New Exhibit in Yosemite “In Harmony: Light and Land”, Photographs by Charles Cramer

May 30 – July 27, 2013 (Reception June 5th from 3-5 PM)

Charles Cramer is a photographer who revels in exploration and craftsmanship. A masterful artist, his career broadly parallels that of Ansel Adams: an early focus on music, finding inspiration in Yosemite National Park, and exploring the developing medium of photography. Charles has worked in the darkroom for many years, mastering the complex Dye Transfer process. He was also one of the first landscape photographers to work with the “digital darkroom”, offering more control to realize his artistic interpretation of the scene.

Cramer was selected by the National Park Service to be an artist-in-residence in Yosemite in 1987 and again in 2009. He is also included in the books “Landscape: The World’s Top Photographers,” published in 2005, and “First Light: Five Photographers Explore Yosemite’s Wilderness,” published in 2009.

Remembering Liliane De Cock Morgan, Photographer, assistant to Ansel Adams

Liliane De Cock Morgan by Ansel AdamsLiliane De Cock Morgan, a child of World War II Belgium who later became a vital part of the west coast fine photography world and photographic assistant to Ansel Adams, before continuing her career in the New York area, died quietly in her home in Wiscasset, Maine, due to complications from cancer, on May 25th.  She was 73 and had moved to Maine in 2010 from Ridgefield, Connecticut.

In Morgan’s 1973 monograph, Ansel Adams described her photography in the introduction: “De Cock presents to us a personal, private world.  It is a world of individualistic beauty and intensity. She communicates to all who will respond; she relates to no particular pattern of concept or execution.  Hers is fine photography—and what more can one say?”  Their association had begun a decade earlier when photographer Brett Weston had recommended Morgan for a short-term position spotting prints for his Portfolio IV.  Adams wrote, “I was quite impressed with her work from the start and with her perseverance in finishing off some four thousand prints.  She stayed on with me for a little more than nine years…” Morgan was a full-time photographic assistant to Adams from 1963 to 1972, and lived nearby the Adams home in Carmel, California.

During this time working with Adams she printed his master works, prepared prints for exhibitions, travelled with him to capture images, instructed in summer workshops, and was an integral part of the social environment that connected scores of artists, intellectuals, and conservationists of that time.  Between 1964 and 1967 Morgan supported Adams and Nancy Newhall as they captured images and stories for Fiat Lux, the University of California system’s centennial book.  Along the way she learned the craft of photography by apprenticeship as well as through her own experience traveling throughout the United States.  It was a remarkable ascent considering her challenging beginnings.

Born September 11, 1939 in a suburb of Antwerp, daughter of a milkman and a mother she never met, Morgan lived with the rigors of wartime northern Europe.  During the war she and other children were sent to orphanages in the south of Belgium to be safe from potential bombing.  These separations left a lasting impact on Morgan. After the war she grew up amidst hunger, family strife, and a succession of stepmothers.  At age 14 she left home and never returned. She finished secondary school through her own perseverance, but was unable to fulfill her dream of a university education.  Instead, she worked factory jobs, including time in the darkroom at Gevaert, a company that made photographic materials and is now part of AGFA, saving money until she could legally leave the country without parental consent at age 21.  Within two months of her birthday in 1960 she was aboard a ship to New York to begin a new life, a vision she had held since the age of 12.

Within days her life had truly set on a dramatic new course.  On the boat she met photographer Brett Weston, son of Edward Weston, who was then traveling on a Guggenheim Fellowship.  By the end of the voyage they had formed what would become a life-long friendship with big implications for Morgan’s new life.  She spent less than a year in New York, before moving to California where, after only minor dabbling in photography as a hobby, she was introduced to Ansel Adams by Weston.

As described by the Joseph Bellows Gallery: “Under the guidance of Ansel Adams and with a 4 x 5 inch camera lent to her by the artist, Morgan began photographing the landscape and soon developed a unique vision and printing style which utilizes the full tonal scale of the medium with a strong attention to the melancholic values.”  Each year Adams would grant Morgan 3-6 weeks of vacation in which she would travel alone around the continental United States capturing images of rural America.

