The Color of Black and White

Gates of the Valley by Alan Ross

Join us for the Artist Reception Saturday, October 12th, 3-5pm

For the photographer, the art (or skill) of seeing the finished print in the mind’s eye is not to be taken lightly. It is a trait of true dedication – a sixth sense. Ansel Adams was a proponent of the task, and something he developed right here in the heart of Yosemite National Park around 1927. Today, Alan Ross, following years of side-by-side engagement with several giants of the medium, continues this tradition of visualization. Alan has said:

People often ask me if I actually “see” in black-and-white when I’m photographing. And the truth of it is, I do. For me, once the limitations or expectations of reality are eliminated, shapes, textures, relationships and nuance that might otherwise be missed come into view, and the image takes on a life of its own. Black-and-white, by its very nature, is an abstraction of reality and therefore tremendously liberating. With the “colors,” or tones, of black-and-white, I am free to skew the emphasis of the elements in the scene…a green leafy plant in front of a red sandstone wall can either be the hero of the scene, or recede against the wall, depending on what I want viewers to see. I can see the reality of color in my own way. These “colors” between true black and harsh white are also what give me a visually rich, elegant and expressive silver image.

Opening on August 18th and running through October 13th, 2019 The Color of Black and White – Original Photographs by Alan Ross will be on display at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village. A closing reception for the artist will be held on Saturday, October 12th with the artist in attendance. Come on by and witness Alan’s skewed views and ‘colorful’ visualization of The West.

How it Began: Photography Education at The Ansel Adams Gallery

FROM OUR CURATOR, EVAN RUSSEL:

A dialog with Yosemite begins the moment one steps into the hallowed valley. The towering walls, sleepy meadows and leaping waterfalls all incite conversation.

But where to begin?

Since its modern day (re)discovery in the middle of the nineteenth century by non-indigenous people, that conversation — whether it be personal, political or spiritual — has inevitably involved photography. So much so, in fact, that it could be argued that photography saved the storied park from over-development when the photographs of Carleton Watkins persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to set aside The Yosemite Grant in 1864 in the first act of public land preservation in the nation’s history.

Ansel Adams and a group of photography students in the High Sierra

By the time a young man named Ansel Adams first stood at the ramparts of Half Dome, in awe of the great monolith, photography had made its way into the mainstream.

It had become a mechanism for illustrating the life of the everyman. And it was on that first trip to Yosemite in 1916, that his father gifted Ansel Adams his very first camera, a Kodak Box Brownie No.1 that would become a catalyst in his own life’s pursuit.

In 1940, Ansel Adams hosted the very first photography workshop in Yosemite.

He recognized the growing popularity of the medium and the need to impart the significance of the art. Sponsored by U.S. Camera, the group of instructors that first summer were rounded out by two of his good friends, Edward Weston, and Dorothea Lange. From then on, almost every year until his death in 1984, Ansel enthusiastically taught his annual workshop program in Yosemite, inspiring multiple generations to go out and have a conversation translated through light.

Today, The Ansel Adams Gallery proudly follows in Ansel’s footsteps, empowering photography students through immersive workshops, half-day classes, and private guided tours.

Image from Platinum and Gum Printing with Digital Negatives Workshop with Kerik Kouklis

Week long workshops still embrace the large format, silver gelatin centricity of their forebearers, while others teach modern day printing techniques, digital photography and alternative processes in the same workshop darkroom used by Ansel Adams himself.

Explore our Workshops

 

Photo Guiding with The Ansel Adams Gallery

As the desire to be at the right place at the right time gained influence, we expanded our offerings to include Private Guiding.

Private guiding offers one-on-one experiences led by an expert staff photographer that is customized to the experience you are hoping to achieve. Available as 4-hour, 8-hour, or multi-day tours, we ensure you will have the opportunity to witness at least one sunrise or sunset as a backdrop to one of the most photogenic places on Earth. An added bonus: no need to worry about the details of how or when to get there. Your guide will lead the way!

Sign up for a Guided Tour

 

Students in the field during photography class “Using Your Digital Camera” with Staff Photographer Kirk Keeler

Our 4-hour classes are taught outside in Yosemite Valley, surrounded by spectacular views

Regardless of your proficiency, you will find something in our photography education program designed to be your guide.

We also now offer 4-hour Classes for both beginners and intermediate level photographers. Covering a variety of topics ranging from technical to creative thinking and history, and scheduled throughout each week of the year, these classes accommodate anyone looking to take a new step in honing their craft.

