Ansel Adams discovers digital
Up he went. Up, up, he went high into the mountains. He carried an enormous, heavy camera with fiddly sheets of film. This was the third time this week he had climbed the mountain. He remembered the first time he had seen the majesty of nature in the American West. It was as close to a Road to Damascus moment as a twentieth-century American can have.
the splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious… One wonder after another descended upon us
I know of no sculpture, painting or music that exceeds the compelling spiritual command of the soaring shape of granite cliff and dome, of patina of light on rock and forest, and of the thunder and whispering of the falling, flowing waters. At first the colossal aspect may dominate; then we perceive and respond to the delicate and persuasive complex of nature.
Finally he reached the summit. He sat back for half an hour, waiting patiently for the light to reflect off the river and for the shadow to pass on the cliff opposite. The clouds were in the right place at the right moment. His canvas rearranged itself in front of him, he just had to wait for the right moment. It was almost time. He loaded up the camera with a sheet of film, checked the lightmeter once more, rigged it all up, ready to go. There it was, the moment of perfection, the moment he had waited all day for.
The shutter opened and light flooded through, hitting the film, and a few fractions of a second later, the shutter closed back up. He packed the camera up, took a last longing look at the landscape, and started clambering back down the mountainside.
He printed, he printed, and he printed until the print was perfect. Every tone was visible, from the subtlest of shadows to the glossiest reflection of light upon water, every detail shimmering out from the paper.
He scanned, uploaded, geotagged. He added it to the ‘Yellowstone National Park’ pool, and finally his work was done. He could sit back and let the world see the exhilarating beauty of the West’s untapped and unspoilt nature.
His computer pinged. The first comment had come in. He clicked on the message.
On an related note, the National Archives and Record Administration have just donated high-quality Ansel Adams images to Wikimedia Commons. There are lots of nice captures in there.