Ansel Adams is one of the most celebrated landscape photographers of this century, and his work is not only studied by professionals but hailed as some of the greatest nature photography in the world. Britannica has called him the most important landscape photographer of the 20th century and his photos have influenced entire generations of young photographers and nature-lovers.
The beauty of Adams' photography lies in the untouched rawness of it all; capturing nature's purest scenes at their most vulnerable, powerful, and often times untamed, moments. His photos are the kind which a person could get lost in, imagining what type of world it once was where such untouched nature serves as the setting for such incredible shots. Adams was also a strong advocate for conservation and outspoken about saving the environment, and his photography wasn't just his passion, but it was also his life's mission.
His early life started with a rebellious attitude and he left school at the tender age of 12. From that point on, Adams had a passion for both music - mainly the piano - and photography, of which the latter eventually won his adult time and devotion. A place he felt drawn to in more ways than one was Yosemite and the High Sierra, which is where much of his photos were taken. His love for these landscapes is clearly evident in his work, featuring scenes taken by a man who truly loved and respected his surroundings during a connection with nature that not many are lucky enough to experience. Taking a look back, this is what Adams saw compared to what his favorite destinations look like today, as a reminder of what's worth protecting.
El Capitan is an impressive rock, as it consists of 3,000 feet of sheer granite across its flat rock face. Long before climbers began their attempts at tackling this summit, Ansel Adams found beauty in its stark and striking nature. While it's an incredibly dangerous climb, its beauty from afar is astounding.
In black and white, every crevice and sleek formation seems even more clear, with the granite contrasting against the dark of the trees below. In full color and modern-day, El Capitan has become a popular place for climbers, hikers, and even a destination for weddings. While it's not as bustling with forest and seemingly as untamed as Adams' photo implies, it's still just as beautiful.
Thunderstorm At Yosemite Valley
Yosemite continues to be a place in which beauty is conveyed on a grand scale and if anyone is ruling these lands, it's Mother Nature. Adams' ability to capture a brewing thunderstorm just over the Yosemite valley is nothing short of raw and powerful, as dark, swirling skies hover just over granite rock formations and a lush forest of trees.
In the present-day, the addition of color makes the scene more stunning then brazen, bold, and slightly intimidating, but it's still absolutely gorgeous. Not much has changed in terms of scenery with the exception of a few missing trees, and it's still just as breathtaking as it was so many years ago.
Rainbow At Nevada Falls
In black and white, you can still tell that this rainbow made an impression on Adams, as he saw beauty in its appearance. Nevada Falls is now a popular hiking trail in Yosemite, something which was not often traveled during the days when Adams was exploring the west. This photo, taken head-on of the falls, exposes Nevada Falls for all its thundering glory and power.
Nowadays, the power of the falls depends on the season during which it's visited, although there aren't many places where hikers can get such a close head-on view as Adams did. With the exception of a well-kept trail, this waterfall is still a beautiful sight to see, even if you can't get close enough to experience its freshwater spray.
Snake River At Grand Teton
Now the place of various river cruises, Snake River is a popular destination for nature-lovers due to its landscape and its abundance of wildlife. This vantage point provides the best view of the mountains in the distance as well as the reason for why Snake River has earned its name.
The landscape is almost exactly the same today, with the exception of less snow on the mountaintops depending on the time of year they're seen. This is one case where nature has remained mostly untouched, something Adams likely would have been grateful for.
Dead Cottonwood Trees At Yosemite
While it's not a grand landscape or a glistening waterfall, the Dead Cottonwood Trees provides striking realism in its black and white delivery. It's hard to decipher whether or not this picture was taken during the day or night and its varying contrast adds interest and depth, something that makes this photo so interesting.
The above photo was taken in 1934 and its destination labeled as "meadow," but this small grove of cottonwood trees in the Ahwahnee Meadow in Yosemite has similar features, as well as a similar setting. While they look different close-up, these cottonwoods are a reminder of how one small location can hold so much beauty and interest amongst its larger, more striking background.