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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 03 Oct 2018 (Wednesday) 21:13
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What gear would Ansel Adams shoot if he rose from the grave ?

 
mdvaden
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Oct 03, 2018 21:13 |  #1

This is purely hypothetical, but possibly a good question to distill ways of thinking. Amidst debates and talk about DSLR vs. mirrorless and brand vs. brand, the thought of Ansel Adams came to mind. If Ansel Adams could rise from the grave and return to life today, what would he do as a photographer? Try to imagine being in his shoes. What do you think he would do?

Would he sort through all the specs on on the new camera and lens gear? Or would he find the same camera and lenses he used to photograph with and work with those?

I've seen Ansel's work, and I don't know why he couldn't capture and process photos worthy of today's expectations. I don't know enough about him to understand his thinking about new gear. Would Ansel use the tools he understood, and how much would weight and size matter?


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Oct 03, 2018 21:26 |  #2

Well, Adams already took and created photos that surpass today’s expectations, so I don’t think he would have any problems adapting. Anyway, he was aware of the potential advent of digital, and the prospect excited him; particularly as it would give photographers greater flexibility with manipulation. I could see him doing a hybrid-thing, using a digital medium format, and then making digital negatives to produce sliver gelatin prints.


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Oct 03, 2018 22:17 |  #3

You could start by reading his book “The Camera”. In it, he talks about choosing the right equipment for your style. Adams himself wasn’t anchored to one format: while many of his most popular landscapes were done with large or medium format, he also used 35mm for portraiture. He had a long association with Polaroid. IMO, one of the strengths large format film had was better resolving power then smaller format. Digital, however, keeps evolving with more pixel density..and digital 35mm now has both higher resolving power and DR then color film. Adams would have evaluated that, and considered other formats for other reasons (such as perspective or lens characteristics).


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mdvaden
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Oct 03, 2018 22:54 |  #4

Has anyone worked in a darkroom enough to guess whether someone with as much time in one as Ansel would prefer the darkroom? I've never been in a single darkroom. Is it the kind of thing that is mostly necessity, or is it an experience a photographer could love doing? Because that would be one of the divisions between digital and film, although a photographer can do both.


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Oct 04, 2018 06:11 |  #5

I've worked in a darkroom a LOT and I feel it is a part of the photographic process, the conclusion to it, actually, when you create a great looking print.

So many people today do not even bother with printing the digital image and just view it on a backlit screen which can be totally different from the printed image.


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Oct 04, 2018 07:06 |  #6

mdvaden wrote in post #18721906 (external link)
Has anyone worked in a darkroom enough to guess whether someone with as much time in one as Ansel would prefer the darkroom? I've never been in a single darkroom. Is it the kind of thing that is mostly necessity, or is it an experience a photographer could love doing? Because that would be one of the divisions between digital and film, although a photographer can do both.

He would use what he knew, i.e. medium/large format film, and full darkroom process. And IMO, he would research the digital process to see what it could do for him in producing the results he envisioned.

Yes, some people stick with film because they love working in the darkroom, and don't like working on a computer. Follow this link to what until recently was an "analog only" site, and read some of the threads in the "Lounge" section; some of the anti-digital threads are quite extreme and in some cases, quite comical:

https://www.photrio.co​m/forum/ (external link)




  
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Oct 04, 2018 07:13 |  #7

Naturalist wrote in post #18722056 (external link)
I've worked in a darkroom a LOT and I feel it is a part of the photographic process, the conclusion to it, actually, when you create a great looking print.

So many people today do not even bother with printing the digital image and just view it on a backlit screen which can be totally different from the printed image.

Agree. With the capabilities of today's gear, its kinda crazy to think he would chase camera specs. Post processing and printing would be more of a concern.


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Post edited 5 months ago by Wilt. (2 edits in all)
     
Oct 04, 2018 09:58 |  #8

mdvaden wrote in post #18721906 (external link)
Has anyone worked in a darkroom enough to guess whether someone with as much time in one as Ansel would prefer the darkroom? I've never been in a single darkroom. Is it the kind of thing that is mostly necessity, or is it an experience a photographer could love doing? Because that would be one of the divisions between digital and film, although a photographer can do both.

I have many, many hours in the darkroom, in both B&W and color processes. I found that the greatest satisfaction that I could obtain in photography was in making prints...I still miss my time in the darkroom printing color Cibachrome (later Ilfochrome) AZO dye prints. Processing B&W and color film never (for me) had as much 'magic'. Both of them far MORE satisfying than sitting in front of a computer screen post processing.

