Reviews

The Ansel Adams Wilderness: Photographs by Peter Essick by Todd Henson

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

 Cover of   The Ansel Adams Wilderness

Cover of The Ansel Adams Wilderness

Peter Essick, a National Geographic photographer for over 25 years, had always been inspired by Ansel Adams' work. After reading Adams’ book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail, Essick felt the pull to start a project photographing some of the same locations as those from the book, which in 1984 were renamed The Ansel Adams Wilderness. Essick didn’t want to recreate Adams work, but instead he wanted to create his own photographs of this region while still paying homage to Adams' work. That project resulted in a new book, The Ansel Adams Wilderness: Photographs by Peter Essick.

   The Ansel Adams Wilderness  , pages 16-17

The Ansel Adams Wilderness, pages 16-17

The photographs are organized into 5 sections:

  • PEAKS and LAKES
  • PASSES and MEADOWS
  • HEADWATERS and RIVERS
  • TREES and PLANTS
  • SNOW and WIND
   The Ansel Adams Wilderness  , pages 24-25

The Ansel Adams Wilderness, pages 24-25

Each of these sections begins with a one page essay, followed by Peter Essick's photographs reflecting the subject, interspersed periodically by quotations from folks like Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, and others.

   The Ansel Adams Wilderness  , pages 50-51

The Ansel Adams Wilderness, pages 50-51

The book also includes a Foreword, Introduction, Afterword, and at the end one of my favorite sections, Photographer’s Notes, where Essick provides some context for each of his photographs. I love when photographers include sections where they talk about their work, what they were thinking and how they approached the scene. In this case some of the notes are very short, but others have a nice amount of detail. Each also includes the equipment used and the exposure settings for those interested, as well as the date and time the photograph was created.

   The Ansel Adams Wilderness  , pages 80-81

The Ansel Adams Wilderness, pages 80-81

The Ansel Adams Wilderness is a really nice book. I like that Peter Essick chose not to recreate Ansel Adams photographs. Instead he used modern equipment to create his own photographs, processing them as black and whites reminiscent of what Ansel Adams might have done.

   The Ansel Adams Wilderness  , pages 86-87

The Ansel Adams Wilderness, pages 86-87

The book is about 112 pages in length with pages measuring 8 1/2 x 10 inches. The Photographer’s Notes section begins on page 88, with everything before being photographs, essays and quotes. The paper used in my edition is a reasonably thick, smooth stock suitable for showcasing black and white photographs.

I continue to look to nature for answers to the deeper questions, and I believe that nature offers an unlimited source of material for any artist or observer willing to look.
— Peter Essick

If you have an interest in photographs of the Sierra Nevada region and enjoy the work of Ansel Adams then you might also enjoy Peter Essick’s The Ansel Adams Wilderness.


Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion by Andrea Baldeck by Todd Henson

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

 The cover of Andrea Baldeck's   Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion  .

The cover of Andrea Baldeck's Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion.

Andrea Baldeck is a photographer, a traveller, a musician, and a physician. She made four journeys to the Himalayas and collected photographs from these journeys into the book Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion. The photos showcase the rugged landscape of the mountains, the villages, dwellings, and monasteries, and the people of the region.

 Pages 22 - 23 of Andrea Baldeck's   Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion  .

Pages 22 - 23 of Andrea Baldeck's Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion.

 Pages 64 - 65 of Andrea Baldeck's   Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion  .

Pages 64 - 65 of Andrea Baldeck's Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion.

The book is over 240 pages, printed on thick paper, and almost completely filled with photographs. Interspersed within are six short one-page essays that give some context to the photographs, describing the people, the culture, the religions and beliefs, and how they all fit together in the region, sometimes peacefully and sometimes less so.

 Pages 98 - 99 of Andrea Baldeck's   Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion  .

Pages 98 - 99 of Andrea Baldeck's Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion.

 Pages 120 - 121 of Andrea Baldeck's   Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion  .

Pages 120 - 121 of Andrea Baldeck's Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion.

Himalayan travel removes one from the familiar, wrenches one from complacency, and rewards with rich insights and singular experiences.
— Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion, page 7
 Pages 128 - 129 of Andrea Baldeck's   Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion  .

Pages 128 - 129 of Andrea Baldeck's Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion.

 Pages 160 - 161 of Andrea Baldeck's   Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion  .

Pages 160 - 161 of Andrea Baldeck's Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion.

Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion is one of those books that helps people appreciate another culture, or multiple other cultures,  even when there is little chance of ever traveling to the locations and learning about them first hand. Baldeck’s photographs take us into the region, into the lives of the people. We get to see a little of their culture, some of their traditions, and some of the beautiful artwork and architecture that reflects the culture and beliefs of the region.

 Pages 168 - 169 of Andrea Baldeck's   Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion  .

Pages 168 - 169 of Andrea Baldeck's Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion.

 Pages 196 - 197 of Andrea Baldeck's   Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion  .

Pages 196 - 197 of Andrea Baldeck's Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion.

