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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Gear Would Ansel Adams Carry Today?


If Adams was using a digital camera, here are some of the essential pieces of equipment he’d have in the field

Labels: Gear


Lowepro Vertex 200 AW
What did Ansel Adams carry into the field when he went off to photograph in places like Yosemite Valley? There isn’t much definitive information about his exact kit, but we do know that America’s most famous landscape photographer used a large-format camera (frequently, 8x10) and all of the necessary supporting gear like a tripod, film holders, changing tents, chemicals and plenty of film.


Tamrac Expedition 9x
If he was a photographer today, what would Adams’ kit look like? What are the key accessories that he would want to have with him to make the best use of his DSLR? Well, before we speculate too much—and this is all speculation, of course—let’s start with some assumptions. First, for the sake of this article, we’ll assume Adams would be using a DSLR (see “Would Ansel Adams Use A DSLR?” in this issue for information about which models he might find most to his liking). Second, he would still want the kind of control afforded him by a view camera with all of its movements. Third, he would embrace the digital darkroom like he embraced the wet darkroom to get the most out of his field captures. The initial exposure would be like a film negative—the score—and the final print would be the performance.

Manfrotto 190CXPRO4
Tripod And Ballhead
Sure, it seems obvious, but considering how many soft images we see during portfolio reviews, it makes sense to emphasize the importance of a good solid tripod and ballhead. For Adams, this simply would have been a given. Even with the inherent mobility of a DSLR, when it came time for a final exposure, Adams would have used a tripod without fail.

Filters
We think Ansel Adams would have been a great believer in the digital darkroom and Photoshop, as well as other software (see the sidebar “What Software Would Ansel Use?”), but that doesn’t mean he would have been any less exacting in the field than he was with film. Having good filters ranging from polarizers to NDs to red, yellow, green and blue would be mandatory equipment in his bag. You can simulate some of the effects down the road, but getting it as close as possible in the field was always part of Adams’ thinking. Polarizers are ideal for creating dark skies, cutting glare and increasing saturation in a color photograph. In black-and-white images, red, yellow and orange filters darken blue areas, green filters brighten foliage, and blue filters can be used to make the sky white and to mitigate extreme contrast.


Singh-Ray Vari-X Filter #2

HOYA HD Circular Polarizer

Heliopan Circular Polarizer

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