75 Ansel Adams Quotes for Better Landscape Photography

Looking for the best Ansel Adams quotes? Then you’ve come to the right place. Below we’ve compiled a list of 75 quotes and sayings from the master of landscape photography, collected from books, interviews and documentaries over the years.

If you enjoy this article or find it helpful, we would be grateful if you could share it with other photographers.

If you’re a fan of Ansel Adams and landscape photography we also recommend checking out our Nature and Landscape Photography Quotes article.

Ansel Adams Quotes

Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.

Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.

A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looking into.

Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs.

I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.

To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.

Photography is an investigation of both the outer and the inner worlds. The first experiences with the camera involve looking at the world beyond the lens, trusting the instrument will ‘capture’ something ‘seen.’ The terms shoot and take are not accidental; they represent an attitude of conquest and appropriation. Only when the photographer grows into perception and creative impulse does the term make define a condition of empathy between the external and the internal events.

I believe photography is a tool to express our positive assessment of the world. A tool to acquire ultimate happiness and belief.

I am probably afraid that some spectator will not understand my photography – therefore I proceed to make it really less understandable by writing defensibly about it.

We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium.

Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.

Ansel Adams on What Makes a Great Photograph

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.

Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.

To the complaint, ‘There are no people in these photographs”, I respond, “There are always two people: the photographer and the viewer.”

A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.

In a strict sense photography can never be abstract, for the camera is incapable of synthetic integration.

A photograph is not an accident – it is a concept. It exists at, or before, the moment of exposure of the negative.

I can’t verbalize the internal meaning of pictures whatsoever. Some of my friends can at very mystical levels, but I prefer to say that, if I feel something strongly, I would make a photograph, that would be the equivalent of what I saw and felt.

I can look at a fine art photograph and sometimes I can hear music.

A photograph is an instrument of love and revelation that must see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live in all things.

(Art) is both the taking and giving of beauty; the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these.

I know some photographs that are extraodrinary in their power and conviction, but it is difficult in photography to overcome the superficial power or subject; the concept and statement must be quite convincing in themselves to win over a dramatic and compelling subject situation.

A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is thereby a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.

To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.

Impression is not enough. Design, style, technique, – these, too, are not enough. Art must reach further than impression or self-revelation. Art, said Alfred Stieglitz, is the affirmation of life. And life, or its eternal evidence is everywhere.

Some photographers take reality as the sculptors take wood and stone and upon it impose the dominations of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and elevation.

A true photograph need not be explained, nor can be contained in words.

Ansel Adams Quotes 2

Lessons in Landscape Photography

A good photograph is knowing where to stand.

Bad weather makes for good photography.

Photograph not only what you see but also what you feel.

In some photographs the essence of light and space dominate; in others, the substance of rock and wood, and the luminous insistence of growing things.

In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.

Notebook. No photographer should be without one.

Emphasis on technique is justified only so far as it will simplify and clarify the statement of the photographer’s concept.

To visualize an image (in whole or in part) is to see clearly in the mind prior to exposure, a continuous projection from composing the image through the final print.

I have often thought that if photography were difficult in the true sense of the term -meaning that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching – there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster.

I usually have an immediate recognition of the potential image, and I have found that too much concern about matters such as conventional composition may take the edge off the first inclusive reaction.

The “machine-gun” approach to photography – by which many negatives are made with the hope that one will be good – is fatal to serious results.

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.

Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.

Adams on Finding your Subject

I never know in advance what I will photograph. I go out into the world and hope I will come across something that imperatively interests me. I am addicted to the found object. I have no doubt that I will continue to make photographs till my last breath.

Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.

When I’m ready to make a photograph. I think I quite obviously see in my minds eye something that is not literally there in the true meaning of the word. I’m interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without.

I am sure the next step will be the electronic image, and I hope I shall live to see it. I trust that the creative eye will continue to function, whatever technological innovations may develop.

Simply look with perceptive eyes at the world about you, and trust to your own reactions and convictions. Ask yourself: “Does this subject move me to feel, think and dream? Can I visualize a print – my own personal statement of what I feel and want to convey – from the subject before me?