Morgan’s skill grew as she also contributed more to the photographic community of that time. In personal correspondence Ansel Adams, in the mentor role, once wrote, “I have unlimited faith in you as a person and as a photographer!!”  She eventually instructed in and coordinated the Ansel Adams Yosemite Workshops and was a founding trustee of the Friends of Photography, among other contributions.  By the early 1970s she was recognized as a fine photographer. She received a number of awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972. Her important early solo exhibitions included the George Eastman House (1970), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1971), the Witkin Gallery (1972), the University of Rhode Island (1972), and the Amon Carter Museum (1973), among other venues.

Morgan left Carmel in 1972 after her marriage to Douglas Morgan, publisher of Ansel Adams’ early technical photography books, who she had met during a workshop in Yosemite Valley.  She moved to Dobbs Ferry, New York, and later to Pound Ridge, New York where she started a family and became enmeshed in the Morgan family businesses.  Working with Douglas and her brother-in-law, Lloyd Morgan, at Morgan & Morgan publishers and Morgan Press, she edited over a dozen monographs of prominent photographers, edited the Photo Lab Index, and contributed to many other fine photography titles.  At the same time she became master printer for her mother-in-law, famed dance photographer Barbara Morgan, who, along with her deceased husband, Willard Morgan, had been a colleague and friend of Ansel Adams for over 40 years.

During this time Morgan shifted much of her personal creativity towards raising her only son, Willard Morgan.  She studied cooking techniques from around the world, nurtured a small menagerie of domestic animals, and continued a hobby from her Carmel days of discovering unique treasures at flea markets and antique stores.  Photographically, she tried her hand at architectural photography, documented summers at Camp Treeptops in Lake Placid, New York, and experimented with still life scenes.  Morgan issued a limited edition portfolio of her most prominent work in the early 1980s and had her last solo exhibition in her homeland of Belgium at FotoMuseum Antwerpen in 1991.  A number of later books, including the History of Women Photographers by Naomi Rosenblum (1994), recognized Morgan’s contribution to the world of photography.

After a divorce in 1997, Liliane moved and remained connected to photography as a technician in a custom photo lab in Ridgefield, Connecticut, where she transitioned from black and white darkroom technique to the new technology of digital printing, learning full color techniques as well. In 2002 Morgan attended the Ansel Adams Centennial in Yosemite Valley where she spoke in a panel of all the living former photographic assistants.  She was one of only two women who held that role for Adams (the other being Morgan’s close friend, Gerry Sharpe).

In 2010, Morgan retired from full-time work and moved to Wiscasset, Maine where she enjoyed being near family and the big sky vistas of the ocean.  Morgan is survived by her son, Willard Morgan, his wife, Jenn Barton, and her granddaughters Sierra Morgan (6 years) and Zella Morgan (6 months), all of Alna, ME.  In addition to her son, she is survived by five stepchildren: Adele Morgan, Eric Morgan, Lael Morgan, Seth Morgan, Jennifer Morgan, and their families.  A private service will be held this summer.

Willard Morgan
P.O. Box 35
Alna, ME  04578

Looking at Ansel Adams: The Photographs and the Man

Check out this wonderful lecture on Ansel Adams by his former Assistant, Andrea Stillman.

for more video on and about Ansel Adams, see our Video page

White House Ruin

White House Ruin, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1942 -- available as an Archival Replica

White House Ruin, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1942 — available as an Archival Replica

“Only when I had completed the prints [of this image] months later did I realize why the subject had a familiar aspect: I had seen the remarkable photographer made by Timothy O’Sullivan in 1873, in an album of his original prints that I once possessed. I had stood unaware in almost the same spot of the canyon floor, about the same month and day, and at nearly the same time of day that O’Sullivan must have made his exposure, almost exactly sixty-nine years earlier.” Adams’ photograph differs from O’Sullivan’s; he included a triangle of sky in the upper right corner and used a filter to darken the sky and cliffs.

White House Ruin is featured as one of the Images of the Southwest

Dogwood Blossoms

Ansel Adams made this image with a 5″ x 7″ view camera in 1938, the year he trekked through the high sierra with Edward Weston. Depending upon the year, dogwoods typically peak during April or May in Yosemite , evoking bursts of starlight against the bare forest backdrop. This dramatic contrast prompted Adams to compose one of his only still-life images. To capture the 12 blossoms in this spectacular spray of dogwoods, he placed them atop a nearby rock covered with pine needles and lichen.

