Commiserating with Ansel Adams

Rainforest - A wilderness environment on the West Coast          Ⓒ 2013 Jack Blair

July 17, 2013

Adams was the quintessential advocate for the wilderness environment.  Most know of his advocacy through his photographs, but he used his significant writing skills to also lobby some and criticise others, with much effectiveness.

While he played a principal and positive role in getting the government of the day to set aside park areas, especially in California, he later had grievances with some of the National Park Service (USA) goals and behaviours that evolved after the parks were created.

Following are a couple of his thoughts.

“...a very two-dimensional idea when we consider mood and experience and emotional state-of-being.  It never enters these people’s (members of the Park Service’s) minds at all.  They just want everybody to see it: ‘isn’t it beautiful?’... something to be seen and not experienced.”

Later he wrote, “one weakness in our appreciation of nature is the emphasis placed upon scenery, which in its exploited aspect is merely a gargantuan curio.  Things are appreciated for size, unusuality, and scarcity more than for their subtleties and emotional relationship to everyday life.”


There is part of me that lives with these thoughts.  I dislike the attitude of some who look at the wilderness as something that must be ‘conquered’.  They look for the almost unattainable peak to climb or an untried dangerous ski slope to descend in order to come away with a feeling of achievement and even superiority.  To be honest, I exhibited some of that behaviour as a 20+ man, although my inborn fear of heights and limited coordination kept me at bay.

Now, when I’m in the wilderness, I know that I’m more conscious of my feelings than I once was.  I also take more time to relax and absorb the experience.  Maybe that is built on memoirs of previous experiences or associated with relationships developed over my lifetime, I’m not sure.  I do know that my photography has helped.  In these later years of life, I walk or just sit in the wilderness of mountain, prairie, or seaside, and feel relaxed and happy.  My senses are acute at those moments, but my feelings inside speak the loudest to me.

Age does have some benefits, I think.