Ansel Adams Most Famous Photograph: Moon Over Hernandez


I find it very hard to to look at Hernandez but show up in a minute you just heard from Ansel Adams who was returning to where he captured his most famous image the story of the making of his photograph moonrise Hernandez New Mexico is legendary let’s join his son Michael who was in the car with his dad and then you’ll hear more from Ansel on his return to the location many years later all right now we’re at the centerpiece here’s the centerpiece and probably Ansel’s most famous picture and I was very fortunate to be there when it was taken I was seven years old we were coming back to Santa Fe from North and Ansel saw this image he pulled a car off the road very rapidly got out got us there were two of us also with him and we were trying to get the feed tripod and he got the camera on it and he had made the you know looked at the picture and then he wanted his exposure mater but he couldn’t find it so he knew that the luminance of the moon was 250 foot candles and from that he derived the exposure he took that picture put the slide back in the film holder turned the film holder around before he could pull the slide to take a second one all the light in the foreground was gone unbelievable so it’s one of a kind thing that’s interesting about this and it’s something I can show you later if you look at the plane image just the straight image of this and then you look at this final print there’s a huge difference and this was part of Ansel’s magic is what he could do in the darker and I can demonstrate that to you with a computer here in a few minutes but this is a I can’t tell you the date this was done but the later images had a darker sky than some of his earlier uh-huh he changed in he as he reprinted he would changed he I think in the many ways lot of the contrasts became greater darker skies darker parts of the image in the later photographs that’s compared to some of his earlier ones so the thing that he always talked about is the negative was the score and the print was then before he used that musicians sort of a feeling at yes he could he could do the the score from the negative and then you interpret it as the actual final performance or the print amazing so just backing up here for a second so Ansel’s the dad driving the car with with you and and other another fellow Cedric right good for him right ok another world others photographer and he’s so he’s just being a dad driving down the road and all of a sudden he catches this out of the corner or he sees this image yes amazing just like you spur on the monster of the moment type thing at the end of the day and and I’ve actually he’d mentioned that it was been a pretty dismal day as far as getting pictures prior to thee to finding this well that’s an amazing shot all these houses that you see have been built in fact I find it very hard to to locate Hernandez but show up in a minute fact I think we’re coming to it now and well this tremendous exciting scene and I had to beg everybody in the car to help me to get everything out in the track time and the Magnificent White Mountains cleared a church had a flat dobe roof and the moon was up about oh maybe 30 degrees several days before 4:00 and long line of clouds over here the Sun was just running along behind them and putting the light on the white crosses I had a brother patty time trying to get things set up well I lost the good plan exposure meter so I knew how how bright the moon was and in Raqqah luminance well and that was sort of gigantic per square foot if you knew that you put that on the scale and do these pose you’re very quickly I think it was one of the great scientists said that chance favors the prepared mind in this case I happen to be sufficiently prepared to to make this work I am sick to me felt I had an extraordinary image and I think you know it yes it seems there was something about it that attracts this a great variety of people I don’t know whether it is subject or just the mood or the combination of composition the tonal values it’s not my picture isn’t real in the sense of tone it’s real optically but it’s much richer and deeper value so people just seem to like it and for that I’m I’m not ungrateful I have lots of pictures that I think I just did good but my public doesn’t seem to agree with me and in talking about the moonrise Hernandez image the probably Ansel’s most famous one there was quite a difference between the plain film or the straight picture compared to the final result this is the image that we all recognize as the you know the famous one and you knows how dark the sky this now is the straight print which is what he got out of the picture you know and this from this he did the work in the darkroom the magic in the darkroom but it’s all air the moon you’ll notice there’s a lot of a lot of clouds in the sky he moved removed most of those there’s the final but additionally he did this for himself to know how he was going to do the various exposure I cannot interpret this but moonrise Hernandez says to 2280 so that’s when he was last doing a lot of these images or doing some of them and this is what he was using as his exposure and noting on the formula what he wanted to get out of it which we thoughts kind of fun again this is the straight shot without any darkroom manipulation and this is the final image that is so impressive it’s kind of fun to see this I hope you found Ansel’s story as inspiring as I did and it’s really a reminder of how well you need to know your equipment he knew the correct exposure for the moon without his light meter be sure to subscribe now you won’t want to miss our next episode coming up with an inside look at Ansel’s darkroom please share this video with your friends and I’d love to read your comments and always appreciate your likes until next time get out and capture your own images of life

Comments 32

  • Hearing the story from both Ansel and his son — I learned why you always have to be prepared to capture that image that could go away at any moment!

  • Well, old masters knew by heart things like 250 cd/ft2 for the moon or f/16 rules etc, which made them less dependable on technology, hence more available to creativity.

  • Thanks Marc! Fascinating to discover the story behind one of photography's iconic images

  • Attribution required

  • Truly remarkable! Thank you for this!!

  • I like the chart Ansel made of the photograph of his dark room process.

