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Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail Hardcover – October 25, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Hardcover, October 25, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ansel Adams was the most honored American photographer of the twentieth century. Renowned for his photographs of the natural world, he photographed chiefly in his beloved Sierra Nevada.

William A. Turnage is managing trustee of The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. From 1978 to 1985, Turnage served as president of The Wilderness Society. He worked closely with Ansel Adams as a business manager and environmental associate for many years.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Ansel Adams; 1st Little, Brown and Co. Ed edition (October 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082125717X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0821257173
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.8 x 11.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #741,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ben Crane on November 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The original version of this book was published in 1938 in a limited edition of only 500 copies. Ansel's other well known work of this early period include his portfolio entitled Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras (1927) and his other early books include Taos Pueblo (published in a limited edition of about 100 copies around 1930), and the relatively common instructional book "Making a Photograph" (1935). I have seen all of these works in their original form and was grateful to see this book reprinted making it accessable to modern Ansel Adams fans of modest means such as myself.

Ansel's printing style changed over the course of his life. For instance, the Monolith (face of Half Dome) print included with the Parmelian Prints looks completely different than the much more familiar and frequently reproduced prints from this negative made in the 1970s. Several other examples can be found of this change in printing style. Most books currently on the market and prints that are frequently shown focus on the dramatic Wagnerian style of printing Ansel adopted in his later years. Modern Ansel Adams publications which seem to include several new books every year focus on already well known images as Ansel printed them in the final decades of his life. This book is refreshing in that focuses on Ansel's early images and printing style. The book is also focused on the John Muir trail rather than being a "greatest hits" collection.

Printing technology has also changed and improved a lot since the original version of the book was published in 1938, and his improved significantly even since 1984 when Ansel died. Of course not every book is printed with the best technology of an era.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is always told that AA put enormous energy and care in producing his 1938 edition of "Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail", originally published in only 500 copies and a fine art book of highest quality at the time.

I never saw a copy of the origional edition and my comment is purely on what I see in this 2006 standard edition. I don't know how this book is made from the original edition. It says tri-tone but the printing quality is so-so. Some images are a little vague, some losing details in shadow or highlight. The book is pale in compasrison with some great AA books published by Bulfinch in the past, such as "California" or "Yosemite and the High Sierra". You can find some images from this book in other AA books and in better quality. Overall, it would make AA uneasy to stamp his famous AA Authorized Edition to the book. If it were not for its historical value, I'd skip this book.

Now Bulfinch also offers a 2006 deluxe edition at $1,200. Again I haven't seen a copy but perhaps the pricier version can live up to the standard of the original edition.

The trend looks a little worrisome recently in AA books pulished by Bulfinch. The printing quality goes down from "California (1997)" to "Ansel Adams at 100 (hardcover 2001)". "Trees (2004)" rebounds just a little but "Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail (2006)" is a little disappointing. I would hope the next AA book by Bulfinch can rejuvenate the printing quality, even if doing so means a higher price tag.
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Format: Hardcover
I am very glad that this book is available. It's history has near legendary status for its role in helping the conservation movement in the high Sierras. I was pleased to read the extensive essays about the book's origin and how it was originally produced in an expensive version of 500 copies. I felt like I was holding the fate of wilderness preserves in my hand.

I also know from talking to many climbers that the John Muir Trail is a special treat. I wanted to see it from Ansel Adams' perspective. And that was quite rewarding and revealing.

Due to the limitations of printing when the original came out, it was impractical to include more than 50 images. Adams' choices of what to include are as interesting as the John Muir Trail.

I have to add a big caveat before you consider buying the book: The photographic reproductions aren't nearly as good as you've seen elsewhere. I don't know why (it may even have been intentional), but it's hard to imagine that Ansel Adams who liked to use detail to bring out an emotional reaction suddenly created one book where the potential emotional impact seems downplayed.

My suggestion is that you look at this in a book store or a library . . . but don't buy a copy. You'll be unhappy with the images. It would be better to remember Ansel Adams through printed versions that he approved of personally.
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Format: Hardcover
Ansel Adams has in some ways become a victim of his own mythology. The Ansel Adams Trust and the Bullfinch press have maintained a steady output of Adams' work since his death, and they have maintained his notoriously high standards, but these are the standards Adams set in his last years when his printing style, in the opinion of this reviewer, became dramatic to the point of brittleness. Everything is played at d-max, all forte and no piano.

This remarkable book is an exception, and William Turnage has taken a brave stand in revisiting Adams' earlier work and printing methods. Yes, some of these photographs were later printed and published with a more contrasty appearance, but they were not thereby improved. This is the work of an artist coming to maturity, confident, meditative and above all about the Sierra Nevada, not about the photographer. Adams was an accomplished musician and often drew upon musical analogies when talking about photography, memorably describing the negative as the score and the print as the performance. To push the analogy a little further, this is not the Wagnerian Adams we are are used to seeing; these are his string quartets. Adams worked at the same high standard for the rest of his long career, but as a suite of photographs Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail was never surpassed.
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