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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> QOTD: Ansel Adams
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10/12/2002 11:20:38 PM · #1
""True color" is a fiction, a false assurance that the sky was "that shade of blue" or this portrait show "correct" flesh colors and values. I believe we should encourage non-real explorations into the world of color hitherto restricted to painting. Only the technical rigidities and the fear of the unreal have held interpretative color photography to rather narrow paths. It now appears that the horizons are opening for new creative-emotional concepts that can be achieved in the domain of color imagery in the photographic mode."


I think the creative aspect of Ansel Adams' work is overshadowed by the techincal revolution he brought to photography. The fact is, he developed the techniques, to create what he imagined. Many of his photos take on a ghost-like, almost IR quality due to the changes in tonal range he creates. He was not interested in capturing images as they existed, which is a fools errand, but creating what he, himself saw. He did work in color, and probably would have embraced digital photography.

I have a book with a beautiful color image he did of Crater Lake in 1943.

10/13/2002 12:23:06 AM · #2
I agree. What he is sayng is taht there is no way to capture the realism of what people see. We see 4000 to 1 lightness to darkness, the film can only capture 8 to 1, as an example of film limitation.

If you try to capture reality, you will most likely end up with photographs that are devoid of emotions or meanings. You'll have a ton of elements in the photograph that distracts the viewer from what you want them to see. Another thing that is interesting is that our eyes can only focus on one point at a time -- but it appears that EVERYTHING is in focus because our brains is constantly making calculations on what we see and making them appears as if in focus, probably due to survival reasons.

I think Galen Rowell has also said many times in his column in Outdoor photography about the futility of trying to capture 'reality'. He has written an excellent article about "color". He disputes the popular notion that color is simply the reflected light from objects (the Newtonian theory). In his "The Doors of Perception" article published in his book "Inner game of outdoor photography" Rowell believes in the theory from Edwin Land. His theory is that our eyes don't respond to "color" at all, but that color is a figment of our imagination :) Newtonian theory is that color is the property of light itself, but Land's theory is that color is what our mind made up as light is reflected and seen.

This is why when you look at a person in dark shadows, you can still see his face with the RIGHT COLORS in your head, but if you take the photograph, his face will appear darker than what you remembered. If you take a photograph of a white lilly in the shadows, it'll come out as gray unless you "overexpose" the actual lighting condition to get the actual white color.

Rowell and Adams are very similar in their philosophy, just different times, one shoots B&W (well at least Adams' most famous works are B&W) the other shoots color slides. BTW, i don't understand when you say that Adams' work look like infrared, i think his B&W photography is quite "normal" as far as the tonality is concerned.

(Either that or my perception of "color", or rather, perception of grays is as screwed up as his is :))


Originally posted by Zeissman:
""True color" is a fiction, a false assurance that the sky was "that shade of blue" or this portrait show "correct" flesh colors and values. I believe we should encourage non-real explorations into the world of color hitherto restricted to painting. Only the technical rigidities and the fear of the unreal have held interpretative color photography to rather narrow paths. It now appears that the horizons are opening for new creative-emotional concepts that can be achieved in the domain of color imagery in the photographic mode."


I think the creative aspect of Ansel Adams' work is overshadowed by the techincal revolution he brought to photography. The fact is, he developed the techniques, to create what he imagined. Many of his photos take on a ghost-like, almost IR quality due to the changes in tonal range he creates. He was not interested in capturing images as they existed, which is a fools errand, but creating what he, himself saw. He did work in color, and probably would have embraced digital photography.

I have a book with a beautiful color image he did of Crater Lake in 1943.






* This message has been edited by the author on 10/13/2002 12:23:52 AM.
10/13/2002 12:57:33 AM · #3
My statement about the IR aspect refers to a specific image I cannot find right now. My greater point was, that Ansel did not see "correct" exposure, but rather a way to capture what he imagined. This sometimes was a very literal interpretation of the scene, and sometime an other-worldly interpretation. They way he would expand or contract the constrast range of a scene lead to some very interesting images.

The specific scene I was thinking of was a stand of Aspen trees. The range of gray in the image was far more subtle than most of us could capture.

* This message has been edited by the author on 10/13/2002 12:56:44 AM.
10/13/2002 01:07:45 AM · #4
Paganini - The scientific view of what light is and how it is reflected, and the view of how we observe it and interpret it, are two different things. One doesn't contradict the other. One is the science of "what we think happens in nature" the other is the science of "the way we think our brains respond to what we think happens in nature" :)

We shouldn't go around throwing out the physics of light and reflection just because we know we don't see the world exactly the way the light that hits our eyes would reveal it to us. That same light hits our cameras, is manipulated by lenses and apertures, and is what our film and CCDs are exposed to. Understanding how it works is crucial to making that process work correctly. It then takes an extra step to think about how to manipulate that process to create a photo that will be "pleasing to the eye" by widening or narrowing depth of field, using soft or sharp focus, dodging and burning, oversaturating some objects and desaturating others, etc. All these things are the means we have of manipulating the viewer's brain into seeing what we want them to :). But the light that was reflected from or transmitted through or emitted by the objects in the photo is our medium and should be respected! (Dammit!).
10/13/2002 01:20:29 AM · #5
Actually, I think his point was quite valid. Every lens, film, CCD, and software intereprates light in it's own way. The point was, no single one is correct. Physics tries to describe what we perceive, but each individual, and each medium, perceives things differently. The point was, there is no "correct" color, because it is open to what we all see individually.
10/13/2002 01:31:46 AM · #6
Lisa, the point is, the film, CCD is designed to capture the reflected light intensities and convert it to a "color" :) The problem is, color perception isn't just reflected light, that was my point, and thus, what we "see" versus what is captured on film is different, even if the film is matched perfectly to the colors we saw because our perception is different.

