National Parks

Yosemite National Park Part 1: In the footsteps of Ansel Adams

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Reviewers frequently characterize [Ansel] Adams as a photographer of an idealized wilderness that no longer exists. On the contrary, the places that Adams photographed are, with few exceptions, precisely those wilderness and park areas that have been preserved for all time. There is a vast amount of true and truly protected wilderness in America, much of it saved because of the efforts of Adams and his colleagues. – Ansel Adams Biography by William Turnage, Oxford University Press

A few years ago Ryan and I went to an Ansel Adams exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum.  At the time, Ryan didn’t even know who Ansel Adams was, and was not familiar with his photography.  I had taken photography in high school so I remembered learning about Adams and knew he was well known for his black and white portraits.  Walking around the museum admiring the photographs, it never occurred to me that I could actually travel to and see the locations that Adams immortalized.  I recently read the excerpt above and it really struck a chord with me, back when I was walking around the Phoenix Art Museum that was my reality, I had assumed those images were memories of a wilderness that no longer existed.  I assumed that they were modern artifacts preserved by art historians so current and future generations could have a glimpse into the American West from years past.

Among other reasons, I think that’s why our visit to Yosemite was so impactful and meaningful for me.  I was able to see firsthand the landscapes that I had admired for years, realizing that my assumptions were far from reality.  The environment of Yosemite is magical and to be able to immerse myself in it and experience it with all my senses was amazing.  Even more incredible was realizing how little it has changed since Adams immortalized it in his photographs.  How many locations in America look the same today as they did almost one hundred years ago?  It makes me appreciate all the work the parks service does to protect and conserve some of the most special wilderness areas in our country.

During our time at Yosemite, we spent three days in Yosemite Valley and another two days exploring quieter parts of the park off of Tioga Road.  One of the highlights from the trip was the In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams photography workshop we attended.  We learned a lot about Ansel Adams, Yosemite’s history and how to use our cameras all while walking to locations where Adams took some of his most famous photographs.  The class lasted about five hours, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Yosemite, it was definitely money well spent.  To give you an idea of how much the park has been preserved, even despite its increasing popularity.  Here are some of our shots compared to the Ansel Adams classics.



A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words. – Ansel Adams

All Ansel Adams photos from The Ansel Adams Gallery  You can also learn more about the guided photography class we took there.

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