PetaPixel

Ansel Adams Garage Sale Mystery Apparently Solved

The mystery of the Ansel Adams garage sale negatives keeps taking on new twists, but the latest twist might have solved it once and for all.

KTVU in Oakland is reporting that a Bay Area woman named Mariam l. Walton has come forward with apparently solid proof that the photographs were not taken by Ansel Adams but her Uncle Earl. She was watching KTVU report on the story Tuesday when she suddenly saw a photograph of the Jeffrey Pine on Sentinal Dome and recognized it as a print her uncle Earl Brooks made back in 1923.

You can watch the segment and check out the pictures here.

Upon hearing this story, the fact that the clouds in the two photographs were different made me quite skeptical that the found photo was the same as Uncle Earl’s. However, I decided to investigate a bit further. Here’s a screenshot of Uncle Earl’s photograph shown in the segment:

Now, taking that screenshot and a screenshot of the photo found by Rick Norsigian in Fresno, I used Photoshop’s Auto-Align feature to match up the features in the photograph for comparison. Now here’s Norsigian’s photo aligned with the previous one. You can hover your mouse over it to overlay Uncle Earl’s for comparison:

Although the Jeffrey Pine that stood on Sentinal Dome was a well known landmark and often photographed, the fact that the lighting in the photographs match exactly seem to indicate that the two photos were in fact taken in the same session. Furthermore, notice how the branches and leaves in the two photos seem to match exactly. The uncanny similarity between the lighting and the trees seems to show that Norsigian’s photograph was indeed taken by Uncle Earl.

Keep in mind that we’re doing this comparison based on low resolution screenshots of the two photos. If we had access to the real things, this technique might reveal an even higher degree of similarity.

Oh… and did we mention Uncle Earl lived in Fresno (where the negatives were purchased) and often took photos in Yosemite?

If the photographs are indeed Uncle Earl’s and not Ansel’s, then it would appear that much of the “evidence” that was examined by experts and presented to the public was faked, and that the whole story is indeed a $200 million con.

What do you think?

(via The Online Photographer)


Image credits: Screenshots taken from broadcast by Oakland’s Channel 2


 
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  • LF Photographer

    No, that number was pulled out of thin air. A giant-sized Ansel print just sold for $775,000, which is a record. For normal sized prints they go from $5000 to $50,000 (rare, vintage). Big numbers but a long, long way from $200,000,000.

    You can buy prints made from his negatives–even many of his iconic images–for only $225 at the Ansel Adams gallery in Yosemite. They look great, printed by Ansel's long-time assistant.

    Two things add value to an Ansel print. Having Ansel actually make the print and having a print from near the time the negative was taken. It's all about rarity.

  • LF Photographer

    >>3. The snowline on a sunny day can move within hours.<<

    At that distance I find it hard to believe anyone could say anything meaningful about the distant snowline.

    >>Ansel worked alone, without Virginia or apprentices.<<

    Well, wrong. Ansel often traveled in groups of friends of with fellow hikers–he often was the organizer of such expeditions. For example, when he made his famous glass plate image of “Monolith” he was with Virginia and several others. I believe Virginia made movies of parts of that trip. See Ansel's book “Making of Forty Photographs” for details.

    In any event, since we are compating a known Uncle Earl image with an unknown image your logic conforms it is Uncle Earl's.

  • Rowan

    Did you people even read the article? The point is not that the photos are identical, but from the same photo session.

  • Porttia

    Exactly! Which is what makes “US” as Americans look even more ridiculous if we pay that much for a photo or photo's no matter who takes it…Ansel Adams or Mickey Mouse. Who in their right mind would give 200 million dollars for photos when people in our country AND other countries are dying from starvation and illnesses with no cures? I sure hope they can sleep at night!

  • Johnny33405

    I have got an ex – wife posing naked for me while I took the photo with a polaroid in our bed at our house AND then a year later in a bar a guy and I were talking about the weather and when the subject came around to women, he whips out this polaroid of MY WIFE that looked like he swiped the original from my home. The wife, the same pose, the same naked body, the same bed, the same house, the same shadows casting from my bed side lamp. Thank fully before I punched him for breaking into my house, I reached into my wallet, and found the folded polaroid I HAD TAKEN. I was relieved.
    Maybe is an Ansel Adams.