The Sierra Club published “Dogwood Blossoms” in 1960 after Ansel Adams selected it, along with 15 other images, for inclusion in “Portfolio III, Yosemite Valley .” Later, Adams selected it for his Museum Set Collection, a retrospective portfolio of what he considered his strongest work. The image has been published in Classic Images , the book based on the Museum Set, Yosemite and the Range of Light (out of print) , Yosemite, The Portfolios of Ansel Adams, Yosemite and the High Sierra, and Ansel Adams Monograph (out of print)

Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, 1944 – Modern Replica in sizes up to 30″x38″

Winter Sunrise from Lone Pine

Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, 1944 by Ansel Adams

On four successive mornings Adams tried to take this photograph from the east side of the Sierra. On the fifth day it was still dark and bitterly cold when he set up his camera on the new platform on top of his car and retreated to the warm interior. As dawn drew near, he returned to the camera to await the sun’s first rays on the meadow. “I finally encountered the bright, glistening sunrise with light clouds streaming from the southeast and casting swift moving shadows on the meadow and dark rolling hills.” At the last possible moment, the horse turn to offer a profile view. Many years later he wrote “Somethings I think I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter!”

Purchase this Modern Replica

Re-Introducing “Half Dome, Olmsted Point”

Half Dome, Olmsted Point – Yosemite Special Edition Photograph has been re-released

Half Dome, Olmstead Point - A Yosemite Special Edition Photograph

Half Dome, Olmsted Point – A Yosemite Special Edition Photograph by The Ansel Adams Gallery

It has been many years since this photograph, part of the Yosemite Special Edition Photograph series has been available. Half Dome, Olmsted Point was photographed by Ansel Adams in 1959. We are pleased to be able to re-introduce this stately photograph back into the series. Purchase this Photograph

Yosemite Special Edition Photographs – Ansel Adams launched the Yosemite Special Edition series in 1958. Today, Alan Ross makes each Special Edition Photograph by hand from Adams’ original negative on gelatin silver fiber paper. Ross, a master printer and fine art photographer in his own right, began working side-by-side with Adams as his photographic assistant in 1974; he’s been the exclusive printer of this series since 1975. Each of the prints in this limited series bears an identifying stamp. Yosemite Special Edition Photographs are available only from The Ansel Adams Gallery. Starting at $295. See all Yosemite Special Edition Photographs

Stone & Brush: The Paintings of Penny Otwell

Exhibit runs from August 20th – September 30th (Reception September 13th, from 3-5 PM) at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite National Park.

Like the voice of a singer, a visual artist has her own signature style.  I am an “alto” in the choir of painters I know.  My work has evolved from 48 years of painting outdoors and hiking in the Yosemite Sierra. Using a brush and palette knife to design paintings of granite and metamorphic mountains, here is my 2012 show, STONE & BRUSH. See more of  Penny Otwell’s artwork

 This past winter was unique as the High Country roads were open due to the lack of snow.  I did an initial series of drawings on large paper starting in December 2011, working “en plein air” without the normal crowds of people at the most popular spots.  At Glacier Point and on Tioga Pass road I next worked drawings in ink directly on canvas (30 x 24”) for paintings I would complete in the studio.  The work began to change, leaving visible lines next to opaque and transparent paint and the paintings began to sing to me with clarity.

Each piece has several thin transparent glazes that produce a rich depth and harmony. Oranges, golds, teal greens — but few blues, another big change in my work for this show.  As the year progressed, this series of paintings of warm shadows, instead of cool, gathered into a cohesive body of work.

In books I’ve studied about painting, I’ve learned to leave ”line” out of my work, focusing on shapes.  But I decided to let line predominate because of my love of drawing.  This journey has been a fun exploration of line and color.  Some paintings were done from drawings I made in Yosemite in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s and others were drawn just this year.  *

The paintings reflect my connection with nature while the line portrays the strength of the mountains and the jewel tones communicate how I feel about them.  I trust they will sing for you!

 Penny Otwell, 2012

Unicorn Peak, Thunderclouds

Unicorn Peak, Thunderclouds by Ansel Adams

Unicorn Peak, Thunderclouds by Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams made this image with a medium format camera around 1967 in late spring or early summer when heavy snow still swathed the granite peaks of the Cathedral Range south of Tuolomne Meadows. The billowing thunderclouds piled high above the peak are atypical so early in the year and indicate the photograph was taken on an exceptionally hot day when the heat would have created the massive evaporation to form the clouds.

For many years, Adams led photography workshops in Yosemite . Each June, hundreds of students would arrive for the two-week sessions. The workshops often visited the high sierra and Adams may have captured this image during a workshop excursion, using it as an example of visualizing a subject from concept to print.


