Thoughts from Ansel

Ansel Adams once said  –  I can’t verbalize the internal meaning of pictures whatsoever. Some of my friends can at very mystical levels, but I prefer to say that, if I feel something strongly, I would make a photograph, that would be the equivalent of what I saw and felt… When I’m ready to make a photograph, I think I quite obviously see in my mind’s eye something that is not literally there, in the true meaning of the word. I’m interested in expressing something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without.

Walking out into the night sky at the Hui Ho`olana, I am stunned by the beauty and the brightness of the stars.  I grab my camera and clumsily attempt to set it up without the aid of a flashlight.  Dinner is winding to a close at the workshop and Dewitt drives slowly past me down the driveway en route to his house next door chanting – l i g h t, l i g h t, l i g h t — Jonathan you have to have light to make pictures.  Cracking up, I made a few attempts to focus my camera as his brake lights receded in the distance before realizing it was impossible to do it visually, and instead I needed to trust the hyperfocal distance on my lens for this Hail Mary shot.  As I finally manage to lock in the right settings for the shot, I begin to wonder why I hadn’t attempted more night photography of this sort before.  Technologically, the ability had been in my hands since the D3 was released but because it had been such a difficult thing to do with film I had a blind spot to this amazing window to the world.  As I pressed the shutter, I was attempting to do something I would never have attempted with film – which is to tell the story of the stars as stars.  Not streaks in the night sky, or underexposed points of light, but as Ansel says – the equivalent of what I saw and felt.

The process makes me wonder what other opportunities I have looked at but not seen on a near daily basis in my life.  As I begin to think about it, the list grows rapidly.  Hopefully I will have many more starry nights to get those things right.

A starry night sky over a retreat center on Molokai, Hawaii
A starry night sky over a retreat center on Molokai, Hawaii.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts from Ansel”

  1. Once again, thanks for the thought provoking insight.
    I too have seen this place in much the same way—–
    at home on Earth at Home in the Star filled Cosmos.

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