What Ansel Adams book if I only buy one?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by philip_jeffrie, Nov 15, 2004.

  1. Knowing little about Ansel Adams and his teachings, which book is
    recommended as the definitive one to own? In other words, which book
    can teach the most about exposure and the effects of different lenses?
    Thanks, PJ.
  2. I think "The Negative" would be one of his most important ones. He goes into great detail
    in explaining his system of exposure: "The Zone System". It an historically important book
    as well as being very educational.
  3. Ditto: The Negative
  4. _The Negative_.
  5. The effect of different lenses{1} are covered in 'The Camera'. Exposure goes into 'The Negative', and printmaking goes into 'The Print'

    I'd consider the three volumes as a single unit and buy all three. If you do not have a darkroom or develop you own film, the usefulness of that volume is limited to occasional glimpses on composition, previsualization, placing exposure values in the negative, and light and filters considerations.

    {1} Not many, AA did most of his work in large and medium format, and the lens selection is limited compared to 35mm. On the other hand, there are chapters dedicated to view camera movements.
  6. And again: the negative.<br>It does not teach at all about the effects of different lenses though. But if only one, the one about exposure absolutely is the most important.
  7. Adams clearly meant for students to read & study the "textbooks" in this order: "The
    Camera", followed by "The Negative" followed by "The Print". The body of knowledge is
    hierarchal but you need a solid footing. So my suggestion is to follow his recommendation
    and start with "the Camera".

    As a companion book to all three my suggestion is "Examples : The Making of 40
    Photographs". where he discusses the real world application of the techniques discussed in
    the series to his approach to photography.

    The "zone system" is simply a way to make sense of the technical aspects of photography
    the same way a ruler tells you how long, wide or tall an object is, and whether the ruler is
    marked in centimeters or inches the size of the object doesn't change. In photography,
    according to Adams, the object of photography is to see and express your "vision of what
    you see" clearly. Creating your own way of " Photographic seeing" is about learning and
    understanding how to think about a photograph, the way a camera, film and a print will
    shape your interpretation of what is in front of you. AA developed the Zone System as an
    aid to teaching the mechanics of photography . Mastering The "Zone System" is not an
    end in itself , although some people mistakenly think it is. You still need to have
    something to express with your photograph, and not merely exercise technique.

    To this end a last book I'll recommend is "The Nature of Photographs" by Stephen Shore.
  8. cpj


    THE NEGATIVE which is Book 2 in the series, is the definitive text on Exposure and The
    Zone System. Without good comprehension of THE NEGATIVE all other books on
    photography are--essentially--useless.

    You can't just "read" the book, you have to UNDERSTAND it and how everything is
    interrelated to capture the important parts of a scene's brightness range on film--black
    and white OR color. While THE NEGATIVE describes b&w in detail, the principles of
    understanding brightness range and "placing" the most important parts of the subject area
    in the correct zone (by calculating the exposure from that point) are all the same.

    Snapshots and "pictures" are "taken" by people who own cameras. "Photographs" are
    "made" by artists who are skilled technicians and who understand and can apply the
    principles laid out in Ansel Adams' book THE NEGATIVE.
  9. "The Negative" - if you want to learn more about technique. "Yosemite and the Range of Light" if you want to see beautiful photographs. "Examples - The Making of 40 Photographs" is also good if you can't find Yosemite and the Range of Light.
  10. Yes,<br>One thing to remember is that though Adams' book appears to be focussing on the Zone System, you do not (!) have to start using the Zone System (even Adams didn't: he "cheated" every way he could to get the picture the way he wanted it.)<br>Just understanding the thoughts behind it, the very basics of exposure and processing, is extremely valuable.
  11. "Photographs" are "made" by artists who are skilled technicians and who understand and can apply the principles laid out in Ansel Adams' book THE NEGATIVE.
    Yeah, that's why Salgado, Bresson and Capa are just photographers and not high falutin' ARTISTS.
    Saludos, Santiago
  12. If you haven't done so, I would suggest checking your library (most have online catalogs now). Most major libraries have copies of all three of those books. Check them out for free and really study them. Then you can decide which book is worth the investment. Like the others have said I would bet your choice is #2, but you really should read all three anyway.
    My $.02.
    Dougs MF Film Holder for batch scanning of 120/220 medium format film with flatbeds
  13. Reading "the Camera" is dangerous to your bank account; you'll end buying LF gear after the 3rd time. - That's my personal experience.
  14. Thanks everyone. The library does sound like the place to start. I'm a sucker for buying books and reading them only once. After 18 months of studying these posts I've learned more than I can say. But, the technical explanations that sometimes arise regarding the physics of various lenses and filters, vignetting and bokeh, etc., do sometimes baffle and confuse... PJ.
  15. Ansel Adams is famous for the Zone System..and the Zone System is best described in "The Negative". You can easily find informations about equipment (view cameras and others) and about prints elsewhere.
  16. I mysaelf hate owning "waste-paper" but I believe the 3 Adams books should be a exception. It's so hard to get everything in your brain that you should read them several times. (Maybe not "The Camera") I borrowed them at the libary but am glad to own them myself.

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