Ansel Adams’ biggest secret to stunning photography

Jun 24, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Ansel Adams’ biggest secret to stunning photography

Jun 24, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Ansel Adams was one of those people that becomes more and more fascinating the more you learn about him. Each bit of information you gained made you want to learn even more about either the man himself or photography in general.

In a video recently uploaded to Advancing Your Photography’s YouTube channel, host Mark Silber interviews his son, Michael Adams, and looks at how Ansel discovered what became his biggest epiphany in photography.

Previsualisation of your shot is something that gets drummed into us fairly quickly these days, but in order to fully be able to do it, one needs to understand the underlying principles and science of it all. Understanding the science is what allowed Ansel to put that theory into practise to produce the amazing results that he did.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpcxfRB1hWk

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with just snapping away and hoping you get something. That option satisfies millions of camera owners every year, whether they’re using a cellphone, a DSLR or something in between.

If you want to push yourself, however, and really make the most out of these photographic marvels in your hands that we call a digital camera, understanding how they work, understanding light, colour and contrast in a scene is going to help get you there.

Light Science and Magic is one of the most recommended books out there when it comes to understanding light and colour for photography.

As with most things, after reading up, the key to actually understanding it is going out there and trying it. When you get some new information about light or photography, then go try it and see the results for yourself first hand.

But don’t just stop there. Experiment, too. Try things just to see what they do. Whether the results are better or worse, try to figure out why. You can still learn from happy accidents and screw-ups, too!

The more you know, the more you can previsualise what you’re going to shoot next, and the more easily you’ll be able to make what you see in your mind appear on your sensor.

You can see Mark’s fill playlist of videos about Ansel Adams on YouTube, and see more of Ansel’s work on the Ansel Adams website.

What are your biggest thoughts or concerns when making a photograph? What do you think you still need to improve upon? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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4 responses to “Ansel Adams’ biggest secret to stunning photography”

  1. Greg Snell Avatar
    Greg Snell

    Understanding the thirds, and placement, and the contrast of objects. Has greatly improved my shots. Mostly thanks to old film camera books and studying the techniques of oil paintings.

  2. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    In 2011, I finished up a 3-pack of Kodak B&W film, BW400CN, that I bought to photograph a historic event. In finishing up the other two rolls, I rediscovered the classic look of B&W.
    I decided for 2012, that I would photograph the year exclusively using B&W film. It was a year of experimentation for me, to use different B&W films, Kodak and Ilford, and different B&W contrast filters: yellow, orange, and red.
    It took me about three months before I was able to visualize in B&W.

  3. Yon Pol Avatar
    Yon Pol

    Alejandro!!!

  4. Mark Niebauer Avatar
    Mark Niebauer

    This video has been going around on youtube for many years. and its a good one. Visualization is the key to good photography. That means proficiency in photoshop type programs is a must because it is the digital darkroom. The real world rarely ever presents you with what your minds eye is after. That is your performance. The final product. Not the real event.