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View Full Version : A tour of Ansel Adam's darkroom



Riccis
6-Apr-2011, 21:51
Feast your eyes and maybe get some inspiration for your own darkroom enhancements :)

http://www.petapixel.com/2011/04/05/a-tour-of-ansel-adams-darkroom

Cheers!

Riccis
6-Apr-2011, 21:52
BTW, meant to say Ansel Adams' darkroom :)

Vaughn
6-Apr-2011, 22:11
I was there in February, visiting with a friend. Michael and I visited while my friend met with Michael's wife. Very nice folks and of course a beautiful home. A recently added deck overlooking the ocean would be a pleasure to kick back on with a nice scotch after a session in the darkroom. I think I could stand living there.

I had been to AA's darkroom a couple times before as an assistant for the Friends of the Photography not too long after Ansel's death. Virginia was still alive and was a wonderful person. Nothing terribly fancy or modern about the darkroom -- just well organized and good solid equipment.

Vaughn

Brian C. Miller
6-Apr-2011, 22:36
I knew that Adams' 8x10 enlarger was made from an old camera, but I never knew it was that fugly! Beautiful != effective! Interesting to see the little rail tracks.

Kevin J. Kolosky
8-Apr-2011, 09:23
What is the situation there? Is it open to the public as sort of a museum. Is Michael living there?

Darin Boville
8-Apr-2011, 10:51
The video is a sort of wasted opportunity, I'm afraid, on the part of the interviewer.

The stories about Moonrise and Monolith are easily the best known stories about Ansel's images and Ansel had related them several times himself in other films not to mention his books. Nothing new at all there. The entire darkroom segment has been done before in well-known films--with the video camera in the same position! In fact, one of those films is intercut into this video, showing Ansel at work in the darkroom.

But I did note a few things of interest. The gallery room next to the living area is lovely. The photos above, library below, with a large viewing/work table off center in the room. I want one!

Michael Adams has been busy digitizing stuff. Would love to see more. He had straight vs. late printing scans of Moonrise to show comparisons, on his Mac. He had a Monolith with yellow filter vs red filter, too. Not new stuff but a very nice way to demonstrate the issues. He also had the dodging and burning instructions for Moonrise--he said he couldn't read the instructions although they seemed clear enough with the brief glance I had of them. I'd love to see more along these lines.

--Darin

Vaughn
8-Apr-2011, 11:21
What is the situation there? Is it open to the public as sort of a museum. Is Michael living there?

Michael and his wife bought the house and are living there. I would call the darkroom itself a privately kept "museum". By no means "public".

And yes -- great photos on the walls!

Drew Wiley
8-Apr-2011, 12:56
It's sure nice that they kept the dkrm digs intact, but it always amazes me how primitive AA's tool kit was, not only in terms of physical gear, but with respect to his
technical options. Seems like he spent a lot of time going through dodging/burning hell.
We've got a lot more tricks these days, with better film, dev, and papers to make things so much easier.

Pawlowski6132
8-Apr-2011, 13:21
Drew, do you really think we're much further ahead technologically? I don't feel I am personally in my contact printing at all.

Vaughn
8-Apr-2011, 13:22
As the old saying goes:

Isn't it amazing how photography has advanced without improving? - Charles Sheeler

Drew Wiley
8-Apr-2011, 13:55
Well, I'd sure hate to be stuck with the toys Ansel had. I'm nearly done making toys myself, even though I could hypothetically design even better ones. And of course all
of us could probably figure out how to use a little extra elbow room in the darkroom.
I've got four darkrooms, each with a little different function, but still feel cramped.
But my own home-made enlargers etc are sure a luxury to work with, especially the
quality of the light for color printing. I sold off my Durst color mural colorhead because
my own rig works so much better. I can punch a 30x40 C-print from 8X10 in about
12 sec, without the terrible heat and nasty utility bill the Durst produced. Cibas are
obviously take longer to print. And for black and white work I've got a high-output
coldlight that will punch right through even a 47B deep blue filter, contrast mask, the
whole nine yards in just a few seconds. Yeah, I got spoiled, and even did it on a fairly
low budget. But it was a lot of work; but that's OK. Some guys like working on cars or
boats. I actually enjoy fabricating gear.

