The second of ten "epiphanous photographs" - a hand-picked series of photographs as defined in an earlier Blog entry - is...
Epiphanous Photograph #2: Ansel Adam's Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, 1927
Apart from its aesthetic appeal, what makes this photograph so special to me, is what I learned a few months after I first saw it a book (when I was still in my teens) about how Adams made it. I subsequently learned that Monolith was the image that taught Adams the art of previsualization; that is, the ability to previsualize, in one's mind, what you want the print to look like, and to then use whatever filters (in Adams' case, a deep red filter to properly render the sky deep black) and exposure are required by the previsualized print. Adams had to work fast, and, as I recall, had only a single plate of film left to expose (after a long day of photography).
This particular image, and most importantly the way this image was conceived, previsualized and printed, marks a cornerstone in my own photography in two ways: (1) I have never approached a subject since without first previsualizing what it is I want the final print to reveal about the subject, and (2) it was the first time that I truly appreciated that a photograph need not exactly recreate a scene (as might be observed by a passive "viewer" at the scene); rather, it can - sometimes must - depict the scene in a way that best communicates what the photographer saw and felt.
In the case of the Monolith, Adams' epiphany (and thereby the epiphany for all succeeding generations of fine art photographers!) was that a filter was needed to convey how awe struck he was, as observer/as photographer, by the Monolith's shear magnificence. I, in turn, was awe struck, by the resulting print's power to communicate Adams' moving experience (just as he was sure it would when he previsualized in his mind's eye how a red filter would render this scene). And it is another important reason why I am so passionate about fine art photography!