Was Ansel Adams The First To Photograph At Tunnel View?

Yosemite Valley From Tunnel View

Today on Twitter @terragalleria posed an interesting question in response to my recent comment about looking for original images by going beyond icons. My post was in response to Ian Plant's excellent blog post on the topic which you can read here. @terragalleria asked "Was Ansel Adams the first to photograph at Tunnel View?" He makes a great point. Just because someone like Adams made brilliant photos of iconic locations doesn't necessarily mean that there isn't something more to add. In his towering work in Yosemite, Adams, who was not the first photographer to view that valley through a camera lens, certainly added immensely to the work of those who came before even when he set up at the same vantage points. But not only did Adams do it well, so have hoards of talented photographers who came after him. Today the challenge isn't to build on Adams' Tunnel View images, it's to build on Adams' Tunnel View photographs AND all of the Tunnel View photographs made by the talented photographers who have already built upon Adams. That's a pretty high visual tower to climb from that single vantage point.

Ian Plant's blog post resonated with me because I see a lot of images from photographers who seem to seek out the same tripod holes and compose a scene with the Adams photo taped to the back of the camera. Getting that photo can be rewarding and instructive, but make it the beginning of the journey, instead of the destination. There's a quote that's often attributed to Isaac Newton that goes, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Photographers like Adams blazed trails in landscape photography. They brought a vision of the landscape together with state of the art cameras, lenses and film to create magnificent and inspirational collections of images. Stand on their shoulders and branch out from the limited vantage points they made famous and discover how far you can see.

-Christopher Robinson, Editor


    One evening, standing in the White Mountains next to John Shaw while we were photographing a bristlecone pine tree, he posed this question. “Bob, do you think we should mark our tripod holes?” I laughed because earlier that day he told me about being in the field when another photographer came in, carrying one of John’s photos that had been torn from a magazine. He was using that photo to navigate himself to the point where he could “replicate” it. He noticed but did not recognize John. As Charles Colton said “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.”

    Excellent post. After I read you first post about not photographing the same places other photographer’s stood I made the same comment in my head. It’s not always about copying what another great photographer has done, but it is instead to learn from them. I place my tripod in the same place they were and I think to myself “Ok, what did they see here, what made this place special to them?”

    It’s not always about copying them, but learning from the experts. An excellent point to make is why do we read the OP Magazine and see the photographs published? It’s not about copying but learning from others, in that way you can do just what you states, stand on the shoulders of giants.

    Excellent article as always

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