True, where we live is no Yosemite National Park.  But nevertheless, beauty is everywhere.  Our Ansel Adams picture study revealed that no matter where you are, you too can find loveliness and worth in photographs of things in nature right where you are.

How To Do An Ansel Adams Picture Study:

1- Check out coffee table quality books from the library to see Ansel Adam’s style of photography.

We perused over 1,000 of Ansel Adam’s photographs over a 12 week term.  We studied only 8.  Viewing so many of his photos helped to see Ansel’s style when it came to the subjects of his pictures, detail, and where his natural bent for beauty was.

2- Find 6-8 of his photographs to study and print a quality copy, preferably 8X10 or larger for your students notebooks.  Study the detail.  Have them look at photograph for several minutes, then turn photo over and have them narrate the photo.

3- For older children, give them the use of a camera and let them discover for themselves.

I forewarned my girls that their assignment for this term was to try to ‘be Ansel Adams’ while taking pictures.  They both have cameras.  One daughter received hers for Christmas a couple of years ago and my oldest purchased hers at a yard sale last year. Ansel Adams’ first camera was a Kodak Brownie Box Camera.

4- Have younger children attempt to draw or trace his works, preferably with a light box.


6 yo tracing of Ansel Adams using a light box.

5- Read a good interesting living biography of Ansel Adams.

As for biographies, I recommend the book,  Eye on the wild: a Story About Ansel Adams by Julie Dunlap.  It is a young adult book and gives background information of his growing up experiences.

Ironically, in addition to some private schools, he was homeschooled. And another more unknown fact is that he was a pianist for over a decade but eventually gave up his music for photography.

6- Find beauty where you live.

7- Copy ‘the master’.  Attempt to create your own Ansel Adams photographs.

“I had been able to realize a desired image: not the way the subject appeared in reality but how it felt to me and how it must appear in the finished print” Ansel Adams

8- Go on nature walks.

9- Take lots of photographs to find ‘the one’.

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”  Ansel Adams

A.AdamsBurroMesa & the chico mnts

Ansel Adams: Burro Mesa And The Chisos Mountains. Big Bend National Park, Texas, 1947


Jessica Brown: Road Trip window shot somewhere in South Carolina

Anseladams leaves,frost,stump

Ansel Adams:Leaves, Frost, Stump. October Morning, Yosemite National Park, California. 1931


Jessica Brown: Fall leave on tree stump. Back yard, North Carolina; Fall 2012


Jessica Brown; North Carolina 2012-Her favorite.

anseladams grass YNP

Ansel Adams: Grass. Yosemite National Park. California, 1944


Jessica Brown: A field in North Carolina, 2013

Below is a picture of trees taken by Ansel Adams.

Trees at Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Ansel Adams: Trees at Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

My 13 year old daughter took this picture, below, on a shopping trip.  She took it with my iphone.  She took quite a few before settling on this one that she liked the best. I can’t help but think that Ansel would have been amazed with today’s technology.  However, we appreciated the fact that he spent hours sometimes setting up the photograph and getting his camera still and ready for an exact moment in time to shoot.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”  Ansel Adams


Abigail Brown: Blue sky; Outside a store in Matthews, NC 2013

10- Experiment.

When experimenting with effects, the entire photo changes in quality and feel.


Abigail Brown: Blue sky; Outside a store in Matthews, NC 2013-Antique effect


Abigail Brown: Blue sky; Outside a store in Matthews, NC 2013-Black & White effect

Ansel Adams was most comfortable with black and white, however, he did experiment with color.

After learning about the man he grew to be, I am sure he would have used iphone technology to preserve nature somehow.  Social media could have amplified his efforts exponentially.  In the 1930’s he was inspired to protect the land from commercial development.  He was a fellow trail blazer with Dorothea Lange.  Through his photography, he gave us a record of our national parks before tourism.  And because of his efforts, Congress declared areas National Parks.

Ironically, many people in his time believed realistic photography could never be popular.  Ansel was a pioneer who proved them wrong.

“Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs.”  Ansel Adams


Abigail Brown: Snow fall in Mint Hill, NC; 2013

My favorite photograph by Ansel Adams; below:

Ansel Adams-Oak Tree Sunrise. Northern California. 1966

Ansel Adams-Oak Tree Sunrise. Northern California. 1966

“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”  Ansel Adams

I would love to have this as a mural for my bedroom.

The next step is to encourage your kids to take photographs of what they think is beautiful and create their own style.

What are your favorites?


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