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We are pleased to release this new Modern Replica of El Capitan, Winter Sunrise in celebration of Ansel Adams’ birthday, February 20, 1902.
Adams was up at dawn on a cold winter morning driving around Yosemite national park looking for photographs. There was a certain amount of cloud around swirling around the peaks until the sun rose and they cleared. On this day, there was an unusual and fortuitous high altitude haze which stopped the full power of the sun and diffused the light somewhat. Often in bright sunlight with snow, extremely high contrast can be a problem.
He positioned himself at one of the classic El Capitan viewpoints, from where the full 3000 feet of the cliff was visible.The tripod was set up in deep snow with care being taken to securely push each of the legs down to a stable layer below so that settlement didn’t cause any movement.
On this occasion a 4 x 5 inch camera was being used that had considerable movements of the lens and film plate unobtainable in smaller formats. This meant that the equipment could be arranged to avoid such features as the convergence of the pine trees in the mid-ground.
A particular feature of the scene that Adams wanted to capture was the swirling cloud passing above the trees and in front of the cliff, for all his visualization experience (this picture was taken 41 years after his first successful application of the technique) the behavior of such cloud was unpredictable. About six negatives were exposed on normal film and then several more on Polaroid film that produced a negative and positive at the same time.
Adams was unusual in that he liked using Polaroid film and took it very seriously. More commonly professional photographers considered it as a useful tool to get an instant idea of lighting effects particularly in studio shots, but not really anything to use for the final image. For many years he was a technical consultant to Polaroid.
Such was Adams approach to image making that he tried to process his negatives in chemicals that he had in the car to see the result and re-take if necessary. As it was, the temperature was too low for any realistic development and he eventually carried out the development back in his darkroom.
The Polaroid film could not be controlled during development as could the ordinary negative stock, though despite applying all the expertise he knew how and printing Polaroid and standard (Kodak Tri-X in this case) negatives, in this case the most satisfactory result was obtained from the Polaroid negative. This is what was used for the printing of the final image, though of course with the usual characteristic control of all of the variables of that process including different papers and a particular cocktail of proprietary developing agents.
This image is also a good example of how one photographer would develop an image to show a scene differently to another. The picture has received comments that the trees are rather dark. If one were present at the scene, they will have been lighter than they are shown here in relation to the rest of the view. Adams manipulation of this shows how he was able to bring about his own visualization of the scene to give the effect that he wanted.
As he says himself when writing about the image, “In an overpowering area such as Yosemite Valley it is difficult for anyone not to make photographs that appear derivative of past work. The subjects are definite and recognizable, and the viewpoints are limited. It is therefore all the more important to strive for individual and strong visualizations.”
The “artistic interpretation” of Yosemite, a place steeped in visual mythology and hewing tradition, is not to be taken or enacted lightly. As a summation of this long standing relationship between park and art, local painter Penny Otwell has said: “Drawing and painting in Yosemite all these years has taught me to see well!” Pages upon pages of graphite, ink and gouache laced paper that turn into canvases caked with oils and acrylics have directly participated in the invention, reinvention and even rejuvenation the ideal of the National Parks. And helping to advance this historical path is Ms. Otwell – who has been painting Yosemite since 1964. Otwell says, “The rhythm found in a “cooled granite flow” is what I’m after in my paintings. Nature’s rhythmic design offers the most interesting shapes for a painter, along with unusual negative space, color, angles, and most important, the very fine light found at higher elevations.”
The exhibition “Mountain Rhythm,” featuring new work by Penny Otwell, is on display at The Ansel Adams Gallery through November 2nd. This show includes en plein air and studio paintings that began as a field sketches which outlined the structure of geologic forms at work in Yosemite National Park. We hope you have an opportunity to visit The Gallery in Yosemite Village to see Penny’s work in person. See Penny Otwell’s current artwork.
Penny Otwell Artist’s Statement
The rhythm and design in the natural world motivates me to paint Yosemite’s granite forms left in the path of ancient glaciers. Since 1964 I have been drawing Yosemite and over 50 years of experience in this remarkable place has had a profound emphasis on my work today.
I am a self-taught painter inspired by Yosemite, but the real joy comes from painting it. I feel a deep connection to this place and a specific curiosity about the landscape. Hiking the trails over the years has given me confidence being outdoors. I “show up” most days to paint. Works are started with drawing or painting “en plein air” either on a linen support or in a field sketchbook. Some paintings are painted entirely outdoors from start to finish.
Being a painter is like being a scientist: the facts are in front of you, the arrangements are endless, conditions, premises, and conclusions all determine each painting. The “what if?” is constantly pulling at my sleeve! Conducting these experiments culminates in a collaboration of materials for a painting style uniquely my own.
What starts outdoors slowly changes into a carefully edited composition with many paint layers. I push back and forth, adding and subtracting with some reality, some abstraction, design, line, rhythm, value, and color. I love my job!
Ansel Adams used the term “visualization” often – but what exactly does it mean? How does it fit into your work flow as a photographer?
THE ANSEL ADAMS GALLERY
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA 95389