohol Plant to provide safe, temporary, supportive housing so people in need can secure permanent housing.

The Old Alcohol Plant is located at 310 Hadlock Bay Road, Port Hadlock. Doors open at 4:30. A VIP reception is at 5:30, and the dinner and presentation begins at 6:30.

“I am pleased that Ansel’s work can be used to support the program of the Old Alcohol Plant. I am also happy that the housing program is successful and that the work supports that aspect.”


Michael Adams was born in the Yosemite Valley and educated at Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah, and Stanford University. He received a B.A. in geography from Fresno State College, and his M.D. from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, according to information from the Ansel Adams Gallery.

In addition to his private medical practice, Michael has also served as a fighter pilot for the United States Air Force (USAF) and the California Air National Guard in Japan and New Mexico, and as a flight surgeon/pilot physician in Germany and Fresno, California. He retired from the USAF and Air National Guard in 1993, as a major general and from duty as deputy surgeon general of the USAF for the Air National Guard.

Michael is chairman of the board of the Ansel Adams Gallery, now in its 114th year of operation in Yosemite Valley. He is an assistant clinical professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical School, and teaches in the UCSF Fresno residency training program. Michael has been an adviser to the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson, where the Ansel Adams photographic archive is located. He also is a council member of the Yosemite Conservancy.

Ansel Adams exhibition, programming come to region

TRAVERSE CITY — Ragnar “Rags” Avery knew just where to turn for advice when he received his first real camera as a college graduation gift.

“At that time Ansel Adams was extremely popular,” said Avery, a business development consultant and amateur landscape photographer from Kalkaska. “I was very influenced and very enamored of his work and work process. One of my favorite books is his ‘Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs’ in which he gives images and shares their backstory. That book and those images are still my favorites.”

Now Avery will get to see many of those images in person for the first time. “Ansel Adams: Masterworks” is making its northern Michigan debut at Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey.

The museum collection curated by Adams himself includes 47 of the photographer and environmentalist’s most iconic landscapes and lesser-known nature close-ups and portraits, along with a portrait of Adams by James Alinder. The traveling exhibition organized by Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, California has made its way to more than 30 museums in 10 years.

Landau Traveling Exhibitions Manager manager Jeffrey Landau said it’s his most popular show.

“Even though everybody knows Ansel Adams’ name, a whole generation has not seen his work in person.”

The exhibition is at the heart of “Through the Lens: Ansel Adams — His Work, Inspiration and Legacy,” four months of programming based on Adams and photographic art at Crooked Tree in Petoskey and Traverse City…read more

Quick Read: Crooked Tree focuses on Ansel Adams all summer

After years of planning, the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey will soon open “Ansel Adams: Masterworks,” an exhibit comprising 47 images from Ansel Adams and one portrait of Adams by James Alinder, in its Bonfield and Gilbert galleries.

Sheila Ruen, galleries director, said there is a whole story about the exhibit and that toward the end of Adams’ life, a friend of his pushed him to put together a collection of prints that showed off the best of his work through his career as a photographer.

“He started working on it and made what is called the Museum Set. He was making sets, or multiple editions, that could be exhibited at multiple museums around the world. He didn’t finish the whole set before he died, but there is this collection. A subset of that collection is the Masterworks which is the exhibition we have,” Ruen said…read more

View Daily Life in a Japanese-American Internment Camp Through the Lens of Ansel Adams

In 1943, one of America’s best-known photographers documented one of the best-known internment camps.

Prisoners read newspapers at the Manzanar Relocation Center, a Japanese American internment camp during World War II.

Seventy-five years ago, nearly 120,000 Americans were incarcerated because of their Japanese roots after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. More than 10,000 were forced to live in the hastily built barracks of Manzanar—two thirds of whom were American citizens by birth. Located in the middle of the high desert in California’s Eastern Sierra region, Manzanar would become one of the best-known internment camps—and in 1943, one of America’s best-known photographers, Ansel Adams, documented daily life there.

