Posts Tagged ‘Guggenheim’

San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 16

June 19th, 2014

Reciprocity Failure

Lecture By Ansel Adams

Introduction And Philip Hyde Lecture Notes

(Continued from the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 15.”)

Sunken Car, Sausalito, Marin County, Alcatraz In Distance, San Francisco Bay, California, copyright 1948 by Philip Hyde. Made during photography school.

Sunken Car, Sausalito, Marin County, Alcatraz In Distance, San Francisco Bay, California, copyright 1948 by Philip Hyde. Made during photography school.

No other known set exists of complete student lecture notes from the first ten years of the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. During the “Golden Decade,” directly after World War II, while Minor White was lead instructor, beginning in the Summer Session 1947, Philip Hyde took detailed class notes. These notes are what make up the core of a good number of entries in this series of blog articles on the history of the San Francisco Art Institute’s photography department.

Background And Founding Of The World’s First Professional Creative Photography Training

Minor White and Philip Hyde both attended their first Ansel Adams lecture on the same day at the start of the California School of Fine Arts Summer Session 1946. Ansel Adams brought in Minor White with the idea he would take Ansel Adams’ place as lead instructor. Minor White came directly from Columbia University on Beaumont and Nancy Newhall’s recommendation. In the 1946 Summer Session Minor White quickly proved himself as a coach of the young students and as a guest lecturer. Within a few weeks Ansel Adams felt confident enough in Minor White’s teaching abilities to leave him in charge of the class and set out on the road to photograph the national parks for his recently awarded Guggenheim Fellowship.

That Fall, Minor White also led the first class of full-time students in the world’s first academic full-time creative photography program. By Fall of 1947, a new crop of first year students began learning from Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, renamed the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961. The San Francisco Art Institute still has one of the world’s most innovative photography departments, but the first ten years of the program, now called the Golden Decade, are the stuff of legend with guest lectures arranged by Minor White that included such photographic luminaries as Imogen Cunningham, Lissette Model, Dorothea Lange, and many others; as well as the highlight of each semester: a field trip to Wildcat Hill in Carmel to visit Edward Weston, complete with a field walk with him out on Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Ansel Adams first taught the photography Summer Session in 1945. Minor White joined him teaching in 1946. Philip Hyde started as a student at the same time, but due to an office paperwork error, did not make the list to attend the first full-time class in Fall 1946, but began photography school in the second full-time class in Fall 1947. The Summer Session 1947 featured lectures by both Adams and White. Philip Hyde’s lecture notes begin in the Summer Session 1947. Philip Hyde proved to be one of the most eager students, despite his full personal life.

On June 29, 1947, Philip Hyde married Ardis King in Berkeley. Ardis King’s family was from Sacramento, but her parents owned a house in Berkeley, where she and her brother Clint King lived while attending the University of California Berkeley. Philip and Ardis got to know each other while attending classes at UC Berkeley, where Ardis earned her teaching credential. They took a number of classes together, including a course in Calligraphy and Japanese Painting by the famous Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata. More on these classes and their influence on the Hydes in future blog posts.

Reciprocity Failure Defined

Following Minor White’s lecture on The Technical Aspects of Visualization on August 19, 1947, Ansel Adams came before the class and held forth on Reciprocity Failure for the next two days. Most of the lecture contents were too technical to reproduce here, with many graphs depicting film densities and sensitometry readings.

Reciprocity failure oversimplified, results in the failure of film to show accurate and unflawed detail in shadows. While the subject may seem dry in some ways, it is an important concept in straight photography where the values of clarity, sharpness and clean rendering without artifacts and film noise are considered of utmost importance. Many photographers today in the digital age don’t care about the technical aspects of photography because they don’t need to in order to produce high fidelity photography. Camera technology today, if used according to the manual and a few simple rules and guidelines, does much of the work automatically, when the correct settings are chosen. However, with large format film cameras, everything had to be done manually. Ansel Adams was a stickler for all technical aspects of photography and developing a solid base of knowledge and aptitude in his students. The results speak for themselves, evident in his negatives and black and white prints, as well as the negatives and fine art prints of his students. It is precisely because of their perfection that Ansel Adams prints are some of the most sought after by collectors and considered some of the most valuable in the history of the medium.

