Ansel Adams & The Magic of Glacier Point

If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite and the weather permits, make the adventure to Glacier Point for an epic all-encompassing view of many of the park’s scenic wonders. At an elevation of 7,214 feet, Glacier Point offers a superb lookout onto Yosemite’s iconic landmarks including Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, and Clouds Rest.

From Glacier Point — Vintage Ansel Adam Photograph, 1927

“From Glacier Point,” Vintage Ansel Adams gelatin silver photograph, Negative Date: 1927, Print Date: 1927, Signed “A. E. Adams”

Ansel Adams cherished this magical viewpoint, and ventured to Glacier Point on a number of occasions to photograph the incredible view. The below image is from one of those occasions, a photo captured by Ansel in 1947 using a 5″ x 7″ view camera. The perspective of Half Dome from Glacier Point is a quintessential Yosemite vista, which Ansel composed with a dramatic thunderstorm brewing to the East.

Half Dome from Glacier Point by Ansel Adams

Half Dome from Glacier Point” Special Edition Photograph by Ansel Adams

Ansel’s trips to Glacier Point were animated and often hectic, as his son, Michael, remembers. When Michael traveled with his father when he was photographing, he recalls:

“It was sometimes hectic because a lot of times things happened with the light or the clouds and he wanted to get something before the clouds changed or the light changed…It was enjoying being here [at Glacier Point] in an environment and seeing what Ansel was seeing in the camera and watching him do it.” — Michael Adams

Ansel’s captivation with weather, light, and drama translates beautifully in the collection of images he created from this spectacular location. One of them, titled Autumn Moon, High Sierra from Glacier Point, captures a waxing gibbous moon rising over the Clark Range southeast of Glacier Point.

Ansel Adams’ photo Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point, taken Sept. 15, 1948. (image from the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust)

Ansel kept detailed notes on the technical aspects of his photographs, however information about the date and time of his images was often incomplete or contradictory. Such is the case with Autumn Moon. In a study conducted by a team of astronomers at Texas State University, researchers applied forensic astronomy to Ansel’s photograph using lunar tables, topographic maps, weather records, and astronomical software. The findings of their study shed new light on Autumn Moon’s celestial scene, determining that Adams created the photograph on Sept. 15, 1948, at 7:03 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. (Follow the full story here.)

Ansel’s Moonrise, Glacier Point portrays another enchanting composition of the night sky over the Clarke range of mountains.

Bathed in the light of a rising full moon, the south central high country shines with a silvery glow. Ethereal beams cover the sleek, illuminated granite terrain and the brilliance of the moon pierces through the night.

Upcoming Exhibition: Yosemite At Night

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.

Brittany Colt Teaches Ansel Adams’ Legacy & Your Digital Camera

Photographing the breathtaking wonders of Yosemite is a lifetime dream. Being able to do so with the expert guidance of an Ansel Adams Gallery staff photographer opens one’s world up to an array of creative and technical possibilities.

Staff photographer Brittany Colt teaching her class in a special clearing surrounded by trees near Cook’s meadow. The same place Ansel brought his very own students.

Staff photographer Brittany Colt (above) teaches “Ansel Adams’ Legacy and Your Digital Camera,” a hands-on class that gets you outside in the field of Yosemite Valley, while learning how to make the most out of your camera’s capabilities. Brittany’s class is designed for photographers of any level, as she caters her teaching style to her students’ varied levels of experience and takes the time to review each individual inquiry throughout the guided process.

In the field shooting after Brittany’s discussion on solving exposure issues and practicing new composition techniques

In Brittany’s class, she takes her students on an adventure to several of the same locations Ansel stood when he captured some of his iconic images of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley meadows, and upper and lower Yosemite Falls.

Brittany teaching abstract reflection photography. Learning to compose Yosemite Falls in a still meadow pond

 

Practicing long exposure techniques with water in motion

At each location, Brittany introduces a new digital camera technique and a storied perspective referencing Ansel’s teachings and contributions to modern digital photography. Class participants are taught specific rules of photography, and then shown how to break them as Ansel did. Brittany’s teaching style is well paced, balancing personalized instruction, expert insight on tips and tricks, storytelling, and in-depth practice.

