Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Inspirations #24: Moonrise

OK, there's been this big discussion over on largeformatphotography.info about why Ansel Adams' Moonrise, Hernandez, NM is his most sold image. The answer, basically, is that is just drop-dead beautiful. It is a haunting image, and based on Adams' writings, it haunted him in the darkroom. For those of you who don't know, the original contact print looks nothing like the finished print, and even the finished print evolved over the decades. The amount of work that went into the final print is astonishing and has probably not been rivaled since, nor will it ever be.


Moonrise, Hernandez, NM, 1941 by Ansel Adams (finished print)


Moonrise, Hernandez, NM, 1941 by Ansel Adams (straight print)

Every photographer has their own personal Moonrise, whether it is actually a moonrise or a completely different subject matter. Moonrise has come to be defined as a photographer's iconic image... the image that he or she becomes known for. I have been told that my Moonrise is Whaler's Cove, Pt. Lobos,CA 1984. But, I actually have a real Moonrise.

Ansel Adams had other Moonrises, too... Moonrise from Glacier Point, Yosemite NP, CA,


Moonrise from Glacier Point, Yosemite NP, CA, 1953? by Ansel Adams


Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point, Yosemite NP, CA, 1948 by Ansel Adams

In 1989 I spent a month in California, renting a house in Carmel so I could photograph and immerse myself in the rich photographic history of this beautiful place. A college friend of mine, Alan Grossman, flew out with me as he had a wedding to go to in Palo Alto the next week. So that first week we went to Yosemite. Neither of us had ever been there before and we were awe-struck. You drive around the loop in the Valley and all you can do is look straight up, and not in front of you where you should be, and say Oh, my God! It is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Towards the end of our stay we had heard there would be a good moonrise and that Glacier Pt. was the place to be. So Alan and I photographed in the Valley during the morning and after lunch headed up to Glacier Pt. so we could stake out our spot. Of course, there were many other photographers there with the same idea.

As it started to get dark (and cold) we were set up and I was able to make the image below.


Moonrise, Glacier Pt., Yosemite NP, CA, 1989 by Richard M. Coda (final print)

After I came home 3 weeks later I developed the film. There was so much range in the negative that I could never print it. See my earlier post about how digital saved this image. Below is the original straight scan from the negative. I can truly appreciate the work Ansel Adams put into his Moonrise now because I've been there. Even digitally, there is a lot of work on this image. Gratefully, it only has to be done once, and not 600-700 times like Ansel had to do!


Moonrise, Glacier Pt., Yosemite NP, CA, 1989 by Richard M. Coda (straight print)

5 comments:

Rick Berk said...

Richard-
I stumbled across this post as I was using Ansel Adams' "Moonrise, Hernandez, NM" as an example of the work that went into "traditional" photo masterpieces. I teach many seminars and there seems to be this feeling among some that ANY Photoshop work is somehow cheating. I believe this is a misunderstanding of the Photographic Process and want to thank you for highlighting that "post-processing" has always been a part of great photography, whether done on a computer, or in a wet darkroom. Thanks for the insights!

The Blainemonster said...

Thank you for posting the straight print of "Moonrise". I've been hunting for it this morning and now I can get back to work! It really helps to demonstrate the value of post-processing coupled with the vision of the artist. Awesome!
hiswhispersphoto

Amanda said...

I think it is wonderful how he took a picture that could have been taken by anyone really and turned it into this beautiful haunting image. The contrast is wonderful and I think I might have found the picture I want in my livingroom. Just wonderful!

The Night Watchman said...

Nice write-up...and from my perspective the critical, common thing is that in all the photographs presented in this article, the finished product still looks like a photograph. It hasn't been transformed into something that no longer resembles what our world really looks like. Too many people these days seem to cross that boundary with impunity.

The Night Watchman said...

Nice write-up...and from my perspective the critical, common thing is that in all the photographs presented in this article, the finished product still looks like a photograph. It hasn't been transformed into something that no longer resembles what our world really looks like. Too many people these days seem to cross that boundary with impunity.