Ansel Adams’ Yosemite, Yosemite in Black and White

May 29th, 2016 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

“Yosemite’s mountains are calling me, and I must go back, ” John Muir wrote. Yosemite haunts you with its beauty, and the memory of it gets into your mind until you have to go back.

I was lucky enough to return to Yosemite this spring, and yet I felt disappointed because it was raining.

Yosemite falls in Rain Jane St Clair Black and White

After all, you go back to Yosemite, as Muir said, “to hear the waterfalls and birds and winds sing … and to get as near the heart of the world as you can.”

This is hard to do when you’re standing under a waterfall and getting soaked.

In fact, it was raining so hard that the Upper Yosemite Falls merged into Lower Yosemite Falls, creating one giant gush of water falling 2400 feet.

Then I climbed up to Glacier Point where the incredible view was so squishy and obscure with rain that the tops of the High Sierra disappeared into gray brume. I watched a dragon cloud slowly sneak up on a darkened peak until he embraced it with his gigantic arms and wrapped his fingertips around it so that the peak itself vanished.
Glacier Point with Dragon Cloud in black and white by Jane St Clair

It kept raining and raining and I still felt disappointed until I thought about Ansel Adams.

Ansel Adams was the first to photograph Yosemite, taking all his pictures in black and white because they did not have a color process in the 1920s. I found out that when it rains, Yosemite becomes a black and white image so I could see it the way Ansel Adams did.

Ansel Adams had an intention of a picture should turn out. “I had been able to realize a desired image, not the way the subject appears in realityYosemite Falls in Black and White Jane St Clair 1 but how it feels to me and how it must appear in the finished print.” He captures the beauty of the High Sierra in bold contrasts, dark and white lines, and white images of misting falling water. His Yosemite pictures are beautiful, emotional and unforgettable, even though they are in black and white.

Ansel Adams with the perfectionism of a real artist would sometimes sit in front of a mountain for hours, waiting for the right moment. But on that rainy day in Yosemite, it occurred to me that perhaps he was sitting there because he liked to, because he was listening to the waterfalls and birds and winds sing, and getting as near to the heart of the earth as he could.

For more pictures of Yosemite see Walking Through Yosemite With Mr. Muir

Ansel Adams’ pictures are copyrighted so they can’t be reproduced here, but key collections are stored at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson Ansel_Adams_and_camera

Tags: Jane St. Clair · National Parks · nature essay