114+ Best Ansel Adams Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Ansel Easton Adams was a landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white images of the American West. He was the most important landscape photographer of the 20th century.

Adams is also perhaps the most widely known and beloved photographer in the history of the United States; the popularity of his work has only increased since his death. Profoundly inspirational Ansel Adams quotes will get you through anything when the going gets tough and help you succeed in every aspect of life.

Famous Ansel Adams Quotes

A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words. – Ansel Adams

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

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. – Ansel Adams

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…and once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price. – Ansel Adams

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looked into. – Ansel Adams

One of the most important pieces of equipment, for the photographer who really wants to improve, is a great big wastepaper basket. – Ansel Adams

It is easy to take a photograph, but it is harder to make a masterpiece in photography than in any other art medium. – Ansel Adams

The quality of place, the reaction to immediate contact with earth and growing things that have a fugal relationship with mountains and sky, is essential to the integrity of our existence on this planet. – Ansel Adams

There are worlds of experience beyond the world of the aggressive man, beyond history, and beyond science. The moods and qualities of nature and the revelations of great art are equally difficult to define; we can grasp them only in the depths of our perceptive spirit. – Ansel Adams

The artist and the photographer seek the mysteries and the adventure of experience in nature. – Ansel Adams

I believe the approach of the artist and the approach of the environmentalist are fairly close in that both are, to a rather impressive degree, concerned with the affirmation of life. – Ansel Adams

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

The technique of 35mm photography appears simple. One is beguiled by the quick viewing and operation, and by the very questionable inclination to make many pictures with the hope that some will be good. – Ansel Adams

Photography is an austere and blazing poetry of the real. – Ansel Adams

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

It is all very beautiful and magical here – a quality which cannot be described. You have to live it and breathe it, let the sun bake into you. – Ansel Adams

It is increasingly clear to me that my art relates more and more to a sublimation of my closeness to the natural world, it’s events, light itself, and the positive it is a personal expression based on observation and reaction, that I am not able to define except in terms of the work itself. – Ansel Adams

The camera cannot, but the photographer can. – Ansel Adams

The term accessories has come to include a host of photographic gadgets of questionable value. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

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

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. – Ansel Adams

The next time you pick up a camera think of it not as an inflexible and automated robot, but as a flexible instrument which you must understand to properly use. An electronic and optical miracle creates nothing on its own! Whatever beauty and excitement it can represent exist in your mind and spirit to begin with. – Ansel Adams

Image quality is not the product of a machine, but of the person who directs the machine, and there are no limits to imagination and expression. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

Some photographers take reality… and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation. – Ansel Adams

I hope that my work will encourage self expression in others and stimulate the search for beauty and creative excitement in the great world around us. – Ansel Adams

We all move on the fringes of eternity and are sometimes granted vistas through fabric of illusion. Many refuse to admit it: I feel a mystery exists. There are certain times, when, as on the whisper of the wind, there comes a clear and quiet realization that there is indeed a presence in the world, a nonhuman entity that is not necessarily inhuman. – Ansel Adams

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

We either have wild places or we don’t. We admit the spiritual-emotional validity of wild, beautiful places or we don’t. We have a philosophy of simplicity of experience in these wild places or we don’t. We admit an almost religious devotion to the clean exposition of the wild, natural earth or we don’t. – Ansel Adams

I eagerly await new concepts and processes. I believe that the electronic image will be the next major advance. Such systems will have their own inherent and inescapable structural characteristics, and the artist and functional practitioner will again strive to comprehend and control them. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

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

We all know the tragedy of the dustbowls, the cruel unforgivable erosions of the soil, the depletion of fish or game, and the shrinking of the noble forests. And we know that such catastrophes shrivel the spirit of the people… The wilderness is pushed back, man is everywhere. Solitude, so vital to the individual man, is almost nowhere. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

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

How high your awareness level is determines how much meaning you get from your world. Photography can teach you to improve your awareness level. – Ansel Adams

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

Today, we must realize that nature is revealed in the simplest meadow, wood lot, marsh, stream, or tidepool, as well as in the remote grandeur of our parks and wilderness areas. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

Photograph not only what you see but also what you feel. – Ansel Adams

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

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

It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument. – Ansel Adams

Bad weather makes for good photography. – Ansel Adams

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

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. – Ansel Adams

I believe in beauty. I believe in stones and water, air and soil, people and their future and their fate. – Ansel Adams

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

Once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price – Ansel Adams

The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it! – Ansel Adams

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. – Ansel Adams

Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space. I know of no sculpture, painting or music that exceeds the compelling spiritual command of the soaring shape of granite cliff and dome, of patina of light on rock and forest, and of the thunder and whispering of the falling, flowing waters. At first the colossal aspect may dominate; then we perceive and respond to the delicate and persuasive complex of nature. – Ansel Adams