Sign up for a Photography Class

The legacy of The Ansel Adams Gallery has always been more than the photographs on its walls, or the person that created them.

Any discussion of this topic most assuredly must include the importance Ansel and Virginia Adams placed on the unique brilliance of the medium itself; its ability to be a transformative visual dialog capable of influence and accessible to all of us. After all, everyone has a vested interest in the greater conversation on this planet, whether personal, political or spiritual. And whether you are Carleton Watkins or Ansel Adams or anyone really, sometimes it is just a matter of knowing where to begin.

Written by Evan Russel, Curator

An Annual Event: Parks In Focus & The Ansel Adams Gallery

Last week, our gallery hosted a wonderful group of students from Udall Foundation Parks in Focus Program. Each summer for the past decade, Parks in Focus has been bringing groups of middle school youth from the San Francisco Bay Area to visit, explore, and learn about Yosemite through photography.

Parks in Focus Camera Walk in Yosemite Valley. Photographs taken by Staff Photographer Chris Corrandino

The Ansel Adams Gallery had the pleasure of displaying the artwork from the 2018 Parks in Focus participants from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, Real Options for City Kids, and the Sequoia YMCA on gallery walls all week!

Student work from 2018 on display in the gallery

We also enjoyed taking the kids out on a Camera Walk throughout Yosemite Valley with Staff Photographer Dillon Engstrom. Students learned photography tips, practiced composing scenes big and small, and returned home with colorful images to help tell the story of their Yosemite experience.

We look forward to seeing the pictures taken by this year’s group of students, and can’t wait to keep the Parks in Focus tradition going next year! To see highlights from the past decade, check out the Parks in Focus Flickr collection.

The Parks in Focus program at Yosemite is made possible by the Yosemite Conservancy.

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!

The Art of Digital Photography with Kirk Keeler

Looking to dive into the creative possibilities of your digital camera surrounded by some of the world’s greatest natural wonders? Staff Photographer Kirk Keeler and Yosemite Valley offer just that in “Using Your Digital Camera,” a hands-on, outdoor lesson offered by The Ansel Adams Gallery. In the course of one afternoon, Kirk’s class explores artistic possibilities in digital photography with step-by-step tips and techniques in aperture settings and priority, shutter speed, ISO, and using histograms to optimize exposures. Kirk instructs you how to unlock the power of your digital camera so your creativity can soar to new heights.

Practice and explore, be engaged, and return home with an extraordinary photography collection from your Yosemite Valley experience.


In Kirk’s class, he guides photography students throughout the valley, teaching how to better understand the way your digital camera “sees.” He engages thoughtful conversation on how our cameras interpret the scenes before us, and how if we understand this better, we will achieve more satisfactory results. A distant mountain may appear majestic and gleaming to the eye, but to the camera it may be interpreted as a distressingly small, weak image. Learn to make thoughtful adjustments with your camera that allow you to capture the scene as your eye perceives it.

Using Your Digital Camera” teaches you how to intuit your camera’s capabilities and quickly solve problems of scale, contrast, harsh light, and depth of field.

Taking a class with Kirk is both fun and creatively rewarding; he has had a life steeped in the arts with a background in drawing and painting, piano, guitar, and an extensive experience photographing in the great outdoors. In 2007, Kirk purchased a digital camera to learn more about this emerging medium, and was quickly swept away in a passion for landscape photography. He moved to Yosemite National Park in 2011 and has been sharing his passion for fine art photography as a teacher at The Ansel Adams Gallery ever since.


Not only does Kirk’s class enrich your digital camera expertise while practicing new skills in a variety of locations throughout the Valley, it is also guided by stories of Ansel Adams’ personal curiosities and discoveries in camera and film technology.

Sign up for “Using Your Digital Camera” and acquire the skills to truly capture the essence of Yosemite Valley with your digital camera, soaking up the surrounding splendor each step of the way.

“The great rocks of Yosemite are the most compelling formation of their kind. We should not casually pass them by for they are the very heart of the earth speaking to us.” – Ansel Adams

Yosemite at Night: A Photography Exhibit by Michael Frye and Kirk Keeler

Purchase these photographs

On Exhibit at The Ansel Adams Gallery – June 30 – August 17, 2019

In Yosemite, the hustle and bustle of activity pervades the day.  But at night, this all changes and the park becomes unfettered, with the wild echoes of nature and the humbling magnitude of an endless firmament overhead.  Here, bears forage for grubs. The coyotes howl in Tenaya Canyon. Mountain Lions traipse through talus. And while others turn in, artists like Michael Frye and Kirk Keeler work patiently photographing the moon and the stars.

