Early in my career, I was fortunate to work for someone who had printed for Adams. He taught me how to craft black and white as fine art. Weeks went by before I made a first print acceptable to the master. As time went on, I became better and better until one day, a year into my employment, he looked at a print I just made and said, “Today the student becomes the master.” He revealed he could not have made a print as fine as I had just presented.
Fast forward a lot of years. In 1995 I needed a break. I had been working almost non-stop for the better part of two, maybe three years. I needed to breathe, refocus and compose myself. I needed a vacation. Of course, that meant I needed to go somewhere and take pictures. I needed to go to the Southwest and shoot landscapes in the most challenging way possible. So, I left my Leicas behind, packed a single Rolleiflex 2.8E, tripod, an assortment of filters and 80 rolls of Agfa 25. I was off to Phoenix to start a ten-day photo vacation in Arizona. Just me, my Rollei and the spirit of Ansel Adams.
One afternoon I researched where the moon would be at sunrise and scouted a location outside of Page. At dawn, it was just a matter of waiting for the moon to be in the correct position relative to the stone peaks. A red filter darkened the early morning sky to nearly black, setting the bright moon off like a beacon in the distance. Careful exposure maintained detail in both the lunar surface and red rocks in the mountain. The red filter also turned those red rocks almost white, therefore increasing the contrast of the scene, exactly as I had pre-visualized, just as Adams taught.
I came away with few images from that trip. But my goals of reconnecting my spirit and vision were achieved, and that was far more important than making photographs. Sometimes you just need to be present and experience life without making pictures. Sit and look out at a vista, meditate. Make a photo in your mind’s eye and leave the camera, or phone, behind.