Practicing compositions of Half Dome

Beyond acquiring a dynamic understanding of histogram, exposure, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, Brittany instills insight into “how to see” as a photographer. Each step of the way, she shares methodology originally introduced by Ansel on the act of visualizing one’s final composition before snapping the shot.

Capturing cloud formations and playing with layers of light and dark

Brittany’s enthusiasm and graciousness do not stop when class is over. To each of her students, she offers follow-up consultation, welcoming a continuation of the digital camera conversation beyond the outdoor classroom. Each of her students receives a digital outline that covers everything learned in class, along with additional material to help inspire their practice onwards.

Learn now, stay in touch later!

 

Take the class! Sign up here.

Virginia Adams Spreads Native American Art from the Southwest to Yosemite

(The Ansel Insider)

Ansel Adams’ trips to the Southwest—often with his wife, Virginia—were as much about connecting with people as they were about connecting with landscapes. Through the traders and locals that they met, Ansel and Virginia connected with a number of Native American artisans and craftsmen. And it was Virginia who first decided to include the work of those Southwestern artisans in the gallery in Yosemite.

Virginia at the University of Arizona in front of pottery by renowned artisan Maria Martinez gifted from her and Ansel’s collection 

“Starting in 1929, she started buying for her family business—her father’s business at the time,” says Michael Adams, Ansel and Virginia’s son.

“She bought Indian rugs, and jewelry, and she was very careful about what she bought—only high-quality, authentic items.”

Virginia began collecting jewelry, pottery, blankets, kachinas, and other items. She would continue her buying trips to the Southwest on an annual basis—taking trips to meet with her favorite traders in Arizona and New Mexico, from Flagstaff to Gallup, and purchasing Native American folk art for display in the gallery.

The Ansel Adams Gallery still represents Native American artisans first introduced by Virginia Adams. Photo taken of beautiful handmade jewelry in the gallery, May 2019

In and of itself, this was remarkable act, and ahead of its time. Today, questions about inclusivity in the gallery are common, but in the early 20th century, the notion that Native American handiwork would find its way into a gallery space was far from a foregone conclusion.

“Those early trips were very important to the later years of what the gallery came to stand for,” says Adams.

Virginia (right) with friend and writer Ella Young on a trip to the Southwest, 1929

Of his mother’s attraction to the Southwestern aesthetic, Adams offers this simple explanation: “She fell in love with it.” And that love extended into their own home. “We decorated our home with it,” remembers Adams, “We had wonderful Indian rugs on the floor, slung over chairs. They were always showing us beautiful new things that would come in.”

Virginia’s decision to display the wares of Native American artisans was not merely aesthetic, but economic as well. For many visitors to Yosemite, the gallery was their first exposure to the work of Southwestern artisans, and the handcrafts were an immediate success. The sales of their goods enabled many Southwestern artisans to ride out leaner times during the Great Depression.

“That’s the ethic of wanting to support quality work, wanting to have quality work on your wall” says Adams, “You want to make sure that good artisans survive and continue making that quality work.”

Current represented Native American works in The Ansel Adams Gallery


It’s a conservationist impulse. In the same way that Ansel Adams felt the need to conserve the natural environments that provided the fodder for his photographs, Virginia recognized the need to preserve and sustain the people who created these beautiful crafts.

“Good things happen to good people,” says Adams, “If you find someone who’s doing an exceptional job, you do what you can to support them. And because of our position in Yosemite, we felt a particular obligation to support Native American handcraft.”


By Ethan Simon, Creative Writer for The Ansel Adams Gallery

Secrets of the Southwest: Locals Point the Way

(The Ansel Insider) 

For Ansel Adams, the project of cataloging the American Southwest was as much about finding beauty as it was about photographing it. But Adams did not have to look far for friends who were eager to help him uncover the secrets of that landscape. Entrée to the Southwest—insider knowledge about special sights and locations—was provided by enthusiastic local traders. On Adams’ trip to Arizona in 1941, it was Cozy McSparron, a trader who ran a post at Chinle who took him up to the Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto.

