Dodging and Burning

A beautiful morning, the middle day of the Memorial Day weekend.  In search of inspiration I look to my bookshelf and grab, without much conscious thought, “Looking At Ansel Adams, The Photographs and the Man”.  I find my inspiration and reason to pause.

There on the pages are Ansel’s classic photographs, but also wonderful narrative on how he created such masterful art. While I started with the images, I get lost in the words. The how and why of the artist at work.

I read the history and details of how Ansel created one of his classic Yosemite photographs, Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California, c. 1937.  John Sexton, himself an accomplished photographer, remembers early in his career working for Ansel Adams and joining him in the darkroom to print a 16 x 20 inch print of this famous photo.

“The room was dim, and you can barely see the amber light. A metronome beeped and water gurgled. Finally Ansel started what his former photographer assistant John Sexton calls a ballet … Ansel gracefully moved a homemade tool consisting of a cardboard oval attached to a thin wire wand … Ansel smoothly moved the cardboard, exposing different areas to create an interpretation that only he could see in his mind’s eye.”

I am forever grateful to be the age I am. I lived in a darkroom in my younger days, fully experiencing the days of film, negatives and creating my own prints. I exist today in the modern digital world. My camera is far more capable and through software, I can emulate Ansel and “create an interpretation that only I could see in my mind’s eye.”

Yet, I do not print. My photos remain in the digital world. Ansel reminds me that I need to print my best photos so I can hold them and find inspiration and time to pause.  Lesson one from my read today, a photo printer is in my future.

Lesson two from my read today … respect my past and my earned ability to dodge and burn away from the darkroom … a new metaphor for leadership. The best leaders have the final full image (vision) set in their mind’s eye and work to bring their interpretation to life. Leaders know when to concentrate light on a subject and when it is best to dodge and protect. All to create that full artful image.

Time to print.

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4 thoughts on “Dodging and Burning

    1. Thanks David. With job and company change my public writing stopped. To quote Frank Costanza, “I am back baby!”
      I have followed your blog throughout and continued thanks for the inspiration.

  1. Brian Daugherty

    Hello Michael, glad to see you are still writing. I hope you are well! Love this post and the photo that inspired it, a copy of it has hung in my office for the last 25 years…

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