I would be remiss if I let the birthday of Ansel Adams pass without paying homage to him and his contributions to this art form I enjoy. After all these many years, and technological advances, I still find the Zone System he is credited with pioneering, the best way to achieve tonal range, or values, in an image. I could go on and on about his contributions to photography, but I thought it would be interesting to look at one of his famous images - Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.
CAPTURING THE IMAGE
I hope you clicked on the link above to view this striking image that became one of his best selling prints. There is some debate about the exact time the famous image was captured, but sometime in the late fall of 1941 is the general consensus. To me, the exact day is irrelevant. However, the story of how the image was captured by Adams is fascinating. Adams talks about the image in the video I linked here.
The magical light of New Mexico is so fleeting, but so worth those few minutes when the world is washed with this incredible glow. There are many reasons New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment. The light is surely one of the many reasons.
As you may know, I love visiting New Mexico. (In a perfect world, I would be living there, and my camera and I would be capturing those skies on a daily basis.) Anyway, on one visit a few years ago, I went in search of the location Moonrise was taken. As you might imagine, it looks very different over 70 years later - ALMOST unrecognizable. The reason I went on the search was out of curiosity. I see no reason to try to recreate what was done so well. In a way, I think you would be setting yourself up for failure if you tried. And, really, can you capture “lightning in a bottle” a second time?
Having said that, I have included a moon rise I captured in the same general location of northern New Mexico. The location was a little closer to Santa Fe because you can see the lights of Santa Fe just beginning to glow in the valley. It isn’t Ansel Adams’s, but I hope you enjoy that big, beautiful, colorful, New Mexico sky.
As I listen to a few of the videos in which Mr. Adams recounts his capturing the Moonrise image, I am struck by the fact that he knows his camera and settings so completely. He can recite the lumens, aperture… without hesitation. I know he trained as a concert pianist. Is this like playing scales for him? Or, is it that we/I have become lazy and dependent on my camera’s internal electronics to help me select the correct settings? Whatever the reason, I am determined to dig in deeper this next year, to learn to “play scales” of photography. Who is with me?