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Can You Accurately Identify an Ansel Adams Photograph?

A few weeks ago, Lee Morris pulled an interesting prank on Mike Kelley and I, where he placed valuable Ansel Adams prints next to snapshots taken off our own Facebook pages and asked us to blindly critique all the images. Today, it's time for payback! Can Lee and Mike pick out an Ansel Adams print when they are mixed in a sea of images taken from the Fstoppers Community?

The premise is pretty straightforward. Can a photographer who is casually familiar with Ansel Adams' work accurately identify which image was taken by the master versus a modern photographer from Fstoppers?

If you want to watch the video and play along, I'd encourage you to keep score and see how you rate against Lee and Mike. SPOILER ALERT: the images featured in this test are shown below, so don't scroll down before finding your own score.

The Process:

Obviously, comparing images taken on film from a large format camera against images taken on a 24, 50, or even 100-megapixel modern camera isn't going to be a very difficult task. Also, with so many lens options available to us today, many modern images shot on ultra wide angle lenses become very apparent when placed side by side with an image shot on a vintage prime lens. The lack of film grain, the presence of digital noise, images with vibrant colors, and even locations that have tons of tourists present might make picking out the Ansel Adams images a simple task even for someone who doesn't consider themselves a photographer. 

In order to make this challenge remotely interesting, I had to take some artistic liberty with the photos I placed in this comparison. First, all the photos needed to be taken in North America and ideally locations that Ansel would have photographed himself. Second, Ansel is known as a photographer who published images exclusively in black and white. Therefore, any images I picked from the Fstoppers Community that passed the location test would also have to pass the black and white test. With so few images to pick from, I wound up having to desaturate the images I thought could be confused with an Ansel Adams print; otherwise, this experiment wouldn't work at all. Finally, there were a few examples where I added grain or changed the aspect ratio of the images just to make them conform a bit more to Ansel's work. 

All that being said, I don't want my liberal edits to take away from the amazing work featured here on Fstoppers, so below are the original photographs as published by the photographers who created them. Who knows, maybe you will enjoy some of these images even more than those taken by a true legend!

Image 1: https://fstoppers.com/photo/242372

Image 2: https://fstoppers.com/photo/537625

Image 4: https://fstoppers.com/photo/250629

Image 5: https://fstoppers.com/photo/328436

Image 8: https://fstoppers.com/photo/537075

Image 10: https://fstoppers.com/photo/537072

Image 11: https://fstoppers.com/photo/127202

Image 13: https://fstoppers.com/photo/531973

Image 15: https://fstoppers.com/photo/474012

Image 18: https://fstoppers.com/photo/128002

How did you do?

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4 Comments

Pedro Pulido's picture

This ansel series has been VERY entertaining! well done!

Douglas Bowker's picture

I leaned towards Mike's answers, and I have seen a number of big Adam's exhibits over the years. Where all these would have much easier to tell would have been in a printed exhibit. He'd have these massive print sizes that held up perfectly in terms of grain, tonal range and detail. Not many digital files, even ones that otherwise are great images, can hold up to 3-4' print sizes without seeing some breakup.
It's not a real comparison anyway though. For most of us it's not even a choice because this kind of film photography just wouldn't be an option. I am so grateful for what I can do with my camera and "darkroom on my desktop" which I'd never have the time or space to do with film-based photography.