Happy Birthday Ansel Adams

Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, California

Today is Ansel Adams’ birthday. The master of landscape photography, who was born in 1902 and would have been 115 today, had a profound affect on my creative direction and continues to be an inspiration to generations of outdoor photographers.

Adams pioneered the idea of previsualization, the concept of seeing the final image in the mind’s eye before the photo is created. He also co-founded Group f/64 with other photographic masters Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham, and he developed the Zone System, a technique for translating perceived light into specific densities to allow better control over finished photographs.

As a strong advocate for the environment, his iconic black and white images of the American West influenced powerful decision makers in Washington and helped preserve places like Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks and California’s iconic Big Sur coast. Ansel was also largely responsible for photography being accepted into the world of fine art, culminating in major exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 1980. And shortly after his death in 1984, the Minarets Wilderness in his beloved Sierra Nevada Mountains was re-named the Ansel Adams Wilderness in his honor.

Thank you Ansel – your legacy lives on!

“Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.”   ~ Ansel Adams

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

The Fire Within

Lava flow entering the ocean at dawn, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, The Big Island, Hawaii USA (© Russ Bishop/www.russbishop.com)

Lava flow entering the ocean at dawn, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, The Big Island, Hawaii

Madame Pele has re-awakened on the Big Island of Hawaii this past year sending a river of lava flowing into the sea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. For more than a quarter century the goddess of fire has let her temperament be known on this Pacific island creating one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and once again she is restless.

This image made in the pre-dawn hour shows the raw force of fire and water combining to form new land. It is an incredible spectacle to witness and one of the most challenging subjects I have ever photographed. In years past, walking across miles of a’a lava fields (the sharp brittle variety) in the dark and carefully setting up a tripod on a newly formed shelf above the sea was the only option. But now an ocean view provides a new perspective to this ever-changing scene.

In stark contrast to shooting the lush forests and beautiful beaches on the windward side of this same island, this is a land of raw earth and fire – and beauty of a different kind. The experience is intoxicating, and once you’ve caught your first glimpse of Pele’s glow the desire to return again and again is hard to resist.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Backcountry Bliss

Backcountry skier under Banner and Ritter Peaks in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California USA (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)

Skier under Banner and Ritter Peaks, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

Backcountry skiing in the Sierra Nevada is a perfect winter counterpart to the Desert Solitaire of Edward Abbey’s Utah. This popular and often crowded summer destination takes on another form during the shortest days of the year where deep in the wilderness that rare form of quiet is still plentiful.

Whether you want to ski your own private bowls or just enjoy the tranquility and unique photographic opportunities, it’s all there for the taking. Proper equipment and skills are obvious requirements and outdoor retailers like REI not only sell all the appropriate gear, but also offer classes in technique and safety. Enjoy the season!

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

That Extra Something

Mount Rushmore and fall color, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota USA (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)

Mount Rushmore and fall color, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota

I always strive to find the unique angle or foreground subject in my landscape and travel photography and most of the time this is simply a matter of scouting the location before the sweet light arrives to find that special element. But sometimes the options are limited and even the subject itself has really only one angle. Mount Rushmore is a classic example.

The sculpture created by Gutzon Borglum in the 1930s is an icon of Americana, and has probably been photographed more times than Old Faithful or Yosemite Falls. Of course I too had to capture my version, but with limited access to the monument my choice of lens was about the only option. Tight telephoto images are captivating and show the skill and detail that went into Borglum’s creation, but in the end it was a simple splash of fall color and a wide field of view that captured the essence of what I felt and gave the image that extra something.

So the next time you find your vision is hampered by the limitations of your surroundings go long or go wide, but try to include something unique within the frame that imparts a sense of time or place – and sets your image apart from the crowd.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved