In the footsteps of Ansel Adams

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This is my imitation on a very cloudy day

Talk about a wild goose chase…Mary and I were in the Eastern Sierra Nevada to photograph the Alabama Hills arches and Mount Whitney, etc,  when Mary said, “let’s find the spot where Ansel Adams made his famous photo of Mount Williamson.”  Not knowing what I was agreeing to, I said “OK.”  Here is what ensued.

There is plenty on the internet about finding this spot.  It is “behind” the Manzanar camp.  Now I know why people that find the spot, do not post specific directions or GPS.  It is a special place.

This is the Ansel Adams print

You will need to do some research and you will need a high clearance vehicle.  Four wheel drive is not necessary, but it is a tough road, so you will want good tires and plenty of clearance.

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The most amazing experience is finding the metal amo box that marks the spot.  In the amo box is 16 years of detritus.  There are letters, photos, maps, match books, even a beer label – all signed, dated, and many with heartfelt messages.  Mary and I sat in our Jeep for a while reading them all.  One I really liked was from a couple that came to this location and then came back five years later with their kids and signed their original letter, twice.  I figured that maybe 100 people had left items in the box.  We were 101.

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Mary, getting “the shot”

After getting home, we learned that Ansel had made the photo from the platform on top of his car.  I hypothesize that he used a short telephoto tilt shift lens where he could compress the front to back of the scene.  The next time we go, I will climb onto the roof of my Jeep and try the same thing.

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The green amo box with souvenirs from prior visitors

Addendum at 6 PM Sunday from my original morning post:  we have EXAMPLES: The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams and on pages 65-68, he does describe how he made the photo in the field and how he made prints.  He does describe how he shot from the roof of his car with an 8×10 view camera and a 19 and 23 inch focal length which are pretty darn long telephoto lenses.  He did tilt the camera down and the lens up to get the image sharp from back to front at f/32.

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