 

Cozy McSparron at Thunderbird Lodge

“They were old friends,” says Michael Adams, Ansel’s son, who joined his father on the 1941 trip. “They sat on the porch and drank whiskey. I drank Coca-Cola.” – Michael Adams

According to the younger Adams, the three went up the canyon in a four-door Chrysler open-top convertible. “It had great big oversized tires on it, so that it wouldn’t get stuck easily. But he said every now and then he would get stuck and he’d have to get horses to pull him out.”

 

“Canyon de Chelly” by Ansel Adams

McSparron, born in Gallup, New Mexico, learned to speak Navajo at an early age. “He brought with him to that trading post, a knowledge of native culture, and a supportiveness of that culture,” says Adams. That knowledge endeared him to the community, and his knowledge of the landscape would prove invaluable.

“He knew about all these small places—more intimate places—that my dad would have never known on his own, but was led there.” -Michael Adams

Ansel photographing petroglyphs and Rainbow Bridge in AZ

McSparron was far from the only trader that Adams would rely upon for insider knowledge. Harry Goulding, a trader in Monument Valley, was another remarkable resource.

Harry Goulding in Monument Valley. Image from Goulding.com

“He had a wonderful clientele with the film industry—with the people who filmed movies in Monument Valley,” Michael Adams says with a chuckle.

The punchline is this: it was Goulding himself who first drove to Los Angeles with the album of Josef Meunch’s photographs of Monument Valley, strolled into the United Artists studio building, and insisted on a meeting with John Ford. Goulding’s determination assured that Monument Valley would, for many, define the look of American West—both in Ansel Adams’ photographs, and in Hollywood Westerns.

“Monument Valley, Arizona” by Ansel Adams. Image from the National Gallery of Art

Traders also provided hospitality and a “home away from home.” At Wide Ruins, Arizona, Michael Adams recalls staying with a younger couple who had gotten into the trading post business. “Once they knew I could ride a horse safely, they’d let me take a horse every day and wander off across the reservation.”

Without his relationships to the traders and locals, Adams’ work in the Southwest would have been markedly different. It was only through the cultivation of strong friendships that Adams’ camera was able to find its now-iconic subjects.

Ansel photographing petroglyphs and Rainbow Bridge in AZ

Adams’ work cataloging the natural beauty of the American Southwest is not just an environmental project. It’s a human project as well.

“The traders facilitated Ansel getting into places that he might not have gone otherwise,” says Adams, “They showed him places, and they enabled him to explore those places through his photography.”


By Ethan Simon, Creative Writer for The Ansel Adams Gallery

Visions of Taos: The Making of “Taos Pueblo” by Ansel Adams and Mary Austin

(The Ansel Insider) 

When Ansel Adams traveled to New Mexico for his fourth time in April 1929, the majesty of the desert had already started to ingrain itself deep in his soul. During this particular trip, Ansel began to develop a lasting and very rewarding collaboration with feminist writer and bohemian Mary Austin. The artistic duet between Ansel and Mary in this particular case spawned the creation of “Taos Pueblo,” an exceptional project at the intersection of their two careers as photographer and writer.

Taos Pueblo Plate IV – “Girl of Taos” by Ansel Adams

When Ansel arrived in New Mexico in April 1929, he wrote a letter to his father to describe the impact of the desert and his partnership with Mary Austin on his spirits and career trajectory:

“Today there is thick black sky and snow is falling in the hills. Tomorrow it may be a crystal clear day; the changes of the weather are always startling…Mary Austin gets back in a day or so. We are enjoying every minute of the time, and the people are all so good to us that we feel quite at home. There is an unfolding a perspective of work that seems much, much more than I had ever hoped for…I am certain that New Mexico will keep me half a year at least [in the future] and I shall meet with a great success. The wealth of material is beyond belief.” — Ansel Adams letter to Charles Adams, New Mexico, April 4, 1929

