Forest in Spring, Happy Isles, Yosemite Valley, CA 1989

John Sexton

Original Gelatin Silver photograph signed by John Sexton

Image size 11" x 14"

Mounted and overmatted with 4-ply archival museum board 



About John Sexton

John Sexton is perhaps the most widely known contemporary black and white landscape photographer and educator. He was an assistant of Ansel Adams for many years, and his work, in high demand, demonstrates the technical and artistic expertise that one would expect from such an association. John's work has a very distinctive feel and is immediately recognizable, for he has clearly stepped out of the shadow of his mentor and established a worldwide reputation.

John Sexton was born in 1953, and resides in Carmel Valley, California. Respected as a photographer, master printmaker, and workshop instructor, he is best known for his luminous, quiet photographs of the natural environment. Recently, he has been exploring the aesthetics of humankind's technology, from ancient Anasazi sites in the Southwestern United States to the Space Shuttle. This work is included in his book entitled Places of Power.

His photographs are included in permanent collections, exhibitions, and publications throughout the world. His work has been featured on CBS "Sunday Morning" show with Charles Kuralt, and on the MacNeil Leher News Hour. In 1993, his photographs were used in national advertising campaigns by Bank of America and General Motors. Sexton's photographs have been featured in numerous publications including: Time, Life, American Photo, Aspen, Backpacker, Photo Techniques, Darkroom Photography, Popular Photography, Zoom, High Country News, Outdoor Photographer, Outside, TWA Ambassador, Southern Accents and View Camera.

He is the Director of the John Sexton photography Workshop program, and teaches numerous photography workshops each year for other programs in the United States and abroad, emphasizing printing technique and mastery of the Zone System. These other programs include: Anderson Ranch Arts Center, The Ansel Adams Gallery Workshops, The Friends of Photography, Maine Photographic Workshops, and the Palm Beach Workshops. His informed and entertaining lectures for photographic and professional organizations, colleges and universities discuss the aesthetic and technical aspects of fine black and white photography. He has presented lectures for, among others, Boston University, George Eastman House, The Friends of Photography, Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, and the Seattle Art Museum.

Currently a consultant to Eastman Kodak Company and other photographic manufacturers, he worked as both Technical and Photographic Assistant, and then Technical Consultant to Ansel Adams from 1979 to 1984. He continues to serve as Photographic Special Projects Consultant to the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. From 1985 to 1993, he was a member of the Board of Trustees of The Friends of Photography.

About the Image

Springtime in Yosemite can be a wonderful rejuvenating experience. This photograph, Forest in Spring, Happy Isles, Yosemite Valley, California was made in April 1989. On this visit to Yosemite, I had photographed at Happy Isles a few days earlier. Happy Isles is one of many places that I like to visit more than once when I am in Yosemite Valley. On this day, the small green buds had erupted into a verdant lime green "bouquet" of fresh leaves. I began exploring with my viewing frame trying to arrange a scene that I had studied a few days earlier. As I pondered the possibilities with my viewing frame, simulating different focal length lenses, I was surprised when I decided on my camera position and the use of my 75mm wide-angle lens - the widest lens I owned for my 4x5 view camera at the time.

I wanted to try and create an image that would invite the viewer into the scene rather than observing the scene from a distance. The camera position was very critical. An inch to the left or a small distance to the right created visual challenges. I wanted the trees to appear tall, so I chose a lower camera position. Over the years, having shown this photograph to a number of people, most viewers do not sense that it was made with a wide-angle lens. Partly this is because I very carefully leveled the camera when setting it up, but honestly it was simply good fortune. The tree trunks and limbs that were closest to the camera were somewhat diminutive in size. Their size was exaggerated by their proximity to the wide-angle lens. Most of the tree trunks in the distance were huge, so there was a "normalization" of scale that occurred that was totally beyond my control.

I thought a green filter would lighten them most effectively, and I made two identical negatives with my Wratten #11 green filter. I then decided to look through my Wratten #8 yellow filter as a comparison. To my surprise, it appeared as if the yellow filter might lighten the leaves even more, so I made two additional identical exposures with that filter. It was only when I made the contact sheet of all four negatives that I could see that indeed the unlikely yellow filter candidate had produced an image that was closer to my visualization. I made careful notes in the field at the time so that I could learn from this experience. Since then, when working in the spring in that portion of Yosemite Valley with fresh green leaves, I reach for my yellow filter with confidence.

Once I complete the prints I need to make at this time, the negative will be retired for traditional silver printing, and will never again be printed in any size as a silver gelatin print” with "This negative has been retired by John for traditional silver printing, and will never again be printed in any size as a silver gelatin print. Once the small number of remaining prints are gone there will be no additional silver gelatin prints available for sale.

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