  • "Chance favors the prepared mind" Louis Pasteur. Thanks for sharing this. I learned a new inspirational quote that makes so much sense and I think we all intuitively know. Just need to remember to prepare.
    Peace Greg

  • Great video, I just discovered your channel thanks to a link from PetaPixel. Subbed and eager to check out more content, thank you!

  • Wonderful, an eye opener,thanks.

  • I know this image all too well! Seeing the actual negative is so impressive!

  • I wonder what the guy driving by in the pickup yelled?

  • amazing. thank you. j.

  • Awesome.

  • Thank you so much for this! I'm just an amateur photographer, but a devoted one. And my guide and muse throughout everything I've done photographically has been Ansel Adams. Whenever I visualize an image, I can hear his "voice" in my head, helping me to apply the craft in my attempt to produce art. He wasn't merely a photographer; he was an Artist whose medium happened to be photography. And he formulated just about the most coherent philosophy of the creation of art that I've ever come across. His works speak volumes about what it is to be an artist, to be an American, and to be human. For me, Adams will always remain one of the great artistic and visionary spirits of the 20th century.

  • Wonderful story behind the image, my favorite of Adams' work

  • Hi Marc–Thanks for this. Knowing the proper exposure for the moon without a light meter isn't all that remarkable, though, especially for someone of his era. Introducing foot-candles and lumens might even make it harder. The moon is illuminated by the sun, just like the earth is, so the brightest part is the same as shooting on the earth in daylight, approx F/16 at 1/ISO. Add half a stop for the light having to pass thru the earth's atmosphere and you get something like f/11-f/11.5 at 1/ISO. Now the question is the matter of the brightness of the moon and that of the houses, mountains, etc on the Earth balancing. Remarkable that he got it. I've seen an original print up close many times at the Museum of Modern Art, and always loved it. Interestinlgly, on that particular print you can see where it had been spotted, I.e., dust spots painted out with a fine brush.Thanks again, David Perry Lawrence

  • Hi again Marc–One thing I forgot to mention – Love all those boxes, crates, who knows what they were carrying in that truck in the photo. A regular safari! Remarkable there was any room for them after a day going out shooting!

  • I never really understood until now that the great photographers like Ansel actually spent as much time in the darkroom as they did. I always kind of assumed they shot for the most part strait out of the camera. I began my odyssey in photography in 1978 as a yearbook photographer in high school. We spent countless hours in the darkroom trying to get just the right contrast in an image, burning and dodging mostly. I switched to digital about 12 years ago and discovered photoshop and never looked back! It is unfortunate though that most photographers starting today will never understand the time and effort that went into a single image in an actual darkroom, Don't get me wrong I don't want to go back and shoot on film, lol. I can do in photoshop in a few minutes what would have taken a half hour in the dark room. Technology is wonderful!!

  • Thanks Marc, I really enjoyed your video. Well done!

  • I could not in a thousand years begin to share the amazing impact that Ansel Adams work has had on my life.  I am not a professional photographer.  To be a professional would mean I would have to earn a living with my photography.  Rather, it is so personal and so special that I savor every photographic experience the way someone else might savor a fine bottle of wine.  Each bit of knowledge Ansel Adams shared is a treasure just as the work of other fine artists (Picasso , Monet or VanGoah) work which has been shared has enhanced the world.

    For those who have not yet full experienced the work of this artist, sit back and enjoy each image.  Look at it, then put it down and go to the next, when you are done start again, every time you look you will see some new aspect that you overlooked before.  Why?  because no one can fully ingest his visualization with one just one look.  You can say that your eye's are playing tricks on you or you can realize that this amazing artist rare skill, (between the image and his darkroom) has shared the beauty of art that few if anyone else has the talent to create. This is work that the term masterpiece struggles to but does not totally define.   C. Warner Johnson, [email protected]

  • Wonderful. Thank you very much.

  • Fab video! Thankyou!

  • Ansel Adams is the photographic artist i have admired most in my life… i was trying to think of the name he gave to that giant moon hovering over the mountain scene in Mexico, so close it looked like you could touch it; never could understand how he got that shot, as i was 'told' Ansel never used special effects. if you know the work i'm talking about, please let me know, thanks. i enjoyed the video; an unexpected treat..!

  • Great video! New sub here!

  • One of the most famous photos next to "Stars over Bulgaria"….

  • This location is basically covered by trees, surrounded by run down mobile homes.
    You can get to the church but you can't take photos.
    Drive north on 285 to El Camino De Abajo Road on the right drive less than a block and you will see the church on the right.
    Click on the Google map link below.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@36.0576764,-106.1141365,3a,75y,241.4h,87.58t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s_-ohKlsObbX4YD7kj4OXjQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

  • Ansel Adam's fine art photographer,admirable!

  • I've never seen the "original" until now. Thank you. And I'm sorry, but for me that is way better than the further, more processed one.

  • Wonderful, wonderful video!

  • I see that picture at my school what

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