MOONRISE, HERNANDEZ. ANSEL ADAMS PRINTING NOTES—“TRANSLATION” by John Sexton
Ansel Adams would frequently refer to these type of notes as a “recipe” for the making of a print. Ansel felt that the printing process was integral to the creative process in photography. Nearly all of Ansel’s prints require considerable interpretation from the basic straight print. Ansel was a master at transforming his negatives into prints that fulfilled not just what he saw, but also what he felt when making the photograph.
2-22-80 This is the date that Ansel made these printing notes.
These notes are for a 16 x 20-inch print that was part of Ansel’s “Museum Set” printing project. He began that printing project in 1979 and completed it in 1982. It was the single largest printing project of his career. I worked hand in hand with Ansel during the entire “Museum Set” project—from beginning to end.
This notation means that this record sheet refers to the final or “last” print that Ansel would use as a reference to match subsequent prints to—for this particular printing project. It does NOT mean that this was the last time Ansel printed the Moonrise, Hernandez negative. In fact, he printed the negative a few additional times for reproduction projects.
This refers to the focal length of the lens—24 inch, or 600mm. This was Ansel’s Apo-Nikkor process lens. It was mounted on his custom-built 8 x 10-inch horizontal enlarger.
These are the f stops that were used for the exposure. The basic exposure was at f/32–3/4. The burning in on the sky was done at f/11, nearly four stops (16 times) more light was reaching the paper for the burning in that was done in the sky. As you can see, the steps in using f/11 involved different procedures of burning in, or darkening, to the sky. The burning in was done with simple pieces of cardboard, both solid and with different size cutout holes. You can see in some of these frames that Ansel is moving the circular pattern of the application of light with the holes. Note the last frame, which shows how he is going around the edges of the sky to “protect” the moon from becoming too dark.
Ilford Gal #3
This refers to Ilford Galerie grade #3 paper. Ansel’s primary printing papers during this period were Ilford Ilfabrom Galerie paper and Oriental Seagull paper. The contrast grade was #3, slightly higher than normal contrast.
Dektol 1 to 5
This refers to Kodak Dektol developer. This powder developer is mixed into a stock solution. The dilution that Ansel used on this print was 1 part stock to 5 parts water. This is a weaker strength developer than normal. This would give Ansel an extended processing time, which allowed him to process more than one print in the tray for consistency and repeatability.
This refers to Ansel’s “factorial” development procedure. This is described in detail in Ansel’s book The Print. It is based upon careful examination of the print under safelights to determine the “emergence time.” The emergence time is multiplied by a factor, in this case “12,” to determine the processing time. If the developer temperature were to change, the emergence time would change. Applying the appropriate factor would yield the same density and contrast of print. The factorial development would also compensate for slight changes in activity in the tray of developer, as it is used through the printing session.
This is Ansel’s notation for 9 seconds—the basic exposure of the enlarger light through the negative at aperture f/32-3/4. Ansel denoted seconds as 9/60, as he never owned or used an enlarging timer, as is the case with most photographers. When Ansel began his darkroom work he was being tutored as a pianist. There were no enlarging timers in early part of the 20th century, when Ansel first began to print photographs. He used his musician’s metronome as a timing device for all of his printing. During the later years of his life, he had a specially built “compensating metronome” that would change its beat relative to the change in voltage and the type of light source that was being used. This allowed him to have very great control and repeatability over his prints. The metronome was also useful for precise and repeatable timing of the dodging (blocking light during the basic exposure of the negative to lighten those areas) and burning (adding light to various areas to darken them in the print).
This print would have been toned in KODAK Rapid Selenium Toner for a slight color change, but primarily to intensify the rich blacks in the print and to increase the permanence of the image. Ansel’s normal processing procedure included selenium toning of all prints for tonal enhancement, as well as adding permanence to the image.