Michael Frye has been famously photographing Yosemite for the last 35 years, frequently the beneficiary of a well honed instinct and a thorough knowledge of Yosemite’s unique geography.  Kirk Keeler has likewise found his home in the Sierra now ten years on following the encouragement of Mr. Frye to pursue photography. Like many a dedicated photographer, both of them have weaved their way through the iconic locations and grand vistas of the National Park.  But where their shared experience finds a potent intrigue is in their continued dedication to exploring Yosemite by the hidden light of the night.  

Opening at The Ansel Adams Gallery on June 30th and running through August 17th, Yosemite at Night: Photographs by Michael Frye and Kirk Keeler, will exhibit works of stellar and astrophotography made by these two local artists of their great back yard over the course of their combined 45 years in park. On Wednesday, July 24th from 3-5pm, the gallery will host a reception for the artists who will be in attendance.  We hope you can come by and see a NEW side of Yosemite.

Michael Frye – Artist’s Statement

Night Photography

During the day, it’s difficult to see beyond the surface beauty of nature. But when the sun sets, and the forests, mountains, and deserts are enveloped in darkness, nature reveals its hidden power. At night, the wilderness offers a chance to experience something that has become truly rare in the modern world: a sense of mystery.

In order to capture this sense of mystery in my photographs, I’ve ventured out at night into wild places throughout the American West at night. I started making nighttime images in the 1990s with a medium-format camera, film, and a battery-powered flash. In recent years the tremendous low-light capabilities of digital cameras have opened up new possibilities, making it possible, for example, to photograph a clearing storm in Yosemite with only starlight for illumination.

Although I often make photographs with just the light from the stars or moon, I’ll sometimes add light to the scene by using a flashlight to “paint” objects in the foreground. At night can you take control of the light by choosing its angle, color, and focus. Light-painting can be quite complex, but adds a creative dimension to the work that’s tremendously fun and rewarding.

Regardless of the light source or technique used, in all my after-dark images I try to convey the mood of the nighttime wilderness – the sense of mystery, wonder, peace, and awe that can overtake you when you venture into wild places at night. Nighttime offers a chance to forge a connection with nature that’s become increasingly rare in our crowded world.

Kirk Keeler – Artist Statment

Active listening.  I think that best describes my current approach to photography.  Active listeners, “Need only [to] restate – in their own language – their impression of the expression of the sender” (1).

Whether it’s a 12-mile backpack trip to a remote wilderness area or the constant action of moving around a cyclocross course during a race, I believe movement can play an important role in positioning to ‘listen’ for a photograph.  During the act of movement, I strive to be led by my intuition.

Intuition is the primary internal tool that helps me to see the subjects I capture in a photograph.  Once seen, the ‘listening’ begins in order to obtain my ‘impression’ of the ‘expression’ the subject is emanating in that moment.  What lines attract my attention?  How can the light interact to gain a better expression?  Can I distill the expression to a simpler form?  These are perhaps a few questions I might ask instantly while interacting with a subject.

If all the above coalesces to produce a memorable photograph, then I believe it is my duty as an artist to share it with the World.

(1) Gordon, Thomas (1977). Leader Effectiveness Training. New York: Wyden books. p. 57. ISBN0-399-12888-3.  Thomas Gordon is one of a few people to have coined the term “Active Listening”.

Light from a Distant Mountain

(The Ansel Insider)

“Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California” by Ansel Adams, 1944

In 1943, Ansel Adams began to document the Manzanar War Relocation Center, an internment camp for over 10,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. Ansel used his camera to capture the strength, determination, and spirit of the people there amidst the hardship that had been thrust upon them. Immersed in the community of displaced Americans, Adams produced Born Free and Equal. It was a project that would prove to be surpassingly prescient towards the impacts of its own historical moment, and one of Ansel’ only forays into photo-documentation. In more than 100 images, he captured the nature of life in the camp, the humanity of its residents, and the monumentalism of its surroundings weaving them together to form a mosaic of natural beauty and human perseverance.

When Ansel completed his project at Manzanar, he had created a body of work dedicated to the human dignity he found there that was as profound as his iconic photographs of the surrounding landscape.

