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Moon and celestial bodies

As part of my OCA assignment 4, I was recommended to do further research into photographs of the moon and celestial bodies. Here I look at the work of Ansel Adams, Susan Dergres, and Kevin Newark.

Ansel Adams’ photography, Moonrise, is probably his most famous image. He took the image in a rush to capture moment and couldn’t find his light meter. However, he knew the luminance of the moon, so used this as a guide for setting his exposure.

Source: anseladams.com
Source: anseladams.com

Adams has been described as a Precisionist photographer (Rosenblum p420), meaning that he was a champion of straight photography (vs pictorialism) and master of detail and texture. This style of photography was promoted through the f/64 Group of which Adams was a founding member.

The moon itself is a small spec in the image but set in high contrast against the dark sky, which is in turn separated from the foreground by a band of light from the fading sun. The composition is arranged in the golden-ratio, which Adams liked to work with.

The photo is a good example of the disproportionate power of a point to draw in the eye.

Susan Dergres (1955) is a contemporary British photographer, who uses an extraordinary technique to capture images from the view-point of beneath the water. Her technique involves putting photographic paper into the water and exposing it without using a camera!

The unusual technique made me at first question what I was seeing. Was it a reflection in the water – but it didn’t look like one? Was it digitally manipulated – but it looked natural? The image didn’t have the same light haze as a photo taken with an underwater camera. Then, at last reading how the images were created help me to understand.

In contrast to Adam’s photo, there is no sense of scale. There is a design and we know it is the moon because we recognise it as such. The ripples on the water create a peaceful, other worldly e!ect. Primordial, taking us back to under the water. Quite wonderful!

Another photographer concerned with the celestial is Kevin Newark’s Protoplasm. I’d previously looked at his work in the context of decay and renewal (see here). Newark explains (The Exposure Project):

”My practice resonates around the themes of space, time, anxiety and displacement. In photographing discarded plastic carrier bags found in the canals of East London, I looked to find some solace for the exiled soul of the plastic bag.

The bags appear to be photographed at night, in the water, giving the impression of them floating in deep space.

The work of Dergres and Newark triggers the idea of taking my studio outdoors at night to photograph my apple as the moon in the water.


The Exposure Project (2009) [website]. Explanation from Kevin Newark. Available from: http://theexposureproject.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/kevin- newarks-protoplasm.html [accessed 22.8.15]

Dergres S [website]. Susan Dergres/Moons [online gallery]. Available from: http://www.susanderges.com. [Accessed 21.8.15]

Rosenblum N (1984). A world history of photography (revised edition). New York, Abbeville Publishing Group.

V&A Museum [website]. Shadow catchers – camera-less photography. Available
from: http://www.vam.ac.uk/channel/people/photography/shadow_catchers_camer less_photography_susan_derges/


Anseladams.com [online]. The story of the making of the photograph Moonrise, Hernandez. Available from: http://www.anseladams.com/ansel-anecdotes/ [accessed 20.8.15]

Adams M [on YouTube] (nd). Ansel Adam’s son on the making of Moonrise. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8ZaD0W3yms

V&A. Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography – Susan Derges. Available from:https://vimeo.com/13149808












Anseladams.com [online]. The story of the making of the photograph Moonrise, Hernandez. Available from: http://www.anseladams.com/ansel-anecdotes/ [accessed 20.8.15]

Adam M [on YouTube] (nd). Ansel Adam’s son on the making of Moonrise. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8ZaD0W3yms

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