January 17th, 2017 … Getting What’s Inside to the Outside … Compromise With the World … Lesson from Ansel Adams

Many times I have mentioned that I name my cameras. Some say it’s crazy and some just shrug it off. Well, I am if nothing, a very dedicated shooter. So, how things work are what interest me. Then I like to know why things work the way they do. I am alway testing myself and my reasons for anything I do or attempt to do. Life is a struggle and it is said that without the struggle, there is no fruits of the efforts you go after. Well, no one told me anything would be easy but I never expected so hard.

When it comes to photography, I don’t struggle as much. Sure I wrestle with my heart and mind but I am always able to find resolution. So when I met some people for breakfast  and we were doing our probing and trying to understand each other’s motives, when the question came up about visualization, of course I was put on the spot.

I tried to explain that Pre-visualization was similar but not the same as Ansel Adams taught. Ansel practiced a method of subject acquisition and print finalization. It was early 1973 when I grokked Ansel’s method. I understood the methodology and adopted it and breathed it. It was great for sheet film and for rolls, kinda limiting. I asked Ansel about roll film and the Zone System and he told me how to do it but he thought any serious Photographer was using Large Format. My daughter was borne August 17th, 1973 and we named her Bethany Ansel. When Ansel came back to Philly in March of 1974, I took a print to him I made when he was here in “73” and told him I named my daughter after him. He was very honored and happy and all was well.

By this time, I was steady on my Leica’s again doing the streets. I had worked out the Zone system for roll film but decided I’d rather develop according to how I felt and not to the method that could control me.



So visualization has circumnavigated for me from silver/platinum to now digital. Digital, long time here already. So what I believe as the truth of one’s vision, is the culmination of subject awareness all the way to final image. This may be the path to self satisfaction but it’s also the path that is easy to get lost on.

I always worked in a manner that was, awareness of the subject, capture and then processing. There are basically 2 phases to processing,. The first being negatives that supports positive energy because the awareness of the healthy negative is very comforting. The second is printing. Things kinda change in the digital realm of photography but not necessarily a very dramatic change.  I tend to keep things separate but together. Get to the street and work. Hunt for photos and then let photos find me. Great feeling to be alive with a camera in my hand. At the very moment of exposure I can have an idea of what the print will feel like.

Well for me, it has never really been about trying to capture a slice of reality and preserving it so that it resembles the reality that gave birth to it. Of course for work stuff, I do things that way but for my personal work, I don’t give a hoot about 3 dimensional reality. I make the image the way mother light and I want it to be. Life is a collaboration with a million things and photography is really the only collaboration with life I am concerned about. I’m sure family and friends etc sense a disconnect from me and always did. It’s true. Photography and I have a collaboration that I can’t live without and won’t.

So all these things run thru my heart and mind and camera. They feed the PC and LR and the hard drives. At the moment of exposure I am at last connected again. No, not to friends and family, but to the world and my life. It’s not about fame or fortune, it’s about finding a way to live with your heart. My photos are the culmination of everything I am at the precise moment of exposure.

I have found a way to communicate with the world and myself. My photos are out there and to be honest, it’s me naked to the world and I can’t succumb to the inspection, judging or anythings even positive reinforcement.

I make photos because I have to.

14 thoughts on “January 17th, 2017 … Getting What’s Inside to the Outside … Compromise With the World … Lesson from Ansel Adams”

    1. ….the thing that gets me is, many shooters seek the “knowledge” to find their way to make photos. What they look for on the outside lives inside all along. Our photos will outlive us for sure. I like to think that I did justice and honor to my work and thus the world.

      1. … in the photographers lot of things some spend too much time intellectualising and naval gazing, at the expense of other drivers that contribute to their capacities and abilities as a photographer, and ultimately they fail to recognise what’s actually in front of them more often than not … that is: ‘their’ emotive answer to ‘their’ emptive question … photography comes with, and is driven by, a fair dose of emotion, both for the participant and the other players …

        1. Sean, I have learned that there are those that do and those that teach and those that want to do but are afraid of commitment.
          It’s easy to talk or read about photography and other methods of distraction. So, creating a distraction allows one to not dive deeply into the waters of life and force themselves to produce anything but more distractions. Unfortunately for those people, I am not like that. I believe that one should do and then say as one does.
          Just like you Sean, your comments inspire me to be more diligent in my approach to life as a shooter.

          Thanks my friend.

  1. More great musings here Don. As always your thoughts prod me to to examine my own approach to the street. Your energy and philosophy is contagious and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Keith. We recognize each other’s work so that means we recognize each other. It’s comforting for me to know your out there my friend.

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