Ansel Adams cheated?

Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, by Ansel Adams

Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, by Ansel Adams

Arrayed on the left-hand hillside of the Alabama Hills were the large letters LP spelled out in white-washed rocks that stood for Lone Pine. Driving through the town, you can still see the letters, which are refurbished by locals in a ritual familiar to many communities in the Western states. Ansel Adams was so disturbed by what he considered to be an ugly scar in the landscape that he spot-toned out the letters in his prints with a small brush, and in the 1970s finally had them eliminated from the negative itself by his assistant.

– William Fox, Camera Obscura: A photographic history of the LA Aqueduct, in Boom


  1. Cheated? Have you ever seen a print of “Moonrise over Hernandez” without the dodging and burning? Ansel Adams applied these techniques to probably all of his work. And, by doing so, he turned photographs into works of art.

  2. Andrew – “Cheating” was a bit of rhetorical excess in the headline, but clearly what’s discussed in the Boom piece goes beyond traditional dodging and burning that all photographers used to do in the darkroom and do today with Photoshop. He was doing the equivalent of photoshopping out the “LP”, not merely dodging and burning to strengthen or lighten and shadows of the “LP”. I think it raises interesting questions about the nature of photographic art as compared to the work my dad did as a painter (where he’d engage in the equivalent of removing the “LP” all the time).

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