Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984) was an American photographer and environmentalist. His black-and-white landscape photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park, have been widely reproduced on calendars, posters, books, and the internet.
Adams and Fred Archer developed the Zone System as a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. The resulting clarity and depth characterized his photographs. He primarily used large-format cameras because the large film used with these cameras (primarily 5x4 and 8x10) contributed to the clarity of his prints.
Adams initiated the photography group known as Group f/64, along with fellow photographers Willard Van Dyke and Edward Weston.
Adams was born in the Western Addition of San Francisco, California, the only child of Charles Hitchcock Adams and Olive Bray Adams. He was named after his uncle, Ansel Easton. His mother's family came from Baltimore, where his maternal grandfather had a successful freight-hauling business but lost his wealth investing in failed mining and real estate ventures in Nevada. The Adams family came from New England, having migrated from Northern Ireland during the early 18th century. His paternal grandfather founded and built a prosperous lumber business which his father later managed, though his father's talents lay more with sciences than with business. Later in life, Adams condemned that very same industry for cutting down many of the great redwood forests.
In 1907, his family moved 2 miles (3 km) west to a new home near the Seacliff neighbourhood, just south of the Presidio Army Base. The home had a "splendid view" of the Golden Gate and the Marin Headlands. San Francisco was devastated by the April 18, 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The four year-old Ansel Adams was uninjured in the initial shaking but was tossed face-first into a garden wall during an aftershock three hours later, breaking and scarring his nose. Among his earliest memories was watching the smoke from the ensuing fire that destroyed much of the city a few miles to the east. A doctor recommended that his nose be reset once he reached maturity, but it remained crooked for his entire life.
Adams was a hyperactive child and prone to frequent sickness and hypochondria. He had few friends, but his family home and surroundings on the heights facing the Golden Gate provided ample childhood activities. He had little patience for games or sports, but he liked the beauty of nature at an early age, collecting bugs and exploring Lobos Creek all the way to Baker Beach and the sea cliffs leading to Lands End, "San Francisco's wildest and rockiest coast, a place strewn with shipwrecks and rife with landslides."
His father bought a three-inch telescope, and they enthusiastically shared the hobby of amateur astronomy, visiting the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton together. His father later served as the paid secretary-treasurer of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific from 1925 to 1950.
Ansel's father's business suffered great financial losses after the death of Ansel's grandfather and the aftermath of the Panic of 1907. Some of the induced near-poverty was because Ansel's uncle Ansel Easton and Cedric Wright's father George Wright had secretly sold their shares of the company to the Hawaiian Sugar Trust for a large amount of money, "knowingly providing the controlling interest." By 1912, the family's standard of living had dropped sharply.
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