High Sierra Loop

With over 800 miles of trails to choose from in the park, there is one fifty mile loop that holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Yosemite ‘s devoted. It is a route that gives an up close and personal view of the mountains that John Muir dubbed “The Range of Light.”

I have friends who have done it in a single day “for fun” though most people take a week to ten days to cover the same terrain. I’d take even longer if I could. I am referring, of course, to the High Sierra Loop, a series of connected trails that take in some of the best scenery the park has to offer, mixed in with the type of rustic luxury that backpackers dream about. Hot meals, occasional showers and a night’s sleep in a real bed can be had in Yosemite ‘s high country by staying in a High Sierra Camp. Likewise, one can simply hike the Loop on their own, camping as they go.

It is not that I don’t appreciate the challenge of covering nearly fifty miles and over 10,000 feet of elevation changes in a single day, but this is country to stroll through, to ease into and to sit and admire. It is a different beauty than that of Yosemite Valley , which is a vertical world. Here the same materials that compose 3,000-foot vertical walls in Yosemite Valley are spread horizontally over miles in a sweep of sinuous granite slabs stitched together with a network of spirited streams. It takes time to properly explore.

The High Sierra Loop with its five camps spaced six to ten miles apart are clearly intended to ease one’s journey so that it is as comfortable as it is memorable. Due to their popularity, most of the camp accommodations are allocated early in the year through a lottery, though it is worthwhile to check for random openings mid-season due to cancellations, especially midweek. And the chance of scoring a meals-only reservation for one of the family style dinners makes it at least worthwhile to carry a credit card into the backcountry. Call (559) 253-5674 from May through September to make reservations.

While the camp accommodations can be hard to come by, there is no shortage of opinions about whether one should proceed clockwise or counter- clockwise for the most enjoyable circuit of the loop. The proponents for each are evenly divided and equally passionate. Finish at Vogelsang or Glen Aulin? Start in Yosemite Valley or the high country? It is hard to go wrong and in my opinion, if you can’t secure one of the coveted spots in a camp itself, try splitting the loop into segments that can be hiked as day trips or two- and three-day backpacks over the course of several visits.

For the sake of this article, we’ll move counter-clockwise on the loop to each of the five camps.

Glen Aulin:
At 7,800 feet in elevation, Glen Aulin is 5.7 miles distant from and nearly 1,000 feet lower than Tuolumne Meadows. Water is only a whisker away from camp, with the roar of White Cascade practically drowning out conversation in this picturesque spot at the confluence of Conness Creek and the Tuolumne River . The name Glen Aulin means “beautiful glen” and refers to the quiet glade just below the camp where the river takes a break from its riotous journey to meander through aspen and waist high lupine.

Likewise, the upper section of the trail, between Tuolumne Meadows and Twin Bridges is a long, leisurely passage through a parade of pines that occasionally open to frame views of the river. Below Twin Bridges, however, everything changes. For over five miles, between the bridges and Return Creek, the trail parallels the river’s plunge into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne . It is an unforgettable stretch of whitewater rushing over exquisitely polished granite that includes Tuolumne Fall, White Cascade, California Fall, Le Conte Falls, Waterwheel Fall and myriad other unnamed cataracts. Early in the season, the water races through the canyon like an Olympic bobsledder with each cascade seemingly determined to outdo the one above it. As summer progresses, the pace slackens and the delicate beauty of rivulets and eddies is a worthy substitute for the raw power of spring snowmelt. When asked to choose one place in a region overflowing with superlatives, many Yosemite devotees consider this the finest trail in the park.

May Lake:
Continuing in our counterclockwise direction, the next leg of journey is to May Lake , which is 1,400 feet higher than Glen Aulin, an elevation gain that is spread out over eight miles of trail. The lake, which is situated at 9,200 feet in elevation at the base of Mt. Hoffmann , was named for Lucy Mayotta Browne, the future bride of Charles Fredrick Hoffmann, for whom the peak is named. Hoffmann was cartographer for the geologic survey team that mapped out much of the Yosemite region between 1863-67.

Mount Hoffmann is an impressive and surprisingly accessible peak. It rises in an imposing granite wall that forms the entire western shore of May Lake . But the granite palisade can be skirted to the south and the 10,850 summit gained via a hike of just over a mile up its sandy slope. The geographic center of Yosemite, the peak offers spectacular views of Half Dome to the south and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne to north, and a herd of bear-sized marmots to greet you at the top.