Japanase Family at home in Manzanar Internment Camp

As Richard Reeves writes in his history of Japanese-American internment, Adams was friends with the camp’s director, who invited him to the camp in 1943. A “passionate man who hated the idea of the camps,” he hoped to generate sympathy for the internees by depicting the stark realities of their lives. As a result, many of his photos paint a heroic view of internees—people “born free and equal,” as the title of his book collecting the photos insists.

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Banish the winter doldrums with a museum outing

Shake off those January blahs and warm the soul by checking out some of the current art exhibits on view through the area. Local museums offer a wide range of exhibits that are sure to help keep winter in the background for a while. Here’s a sampling.

Photography retrospective at Nassau County Museum of Art
Nassau County Museum of Art has mounted a vast photo exhibition — three exhibits in all — that showcase the history of photography and its influence over the past 100 years. Read more at …

Ansel Adams: Sight and Feeling
Ansel Adams’ ability to create photographs with a remarkable range and subtlety of tones is legendary. Yet for all his technical mastery, Adams recognized that what made a compelling photograph was far more elusive. This exhibit of Adams’ photographs from the KIA collection suggests how his intuitive and emotional response to the landscape resulted in powerful and enduring photographs.

Adams is, of course, a big draw for visitors. “These iconic classic, majestic images (25 of them in all) are incredibly moving,” says Dr. Willers. “His technical abilities are so profound. Throughout the exhibit, the print quality is extraordinary and Adams provides great insight into photo processes.”

Light Works: 100 Years of Photos
From Eadweard Muybridge’s 19th-century photographic studies of animal locomotion to Richard Misrach’s contemporary chromogenic prints, this exhibit — also from KIA — spans the history of photography through 39 images. Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Curtis, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson and many other celebrated photographers comprise this survey of photography processes and subjects from 1873 to 2000.

“The exhibit defines the phenomena of how photography evolved and took its place alongside painting, printing and sculpture in the arts,” says Dr. Willers. “The prints from KIA are the most well preserved I have seen. Their quality is extraordinary and that makes a difference in appreciating the full power of photography. These photos reach out and grab you.”

Ansel Adams’ Camera Highlights Photography Offerings at Heritage Auctions

cameraNEW YORK — The camera used a half-century ago by legendary photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams will be offered in a public auction in New York City by Heritage Auctions’ Photographs auction, October 27. The Arca-Swiss 4×5 inch view camera (est. $70,000-$100,000) was used by Adams for shooting the well-known 1968 image Arches, North Court, Mission San Xavier Del Bac in Tucson, Arizona and other famous photographs of that era.

“This is the only Ansel Adams’ view camera ever offered at auction,” said Nigel Russell, Heritage Auctions Director of Photography. “After he used this camera between 1964 and 1968 he gave it to his assistant, Lillian DeCock, who also became a distinguished photographer. This camera and equipment, along with four other cameras used by DeCock and her husband, were consigned by her heirs.”…read more

Fragile Waters at IMA

It was the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that inspired two friends to create IMA’s newest show. Curator Jeanne Falk-Adams and Barbara Cox, artist agent, created Fragile Waters at IMA April 23 – Sept. 5.

“We need water, clean water. It isn’t possible to live without it,” said Falk-Adams.

The idea behind Fragile Waters, Falk-Adams said, was to connect people through the arts, portraying the beauty of water, from rivers and wetlands to the oceans, letting them draw their own conclusions. To accomplish this, the show combines the work of her father in-law, Ansel Adams, Ernest Brooks II and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly, interspersed with quotes to give people what Falk-Adams describes as breathing room, to process the information.

Focus on Ansel Adams at South Shore Arts Gallery

The love affair began with a Kodak No. 1 Box Brownie when Ansel Adams was just 14 in 1916.

A shy boy, home-schooled by his father and grandmother in San Francisco, Adams toted the camera to the Yosemite Valley on a trek that would change his life.
Later, Adams would write: “I knew my destiny… when I first experienced Yosemite.”