Ever see the golden light at dusk? If you put a human face in front of it, it'll turn into a really unnatural orange color, but when we see the other person at dusk, their face appears 'natural', even though on film it does not :) Similarly with shadows, it turns everything to gray and darker "colors" as we see on print, but while we are there in the natural environment, a white flower in shadows will still be "white" but after captured on film, it'll be "gray". Thus, what we think we saw versus what we capture on film are two different things and as exposure is changed, the color shifts (for B&W onoly the luminosity value changes, for color slides or CCDs, the color also will change).

When I was younger around 12-13 years old, i often take photos during family vacations and always ended up not liking a lot of the photographs because i thought "That didn't look anythign like it!" because the auto metering system would turn things into different "colors" then it really is.

I think the point that Rowell is trying to make is that COLOR can't be defined by science in the "reflected light" theory, because COLOR is what we "see" (i.e. how our brains interpreted, has more to do with cognitive psychology than physics). I think the day will come when colors can be captured from OUR BRAINS and displayed back into our BRAINS, maybe then we can truly capture reality :) until now, we're stuck with this 2 dimensional thing call photography that only captures what the film/CCD can capture.


Originally posted by lisae:
Paganini - The scientific view of what light is and how it is reflected, and the view of how we observe it and interpret it, are two different things. One doesn't contradict the other. One is the science of "what we think happens in nature" the other is the science of "the way we think our brains respond to what we think happens in nature" :)

We shouldn't go around throwing out the physics of light and reflection just because we know we don't see the world exactly the way the light that hits our eyes would reveal it to us. That same light hits our cameras, is manipulated by lenses and apertures, and is what our film and CCDs are exposed to. Understanding how it works is crucial to making that process work correctly. It then takes an extra step to think about how to manipulate that process to create a photo that will be "pleasing to the eye" by widening or narrowing depth of field, using soft or sharp focus, dodging and burning, oversaturating some objects and desaturating others, etc. All these things are the means we have of manipulating the viewer's brain into seeing what we want them to :). But the light that was reflected from or transmitted through or emitted by the objects in the photo is our medium and should be respected! (Dammit!).



10/13/2002 01:37:00 AM · #7
What I think is funny, is that Lisa is arguing in defense of science, while paganini and I are somewhat arguing against it.

I think the main point is, color is subjective. It can be defined by the wavelength of the light, but each brain, and each medium interperates it differently. In fact, you can take the same roll of film to three different photophinishers, and end of with three different results. Who is right? It is all subjective. The important thing is, the photographer ends up with the desired result.
10/13/2002 01:50:46 AM · #8
Taht is rather funny :) I have always lived in parallel universe, since i am in engineering and yet i also played violin for a such a long time. In college it was always weird having to go between the two worlds. I don't think lisae is far off because she's a physicist, right? :)

I agree with your point before bout how color is different for everybody. I have often wondered about it -- whether if I am seeing "yellow" but the same "color" as "yellow" is seen by someone else as "blue". That is, if we were to record how our brain responds to YELLOW in another person and play it back into MY brain, whether i'd end up seeing "BLue" instead of yellow :) There hasn't been any evidence yet of how hte brain responds to "color", whether each of us generates the same "electrical signals" or not. It'll be itneresting to find that out. Could this be that when I am out with my friends, one of them would say "Check out that hottie over there?" and someone else may agree but there is always someone who disagrees, perhaps it's soem sort of tonal value, etc. WHy do some people prefer blondes versus brunettes? Maybe it's how our brains repond to the two colors?....

But this is more philosophical than scientific :)


Originally posted by Zeissman:
What I think is funny, is that Lisa is arguing in defense of science, while paganini and I are somewhat arguing against it.

I think the main point is, color is subjective. It can be defined by the wavelength of the light, but each brain, and each medium interperates it differently. In fact, you can take the same roll of film to three different photophinishers, and end of with three different results. Who is right? It is all subjective. The important thing is, the photographer ends up with the desired result.



10/13/2002 04:26:34 AM · #9
HAHAHAHA, THAT'S SO FUNNY... Oh wait, I have a BSc.(Hons1) in Physics.
10/13/2002 11:51:36 AM · #10
I think the point of his quote was that artists had only used colors withing the expected boundries at this time, and he was lobbying for a more creative use of color, outside of those seen in natural world.
03/10/2005 04:57:43 PM · #11
*Bumping this very old thread apropos the current challenge, for some "historical perspective."
03/13/2005 10:08:49 AM · #12
When it comes to scenic photography it seems by the comments that most of the people here don't have clue. No central subject in a scenic photograph? Give me a break! The WHOLE photograph is the subject. There is no person or animal there, it's about the scene! Does it draw your eyes to move around the whole shot? Is there depth and does it have the feel of 3 demention? Tell me what is the central subject is in scenic shot that Ansel adams made! The sky or the mountain? No it was the over all shot and creating the feel of 3 dimentions on a 1 dimention plan.
Ansel Adams was all about the zone system, which apparently many of you don't have no clue to what it is about. Do the highlights and shadows have texture? You go look at his work and try to copy some shot he made. So when someone shoots something original using the zone system you make comments like no central subject? Ha ha ha.. Go take some classes in photography and then come back and judge accordingly..
03/14/2005 07:07:41 AM · #13
Huh!
03/14/2005 07:49:48 AM · #14
Originally posted by denito:

When it comes to scenic photography it seems by the comments that most of the people here don't have clue.

that fits me to a tee, given my comments on your entries...

Originally posted by denito:

Go take some classes in photography and then come back and judge accordingly..

thanks for the advice, i'm sure it will help my scores here

Message edited by author 2005-03-14 07:50:43.
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