Ansel Adams’ name is synonymous with photography, and his landscapes of the American West made him into a household name, not just one of the most iconic photographers of the 20th Century. The Nerd Writer, a guy named Evan Puschak is the host and narrator of an Ansel Adams mini-documentary that takes the viewer on a ride tracing the origin of Ansel’s early days as a kid with a Brownie to the most-renowned American landscape photographers.
Not surprisingly, Ansel’s early photos were average, and it wasn’t until a storied trip on April 10, 1927, to Half Dome to shoot from the ‘Diving Board’ where you can stand right next to the rock he made so famous. It was here where he started his real photography career and came up with what he called ‘Visualization’, or seeing with his mind’s eye. He wanted to create what he visualized the scene to be inside his head, which was depth, tonal range, and more than just a basic exposure, and thus, his style was born from a red filter and a 5-second exposure.
Ansel later developed what would become known as the ‘Zone System’. The Zone System is a way he and his friend would compose their frames by looking for different tonal ranges and balance, or different zones being used to bring out detail and depth to the light and dark areas of their composition to achieve balance. This, of course, was a way for Adams to translate the feeling he had to his photographs or the visualization he saw in the mind’s eye. Puschak doesn’t go into detail about how much editing Ansel Adams really did, but if you look at his frames before editing, you could see all the dodging and burning he did to achieve this effect in the darkroom.
At the end of the short documentary, Ansel Adams describes how one day we’d be using electric cameras some day. Well, he was certainly right, and I can’t imagine how far he could’ve pushed digital imaging had he had the technology we have today. You can check out the Nerd Writer’s Tumblr here, and overall, a fun and inspiring video to say the least.