Winter Trees, Fog, Yosemite Valley, CA 1990

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

This photograph was made two days before Christmas in 1990. It was on this trip that I first attended the legendary Bracebridge Dinner (written in large part by Ansel Adams) at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley. A few years before, a group of close photography friends decided we would all enter the lottery to attend the Bracebridge Dinner. (At that time there were only three Bracebridge offerings each year, and demand greatly exceeded capacity). Our agreement was that if one of us was fortunate enough to win a table in the lottery, we would all attend. This all came together in 1990. Since we were all interested in photography, we stayed additional days in Yosemite Valley explore photographically, along with having a fantastic time attending the memorable dinner and performance.

It was the coldest time I have ever experienced in Yosemite Valley. The low temperature got down to 6 degrees Fahrenheit as I recall. Some of us were staying in very rustic, and in those days' affordable, Curry Village cabins. Without going into great detail, I can only say that the flush toilets stopped working as the drainpipes were frozen!Along with the cold, we were fortunate to have snowy conditions. As I have mentioned in past newsletters, El Capitan Meadow is one of my favorite areas of Yosemite Valley - especially if there is snow. This image, Winter Trees, Fog, Yosemite Valley, was made one afternoon as a few of us from the group were wandering about El Capitan Meadow enjoying the winter wonderland. I can still hear the cold snow crunching under my boots and feel the sting of the frigid breeze on my skin. As is often the case when the temperature begins to change, mist and fog can quickly form and then dissipate in various parts of the valley. I had been studying this group of three oak trees. I liked the dark curving gestures of the trunks in contrast with the snow covered meadow, but felt something was missing. Then the mist began to appear!I quickly set up my 4x5 Linhof Technika camera with my 120 mm Nikkor-SW lens. I used the slightly wide angle lens to try and give the dark tree trunks a sense of presence hoping that the mist would add a tonal separation and create an illusionary sense of depth by lightening and obscuring the details in the background. I had to work quickly as the fog was constantly moving. As is the case with many photographs that I make in the snow, I used my Wratten #12 yellow filter in an attempt to reveal the subtle modulation in the snow, which can be so difficult to render in soft light. The negative is challenging to print in terms of balancing the tones of the near tree trunks as well as the distant cliff and row of trees at the bottom.It was a cold day, but I am glad that we decided to bundle up and defy the frigid weather, rather than spending the afternoon indoors by a cozy warm fire. I hope you enjoy the image!

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