Part of the satisfaction is the 'magic' in waiting (in the case of color) to pull the print from the rotary drum to see if the result is what you anticipated...the ultimate in delayed satisfaction (vs. the instantaneous ability to see the result as you made changes, during post processing). In the case of B&W prints, it was seeing if the contrast of the print and any manipulations (dodging and burning in) done during the enlarger exposure and see if the result is what you anticipated, watching the image come up in the developer...less of a 'delayed satisfaction' than color. The act of printing was itself an 'art' (to be more precise, the skill of the craft), and it was less of a rote skill than shooting images.

To me, post processing is (in the case of event photography) more drudge labor than satisfaction. I do not find PC based manipulation of images to be as satisfying.


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Oct 04, 2018 17:40 |  #9

A question I would have, if he were around today, is

"Given the relatively narrow dynamic range of film (9-10 Zones), and the relatively wide dynamic range of digital today, what do you think of HDR?...is its use too far 'over the top'?!"


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Oct 04, 2018 18:09 |  #10

This is easy. He’d shoot canon. No way he would stoop to Sony or Nikon. He would only use L-glass. And he would laugh at people who take photos on phones. I’m also sure he would be a member of POTN.


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davesrose
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Oct 04, 2018 21:11 |  #11

Wilt wrote in post #18722381 (external link)
A question I would have, if he were around today, is

"Given the relatively narrow dynamic range of film (9-10 Zones), and the relatively wide dynamic range of digital today, what do you think of HDR?...is its use too far 'over the top'?!"

This is one of the reasons why I don't think he'd just limit himself to what technology he had at the time. From what I've gathered, he was more concerned with techniques and was also keeping appraised with technology. You look at his life's work and you'll see he wasn't shooting with just one system or just using one dark room. What is interesting is that he built his own large format enlarger. Even during film, he was being critical of what B&W film stock had the best DR (which was higher then the general color DR zones you've estimated...Clarkvisio​n estimating the best film stocks going to 14+ stops) and how to process that to print (what we now think of as tone mapping). Digital was being introduced towards the end of his life, and his quotes do indicate he felt it was a natural extension (IE given time, it would be viable). If he were to be born now, I don't see any reason why he couldn't arrive to the same "zone" system of scene, "negative"/recording medium, and print/screen.

RE: darkroom. I do have B&W darkroom experience. There are a couple things that I think make it more versatile then just sending in film for development. The first is that you can continue to define contrast: you might intentionally expose a certain way or "push" your film ISO and then compensate with exposure time with your enlarger. The second aspect is that you can print at other aspect ratios then what's deemed "standard" with 35mm. I did burning and dodging and painting with dyes: I much prefer digital for easier and better processing effects.


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Oct 04, 2018 21:46 |  #12

I spent years in darkrooms doing B&W, "C" printing, & Dye Transfer & will never go back to using caustic chemicals in the dark. I doubt that Adams would either, after he spent a few hours with Photoshop.


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Oct 05, 2018 00:20 |  #13

I've thought about the "what would Adams do today" question and after reading his books and studying his career I think he would be pushing digital for everything it is worth and more. He used a variety of camera systems throughout his career and a variety of film formats. From what I can tell he was wanting the best technology in camera hardware, film, paper, chemistry, and darkroom equipment. It would be fun to see what he would be doing.


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Oct 05, 2018 06:54 |  #14

bpalermini wrote in post #18722577 (external link)
I've thought about the "what would Adams do today" question and after reading his books and studying his career I think he would be pushing digital for everything it is worth and more. He used a variety of camera systems throughout his career and a variety of film formats. From what I can tell he was wanting the best technology in camera hardware, film, paper, chemistry, and darkroom equipment. It would be fun to see what he would be doing.

Yes he did use several different cameras over the years but most of his serious work was done on large format. The zone system functions best with single sheets exposed one at a time. He referred to his Hasselblad as a small camera. I would imagine he would have come up with a digital zone system. I'm sure he would still be working in B&W because of his philosophy about photography. Maybe large format with a digital back so he could control both front and back swing, tilt, rise and fall?




  
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Oct 05, 2018 07:08 |  #15

I am not an Adams history buff, but some of his most famous quotes could give you an indication:

‘You don’t take a photograph, you make it.’

'Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.’

If those were his true believes than I think we can assume he would use digital equipment since he would likely have more control over both these parts. After that.. Who knows.. Large format.. Full Frame or a rebel T3i would all be more advanced as anything he ever could have imagined...


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What gear would Ansel Adams shoot if he rose from the grave ?
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