“Taos Pueblo” Title page and subsequent page signed by Mary Austin and Ansel Adams

Ansel and Mary decided upon the subject of the Pueblo of Taos for their creative collaboration. Their dream came to fruition with the help of friend Tony Lujan, a Taos Indian, whose wife Mabel, heiress and patron of the arts, hosted Ansel and Mary at her home in Los Gallos, Taos. Tony Lujan approached the Governor of Taos, who in turn held a Council Meeting, and the following day granted Ansel permission to photograph the Pueblo. Ansel was thrilled to begin this project, greatly inspired by the stunning subject matter of “great pile[s] of adobe five stories high with the Taos peaks rising a tremendous way behind. And the Indians [so] majestic, wearing as they do their blankets as Arabs.” (Ansel Adams, Letters 1916-1984)

Left: Taos Pueblo Plate XII – “Church at Ranchos de Taos” by Ansel Adams. Right: Plate III – “Man of Taos” by Ansel Adams

Ansel’s awe of the Taos landscape, architecture and culture translated directly into the impressive photographs he made for “Taos Pueblo.” His enthusiasm was wild, resounding with excitement and wonder. In a letter to his best friend Cedric Wright from where he was staying at Mabel’s home in Los Gallos, Ansel wrote:

“Lookie! Jezuz Krize this is a great place. Such MOUNTAINS!!!! Peaks are 13000 feet high — MIT SNOW!!!! Pines Aspins Snow Clouds Burros Swell People Injuns No photographers but me. You gotta see this place before you die.” — Ansel Adams letter to Cedric Wright, Los Gallow, Taos, NM, April 1929

Taos Pueblo Plate V – “New Church” by Ansel Adams

Thus the “Taos Pueblo” project began, sparked by the good will of friendship, the enchantment of the region, and a shared sense of dedication to produce something truly remarkable. And remarkable, it was. “Taos Pueblo” was produced in 1930 in a small edition of 100 signed and numbered copies, plus eight artist’s copies, each containing twelve original prints. Ansel published this exceedingly rare book with Grabhorn Press in San Francisco. The folio is hand bound in original quarter tan morocco over orange buckram by Hazel Dreis. Ansel’s contribution to the work includes twelve original silver bromide prints which were hand printed by the artist himself on rag paper specially sensitized with emulsions by William Dassonville, his friend and San Francisco paper supplier. The manuscript pages were enhanced with a striking graphic motif by Italian-American printmaker illustrator and author, Angelo Valenti.

“Taos Pueblo” Book Cover (hand bound in original quarter tan morocco over orange buckram) and Inside Cover

Over a period of several months during the fall of 1929, Ansel manually produced 1,296 silver prints for the book edition. The quality and care put into the publication of “Taos Pueblo” along with its marking of the development of Ansel’s style makes it a breathtaking, sentimental masterpiece.

Taos Pueblo Plate IV – “Ruins of Old Church” by Ansel Adams

In 1977, the New York Graphic Society published a facsimile edition of the original, with the cooperation of Ansel. The society used gravure prints rather than original photographs, and produced a limited edition of 950 copies, each signed by Ansel. Following the release of that edition, photographic historian Weston Naef wrote:

“With Taos Pueblo we see a commitment to light and form as the essential building blocks of a picture. Every exposure was made in the most brilliant sunshine which in turn created deep shadows. Sunlight and shadow are at the same time the photographer’s friend and foe. Neither films nor papers can record the two extremes of bright sun and deep shadow equally well, and an unhappy tonal compromise is often the result. Rich shadow detail is here realized simultaneously with delicate highlights in a way that proves Adams’s native sense for the toughest technical problems of the medium, and how to solve them.” — Weston J. Naef, The Metropolitan Museum Art

Taos Pueblo Plate II – “South House (Hlaukwima)” by Ansel Adams

A seminal work in Ansel’s career, and a landmark photography book, “Taos Pueblo” is considered by many to be the greatest pictorial representation of the American West. With the publication of “Taos Pueblo,” Ansel launched his career as arguably the greatest landscape photographer of our time.

