Thursday, March 03, 2005

Back to the light

Centuries ago as a student in Canberra I made a regular pilgrimage, probably about every second or third weekend (though with my last post in mind, who'd bloody know?). I’d ride a bike into Civic (the town centre), and stop to get a mango ice cream (possibly the most important part of the whole expedition). Then I’d head around the lake to the National Gallery, wander through a few rooms, and settle into the Gallery cafe with a pot of tea. After this it was home again, sometimes stopping to sit in the sun for a while on the wall that surrounds the water. (Yes, I know, what a thrillseeker...)

One of the few things I remember visiting in the Gallery was Ansel Adams’ “Mount Williamson from Manzanar”. It was exquisite. A large print, perfect in every way: perfect subject, perfect composition, perfect exposure, perfect printing... the man was a genius. I mean, look at this:

© 2004 Best's Studio Inc & The Ansel Adams Gallery. All rights reserved.

At the Gallery bookshop I splurged just once, and it was for a book of Adams’ photos, Yosemite and the Range of Light. It's like an old friend now, this book - we've been through years together, and I've cut bits out of it to tack photos up wherever I've lived. Except here. Until now.

With many thanks to the mighty Project Gutenberg, I’ve finally found the source of that book's title, in John Muir’s The Yosemite:

Looking eastward from the summit of the Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow Compositoe. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light, but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city. Along the top and extending a good way down, was a rich pearl-gray belt of snow; below it a belt of blue and lark purple, marking the extension of the forests; and stretching long the base of the range a broad belt of rose-purple; all these colors, from the blue sky to the yellow valley smoothly blending as they do in a rainbow, making a wall of light ineffably fine. Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light.