The first step on an Ansel Adams-inspired trip to Yosemite is to visit the gallery run by his family. It is in the park’s central area called Yosemite Valley, and displays and sells Adams’ work as well as photos taken by several contemporary artists. Before Adams died in 1984, he spent years living in a house behind the gallery and leading workshops there. Now others teach the workshops, and the gallery is managed by Adams’s grandchildren. The gallery’s staff leads free camera walks three days a week. The gallery also shows a free film about Adams once a week, rents out cameras and tripods and sells keepsakes and guidebooks.
I ordered three books written by Adams from the gallery’s Web site before my trip: Adams’s autobiography, his collected photos of Yosemite and a step-by-step explanation of some of his works called “Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs.” By the time our plane landed in Fresno, Calif., I felt well-equipped to step inside Ansel land.
But Yosemite does not often appear as it did at the moments Adams tripped his shutter. Nor is it easy to stand where he stood and capture the same images.
“I’ve had people say they are kind of disappointed,” says Glenn Crosby, the curator of the Ansel Adams Gallery. “They only know the park through Ansel’s eyes, and he was only showing you the keepers. The park is not always as dramatic as his work.”
I have to wonder: who the hell are these disappointed people?
Yeah, Adams was one of the greatest photographers to ever snap a shutter and his images certainly rise to the definition of fine art. But if you can stand in Yosemite Valley or at Tunnel View (to say nothing of hiking into the High Country) and experience disappointment, how can you possibly imagine yourself perceptive enough to appreciate the tiny fragments of it Adams captured in his pictures?
Cameras were invented to preserve the memory of visiting places like Yosemite, but no picture can convey the experience of being there.
OK, rant over. Actually, the article offers a nice overview of the relationship of Adams and Yosemite and is worth a read if you’re thinking of visiting.