Inside this issue
End frame: Tenaya Creek, Dogwoods by Ansel Adams
Karen Thurman chooses one of her favourite images
Born in London, England, I am an emerging photographer whose work captures the magic to be found in the natural world around us. Although I spent my formative years in the concrete jungles of the Far East, I have always been fascinated by landscapes, especially forests, woodlands and the streams that run through them. I use my art to encourage environmental protection. I work in large format black & white, developing and printing my work in my darkroom.
The images that draw us in are those that speak to the things that make us who we are: our emotions, our history, our culture, our beliefs, the things we value. There aren’t many places in the world I value more than forests and woodlands. If they have a river or a creek flowing through them, so much the better. Walking through them I find a deep inner peace that eludes me in day-to-day life. Exploring along their light, mystical, sometimes imposing, always intriguing paths, camera on my back, I lose all sense of time. The textures of the bark call out to my fingers, the smells infuse my nose, the mud squelches under my feet (and I pray that they don’t come out from under me when the dogs lunge after a squirrel). Pleasing patterns hide in amidst the jumble of leaves and branches – it’s all magic.
I’ve always been inspired by Ansel Adams’ work, not just because he was a great photographer, but also because he was a great conservationist, and that combination really resonates with me. Photography, like all art, has a role to play in shaping the current discourse, and that’s exactly what his works did. In fact, they were instrumental in bringing about the creation of the first national parks in the United States.
Tenaya Creek Dogwoods isn’t one of his most famous works, but it’s my favourite, made around 1948 with an 8" x 10" camera. He tells the story of searching fruitlessly for dogwoods to photograph until he came upon this scene on Tenaya Creek close to Mirror Lake Road. He almost didn't set up his camera...
A light rain began to fall, and I considered giving up for the day, but when I came to an opening in the trees and saw this subject open up before me I banished such thoughts of defeat and set up the camera under protection of the focusing cloth. The rain added a certain richness to the scene and suggested an atmospheric recession of values that would not otherwise be seen.
According to the Ansel Adams gallery, in making the enlargements, Adams had difficulty separating the grey tones and found the process to be largely paper-dependent. He believed the first contact print made from this negative ranked among the most satisfactory prints he ever made, displaying marvellous colour and capturing the luminosity of his subject.
I’ve only ever seen the image online but even on my small screen I can feel the gentle rain falling on me and feel the tranquillity of the scene with the sound of the water. The tonal range is rich but the overall feeling I get is one of lightness and joy. It’s a celebration of a fairly ordinary scene that, with different trees, could be anywhere.