In my mind’s eye, I visualize how a particular… sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice.

Remember: Every coincidence is potentially meaningful. How high your awareness level is determines how much meaning you get from your world. Photography can teach you to improve your awareness level.

Stieglitz would never say that certain objects of the world were more or less beautiful than others – telegraph poles, for instance, compared with oak trees. He would accept them for what they are, and use the most appropriate objects to express his thoughts and convey his vision.

No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.

I know the importance of highly trained awareness of the “moment” and the immediate and intuitive response of the photographer. It should be obvious to all that photographers whose images possess character and quality have attained them only by continued practice and total dedication to the medium.

Ansel Adams Quotes on Nature

It is my intention to present – through the medium of photography – intuitive observations of the natural world which may have meaning to the spectators.

There are no forms in nature. Nature is a vast, chaotic collection of shapes. You as an artist create configurations out of chaos. You make a formal statement where there was none to begin with. All art is a combination of an external event and an internal event… I make a photograph to give you the equivalent of what I felt. Equivalent is still the best word.

No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.

Both the grand and the intimate aspects of nature can be revealed in the expressive photograph.

Both can stir enduring affirmations and discoveries, and can surely help the spectator in his search for identification with the vast world of natural beauty and wonder surrounding him.

Myths and creeds are heroic struggles to comprehend the truth in the world.

As the fisherman depends upon the rivers, lakes and seas and the farmer upon the land for his existence, so does mankind in general depend upon the beauty of the world about him for his spiritual and emotional existence.

Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.

It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.

Let us leave a splendid legacy for our children. Let us turn to them and say, this you inherit: guard it well, for it is far more precious than money. Once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.

I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful – an endless prospect of magic and wonder.

Ansel Adams Quotes 1

The Darkroom and Printing

The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.

These people live again in print as intensely as when their images were captured on old dry plates of sixty years ago… I am walking in their alleys, standing in their rooms and sheds and workshops, looking in and out of their windows. Any they in turn seem to be aware of me.

Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.

I expect to retire to a fine-grained heaven where the temperatures are always consistent, where the images slide before ones eyes in a continual cascade of form and meaning.

All I can do in my writing is to stimulate a certain amount of thought, clarify some technical facts and date my work. But when I preach sharpness, brilliancy, scale, etc., I am just mouthing words, because no words can really describe those terms and qualities it takes the actual print to say, ‘Here it is.

Black and White Photography

Our lives at times seem a study in contrast… love and hate, birth and death, right and wrong… everything seen in absolutes of black and white. Too often we are not aware that it is the shades of grey that add depth and meaning to the starkness of those extremes.

One sees differently with color photography than black-and-white… in short, visualization must be modified by the specific nature of the equipment and materials being used.

Ansel Adams Quotes on the Camera

Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film. Your bright eyes and easy smile is your museum.

It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.

Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film. Your bright eyes and easy smile is your museum.

I am always surprised when I see several cameras, a gaggle on lenses, filters, meters, etc, rattling around in a soft bag with a complement of refuse and dust. Sometimes the professional is the worst offender!

The [35mm] camera is for life and for people, the swift and intense moments of life.

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.

Ansel Adams Quotes 3

What’s your Favorite Ansel Adams Quote?

Have a favorite Ansel Adams quote from the list? Let us know in the comment section below.

Don’t forget to bookmark this page, or print it out, and refer to it next time you need some inspiration. Also, don’t forget to share it with others through the usual channels (social media, forums, websites, etc).

If you would like to learn more about Ansel Adams and his legendary photography, then check out the Ansel Adams Gallery website.

Looking for more words of wisdom from master photographers? Visit the quotes section of Photogpedia for more great photography quotes.

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Founder of Photogpedia.com. Photography enthusiast, occasional filmmaker, part-time writer and full-time dreamer. Rediscovered photography in 2012 and have been trying to level up my photography skills since (I'm getting there) #chasingthecreative

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