And as it turns out, it was one mountain in particular that stood out as an agent of hope among the unsurpassed beauty of the western landscape that encompassed Manzanar. Mt. Williamson. On the floor of the Owens Valley, Manzanar is bordered to the west by the soaring Sierra Nevada and the east by the great arid expanse of Death Valley National Park. Ansel believed that this surrounding western landscape was one of the few American cultural symbols the internees could still lay claim.

Photograph of the landscape outside of the Manzanar Relocation Center. Image courtesy of the Ansel Adams family archives

In a poignant passage written in Born Free & Equal, Ansel describes the sublime geography of the region that is empowered by a spirit originating from the granite wall of the Sierra Nevada: Mt. Williamson, only a distance of ten miles west of Manzanar, rises against the sky so magnificent and shimmers under the clear sun.

“The acrid splendor of the desert, ringed with towering mountains, has strengthened the spirit of the people of Manzanar. I do not say all are conscious of this influence, but I am sure most have responded, in one way or another, to the resonances of their environment…The huge vistas and stern realities of sun and wind and space symbolize the immensity and opportunity of America.” — Ansel Adams, Born Free & Equal

It was in 1944, on one of his later trips to Manzanar, when Ansel captured his extraordinary photograph of Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California. The image, taken from a platform mounted to the roof of his car, portrays Manzanar’s most important landmark rising from the foothills in the far distance. The mountain stands central in the image, its enormous form erupting from a sea of boulders resting on the floor of the newly made desert. Arguably, Ansel’s inspiration that enabled him to make such an iconic, moving image as “Mt. Williamson” came from the impact of his experiences observing the coping and fortitude of the Japanese-American internees. He believed the grand landscape transcended the everyday existence of internment. Ansel received criticism for photographing the surrounding landscape, and responded to such criticism in Ansel Adams: An Autobiography:

“I have been accused of sentimental conjecture when I suggest that the beauty of the natural scene stimulated the people in the camp,” he wrote. “No other relocation center could match Manzanar in this respect, and many of the people spoke to me of these qualities and their thankfulness for them.”

Ansel photographing the sweeping views near Manzanar. Photo courtesy of the Ansel Adams family archives.

Ansel’s Mt. Williamson reminds us of the deep-seated relationship between the landscape and its inhabitants, its cool mountain peak radiating an air of possibility in contrast to the heat of the desert floor where the camp lay. Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California is breathtaking in its portrayal of the Owens Valley environment. In another passage from Born Free & Equal, Ansel expresses:

“It is the magical mountain, the dominant accent of the world of Inyo…No summit of the Sierra looms so impressively above its immediate base as Williamson. Mary Austin speaks of its ‘seven-mile shadow.’ In the same mood Horace wrote of the ‘great shadows falling from the high mountains.’ Yet the shadows of the Sierras are not somber; they make space definite with glowing light.” — Ansel Adams, Born Free & Equal

By Reily Haag, Creative Writer for The Ansel Adams Gallery

The Artists of the Manzanar Relocation Center

At Manzanar, every 20-by-25-foot room held eight detainees. Few furnishings were provided. Cots with straw mattresses, an oil stove, and a single hanging light bulb were all that decorated the rooms. And yet, in spite of the harshness of their environment, and in spite of the injustice of their circumstances, the prisoners managed to find inspiration, extract beauty, and create art.

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.

Yosemite Valley School Silent Auction at the Ansel Adams Gallery

Last week, our gallery hosted a Silent Auction to benefit the Yosemite Valley School — a school that is close to our hearts as it is part of our local community, and was also the very school that Michael Adams, Ansel’s son, attended when they lived in Yosemite Valley! It was a great event with lots of wonderful people. Thank you to all who attended!

Yosemite Valley School Silent Auction Program, designed with a cover of beautiful wildflowers

One of the auction volunteers, a student from Yosemite Valley School, shared her enthusiasm for the fundraiser with us!

Local artists and businesses joined together to donate an array gifts for the auction, including paintings, historic photographs of the school, hand-made soaps, cider, jewelry, and experiences like an overnight at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, also known as The Ahwahnee.

Paintings, jewelry, photography, and prints were some of the auction items on display.

A photographic collage of Historic Yosemite Valley School

A wonderful time was had by all. Thank you for everyone who participated in lifting up Yosemite Valley School and supporting this educational initiative in the local community. We hope to share more community events like this in the future.

Let the bidding begin!