  • Porttia

    Not only are people starving in this world but what about the people who live on the streets or who are losing their homes and livelihoods…come on people…what are we doing to this country?! Please stop and think about your fellow man before buying some photo's for 200 million…no wait, I just took some really beautiful photo's of the Adirondack Mountains where I live that are absolutely beautiful…anybody want to buy them? Only asking $500,000…going once…going twice…SOLD to the Sucker in blue! Gee thanks…I'll be thinking of you when I'm drinking “Mai Tai's” and lying on the beach in the Honolulu and laughing all the way to the bank!

  • Porttia

    I agree with you 100%! And I'll do one better to “Offers1999's” response to your photo's…I'll give you $10 dollars, a case of peanuts AND pay my own “Shipping & Handling”! DEAL?

  • Porttia

    Righto! I agree 100%. I have this picture of a bridge by Ansel Adams that I'd like to sell to you and I have the same bridge photographed by Mickey Mouse…which is worth more? But Mickey Mouse says that Ansel Adams took the photo…

  • Porttia

    Sorry for the confusion…Mickey says Ansel took the photo that everyone else claims that “he, Mickey Mouse took”. Therefore, Ansel took both pics because the clouds are only seconds apart so he also took them on the same day…OR maybe Mickey took BOTH pics and is only saying Ansel took them so he can CASH IN and FINALLY RETIRE to the Bahama's and have that “Mai Tai” with me. You rock Mickey!!!

  • kevtphoto

    nicely said

  • Porttia

    LOL…you can see the “clouds on the left hand side actually MOVE”?! Wow, YOU are a GREAT Photographer! I, for one…am IMPRESSED with your abilities (BTW, I hope YOU were being sarcastic…if not…I have some photos that I'd like to sell you of the Adirondack Mountains where you can actually see the bears having a picnic and roasting marshmallows.

  • Diane in NC

    HUH?????!!!!!!! ROTFLMAO!!!!!!!!! Thanks for making my day!

  • Porttia

    Way too funny! But a TRUE PARODY of this situation! I applaud your talent! Ever think of writing?

  • Porttia

    Yeah, I for one would like to see more of these so-called “Uncle Earle's” photos and I'd like to know more about this mysterious “Uncle Earle”. I think he is just trying to make some money off from AA because there is NO WAY on God's green earth that he could take a quality photo of beauty that even compares to AA's work. Like you say how could “Uncle Earle” get such similar shadows, leaves and clouds? Unless “Uncle Earle” took both pics OR maybe “Uncle Earle” is really AA…trying to get some extra press coverage. Wouldn't that be a hoot!! But then again AA died in 1984…or did he?! Maybe, just maybe, he faked his own despise so his artwork would appreciate and be worth more. This is definitely a job for “48 Hour Mystery”.

  • Porttia

    Yeah, I for one would like to see more of these so-called “Uncle Earle's” photos and I'd like to know more about this mysterious “Uncle Earle”. I think he is just trying to make some money off from AA because there is NO WAY on God's green earth that he could take a quality photo of beauty that even compares to AA's work. Like you say how could “Uncle Earle” get such similar shadows, leaves and clouds? Unless “Uncle Earle” took both pics OR maybe “Uncle Earle” is really AA…trying to get some extra press coverage. Wouldn't that be a hoot!! But then again AA died in 1984…or did he?! Maybe, just maybe, he faked his own despise so his artwork would appreciate and be worth more. This is definitely a job for “48 Hour Mystery”.

  • Porttia

    Like I said…this is a job for “48 hour Mystery”! Who took the photo…it just chills my spine! I will not get any sleep until the authorities find out and this case of “was it AA, Uncle Earle or Mickey Mouse” is solved once and for all!

  • Porttia

    …didn't you mean there are three people in every photograph? You forgot one…”The photographer, the viewer”…and the idiot who pays $200 million for it!

  • HoppinBill

    I think the point is that these are not great photos, but they would be from an early period of an artist who improved. It's a bit like finding finger paintings done by Rembrandt, or maybe his work when he was just starting out but had not perfected his craft. They are valuable because they show the beginning of the maturation process of an artist who captured the imagination. Not because they are great in and of themselves. So if they are Uncle Earl's, they are just pictures taken by a photographer who was okay, but not great or well known.

  • Offers1999

    Fark, out bidded again. Sorry, I’m not made of money.

    /I do have some pictures of money, though. I bought them at the last thread auction.

  • Offers1999

    Fark, out bidded again. