Ansel Adams: Zone System and Group

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It was because of the lack of purity and crispness within Adams’ first hotplate that drove him to develop a better way in which he could capture the raw beauty of nature. By searching for ways to better nature and landscape photography, Adams construct the Zone System and Group f/64; which helped Influence the development and purity of nature and landscape photography. As a young boy, Ansell Adams suffered from chronic illnesses and thus was forced to be Indoors for most of his adolescent life.

As noted within Dam’s autobiography, he states how it was due to the time he spent indoors that fueled his fire to be outside tit nature, “l wanted to run down the beach in the sun, rain, or fog and expend the pent-up physical energy that simply fermented within me” (Ansell Adams: An Autobiography 11). As Adams grew older his love for nature blossomed. However, still suffering from chronic illnesses, he had to live his outdoor experiences through books. Within his autobiography, he states how there was one book in particular that fueled his passion for nature stronger than Imaginable, “In April 1916, I was In bed J.

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M Hutching, published 1886. I became hopelessly enthralled with the descriptions and illustrations of Yosemite… Devoured every word and pored over the pages many times” (Ansell Adams: An Autobiography 50). Adams’ love for Yosemite was so strong that he even convinced his family to vacation there in the summer of 1916; little did Adams know that it was on this vacation that he was going to change way photographers view art of nature and landscape photography.

Once Adams and his family arrived at Yosemite, a two-day trip by train and bus, he could not believe the views of the mountains, streams, valleys, and sky that were pictured in front of him, “… The splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious. Little clouds were gathering in the sky about the granite cliffs, and the mists of Bridal Veil Fall shimmered in the sun” (Ansell Adams: An Autobiography 53).

It was not before long that Adams began to explore his new surroundings with his very first camera; a Kodak Box Brownie gifted to him by his parents. Within Adams’ autobiography, he describes his first adventure with his first camera, “After a few minutes of simple instructions, my camera and I went off to explore… ‘ climbed an old and crumbling stump near our tent to get a picture of Half Dome. I perched on top of this relic of arboreal grandeur with my camera and was about to snap the shutter when the stump gave way and I pummel to the ground.

On the way down, headfirst, I inadvertently pushed the shutter” (Ansell Adams: An Autobiography 53). Once Adams had had his film from his first day at Yosemite developed, developed by Pillsbury Pictures, of he found himself questioning the photo in which he had taken of Half Dome. Adams noted the photograph, which he named Half Dome and Clouds (Upside-down Photograph), lacked crispness when it came to capturing the evergreens, as well as the lacked the dimensions of the Half Dome altogether.

Adams was angered by the turnout of his photograph because he wanted it to provide the clearness and dimensions that he was able to note with his own eyes. It was because of his disappointment within the way the camera had captured his passion that Adams began to experiment with the different functions of the camera; as well as the developing process. It was due to his experimentation that led him to construct the Zone System. As a way to better the art of the camera, Adams, along with a fellow photographer constructed the Zone System.

The Zone System is an approach to a denaturized way of working with the camera that guarantees the “correct exposure” in “every situation”, such as; back lighting, differences between light and shadow areas of a scene (Camera and Lens 22-38). Ansell began to use this code, which involved adjusting the exposure and seismometer, in order to better capture the beauty of nature that surrounded him. It was not before long, that Adams’ Zone System had spread across the photography community and was being used by a large number of photographers based on the fact that it allowed them to capture images that were pure and full of dimension.

However, although the Zone System did have a large affect on how photographers went about photographing nature, Adams was not satisfied by the Zone System alone, and began to explore the world of photography even more to see how others were processing their own photos. As Adams’ began to explore the world of photography more, he began to notice that many photographers were editing their photographs in order to make them look the idea of people editing the rawness and purity of nature Just in order to have a better appealing photo.

It was due to Adams’ hatred for gussied up photos that he, long with multiple photographers created an association by the name of, “Group f. 64”; that being due to f. 64 was thought as the perfect setting of the cameras diaphragm aperture which provided particularly excellent resolution, as well as depth. Within Adams’ autobiography he discusses the main goal within Group f. 64, as well as the rules, “The chief object of the Group is to present in frequent shows what it considers the best contemporary photography of the West…

Group f. 64 limits its members and invitational names to those works who are striving to define photography as an art form by a simple and direct presentation through purely hydrostatic methods… Pure photography is defined as processing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form… ” (Ansell Adams: An Autobiography 112). Adams and his fellow photographers began to showcase their work within museums in order to show the photography community the good that came out of “straight photography. Due to the amount of interest concerning how Adams and his group were achieving such raw and beautiful photographs, many people began to feel influenced by the movement that Group f. 64 was producing. It was due to Adams’ group, Group f. 4, rich photographs that they influenced a great portion of the photographer community to stop mucking up their photos, and instead rely on the pureness of nature to provide the beauty for their photos. In conclusion, Ansell Adams played an extremely important role in the development of nature and landscape photography.

Through his first photograph, done at the age of fourteen with a Kodak Box Brownie given to him by his parents, Half Dome and Clouds (Upside-down Photograph) 1916, Adams’ noted that there was a lacked crispness, as well as purity, that were not being presented within his photograph. It was due to the ace of purity and crispness within his own photograph that led Adams construct the Zone System and Group f/64; which helped influence the development and purity of nature and landscape photography to as we know it today.

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Ansel Adams: Zone System and Group. (2017, Oct 13). Retrieved from

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