Ansel Adams is a legendary name in the world of photography, particularly in the realm of landscape photography. Born in 1902, he grew up in San Francisco and discovered his love for photography at a young age. Over the course of his career, Adams developed a unique style that captured the beauty of nature in a way that was both stunning and timeless. In this article, we will explore the influence of Ansel Adams on landscape photography and discuss how his ideas and techniques have shaped the genre.

Ansel Adams is one of the most important figures in nature conservancy and landscape photography. He is a hero for Yosemite National Park and the western United States. Mostly known for his work around the High Sierras and Yosemite, Ansel made photographs of New Mexico, architecture, portraits, Japanese Americans in Internment Camps, and the landscapes which he is most famous for. Ansel Adams is the most famous black and white photographer in the world.

Ansel Adams and his influence on black and white photography.
Portrait of Ansel Adams

The Start of Ansel Adams' Career

Ansel Adams received his first camera in 1916. Although he was a very gifted pianist, photography was his main passion. During his time as the custodian of the Sierra Club’s Leconte Memorial Lodge, Ansel began photographing Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra mountains. The Sierra Club brought 17 year old Ansel on trips into Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada mountains to produce photographs on their behalf. With these photographs, the Sierra Club published his work and provided a solo exhibit in their headquarters in 1928. In 1931, Ansel had a solo exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. with 60 of his photographs causing his popularity to soar. This exhibit is the reason photographer's images can be shown next to paintings and portraitures in fine art galleries. With the beauty and expertise of his images, photography became a mainstream art form.

In the 1930s, photography was more pictorialist with soft focus. Meeting photographer Paul Strand and seeing his images were in contrast to what was popular, impressed Ansel. Paul’s images were sharp, in focus, and full of tonality. In 1932, Ansel establish the Group f.64 which favored sharp focus and the entire tonal range from black to white. Most photographers used grey and very little tonality for their images. Unfortunately, the Group f.64 was short-lived.

How Ansel Adams influenced modern black and white photography.

The Tumwater Canyon in the fall is some of the best fall color in Washington State but sometimes it has to be shown in black and white. Show the area in the simplicity and timelessness that is black and white photography. It makes me wonder what Ansel Adams would do with the digital camera of today.

Conservation Efforts

While honing his craft of photography working for the Sierra Club, the U. S. Dept of Interior hired Ansel to photograph the national parks. With his black and white images of the parks and consistent advocacy, they awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980. This is the highest honor a citizen can achieve from the government. The reason the Sierra Club chose Ansel to be the official outing photographer was to use his images when lobbying congress to establish new national parks like Kings Canyon. Using photographs and his book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail, he convinced President Franklin Roosevelt and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes to embrace the idea and establish Kings Canyon National Park in 1940.

Influence on Modern Photography

Most painters and art collectors of the time consider photography too realistic for fine art. Using soft focus lenses and brush strokes on their negatives, photographers tried to make their images not look like photographs. Few independent souls like Ansel were taking the complete opposite approach. Their images are sharp, in focus, and printed on glossy papers. Ansel came to realize that black and white photography was very 2 dimensional and did not need more embellishment. He began looking over many old negatives and realized starting over is the only option.

Sharp images from front to back is just one of Ansel Adams' contributions to photography. Unless the image is abstract or macro, photographer's want sharp focus. Of course, lenses don't go to f64 and even at f22, they're not sharp from diffraction. To get around this, we'll go to f11 and take multiple images at different focus points. Photoshop will put the images together using the sharpest part of each image.

Development of the Zone System

Another significant contribution made by Adams to landscape photography was the development of the Zone System. This system was a method for visualizing and controlling exposure and development of film, which allowed photographers to create prints with consistent tonality and contrast. The system divided the tonal range of a photograph into ten zones, ranging from pure black to pure white, with shades of gray in between. By adjusting the exposure and development of the film, photographers could place different parts of the image into different zones to achieve their desired effect.

How Ansel Adams became the most famous black and white photographer.

Perfect clouds at Monument Valley for a long exposure black and white image. Most people remember Monument Valley from Forest Gump when he was on his long run. Monument Valley was carved by the wind and rain over the last 50 million years to reveal the different buttes throughout the Navaho National Tribal parks. The park offers a 17 mile loop road so you can see more of the park but you need a high clearance vehicle.

Ansel Adams Legacy

Adams' legacy continues to influence modern landscape photography in numerous ways. One of his greatest contributions was his advocacy for the preservation of natural landscapes. Throughout his career, he used his photography as a tool to raise awareness about the beauty and fragility of the natural world. He also worked with environmental organizations to promote conservation efforts and protect wild spaces for future generations.

In addition to his environmental work, Adams' influence on the genre of landscape photography can be seen in the work of countless photographers who have been inspired by his techniques and style. His legacy is also preserved through the Ansel Adams Gallery and Museum, which showcases his work and provides resources for photographers looking to learn more about his techniques.

The influence of Ansel Adams in photography resonates through time, shaping not only the technical aspects of the craft but also the very essence of visual storytelling. As we continue to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of photography, Adams' legacy stands as a testament to the enduring power of a visionary's influence.

An Overview of Ansel Adams Prints

Ansel Adams prints are exquisite reproductions of his original photographs. These prints allow admirers of his work to own a piece of his timeless artistry and bring nature's beauty into their homes or offices.

Adams was famous for his mastery of black and white photography. Black and white prints by Ansel Adams showcase the interplay between light and shadows, capturing the drama and depth of his subjects.

Although Adams is primarily known for his black and white prints, he also experimented with colorization techniques. Colorized Ansel Adams prints offer a unique perspective on his work and provide a fresh way to experience his compositions.

Limited edition Ansel Adams prints are highly sought after by collectors. These prints are produced in limited quantities, making them more exclusive and valuable. Owning a limited edition print allows you to own a piece of photographic history.

Framed Ansel Adams prints provide a complete package, ready to be displayed and appreciated. The carefully chosen frames enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of the artwork, creating a captivating focal point in any space.


Ansel Adams is the reason modern photography is considered a fine art and hangs in galleries. He was one of the first photographers to have this opportunity. He brought the national parks like Yosemite to the public so everyone can see the beauty. Unfortunately, social media does that now and is the cause of many problems at parks but that is for another blog. While many photographers may not be influenced by Ansel, they can appreciate what he did for the art. Aspiring photographers can benefit by studying Adams' compositional techniques, embracing environmental consciousness, and participating in educational opportunities. His legacy serves as a guide for both technical and artistic growth. Going against the norms of soft focus to match the painters of the day. Creating the Group f.64 to promote sharp, in focus images like most photographers create today. I can appreciate his work but I prefer a different style of photography as seen in my Black and White Gallery. I want the viewer to see the subject and not shades of grey. That's not to say mine are better, they're just different.

If you would like to learn how to process black and white images, check out my 1 hour Post Processing lessons.

How Ansel Adams created black and white photographs.

The halls of justice can invoke a myriad of emotions. Whether in color or black and white, everyone sees the justice system of America in a different light. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. Either way, be proud of who you are and always try to do good in this world. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.

21st Street bridge in tacoma bridge in black and white.

Where does this bridge go for you? So many choices and each one is up to you. You get to decide where the road is taking you. Wherever you want to go figure out how to get there and take it one day at a time. No excuses, no blaming others. Follow your path and make it what you want. I have been driving past the 21st Street bridge in Tacoma, Washington for years and as I learn more about black and white editing, I finally have a vision of what I want it to look like. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.