Photography Masters-Ansel Adams
Sunday Magazine

Photography Masters-Ansel Adams

Siddharth S. Kumar

Siddharth S. Kumar

Born in San Francisco in 1902, Ansel Adams had a not-so normal childhood having been tutored at home from the eighth grade. Due to an affliction, possibly, dyslexia, Adams underwent classical education, which included piano lessons. But the shy introverted boy who developed a deep love for nature was transformed after reading the book, In the Heart of the Sierras.

It was a vacation at the Yosemite National Park where he used a Kodak camera that made him realize his deep love for photography, with an inclination towards the piano. At the age of 27, Adams’ picture on Yosemite, Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, pitchforked him to instant glory. A year later he married a singer, Virginia Best, and shared her musical interests as a pianist. The couple had two children. After a hugely acclaimed career in photography and nature conservation, Adams passed away in 1984.

"The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming," 1942. This photograph uses curves (the river) to draw the attention of the viewer to the grand mountains in the horizon.

Ansel Adams, whose forte was to capture USA’s fragments of untouched wilderness, was one of the most prominent landscape photographer of the 20th century. His best works were completed by 1950, which included his series of articles for Camera Craft, and his guide to photographic techniques in the book, Making a Photograph, which was embellished with his own photos; and his stunning photos of the High Sierra mountains and the lakes. It was only after many, many years that people appreciated his pure and sterile images—and that Adams was a genuine conservationist at heart, for whom the health of the natural landscape was a top priority.

Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from the Owens Valley, California 1944. The three essential components of a landscape photograph is evident here – foreground, mid-ground and background. The lighting accentuates the texture of the mountains by creating strong shadows.

No wonder, in the later years of his career he attempted to blend the art of photography with the purpose of awareness creation to preserve nature, and one of his most appreciated initiatives was This Is the American Earth(1960),published by the Sierra Club. Adam’s dedication to his passion could be seen in the titles he produced in due course of time such as: My Camera in the National Parks; Photographs of the Southwest; The Portfolios of Ansel Adams which had 90 prints that Adams had earlier published between 1948 and 1976.

Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, 1927. By placing the subject in a manner that it occupies more than 80% of the frame, the gargantuan nature of the structure is emphasized.

Jimmy Carter, the US President, had awarded Adams in 1980 with the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’, in recognition of his decades of commitment as a photographer and an environmentalist. The president’s citation said, “It is through [Adams’s] foresight and fortitude that so much of America has been saved for future Americans.”

Siddharth Kumar, is the Co-Founder & Lead Photographer SIDART Photography, a professional photography venture focusing on weddings, portraiture and commercial photography. After an 8-year stint in an MNC, he decided to pursue his passion for photography and music. In 2019, he was awarded Certificate of Honorable Mention by International Photography Awards (IPA), Los Angeles. In 2014, he won the First Prize at the International Photography Competition organized by Mindshare Worldwide. He holds a Grade 8 Certificate in Piano Performance from Trinity College London.


The facts and views expressed in this column are that of the author