The Film Photography Project blog gives an excellent explanation of reciprocity failure:

Whether you’re using a lower speed film in daylight, trying to maximize your depth of field in a landscape, or just setting up the camera for an exposure at night, sooner or later you’re going to start pushing the limits of your film’s light gathering ability. As light becomes more scarce, the silver halide grains residing in your film will be less uniformly struck by photons, causing a steep drop in density after a few seconds of needed exposure. This exponentially diminishing response to low light levels is more popularly known as a film’s reciprocity failure.

The Film Photography Project goes on to give examples of how different films exhibit reciprocity failure. For example, with black and white film, exposures of one or two seconds or longer will result in reduced density, that is, thin or non-existent shadow detail. With color negative film, exposures over 20 seconds cause color-shifting as different color dye layers in the film absorb light at different rates during prolonged exposure. With color slide film, exposures over five seconds result in color shifts similar to color negative film, while high color saturation slide films such as Fuji Velvia color shift to an even greater degree than lower color density films.

Ansel Adams’ two-day lecture on reciprocity failure gave his students the tools to avoid reciprocity failure. Some of the technical terms and information implies previous knowledge from earlier lectures of various photographic subjects such as the Zone System. Stay tuned for a simple explanation of the Zone System in future posts in this series. These notes are presented primarily for the historical record.

Philip Hyde’s Lecture Notes, August 19, 1947

Reciprocity failure—inertia of film in low intensity light—film doesn’t respond to slight illumination.

Visualization and light metering—Use a long tube for the light meter to explore light readings of distant objects.

A Wratten 90 filter (tan color) for viewing—neutralizes color

Example: Greens on Kodak Verichrome Pan film drop nearly a full zone in value due to lack of green sensitivity.

All measurements for density should be above film base plus fog.

[Film base plus fog refers to the inherent density of any film before exposure. It consists of the film base plus any fog that has accumulated on the film due to subtle light exposure in handling]

For the sake of measurement and calculations, film base plus fog should not be less than 0.1 in density.

Pre-Exposure Exercise

Expose a white card for Zone II or Zone I depending on amount of exposure added. Then expose the scene normally. The units added will equal the numeric relation between zones. That is:

Zone I = 1 unit

Zone II = 2 units

Zone III = 4 units

Zone IV = 8 units

Zone V = 16 units

Zone VI = 32 units

…and so on up to Zone X

More on reciprocity failure and the Zone System in upcoming posts…

(Continued in the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 17.”)

My impressions from this lecture and other sources, as well as my own experiences, leads me to believe that it was complicated to make good photographs with large format film cameras. When photographers take for granted how easy photography is now, I often think of my father, Philip Hyde’s notes and his early training with Ansel Adams. What are your thoughts?

Monday Blog Blog: Ansel Adams In The National Parks

February 28th, 2011

Book Review: Ansel Adams In The National Parks: Photographs From America’s Wild Places

Highlights Of And About The Essays And The Photographs

 

Ansel Adams In The National Parks by Ansel Adams. Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Amazon.com price $22.72.

How to add to what other reviewers have said? Ansel Adams In The National Parks has been reviewed in a number of other venues online (see list of relevant posts below), which represents a sizable marketing and publicity outlay for Little, Brown and Company. Little Brown was kind enough to send me a review copy as a gift, thank you to Little Brown and the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust as well as the Center For Creative Photography. I imagine the other reviewers received advanced review copies to aid their review efforts too.

Below is what I like and dislike about this new release. I highly applaud the book and offer some criticism too. Ansel Adams in the National Parks: Photographs from America’s Wild Places (Amazon) is a beautiful addition to anyone’s library. The look and feel of this new volume about Ansel Adams, pleases the senses and says quality all the way, yet the book is reasonably priced at only $40.00. Considering the book displays “more than 225 photographs” and the reader discovers “many rarely seen and 50 never before published” Ansel Adams photographs. These facts alone make it worth owning. The new binding of  Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, Ansel Adams In Color and Ansel Adams In The National Parks: Photographs From America’s Wild Places are all similar in attractive design and style: block lettering on white covers with smaller photographs on front and back.

