Ansel Adams and the Zone System … One More Zone

03-15-0090-EditAnsel set the stage for how we interpret the tonal range in our photos. The Zone System is the most followed course of work by the most dedicated shooters. It works and works well. I kinda think that there exist 1 more Zone that should be addressed.

The Zone I’m talking about is the Zone of Awareness. I suppose I have written about this many times over and over. I think I enjoy the rediscovery myself. I mean I love learning and relearning what I already know but take for granted because that’s what we do. It’s great to redo your stuff and when no one is looking, check your knowledge banks and recalibrate your way of thinking.

Photographers more than any other people have a tendency to repeat success.  We get blinded by the idea that something works so we will do it over and over and even with variation to make a series or body of work, call it what you will.

03-15-0068-EditSo what we do is justify the failures we make so easy by using the photo that was a success to start a train of thought or series. Why is all this important? I’ll tell ya how I see it. Photographers really find it very easy to go to auto mode and kinda just drift and maybe make some photos that satisfy you. For most of us that’s enough and we are happy with this scenario. Now hold the F**K on! I am not one of those ppl but I have to write that I am so we are all equal in the shit we call the world.

If your out there and wandering around and shooting aimlessly and think it’s ok. Please move to the next blog. Let’s get something straight right from the get go. We are photographers, granted. We have different ideas, thoughts, working methods, desires cameras etc, etc.

There are a million variables, right. Well, hang it all up to dry. The common denominator is that we are all humans first and foremost. If your making photos of ppl then they are the same as you at the start. So what makes the serious shooter stand apart from the rest of the crowd? Awareness!


Awareness is what separates success from mediocrity.  We can accept mediocrity from everyone around us but not from our selves. The Horror!  It is an awareness of the self that makes us strive to do better for ourselves. It pushes us to perform better and to make images that work at the lever we want them to work.

So, that means to me that I have a responsibility to share what shit is in my mind with anyone that wants to digest it. I want the shit that’s in your mind so I can digest that. Ya know, here’s something so crazy it just might work. How about as shooters we share our work in different ways so that we all get the ideas of what other shooters think and feel.

Of course this is being done by many and it’s gonna catch on. What does this mean actually? I think it means that I want others to see what I was feeling and seeing and thinking as I’m working. I want other shooters to recognize the Zone that I strive to maintain as I work. I want the awareness of my self to be evident in the photos I make and share.  This means that I will not be concerned about a level or success of the photos but only that the Intent shine thru and that the Eye, Heart and Mind cane be understood.

I’m doing more on this probably forever cause photography is my life’s work. Tomorrow more thoughts and photos…………………………………………………shooter out………………………

12 thoughts on “Ansel Adams and the Zone System … One More Zone”

    1. marke, thanks man, much appreciated. If you could mention this to Mrs Shooter, all would be fine in the shooter household.
      ahhh damn, gotta go wash the dishes. That way I’m allowed out again tomorrow…..

  1. This is another ‘on-song’ commentary, regarding the sharing of shit in the photographers mind, so that what comes through is the photographers personal honesty and integrity focusing on their eye, heart and mind at the moment the image was crafted ….

  2. How many times have I found myself on auto-pilot while walking the streets, shooting aimlessly, later wondering why my photographs look flat with no soul. It’s because I had deposited my awareness, my watchfulness, my openness, my awareness in my mental trash bin. Thanks for the morning wake up, Don. Cheers, David

    1. David, this is par for the course of life. That don’t make it right and it don’t make it wrong either. It just makes it life. I think that if like you we stay aware of the mental trash bin, even when we fill it up not so much damage done. As long as we are aware of the contents of the trash bin, we can continue on our path.

  3. Hats off. It seems you are on a roll again, and selfish me is glad for that.
    As regards the tendency to repeat, it’s not what they call “style”? The internet is full of blogs saying how you should develop your personal style, your signature, but I am not so sure. I have long suspected that it’s better to not have any style, and let your work take the shape that is right at the moment. But what do I know.

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