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Ansel Adams — The Negative (1981)

An exciting subject may exist in an environment of field and sky, but in the print this “space” may appear as dull, neutral areas of distressingly low interest. Space in nature is one thing; space confined and restricted by the picture edges is quite another thing. Space, scale, and form must be made eloquent, not in imitation of painting arrangements, but in terms of the living camera image.

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Ansel Adams — The Negative (1981)

As photographers, we should study and reflect upon the details of the process; practice is essential, for when we are making photographs, we should be free to work creatively and intuitively, drawing upon our knowledge and experience to bring everything together as a musician must do—with no interference of technical issues with the “creative flow.”

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Ansel Adams — The Negative (1981)

The shadows, illuminated by the blue light from the sky, often have a rewarding luminosity. The early blue-sensitive emulsions possessed certain beautiful qualities and conveyed a feeling of light that is sometimes missing with present-day panchromatic films.

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Ansel Adams — The Negative (1981)

Different films can have quite different responses to the various colors of the spectrum. Early emulsions were sensitive only to blue light, and as a result, most nineteenth-century landscape photographs show a blank white sky. The blue of the sky was overexposed during the long exposure times required to record the landscape itself, and therefore the sky printed as pure white. Some early photographers overcame the problem by maintaining a separate stock of cloud negatives, which they deftly printed in on the otherwise blank skies of their landscapes. It is always a surprise to see the same clouds appear in a number of different landscapes, with the clouds often lighted by the sun at a different angle than the landscape itself!

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Ansel Adams — The Negative (1981)

In learning to visualize image values we should understand that what we see with our eyes is not the same as what a photographic film “sees” in the camera. … These [differences] arise from the nature of light itself and the way it is perceived by our eyes and recorded on film. If we fail to recognize these differences, we will be frequently disappointed that our photographs do not represent the subject as we saw it, or thought we saw it, when making the exposure.

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Ansel Adams — The Negative (1981)

There are a few exceptions, but the general trend today is to apply high laboratory standards to produce systems which are sophisticated in themselves, in order that the photographer need not be! This tendency toward fail-safe and foolproof systems unfortunately limits the controls the creative professional should have to express his concepts fully. I am grateful for the tremendous contributions of the photographic industry and its scientists, but I cannot help being distressed when “progress” interferes with creative excellence.