A Tribute to Ansel Adams

I don’t remember exactly when I first saw Ansel Adam’s photographic work and it was very early on in my move to the West Coast from Eastern Canada. I came out West for one reason only after university and it wasn’t for a job. My summer job as a university student after graduating and before heading back to school in post graduate studies was in Northern Manitoba, and before that after first year I hitch-hiked across Canada to the West Coast: Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, and Prince George before landing a summer job in Central British Columbia in the  Caribou with Geological Survey Canada. I knew then and there that I would head out West after I finished my university education. I landed a great job with the Surrey School District after having worked in relief for staff at a community recreation centre for Burnaby Parks and Recreation and where I cycled to work every day on my new ten speed bike before I could afford a car and a 35mm camera-Minolta. Initially my sojourns into the wilds of the Coast Range were all about “bagging” peaks and taking every mountaineering, rock climbing, white water paddling, avalanche and my CANSI Ski Instructors certification, and wilderness survival courses I could get my hands on. I was in awe of nature; especially the mountains, rivers, and the ocean. After half a decade of pursuing the physical and mental challenges that the wilds of the Pacific North West presented themselves to me I gradually realized photography was becoming just as important to me. I remember my Uncle C Warren Luckock who was a renown artist out of Toronto visited me and we went together to a show of Ansel Adam’s work at Presentation House in North Vancouver. It was there I bought and proudly display to this day a photo of his titled, Monolith   The Face of Half Dome   Yosemite National Park  1927. I love that photograph and it was the primary reason I had to visit Yosemite and see this beautiful national park for myself. He was the reason I got into black and white photography, and studied for a year in Australia at the Canberra School of Art Adam’s Zone System with Hanh Tran. He was the reason I purchased a Beseler 4x5 motorized enlarger with an Aristo Cold Light Head just for black and white photography, and my Horseman medium format field camera. He was the reason I took a 10 week camping photography tour of the SouthWest United States in the summer of 1986. Those were heady days for a young guy “living the dream” on the West Coast of Canada. Through it all I had images of Ansel Adam’s work dancing in my head, he was the driving force behind my growing passion for the photographic arts.

Today I have five of his books and I periodically pull them out to inspire me to visit the wilderness and continue his black and white landscape photography tradition. My hope is maybe one of my children will learn to love his work and will want to carry on where I leave off. Photography is so much more than just an art form. It’s a lens to discovery and reflection. It’s an escape from the every day work day and workaholism prevalent in today’s society. We spend so much of our time only to realize too late we’ve given the best years of our life up to the grind of commuting to the office and the long hours sitting in meetings or in front of a computer terminal. Life is about balance and so it is in photography. One is constantly balancing elements in a photograph and balancing light across the dynamic range of a photograph. Behind the camera we learn to visualize and capture that visual in a photo. In some ways the camera can be seen as a metaphor for our lives. There will be days when we have mental blocks and days when we have clarity in our lives. Those are the days when I have to push myself out the door and get going with camera in hand. Invariably within seconds of having set up my tripod and camera I awake from my slumber with excitement for the impending shot. 

Thank you Ansel Adam’s, you have been an inspiration to me to live a full life no matter the trials and tribulations I have encountered along the way. You have helped to keep that spirit of a child inside of me alive. That sense of wonder and that openness to accept what the day gives me and to live in the moment. You guided me to places I might never have experienced and gone that extra step to capture an image I might never have seen. You were the wind at my back when I was tired and saw the road ahead as too long. I owe you so much gratitude Ansel Adams, God bless and Rest in Peace knowing you have made a huge difference in this world to so many, many people. 

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