museum logo and link to museum
Burt Chernow Galleries
Housatonic Museum of Art
Housatonic Community College
900 Lafayette Blvd., Bridgeport, CT 06604

For information call
Robbin Zella, Director,
203-332-5052.

navigation bar, see bottom of page for links student projects About Photography Exhibit Home Housatonic Museum of Art Home Page Programs and Tours Resources, Web Links and Bibliography Lesson Plans About Ansel Adams Gallery of Images

ANSEL ADAMS: Classic Images
Mount Williamson, The Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California, 1945
To learn more about this photograph see the information below. To see a larger view of this image as an Acrobat Reader PDF file, click on the image...

Mount Williamson, The Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California, 1945 by Ansel Adams

This image is copyrighted by The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust and cannot be printed or reproduced in any way. The use of the photograph is limited to viewing in the context of this web site.

 

 

Mount Williamson, The Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California, 1945
Plate 40 in Ansel Adams - Classic Images

Sources: Ansel Adams - An Autobiography; Examples - The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams, p. 65-69


A. Did you know that during World War II, the American government set up a detention center for Japanese Americans?
B. Do you think nature has the power to inspire the imprisoned?
C. What time of day and weather conditions did Adams prefer?
D. Do you think Adams merely recorded the scene with a mechanical device (the camera)? If not what artistic decisions did he make?

E. Technical Aspects
F. Related links in this site


A. Did you know that during World War II, the American government set up a detention center for Japanese Americans?
Ansel Adams took this photograph from Manzanar, a camp for Japanese-Americans detained during World War II. He was invited to the camp by Ralph Merritt, the newly appointed director, who ran the camp with an enlightened attitude. The view of the Sierra is "grand." The peaks rise more than eleven thousand feet above the desert floor. Ansel Adams said he made some of his "best photographs of 1943-1945 within and close to Manzanar." These were the mountains that the detainees, with permission and under guard, could "gather stones and plants for the Japanese garden they constructed in the desert." (See Lesson Plan- Photography and History- The Photo Essay)
...back to top

B. Do you think nature has the power to inspire the imprisoned?
Mazanar was set in a desolate desert, but surrounded by mountain ranges and the Sierra Nevada that Adams knew intimately and had spent decades photographing out of love for nature. He believed the Japanese-Americans, a nature-loving people, must have been inspired and strengthened by the setting, which gave the people "a certain respite from their mood of isolation and concern for the future." Adams was impressed by the efforts of the inhabitants to make the camp more livable and functional by creating a Japanese garden, farms, schools, churches (Buddhist, Christian, and Shinto), a playground, and small industries.
...back to top

C. What time of day and weather conditions did Adams prefer?
Adams describes the light on the mountains. "…seen from a frontal distance (the Sierra) appears as a gray rise of land engraved with clefts and gorges of vast proportions. Early morning shadows give way to flat sun glare; this in turn yields to the complex confusion of mid-day sun and shadow, which is better remembered in the mind that on film. In the afternoon the shadows lengthen and the range finally become a giant wall of subtle textures and jagged crests."

"It is difficult to photograph on the ordinary bright, clear desert days, as the value of the rock may blend with that of the sky. But in days of storm it is magnificent, especially under the thunderstorms of summer…The huge clouds and curtains of rain over the summits are spectacular."
...back to top

D. Do you think Adams merely recorded the scene with a mechanical device (the camera)? If not, what artistic decisions did he make?
"I drove my station wagon to a place I had often visited. Never before had the conditions been right for me at this location, but his time there was a glorious storm going on in the mountains. I set up my camera on the rooftop platform of my car…I pointed the camera down a little and tilted the back to hold both the near rocks and the distant peaks in sharp focus.

"Several times I moved the car a few feet to position the camera precisely for the composition of boulders and peaks." A problem with photographing mountains, is that "the granite and metamorphic rock blends gently with the near-horizon sky". Such conditions are "usually disappointing in black-and-white, and "cry for near-far composition of significant foreground, with the mountains relegated to non-dominant proportions in the image." He said he made several negatives of this scene. "In all but one the cloud positions and the lighting on the mountains were not satisfactory and the negatives were discarded."
...back to top

E. Technical Aspects
By this time Adams had developed his Zone theory in which heused his knowledge of the possibilities of the entire process to visualize the final print. He used a light meter to read the light of the subject, then determined where areas of light to shadow should fall on his gray scale.

  • Camera: 8 X 10 view camera
  • Lens: Cooke Series XV lens (a 12 1/4 -inch triple convertible with components of 19- and 23-inch focal length).
  • S.E.I Exposure Photometer
  • Film: Kodak Super-Panchro Press film (ASA 200)
  • Filter: Wratten No. 15 (G) filter
  • Exposure: 1/10 second at f/32.
  • Development: water-bath (holds the high values within printable range, but also strengthens the shadow-area contrasts.
  • Paper: Ilford Gallerie Grade 2 with Dektol or
    Oriental Seagull Grade 2 with Selectrrol-Soft and Dektol
  • Exhibition: Mount Williamson was installed in the Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, (1955), curated by Edward Steichen, but Adams was disappointed with what he considered a "badly enlarged blow-up" of his work.


...back to top

F. Related links in this site

  • Lesson Plans
    • *See Photography and History - the Photo Essay for more information about the approach Ansel Adams took in photographing the Japanese-Americans in detention camps. He published the proud photographs with his accompanying critical text in a book called Born Free and Equal. (See Bibliography)
  • Resources
    • See Bibliography for more material by and about Ansel Adams. For a book with more information on the technical aspects - cameras, films, lenses, filters, darkroom techniques, printing, papers, etc. - please refer to Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams (Boston, Toronto, London: Little, Brown and Co, 1983).
    • See Glossary for definitions of vocabulary words and photography terms.

Exhibit Home | Gallery | About Ansel Adams | About Photography | Lesson Plans & Activities | Student Projects | Resources | Programs & Tours | HMA Home

Housatonic Museum of Art
Housatonic Community College
900 Lafayette Blvd.
Bridgeport, CT 06604
For information call Robbin Zella, Director, 203-332-5052