Ansel Adams ~ Master Manipulator

Day 289 of Colourisation Project – February 20

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born this day, February 20, 1902, Ansel Easton Adams was one of the most celebrated and highly influential photographers of the 20th century, famous for his boldly printed, large format black and white landscape photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park.

of the gray spectrum, his majestic American landscapes with their stunning and dramatic range of tones are technically flawless.

Ansel Adams Bef & Aft

Photographer: J. Malcolm Greany ~ Ansel Adams ~ Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Though Adams also worked extensively in colour, soon after Kodachrome film was invented in the mid 1930s, he felt restricted by the rigidity of the color process. Looking forward into the future, Adams wrote, “I…tremble when I think of the coming tornado of color.”

Adams’s natural affinity was for black and white photography, which he could manipulate to produce a wide gamut of bold, expressive tones. He was able to achieve maximum tonal range from black-and-white film through a technique he co-developed with fellow photographer, Fred Archer, known as the Zone System, which determines optimal film exposure and development of the final print.

Adams often said, the negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score and the print is the equivalent of the conductor’s performance. And like a conductor controlling his musicians in the orchestra pit, Adams manipulated his images through the use of push-and-pull processing and then extensive dodging and burning in the printed process, which as he explained were “steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.”

A pioneer in the movement to preserve the wilderness, Adams was often criticized for representing an idealized wilderness that no longer existed but because of his work, he saw to it that these pristine areas were protected for years to come. He became one of America’s most respected environmentalists and is regarded as an environmental folk hero and a symbol of the American West, especially of Yosemite National Park.

In 1968 Adams was awarded the Conservation Service Award, the Interior Department’s highest civilian honor, “in recognition of your many years of distinguished work as a photographer, artist, interpreter and conservationist, a role in which your efforts have been of profound importance in the conservation of our great natural resources.”

In 1980 in acknowledgement of his work as both a photographer and an environmentalist,  Adams was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for “his efforts to preserve this country’s wild and scenic areas, both on film and on earth,” by President Jimmy Carter, whose citation said, “It is through [Adams’s] foresight and fortitude that so much of America has been saved for future Americans.”

Adams died on 22 April 1984 at the age of 82. In a career that spanned six decades, his body of work continues to inspire generations of photographers and conservationists alike.


A good photograph is knowing where to stand.  ~  Ansel Adams

This entry was posted in Black & White, Colorization, Colourisation, Environmentalism, Photography, USA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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