In Ansel Adams In The National Parks I was happy to find many Ansel Adams photographs I have never seen before. The far majority of his photographs of the national parks in the book are a supreme joy to discover. There are perhaps half a dozen or less that I thought were below the standards of what Ansel Adams himself would have published. Ansel Adams was very particular about which of his photographs he printed and published. He printed only about 900 images out of his 50,000 original negatives.

I liked the notes and letters between Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall and Beaumont Newhall, when they either traveled together or wrote to each other about Ansel Adams’ travels and photography on his Guggenheim to photograph the National Parks.

I also enjoyed reading darkroom black and white photographer John Sexton on printing Ansel Adams photographs in the 1970s.

It is always a treat to read Wallace Stegner. His essays are well-informed and well-argued. As good as his essays are, his fiction is even better. Why not use new essays rather than reprints of essays published in previous books about Ansel Adams? Plenty of high quality credentialed essayists would love the opportunity to write about Ansel Adams in the National Parks.

The essays in the back of Ansel Adams In The National Parks, sing, especially the last essay by William A. Turnage “Ansel Adams, Environmentalist.” William A. Turnage’s prose is lyrical as he praises and passionately gives tribute to his life-long friend and partner. The two essays by Richard B. Woodward, “Ansel Adams In The National Parks” on the travels of Ansel Adams, Nancy Newhall and Beaumont Newhall and “Ansel Adams and the Preservation of Wilderness,” each provide a well-written and fascinating short history lesson. In “Ansel Adams and the Preservation of Wilderness”  Richard B. Woodward wrote:

As our sense of what happened yesterday or decades ago is often as muddled and contentious as our plans for the future, a mechanical process that provides more or less realistic evidence of the world as it once was can be of immense practical and political value…. Architecture historians in several European countries understood this vital function of photography soon after Daguerre took credit for inventing it in 1839. In France the government had already founded the Commission des Monuments Historiques in 1837 and assigned it to compile a list of old decaying medieval and Renaissance structures—cathedrals, parks, chateaus, villages—imperiled by neglect…. In 1851, the Commission selected five photographers—Edourd-Denis Baldus, Hippolyte Bayard, Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and O. Mestral—for an elite unite that operated under the name La Mission Heliographique. It was perhaps the first time, though by no means the last, that photographers were hired in a noble-minded effort to preserve valuable parts of the world, in this case a centuries-old heritage that France was in danger of forfeiting unless quick action was taken to save these crumbling and irreplaceable sites….

Richard B. Woodward continued with sections on how photographs helped protect Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone, and many other conservation causes all over the world. Then he wrote about Ansel Adams’ leadership in the transformation of photography and its establishment as an art form:

By organizing the exhibition Group f.64 in 1932—with Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and others—Adams became an eloquent spokesman for “straight photography” in San Francisco and far beyond….Finally no photographer except Stieglitz did more to win acceptance for photography as a fine art. In 1940, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York created a separate department of photography, the first in the world, Adams became one of its founding fathers. Without training as a scholar or curator, he was nonetheless instrumental in the rediscovery of Watkins, Jackson, and O’Sullivan. By extolling their achievements to Beaumont Newhall and others in the museum community, he helped to construct a nascent art historical continuum for landscape photography. His own international prominence as an artist toward the end of his life altered the material conditions for those choosing to take the medium in that direction. In the 1970s, prints by Adams became one of the pillars of an emerging market for photographs as an art collectible, for sale in galleries and auction houses. The select but not inconsiderable number of photographers lucky enough to earn a living today from sales of their prints have Adams to thank for proving this could be done. Despite an altered context and a newfound respect for photographers within the realm of contemporary art, his pictures remain basic to the photography market and show no sign of diminishing in prevalence twenty-five years after his death.

Related Posts:

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Ansel Adams Gallery

“Black And White Prints, Collectors And Philip Hyde” Fine Art Photography Collector’s Resource

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” National Parks Traveler

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Travel Blissful

“Review: Ansel Adams In The National Parks” JMG Galleries

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Photonaturalist