Hey Tony, Happy New Year!
Interesting topic, and I’ll bite, although late to the party now. I must start out by saying this is like comparing apples and oranges, (if I can borrow a cliche…). It’s not fair to judge/critique an AA photograph from 90 years ago, nor is it fair to measure today’s photography and NPN critiques or members of today on how we, in today’s photographic world, critique this image. So, I’ll just treat this as a fun exercise and a chance to let slip my opinions.
First, Ansel wasn’t jaded by decades of countless images of Yosemite (or any other place for that matter). He wasn’t concerned with critiques or how this might play on IG, FB or any other forum - of course those didn’t exist back then. Much to Harley’s point of different times, different standards.
Were these instant classics back in the day? Or did they “become” classics over time because it was AA?
I would be willing to bet that no one here on NPN would have taken and certainly not posted an image that had a corner of the image of “road plow.” Yes, many, including myself, are fine with road-side photography… but I think most would avoid that element and likely hop over the snow plow line and look for a clean composition - as Matt eluded to. We may even have backed up to include more of Half Dome - but then the point may be the snow-laden tree and not Half Dome…
I’d be hard pressed to believe that back when the photograph was taken, that anyone at the time, and even since, would recognize Half Dome. We do now, well because we already know this is Yosemite… But IMHO, the image is about the snow-covered (heavily) apple tree and orchard - that just happens to have an impressive backdrop - but clearly the image isn’t about Half Dome. Back then, there was no pre-conceived notion that the “man-made” plow line would be considered a negative element; AA could have cared less about that. So back to the point of this exercise, why would we critique that image to the same standards we apply today? Again, apples and oranges.
And if I may - and call me blasphemist… Much of Ansel Adam’s work, especially his color work (I have his color book and I’m sure many have seen it,) is pretty mediocre by today’s standards - images that are pretty static, routine and classic compositions. Ansel Adams was, IMHO, THE MASTER printer; his darkroom work was extraordinary, AND frankly, revolutionary in terms of what we now refer to as “Photoshopping” Yes, he manipulated his photographs in the darkroom - “Moonrise over Hernandez,” heavily processed and then there was the “Winter Sunrise From Lone Pine” which I understand he burned/masked out hillside markings “LP”. (I’ve since googled and you can read the story here……)
In the end, it doesn’t make sense to critique this to today’s standards or jaded influences we all carry.
This does remind me however, of the time I rammed a VW bug in to a very similar snow-bank near Curry Village in 1982…