Drew Wiley
8-Apr-2011, 13:58
Vaughn - as far as "improvement" goes, I can only agree with what Miro said, that ever
since the days of cave painting, we've only gone downhill.

Vaughn
8-Apr-2011, 14:37
Vaughn - as far as "improvement" goes, I can only agree with what Miro said, that ever
since the days of cave painting, we've only gone downhill.

:D

ic-racer
8-Apr-2011, 18:40
Do I feel I have something in common with Ansel because I can also enlarge 8x10? No
Because I also use a Peak 1? No.
Because I also use a nearly identical dodging wand? No.
Because I also have nice stainless steel measuring cups? No.

What I have in common with Ansel's darkroom is the Peg Perego!

bvaughn4
8-Apr-2011, 22:22
Very nice thank you for the link.

George in Georgia
13-Apr-2011, 08:48
A few weeks ago the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA - about 35 miles from Atlanta - had a major Ansel Adams show, which included a mock-up of his horizontal enlarger, plus an example of a tray development line. Impressive, to say the least.

The exhibit was gorgeous. It was humbling to see what he did in the 30's and 40's with what are by today's standards pretty primitive films. The prints are stunning. Gelatin silver rules.

Interestingly, on a lower level of the museum was an exhibit by an Atlanta shooter, very well-crafted 11x14 and larger "archive inkjet" BW shots. They had a full range of tonality, but my wife and I both noted that they couldn't hold a candle to the real thing. They somehow lacked the depth of a silver print.

The High Museum has a major show of Henri Cartier-Bresson on display until May 29. If anyone is in the area this is a must-see. Amazing what he could do with a Leica, and occasionally medium format. Again, wonderful silver prints.

I'm just getting back into wet work after a gap of 30+ years. When I last printed RC was in its infancy and pretty terrible. I gather it's improved greatly. I hope so. I used to be able to buy Ilford 8x10 sw graded fiber paper for $10. per hundred. So I'd make an 8x10 proof of promising images to live with for a while before moving up to 11x14 or so. And there was a wide assortment of papers and surfaces. Anyone remember crystal? Those days are long gone....

Drew Wiley
13-Apr-2011, 09:51
RC paper have indeed come along ways in terms of printing ease, but personally I'd
only use them for temporary commercial or casual work, not for anything intended for
long keeping, and obviously not for drymounting. What has improved even more
spectacularly is variable-contrast papers in general, which are now at least equal to
the best graded papers available.

George in Georgia
13-Apr-2011, 10:49
RC paper have indeed come along ways in terms of printing ease, but personally I'd
only use them for temporary commercial or casual work, not for anything intended for
long keeping, and obviously not for drymounting. What has improved even more
spectacularly is variable-contrast papers in general, which are now at least equal to
the best graded papers available.

Good to hear that, Drew, especially about VC papers. For whatever reason my wet work partner and I didn't use them, and having to keep on hand 2 or 3 different grades was a bit of a pain. But we did learn about pre-flashing and the use of ferrocyanide.

paulr
13-Apr-2011, 13:23
I think at the time, or at least in his older darkroom, Ansel's setup struck other photographers as being high tech and maybe even extravagant. Weston used to jokingly call it a factory. Of course, at the time Weston's darkroom was a room with a bare bulb hanging from a cord.

Vlad Soare
14-Apr-2011, 06:34
Seems like he spent a lot of time going through dodging/burning hell.
We've got a lot more tricks these days, with better film, dev, and papers to make things so much easier.
I don't think it's a matter of film or paper quality. He went through that hell because he liked to alter the tonalities of various parts of the image, to make them fit his vision rather than reality.

Bruce Barlow
14-Apr-2011, 07:09
I noticed on the "Moonrise" notes: Dektol 1:5!

Sal Santamaura
14-Apr-2011, 12:46
Michael and his wife bought the house and are living there...Bought it from whom? I vaguely recall that the house was left to an organization (Friends of Photography? Wilderness Society?) with the proviso that Virginia could stay in it for the rest of her life, but can't find anything relevant on-line or in my not-really-organized paper trivia file. :)

Vaughn
14-Apr-2011, 13:25
Michael just said he bought it. I assume they bought it from the estate, but other than that assumption I do not know nor is it my business.

Carlos R Herrera
14-Apr-2011, 14:57
The FOP would be correct....

Sadly, the FOP shutdown in 2001/2002. Poor management.

CH