Learn more about the life of Ansel Adams here, leading up to and following his publication of “Taos Pueblo.” View the complete set of twelve photographs made by Ansel for “Taos Pueblo” listed by the Two Red Roses Foundation, a private, non-profit educational institution that promotes an understanding of the American Arts & Crafts movement.

New Release: Mt. McKinley, Wonder Lake – Modern Replica Print

Ansel Adams’ 1947 masterpiece captured in Denali National Park, Alaska

Mount McKinley at 20,320 feet is the highest peak in North America.

Collectors have found the gallery’s “Modern Replicas” a welcome addition to the options for collecting the work of Ansel Adams. The prints’ quality is on par with the contemporary photographs using the latest printing techniques. For the collection, the gallery have chosen prints from the collections of the Ansel Adams family and the Ansel Adams Archive at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.

Now the gallery is introducing a print of the majestic image “Mt. McKinley, Wonder Lake” taken in Denali National Park, Alaska in 1947.

The photo of Mount McKinley with Wonder Lake in the foreground was taken in the summer while Adams was in Alaska on a Guggenheim Fellowship trip. It was one of the rare cloudless days of that summer in Alaska. Adams and his son Michael spent a week in the ranger station waiting for the right conditions. The image was ultimately captured with his trusty 8×10 camera at 1:30 in the morning.

The print is available in sizes from 8×10” to 30×38” printed on heavy paper that mimics the look and feel of gelatin silver paper. It is shipped dry mounted to an acid-free foam core backer. The 8-ply overmats are museum quality acid-free rag board, also hinge mounted to the backer. The prints are also available framed in both Valley Wood or Matte Black. To find out more about the print and owning Mt. McKinley, Wonder Lake as a Modern Replica Print.

Read more stories from the making of this photograph:

Mt. McKinley Bears Invade Ranger Cabin
The Mosquitos Stole the Show on Mt. McKinley Negatives

Ansel Adams Defined the Modern Environmental Movement

Read Ansel’s 1968 speech to the DNC

As we celebrate Earth Day this year we are reminded of the diligence required to affect change. Today the environment continues to be attacked and the clock is being turned back on progress on many fronts. Ansel Adams spent decades in the battle to protect our environment. At his core, his activism was driven by his love of the environment and his humanity.

The tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention included a visit from Ansel. Ever the outspoken environmentalist, Ansel gave a presentation to the DNC Platform Committee. His remarks, reprinted here , were prescient and are unfortunately more apt today than 50 years ago.

The message he presented was a foretelling of the climate crisis we face today.

“The fearful problem before us now is HOW TO SAVE THIS PLANET AS A WORLD TO LIVE IN. Conservation is implicitly more important than war and peace, politics, racism, national and international problems and jealousies. If the basic portents of ecology, natural and human, are not heeded, man is surely doomed.“

1968 was also a year of cultural upheavals in the US. The VietNam war was raging as well as a dramatic anti-war movement which spilled onto the streets of Chicago that summer. It was also a time that the modern day environmental movement was growing. By the spring of 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated and 20 million Americans took to the streets in coast to coast rallies.

Looking at Adams’ early commitment to environmental activism (starting in the 30s) we are reminded of the ongoing work required to preserve and protect our wilderness. Adams was an unremitting activist for the cause of wilderness and the environment. Over the years he attended innumerable meetings and wrote thousands of letters in support of his conservation philosophy to newspaper editors, Sierra Club and Wilderness Society colleagues, government bureaucrats, and politicians.

In revisiting his speech at the 1968 convention Adams concludes that the prime question should not be “What will conservation cost?” but “What will the ultimate cost be if the conservation of all resources is not fully considered?”

A World of Alternatives – Original Photographs by Mark Citret, Jeffrey Conley, Vaughn Hutchins and Kerik Kouklis

Killion’s High Sierra