I know that I am one with beauty and that my comrades are one. Let our souls be mountains, Let our spirits be stars, Let our hearts be worlds. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

Not everybody trusts paintings, but people believe photographs. – Ansel Adams

The craft of photography is the key to good images. – Ansel Adams

Ask yourself, ‘Why am I seeing and feeling this? How am I growing? What am I learning?’ Remember: Every coincidence is potentially meaningful. – Ansel Adams

Wilderness is rapidly becoming one of those aspects of the American dream which is more of the past than of the present. Wilderness is not only a condition of nature, but a state of mind and mood and heart. It cannot be confined to the museum-case status—seen only as a passing diorama from superlative throughways. – Ansel Adams

I tried to keep both arts alive, but the camera won. I found that while the camera does not express the soul, perhaps a photograph can! – Ansel Adams

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

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

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. – Ansel Adams

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

The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score, and the print the performance. – Ansel Adams

Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

The only things in my life that compatibly exist with this grand universe are the creative works of the human spirit. – Ansel Adams

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

I knew my destiny when I first experienced Yosemite. – Ansel Adams

All art is the expression of one and the same thing- the relation of the spirit of man to the spirit of other men and to the world. – Ansel Adams

It is just as important to bring people the evidence of the beauty of the world of nature and of man as it is to give them a document of ugliness, squalor, and despair. – Ansel Adams

The best picture is around the corner. Like prosperity. – Ansel Adams

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

To the vast majority of people a photograph is an image of something within their direct experience: a more-or-less factual reality. It is difficult for them to realize that the photograph can be the source of experience, as well as the reflection of spiritual awareness of the world and of self. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

I have often had a retrospective vision where everything in my past life seems to fall with significance into logical sequence. – Ansel Adams

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

We were in the shadow of the mountains, the light was cool and quiet and no wind was stirring. The aspen trunks were slightly greenish and the leaves were a vibrant yellow. – Ansel Adams

Knowing what I know now, any photographer worth his salt could make some beautiful things with pinhole cameras. – Ansel Adams

If you have enough craft, you’ve done your homework and you’re practiced. You can then make the photograph you desire. – Ansel Adams

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

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. – Ansel Adams

All art is a vision penetrating the illusions of reality, and photography is one form of this vision and revelation. – Ansel Adams

While the photos at the D.M.V. (New York) will still be taken in color, the engraving is done in grayscale, hence the Ansel Adams feel. – Ansel Adams

The herculean task of a photographer is to capture a momentary frame as beautiful in reality, as it would be in a dream. – Ansel Adams

If what I see in my mind excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. – Ansel Adams

My last word s that it all depends on what you visualize. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

The (photographic) negative is the equivalent of the composers score and the print is the equivalent of the conductors performance. – Ansel Adams

The great rocks of Yosemite, expressing qualities of timeless yet intimate grandeur, are the most compelling formations of their kind. We should not casually pass them by, for they are the very heart of the earth speaking to us. – Ansel Adams

The piano has eighty-eight keys, and you have to be able to play all of them. And the range of white to black is analogous to the eighty-eight keys and you have to be able to play all eighty-eight keys in that palette from white to black. – Ansel Adams

My wife – she could help me get the negs out! – Ansel Adams

The skies and land are so enormous, and the detail so precise and exquisite that wherever you are you are isolated in a glowing world between the macro and the micro. – Ansel Adams

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

For me the future of the image is going to be in electronic form … You will see perfectly beautiful images on an electronic screen. And Id say that would be very handsome. They would be almost as close as the best reproductions. – Ansel Adams

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

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

At one with the power of the American landscape, and renowned for the patient skill and timeless beauty of his work, photographer Ansel Adams has been visionary in his efforts to preserve this country’s wild and scenic areas, both in film and on Earth. Drawn to the beauty of nature’s monuments, he is regarded by environmentalists as a monument himself, and by photographers as a national institution. It is through his foresight and fortitude that so much of America has been saved for future Americans. – Ansel Adams

I’m interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without. – Ansel Adams

We who are gathered here may represent a particular delete, not of money and power, but of concern for the earth for the earth’s sake. – Ansel Adams

The disciples are drawn to the high altars with magnetic certainty, knowing that a great Presence hovers over the ranges … You were within the portals of the temple … to enter the wilderness and seek, in the primal patterns of nature, a magical union with beauty. – Ansel Adams

With all art expression, when something is seen, it is a vivid experience, sudden, compelling, and inevitable. – Ansel Adams

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. – Ansel Adams

The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster. – Ansel Adams

I respect everything in change and the solemn beauty of life and death… and therefore, while man is amidst the immense beauty of objective bodies, he must possess the capacity of self-perfection and must observe and represent his world with full confidence. – Ansel Adams

Black and white photography is truly quite a ‘departure from reality’, and the transition from one aspect of visual magic to another was not as complete as many imagine. – Ansel Adams

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