ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Finally today, Photo Op is back; that's our occasional feature on photography. We'll remind you this is a Web feature, as well. If you're by a computer, go to npr.org, click on the program tab at the top, select DAY TO DAY and you'll find posted there a photograph taken by the late Ansel Adams on this day in 1948. The picture's called "Autumn Moon: The High Sierra from Glacier Point." Our photography contributor Chris Rainier joins us.
Chris, you were Ansel Adams' last photo assistant; you worked with him for five years. Can you describe this image? Do you know this image, "Autumn Moon"?
CHRIS RAINIER (Photography Contributor): Indeed, I do, Alex. And one of the great privileges of working for Ansel, certainly in the latter part of his life was I got to proof all of his negatives, all 50,000, and I certainly remember this image very well. It's beautiful, sort of the last twilight over Yosemite and, of course, a full moon coming up over the mountains there, so it's one of my favorites of his.
CHADWICK: There are stories about this picture this week in the LA Times, on The Associated Press, because it was badly misdated and Texas State University astronomers have figured out from the light and the position of the moon that the picture was actually taken in 1948, not 1944, which is what Ansel Adams thought. But these particular conditions only occur every 19 years, and this is when it happened.
RAINIER: That's right. And actually, in one of my experiences of going through all of his negatives, I began to realize that there were a fair amount of images that were misdated. So it doesn't surprise me. And yet Ansel was quite the scientist and so exact with his F-stops and writing down all the material, but he was notorious for not remembering the dates.
CHADWICK: Off by four years? That's a lot to be off by.
RAINIER: Yes, that is correct. For many years, "Moonrise Over Hernandez," his most famous image--it was assumed that he took that in 1941. But in fact, he took it in 1944, and it was only until we were going through some photography magazines did we realize this, and we saw an article which stated he, indeed, took it in 1944.
CHADWICK: I think I've read about Ansel Adams, that he was extremely careful in the way that he set up pictures. So in this particular photo, "Autumn Moon," that we're talking about, he was conscious of how this moon would rise and conscious of the sun is going to be going down just at this moment. This was not an accident.
RAINIER: No. And it is so interesting about the way he went about photographing so many of his images. He had scouted for months, days, often years. Another very famous image, "Clearing Winter Storm"--when I went through and proofed all his negatives, came to discover he tried that image over and over and over, and it eventually took him about 20 years just to get the perfect combination of all sorts of things. So it doesn't surprise me that all of the elements of this image come together in a beautiful way. It just didn't happen by accident. He often previsualized an image, would scout it and go to that location over and over until just the right combinations of things came together.
CHADWICK: And it's coming together again tonight. There will be photographers out at Glacier Point taking more pictures of the high Sierra by an autumn moon. Chris Rainier was photographic assistant to the late Ansel Adams. He's now a photographer for the National Geographic Society and contributor to DAY TO DAY.
Chris, thanks again.
RAINIER: You're very welcome.
CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.
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