If you are like me, you feel you know the work of Ansel Adams quite well. Well, this book was a pleasant surprise in that it introduced me to many rewarding works that I had not seen before. These evoked many happy memories for me, and added to my delight in knowing California.
I was born and raised in California, so most of these scenes are ones that are familiar to me. Surprisingly, these were the first good photographs I had ever seen of many of the scenes, even though the scenes captured by the camera are often common ones.
The book contains a great deal of text that attempts to expand one's understanding of California, both as a physical and as a psychological place. If you have never been to California, you may find these useful. If you know California, they may seem redundant to the images. The authors include Richard Henry Dana, Jr., John Steinbeck, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Miller, Joan Dideon, and Mark Twain. The texts are well chosen and appropriate, if sometimes superfluous.
The notes by the editor, Ms. Stillman, were helpful. "It was light that inspired Ansel to photograph . . . ." "He worked almost exclusively at dawn or sunset . . . " because the light was more vivid then. Here is a quote from Adams, "The silver light turned every blade of grass and every particle of sand into a luminous metallic spendor . . . ." Few have ever captured magnificence in black and white as well as Adams did.
Some of my favorite images included:
Trailer-Camp Children, Richmond, 1944
Hull of Wrecked Ship, Breakers, Drake's Bay, 1953
Forest, Castle Rock State Park, 1962
Pasture, Sonoma County, 1951
Clearing Storm, Sonoma County Hills, 1951
Mount Lassen from the devastated area, 1949
Redwoods, Bull Creek Flat, 1960
Edward Weston, Carmel Highlands, 1945
Surf and Rock, Monterey County Coast, 1945
Window, Robert Louis Stevenson House, Monterey, 1953
Orchard, Santa Clara, 1954
Dead Oak Tree, Sierra Foothills, 1938
Sunrise, Death Valley, 1948
Manley Beacon, Death Valley, 1948
Sand Fence, Near Keeler, 1948
Yosemite Valley View, 1944
Half Dome (Winter) from Glacier Point, 1940
El Capitan, 1952
Jeffrey Pine, Yosemite, 1945
Dawn, Mount Whitney, 1932
My enjoyment of the book was increased by nine images of Ansel Adams working by Dorothea Lange from 1953.
Why, then, did I rate the book at 4 stars, rather than 5?
Basically, the book design is all wrong. The size of the images are either too small for their grandeur and subject, or are reproduced across two pages with a crease in the middle. Although the paper and reproduction quality are excellent, the basic layout and page size are wrong. Perhaps a future edition will remedy that problem.
I also found the introduction by Page Stegner to be too much about California and not enough about Adams.
I do recommend that you examine this book. I'm not sure whether or not you will want to purchase it or not. The sizing of the images does spoil the effects quite a bit.
After you have finished enjoying many "new to you" Ansel Adams images, I suggest that you plan a trip to visit those places you are most inspired by. Take along your camera and see what wonderful photographs you can take now at dawn or dusk, with him as your teacher.
Live in the golden glow of California wherever you are!