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Oak Tree, Sunrise

Artist: Ansel Adams
Created: 1966
Format: Photograph

Oak Tree, Sunrise

When famed photographer Ansel Adams declared, “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer”, he could very well have been discussing the emotive aspects of ‘Oak Tree, Sunrise’, which he created in 1966. The image is stunning proof of Adams’ genius in the use of natural lighting to bring about an emotional response in the viewers.

A lone noble oak stands tall in a Northern Californian meadow. Adams captures the luminous rays of the rising sun in the background, the light of which causes the tree to appear as a dark silhouette in the center of the picture. The effect is mesmerizing; it not only emphasizes the oak’s majestic size but it also creates significant shade under its branches.

‘Oak Tree, Sunrise’ emanates tranquility, offering the onlooker a sense of being alone with the photographer, as per Adams’s perception in his quote. The tree’s massive shadow ostensibly falling upon the viewer solidifies this alleged relationship.

About the Artist

During a family trip to Yosemite National Park in 1916, Ansel Adams received a Kodak Brownie box camera from his father. The gift was a monumental moment in the young man’s life; he took his first photographs of natural scenery, beautiful images that inspired him to return many times to Yosemite throughout his life.

During his career, Adams received enormous respect and well-merited recognition for his distinguishing photographs, many of which were aimed at imparting a powerful message regarding wildlife, wilderness and its preservation.  Alluding to his lifelong crusade to help protect our environment, Ansel Adams stated, “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”

Eventually, Adams’ career would lead him to co-found the Group f/64; its members were encouraged to try out innovative approaches to photographic technique and style, ultimately motivating Adams to demonstrate his own applied methods and techniques.

In 1941, after embarking on many instructional workshops, Adams began teaching at the Art Center School of Los Angeles, currently known as the Art Center College of Design.


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