The Inspiration of Yosemite, Ansel Adams and John Sexton

Yosemite Group Shot 1
Group Pic- Yosemite
El Cap at Night group



We had two awesome groups for our Yosemite tours last week. Yosemite in the spring is always awesome with the waterfalls and opportunities to photograph. I swear I could spend years photographing there and still not touch what is available.  Having traveled all over the world and photographed, Yosemite is still just one of the most special places. Every time I drive into the park, the beauty is just inspiring. Of course,  Ansel Adams images always come to mind and for what he has done for photography, nature, and inspiring others, I am truly astonished and grateful.  Another great image maker comes to mind as well for me.  His name is John Sexton.  In fact, hopefully someday I will meet him in person. I know those that know him and someday I would love to sit and talk and share how much his work has meant to me.  John, if you read this, know your work has truly been an inspiration for me in many ways.  Recently, Ally, Adam and I were also fortunate enough to hear him speak with his friend and fellow photographer, Kenny Rogers. Yes, THE Kenny Rogers who happens to be a brilliant photographer.  He and John are great friends and Mr. Rogers learned much of what he knows from John Sexton. Ally Think Tank

This past trip, we stepped into the Ansel Adams gallery once again. Every time I do, I get tingles. Really! It is such a moving experience for me. Last fall when I was there, I started working on my finished images differently, and a new journey of discovery to work with purpose that my art would be printed and that I would take the time to make sure each image I felt was worthy to produce, would only be printed when it was truly ready.  It’s interesting, in our portrait work, which is what has been our mainstay for many years, Ally and I have always done that and produced the highest quality images for our clients.  Yet, for our fine art work, it had not received as much attention it seemed.  Sitting on our ipad, desktop or worse yet, posted on FB seemed to suffice.  

 Last fall in the Ansel Adams gallery, we purchased one of John’s books, “Recollections- Three decades of photography”.  As I sat and looked at the images, once again, inspiration hit. No more quick Photoshop actions for me….. I decided to go back to my roots of the darkroom.  Now, when I say that, I did NOT actually go back INTO the darkroom.  However, the many things I learned from years of shooting film, developing and printing, somehow, had been turned into quick and easy photoshop actions and filters.  As I looked at John’s book, I realized how much care went into producing each and EVERY image. A quest for perfection in tonality and print quality was unmistakable.  That set me on my journey to produce a higher quality standard image.

Last week-Matt at River 5x7

Stepping into the gallery once again….more tingles. Once again in awe of the incredible print quality all around me. I came home and started printing.  I spent hours just working on tones in the images I was working on.  One of the items I have quickly realized in this journey is that quick and easy PS, plug-ins, or Lightroom, is not your friend.  Please don’t mis-understand me.  I LOVE PS and it alone is an amazing tool which has transformed how we create images. But as I look at so much work out there today, I have realized how much people just throw a slider here or there, bump huge amounts of saturation and rarely spend more than a few minutes in an image and quickly say…this is art.  I see it being taught in college photography classes this way too! I want to shout to everyone….STOP! If you took the time to capture a beautiful image, PLEASE take the time to learn to finish and produce that image. I will tell you, it’s not easy, but it IS WORTH IT!  Spend time in photoshop, or lightroom if you prefer, but gain a true understanding of what really great images should be produced like.

As I sat and printed some images and spent a number of hours doing so, trying desperately to get the right print, I found myself itching to be done and honestly, a bit frustrated.  Then I thought about the greats such as Ansel Adams and John Sexton…taking not hours, but months to get the beautiful images finished in the darkroom that we all get to enjoy. That is true passion and art.  I would like to say thank you John for showing me the way through your images.   Ansel, thank you for the multitudes of inspiration you have given this world!  I myself personally, as well as multitudes of others, are forever grateful. 

David McKay








2 thoughts on “The Inspiration of Yosemite, Ansel Adams and John Sexton

    1. Chris, be sure to join our mailing list at

      This will ensure that you are notified first of any upcoming Safaris and will give you first crack and signing up to join us on the adventure. Our Photo Safaris, sell out quickly and our mainline list will get you the info you need as soon as we make an announcement.

      We hope to see you on our next Photo Adventure!

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