Ansel Adams is the closest thing photography has to a superstar. His photographs sell for thousands of dollars; he has appeared in television advertisements ("Buy a Datsun, Plant a Tree"); and he was directed of the Sierra Club for 37 years. Recently, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Almost everyone admires Adam's imposing images of the Western landscape. One of his best-known photographs, "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico" (1944), brought admit that he is a superb photographic technician.
"The Camera" -- the first volume in "The New Ansel Adams Photography Series" -- is partly a how-to-use-the-camera book, and partly a primer on the philosophy of imagemaking. Since he has been photographing for 50 years, Adams has some sound advice on the subject of cameras.
Adams has been writing on the technical aspects of photography for many years. "The Camera" is a revises version of a volume that first appeared over 30 years ago, entitled "Camera & Lens."
That earlier book talked mostly about view cameras, the type Adams himself uses, and gave scant attention to what were then called "miniature" cameras. But since the publication of "Camera & Lens" in 1948, and particularly in the last five years, the 35-mm camera has become enormously popular.
This new book devotes much more space to the 35-mm camera, while remaining a general guide for the making of good photographs.
Adams tells us how to hold the camera steady, how to use a tripod, how to adjust the tilts and swings on a view camera, how to use a light meter, and how various lens filters produce their effects.
He also discusses underwater photography, explains how an electric flash works, describes the kinds of shutters cameras have and how they work, shows what fields of vision different lenses have -- even urges that the reader insure his camera equipment.
While Adams explains the mechanics of cameras and lenses at length, he also brings up the equally important issue of visualization. At the beginning of the book he writes: "The term 'visualization' refers to the entire emotional-mental process of creating a photograph, and, as such, it is one of the most important concepts in photography.
"It includes the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure, so that the procedures employed will contribute to achieving the desired result. This much of the creative process can be practiced and learned; beyond lies the domain of personal vision and insight, the creative 'eye' of the individual, which cannot be taught, only recognized and encouraged."
No one can teach creativity, of course. But Adams believes that a knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of your equipment, combined with forethought about what, exactly, you want to achieve in your work, facilities creativity.
Adams hopes that in his book, "by discussing the techniques and craft of photography, and the thought processes involved in their application, I may be able to help some photographers fully comprehend the medium in a shorter time, and with much less frustration, than is offered by the trial-and-error approach."
Adams really covers the ground in this book. His thoroughness makes "The Camera" a valuable reference.