Digitizing Ansel Adams

The Ansel Adams gallery has a problem: there’s still a lot of demand for Ansel Adams photos (Steve Jobs allegedly has a bunch of originals in his house) but they can’t make any more original prints because Ansel has been dead for quite a few decades. That means his original prints are selling for tens of thousands of dollars (and in some cases even hundreds of thousands).

Which means most people won’t be able to put an Ansel Adams picture on their walls.

That’s changing because his grandson is leading an effort to digitize some of his photos and print them in an affordable format. But these are no mere cheap copies. They are virtually indistinguishable from the originals. Matthew Adams, Ansel’s grandson, says it’s hard for him to tell the difference and he’s around the originals all day long. Here I learn the process that they use to digitize the images. If you’re a photo geek you’ll appreciate this video.

Hanging out in Ansel Adams' tub

Now you’ve seen everything.

Today we were at Ansel Adams’ house and this is me getting a seat in the sink where he made so many of the world’s most favorite images.

I did some videos over on Qik, too, with our “professional” videos of Ansel Adams’ son and home and business coming soon to FastCompany.tv.

Frederick Johnson, who works at Adobe on the Lightroom team, blogged about our visit (we interviewed him too — it was real interesting to hear about the past and future of darkrooms all in one place).

Kodak Moment: Following Ansel Adams footsteps

Michael Adams telling Park Ranger where he's been

It’s weird to read the New York Times to find this article on Ansel Adams on the front page. What did we just do? We spent two days in Yosemite with Michael Adams, Ansel’s son, who spent the better part of two days showing us around.

I shot a TON of Qik/cell phone video with Michael. We also did a bunch of “pro” video with our expensive HD camcorders, those will be up soon as part of a new show for DSLR photographers that’ll be on FastCompany.tv. Titled “PhotoCycle.” We haven’t set a start date for that, yet, more on that later. A special thanks to Marc Silber (he’s the professional photographer who’ll host PhotoCycle) because he’s the one who did the work to arrange this trip.

Ansel Adams Gallery now has a blog, too. One reason I was there was to film Ansel Adams Gallery, which is one of America’s most beloved family businesses and has been operating in Yosemite Park for 102 years.

Thomas Hawk, my favorite photographer that I watch on Flickr, put up a single photo from the two days and it already has gotten 50 votes on Flickr as “favorite.” Getting a “favorite” on Flickr is really hard, and to get 50 for one photo of something as photographed as Half Dome is demonstrates Thomas’ skill and popularity as a photographer, it was a real treat to get to follow him as he made images in Yosemite.

One really big thrill for all of us? They opened the Glacier Point Road just for us. There wasn’t another soul in place for 13 miles of road. Totally amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience of Glacier Point. We also made our own history: we did the first cell phone live video from Glacier Point thanks to Qik. It’s amazing that we had a live audience around the world while filming these videos.

The New York Times had a separate article
about Flickr. Here’s Thomas Hawk’s feedback about that (he was one of the photographers quoted in it).

So, why a Kodak moment? Well, Michael Adams told me that Ansel Adams did a lot of work for Kodak. He shot a few of the Colorama ads for Grand Central Station in New York. Did you know Kodak has a blog now? I like the Kodak blog a lot, it gives me some great ideas for photos.

Little known Scoble trivia: I used to help run a camera store, LZ Premiums (now long gone) in the 1980s and was responsible for buying all the Kodak film and darkroom supplies. I saw someone walking out of the Ansel Adams Gallery with a yellow box of Kodak printing paper and it took me back to the hours I spent in a darkroom and all the friends, photos, memories I made back then.

This was — by far — the most special two days I’ve had outside of getting married or watching my two sons being born. I told someone I would have traded my Davos trip (which was freaking awesome) for hanging out with Michael Adams for 24 hours. It was that good and I can’t wait to show you the videos and more of our photos. Thomas Hawk told me he’ll have his photos up soon, along with a writeup of the two days.

Now, go back and read the New York Times article, and listen to it come alive thanks to Qik videos done on my cell phone.

Michael Adams, Ansel Adams’ son, in front of the family business, the Ansel Adams’ Gallery.
The famous Tunnel View, where Ansel shot his famous Storm Clearing photo. In the video we meet a tourist who took a class from Ansel and he tells us about that experience. I talk with Thomas Hawk about this view, and we find some other things to shoot as well.
Video from a meadow shooting Yosemite Falls.
Half Dome from the Bridge. In a second video Michael Adams tells what a photo from this bridge meant to his mother.
You’ve seen the famous photo, Moon and Half Dome, here you see where to shoot it, and we talk about some of our experiences making new images there, but also hear Michael’s stories about the photo and what it meant to him (it was used on his wedding announcement).
Up at Glacier Point we had the whole place to ourselves, so I made a TON of video.
Glacier Point 1.
Glacier Point 2.
Glacier Point 3.
Glacier Point 4.
Glacier Point 5.
Glacier Point 6.

In the videos you’ll learn that Michael is an interesting innovator in his own right. He was a fighter pilot, then went to medical school and now teaches medicine while also keeping memories of his father’s work alive and well.

I don’t know how I’ll top this in my career. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did (and there’s a LOT more to come from this two-day experience).

I also put up a bunch of photos on my Flickr stream and I’m sure that Thomas Hawk will have a lot more of his own.