Ethnicity, faith, and tradition rarely recognize the borders of nation-states, and often outlive them. The power of images to illuminate their story may enhance the survival of a unique way of life in a place like no other. May the people of the Himalaya, like the snow lion, ever roam and roar in these mountains.
— Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion, page 195

I believe this book will appeal to anyone interested in the cultures throughout the Himalayas. It takes us on a short visual excursion through this region. The photos are ones I would expect to see in an issue of National Geographic. They do a great job of visually telling the story of the people, showing wide landscape views of the region, taking us to the dwellings and monasteries, showing the people both in portraits, in their daily lives, and at festivals. They also zoom in to show details, from a ladder leaning against a hut, to the contents of a table, to details of sculptures and architecture. If any of these things appeal to you then seek out a copy of Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion by Andrea Baldeck.


The Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell by Todd Henson

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

 Cover of Sam Abell's   The Life of a Photograph.

Cover of Sam Abell's The Life of a Photograph.

The Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell is an absolute gem of a book. It is a collection of Abell’s photographs, ones that have meaning to him, that demonstrate how he saw the world and how he went about making his photographs. And that is one of the points from the book: making photographs, not taking them. He says only one image in the book was taken instead of intentionally made, and that was a photograph of a train in the process of derailing.

Sometimes there’s more than one finished photograph. By presenting alternative images side by side or in sequence this book suggests the process of seeking the picture — a process with no absolute ending as time and thought continue to shape the life of a photograph.
— Sam Abell, page 6
 Pages 18-19 of   The Life of a Photograph   by Sam Abell.

Pages 18-19 of The Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell.

Sam Abell was a National Geographic photographer who captured life in photographs. He sought scenes that caught his attention. He spent time taking them in, then he would compose his shot and wait for the right moment to make the photograph. He spent time crafting his images, working to tell stories through his photography. He describes how his intent was to bring the world under his aesthetic control, but that the world often didn’t cooperate.

 

Making a picture just right takes time even when the thing you’re photographing isn’t moving. Instead you do the moving — closer, not so close, change lenses, commit to a tripod, micro compose some detail, step back, reconsider, recompose, repeat. And when it looks right it also feels right — just so.
— Sam Abell, page 158
 Pages 96-97 of   The Life of a Photograph   by Sam Abell.

Pages 96-97 of The Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell.

Abell’s photographs are about life, they tell stories. He isn’t known for photographing iconic landscapes, striking portraits of people, or powerful wildlife images. Instead his landscapes were usually anonymous, locations that told their story but in a more subtle down to earth way. His portraits of people had to tell a larger story, they had to bring you into the world of that person, to share a bit of their life through the image. And his wildlife photography was more often about showing evidence of the animals, whether through tracks, by showing a burrow, or a behavior of an animal in its environment.

Someone other than me cared about a picture I’d made. The photograph had a life, and so did I.
— Sam Abell, page 204, speaking about a photograph winning an award when he was sixteen.
 Pages 156-157 of   The Life of a Photograph   by Sam Abell.

Pages 156-157 of The Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell.

The Life of a Photograph is a book of photography. The words are few and far between, but what words are there have meaning. Some describe a photograph, or a series of photographs, how Abell went about creating the images, or what was happening in the image. But there are also lessons in the text if you’re open to them, lessons both about photography and about life. In describing scenes from his own life Abell also shares insights into our lives and those of others. In the end we’re not so very different, and that’s why Abell’s photographs can have such impact. In showing us the lives of others he allows us to pause and also consider our own lives.

 Pages 180-181 of   The Life of a Photograph   by Sam Abell.

Pages 180-181 of The Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell.

I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy this book nearly as much as I did. When I first flipped through the book many of the photos did not stand out. But that’s not what Abell is about nor what he was trying to accomplish. The photos are more subtle. They require more time to appreciate, or at least they did for me. The more I view them the more I appreciate them.

Three of my favorite images from the book are included in this post. I love the cover photograph, which is also included on page 25. It was made in Hagi, Japan, and is of a table setting in a restaurant looking out the window at the street below. He describes the image as such: “It’s like a scene from a short story that will soon change.”

 Pages 6-7 of   The Life of a Photograph   by Sam Abell.

Pages 6-7 of The Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell.

The photograph on page 7 is of a very graphic and monochromatic plaza in Toronto, Ontario, with a woman walking by the lower right corner. He uses this image as an example of making a photograph. Something drew him to the plaza, perhaps the striking graphic nature of it. So he composed the image and then waited. When the woman walked into the scene he knew this was what he’d been waiting for and made the photograph.

 Pages 32-33 of   The Life of a Photograph   by Sam Abell.

Pages 32-33 of The Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell.

I also very much enjoy the photograph from page 33 of a city courtyard in Dublin, Ireland. It is such a beautiful composition, with the man in the center quietly contemplating the shrine, a woman washing windows in the back left corner, and a woman with a cane walking around the corner to the right. There is a beautiful balance to the image, and plenty of story. I love to imagine who these people are, where they are going, where they are coming from, what they are thinking.

If you’re not familiar with Sam Abell but enjoy photographs that tell stories, especially if you enjoyed the stories in National Geographic from years ago, then I encourage you to seek out a copy of The Life of a Photograph. And if you are familiar with Sam Abell then you likely already know what I’m talking about. This is a book I’m very happy to have in my collection, and one I hope you will enjoy, as well.