While eight miles from Glen Aulin, May Lake ‘s idyllic location is deceptively close to the Tioga Road , boosting its popularity as a destination. A one-mile spur off of Tioga Road ends at the trailhead (elevation 8,400 feet). From there, it is a little over a mile to the lake.

The youngest of the High Sierra Camps (established in 1961), Sunrise sits astride broad granite benches on the western edge of Long Meadow, with the upraised Columbia Finger and razor thin Matthes Crest to the east and the Clark Range to the south. The trail from Tioga Road to Sunrise crosses Tenaya Creek and gains over 1,700 feet steadily before dropping down into the meadow bowl and the camp at about 9,400 feet. An early morning start is advisable for this hike, as it can be a hot climb up the exposed ridge from Tenaya Lake in the afternoon. No matter the time of day, the views of Tenaya Lake and Half Dome along the way are exceptional. Many hikers opt to stop at Sunrise Lakes , three small lakes on either side of the trail, rather than continuing on to the Sunrise High Sierra Camp itself. Hidden roughly a mile from Sunrise Lakes is Mildred Lake, tucked like a blue gem set in a ring of granite below 10,560 ft. Tresidder Peak. Facing west, Mildred Lake is far enough off the beaten track to provide solitude and a supreme Sierra experience.

Merced Lake:
Established in 1916, Merced Lake High Sierra Camp is situated at 7,214 feet in elevation, and is the oldest, and the last of the original three camps.* There is no easy way to get to Merced Lake. It is a three thousand foot elevation gain in thirteen miles from Yosemite Valley, ten miles and 2,200 feet downhill from Sunrise and roughly eight miles and 5,000 vertical feet of uphill and downhill hiking to get to/from Vogelsang. Distance alone makes each of those hikes challenging on a good day. Factor in the elevation gained or lost, depending on which direction one comes from, and it can be an epic journey.

My first impression of Merced Lake was that it paled in comparison to its counterparts. After multiple trips, I grew to appreciate both the hikes into Merced Lake and what the location has to offer. It is a subtler beauty and slower paced location than the other camps, that, because of the scale of its elements, feels like a trip backward to prehistoric times.

Hiking the thirteen miles stretch from the trailhead at Happy Isles, past Vernal and Nevada Fall and through Little Yosemite Valley to Merced Lake is a long journey. It is also beautiful. The long gradual ascent is much like the Tuolumne River between Glen Aulin and Return Creek, only in reverse. But here, the canyon walls are even taller and the surrounding features even more impressive. Sheets of water slide down granite slabs, slamming from one side to the other and the cascades are too numerous to count.

Merced Lake itself is a quiet stretch between cascades that is surrounded by steep granite cliffs and is home to some of the largest trees and bears in the park. While many of the other camps are destinations unto themselves, Merced Lake is a terrific base camp for accessing surrounding terrain. Popular day hikes include the summit of 11,522 ft. Mount Clark, the Lyell Fork of the Merced (one of Ansel’s favorite spots), and Washburn Lake .

If there is one location that fits the image of a “High Sierra Camp”, it is Vogelsang, which is the highest of the camps, at 10,300 feet in elevation. The complex is at the base of Mt. Fletcher alongside Fletcher Creek, which wraps around the camp, its gentle gurgles providing a pleasant backdrop to dinner.

There are actually two trails between Merced Lake and Vogelsang, but my personal favorite is the Lewis Creek Trail, which climbs nearly 1,000 feet in about half a mile to a pass from which one can gaze upon Vogelang Lake to the west and Gallison and Ireland Lake to the east.

It is a view that will easily take your mind off your trail weary bones, and call to mind a passage from a 1932 Sierra Club Bulletin:

“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being. There are some that care not to listen but the disciples are drawn to the high altars with magnetic certainty, knowing that a great Presence hovers over the range.” –Ansel Adams

From Vogelsang back to “civilization” in Tuolumne Meadows is a seven-mile, gradual, downhill hike via the Rafferty Creek Trail, or if you aren’t in a hurry, you can take the longer route past Evelyn Lake over to Lyell Canyon.

* The other two charter High Sierra Camps, Tenaya Lake and Booth Lake no longer exist. Tenaya Lake High Sierra Camp was removed, and the camp at Booth Lake was moved to present day Vogelsang.