Ode to Ansel Adams

“The negative is comparable to the composer’s score, and the print to its performance” – Ansel Adams

Snowy mountain
Winter landscape with the local landmark peak, Bennachie, covered with snow

I’ve read lots of quotes from famous photographers, but this one really resonated with me and it still does.

Back in November 2012 when I joined Flickr I wanted to learn my camera(s) and not rely on the auto settings – and to take beautiful photos. The measure of my success would be shots that are ‘perfect’ SOOC (straight out of the camera). I was hesitant to do more with my photos than adjust a few settings, straighten the horizon and crop a little. But the more I thought about the ‘score’ and the ‘performance’ the more I realised that I was free to use the entire ‘orchestra’ available to me in the 21st century digital age – and to make the images that speak to me and for me. Would Ansel Adams NOT embrace the modern technology if he was shooting today?

So over the past 5+ years I have learned a whole lot about my cameras, and can ‘fly free’ using full Manual where I can adjust all the camera settings myself. But there are times when the inbuilt presets work wonderfully, so I’ll mix and match the camera settings. Shooting in the digital age I do take plenty of shots in a session. It doesn’t cost, and even the best view-finder can miss a trick, lose focus etc. And today’s cameras all come with a range of in-camera settings to use. So before you call on a computer you can create a range of special effects to add to your photos. I also have lenses that can create special effects using their optics, such as the Lensbaby. And there are more and more vintage lenses that have adapters to fit onto modern digital cameras – and you can achieve some wonderful results with them! The array of cameras and lenses that are available is quite dazzling!

sunny garden
A sunny evening in a secluded garden – shot with the Lensbaby Sweet 50 optic SOOC

I still love to take photos that need little or no editing – but there is an ocean of possibilities just waiting to be explored once you add on the tsunami of computing technology! I have a computer with Photoshop and Camera RAW loaded, and an iPad with oh so many photo-manipulation apps loaded. I doubt we have ever had such a rich array of photographic opportunities.

As I have gradually widened both my interests and my skills, I have found that some areas or genres of photography appeal to me more than others. I started with a desire to record the local places where I live. It is rural, and quite close to both hills and seaside. So landscapes were a natural place to start. I shoot the coast, the local villages, historic castles, local lochs and the farmland around my village.

The beach at Banff
sunlight on the sea at Banff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Then the first lens I bought was a macro – and macro is still a major part of my photographic vocabulary. It is like having the most wonderful microscope at your side. The world as seen through a macro lens is always a surprise, and often very beautiful.

Clematis seed-head
Tiny water droplets on a clematis seed-head – just a few centimetres in size.

I’ve been painting for years – and I no longer have the time or the energy to paint AND pursue photography. But today there are ways to combine the two aesthetics. This is an area that has excited me more and more. I can texture an image, arrange a still-life, create abstract images – so much! And then there is Black and White. I never expected to get hooked on B+W. After all my cameras have a dazzling range of colours and endless mixes in the millions of pixels they capture. Who wants to take all that away for a range of greys? But it is a wonderful and vibrant way to use your camera – and I am constantly surprised at how powerful B+W images can be.

chrysanthemum in B+W
details of chrysanthemum petals, sinuous in B+W

So that is why I thank Ansel Adams so much for encouraging me to start paddling in the edges of the vast ocean that is photography! The water is warm and inviting – so join me, and dip a toe into this magical sea ;o)

Flickr holds my online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell