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Ansel Adams - Clearing Storm (1944) Essay

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History of Photography


The image I have chosen to analyze is Ansel Adams’ Mount Williamson - Clearing Storm (1944).   This piece is a black and white photograph of an American landscape, specifically in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.   In the foreground there are stones of various sizes, possibly left there by glacial movement, spread out across a valley.   At the horizon, there are twin peaks.   Although not exactly the same height, the two mountains are of similar size and width, with the lowest point between them centered in the frame.   The sides facing the viewer are menacingly dark, and add a great contrast to separate land from sky.   The mountains are surrounded by partial sunshine and swirling clouds.   The clouds themselves are more concentrated in the center of the photograph, dissipating as the eye moves outward in either direction.
Having the viewer’s vantage point almost at ground level exaggerates the physical distance between them and the mountains ahead, and also invokes feelings of the grandness of such a scene.   The central rock in the foreground not only provides the viewer with a position within the photograph, but also helps to move the viewer’s eye straight back across the valley.   As the eye jumps from stone to stone, one then comes to the foothills between the two central peaks.   The V-shape made by the mountains meeting bring the eye up to clouds of the passing storm, aided by the newly shining rays of sun.   Although not the closest subject, or one that dominates most of the scene, the eyes are brought to focus here, making the storm the central focus of the work.
The overall tone of Mount Williamson - Clearing Storm, could be seen as one of tranquility.   The fleeting clouds over the mountains letting through sunshine leaves the viewer with a sense of relief as the storm has passed.   One gains a sense of grandeur in the landscape itself, knowing they are but one being amid this vast background.   This sense of being so small might...

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