Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Ansel Adams in Yosemite

June 16, 2011, 10:00 am

by Larson Harley

As the road unwinds toward the heart of Yosemite Valley, magnificent monoliths of granite rock tower over the landscape as a backdrop over a giant, natural stage. The Merced River snakes along the entrance roads, teasing the viewer with deceivingly cold, crystal-clear waters. You’ll pass by black oak, ponderosa pine, incense cedar, white fir, and many other magnificent tree species. If your camera isn’t snapping away by now, chances are you will take more than a few pictures in the next few days of your trip. If you have not had the time to make it out to Yosemite National Park in California, it is more than likely that you have seen some of these features through the iconic images of master landscape photographer Ansel Adams.

Despite subtle differences and new structures that dot the landscape, much of the Yosemite Valley that was seen through the viewfinder of Adams’ camera can still be seen (and photographed) today. Many of the posters, calendars and coffee mugs with his most famous black and white Yosemite photographs were taken right inside of the Valley, from along the sides of roads, and down the very pathways that take you from meadow to meadow.

The best way to learn more about Adams’ work in Yosemite is to visit the Ansel Adams Gallery, which now preserves the home and former studio of Adams, and is your gateway into Adams’ world. Right outside of Cook’s Meadow (next to the Valley Visitor Center), the gallery now holds contemporary artwork, reproductions of Adams’ work, prints from original negatives, and even prints by the master himself. If you are not satisfied just to see the imagery, you can take a class titled “In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams.” A staff photographer will guide you on a walking tour through several parts of Yosemite Valley, and explain how Adams selected locations and photographs for his portfolio of images. Visit the Ansel Adams Gallery website for more information on classes and artwork at their location.

Very few photographers have left a legacy like Ansel Adams, whether directly through his work, or by his advocacy for the parks. It is challenging to feel as though you can find your own special way of framing the landscape, especially after seeing his images. The best way to overcome this feeling is to get out there and start snapping some pictures! There are many unique views that haven’t been captured, and digital photography is getting cheaper and higher in quality ever year. In fact, once you have a camera and memory card, it costs you nothing to take an image. Our modern advantage in the digital age is in our ability to take a virtually unlimited number of photographs, and that we can review our images immediately. Where Adams may have only taken a few dozen pictures (on a busy day), we can take that many in minutes. Taking thousands of pictures isn’t going to magically make you a masterpiece, but practicing and honing your photographic vision will set your pictures aside from the rest. Yosemite is also one of the most photogenic natural locations in America, so get out to there (or to your closest park) and take some beautiful pictures!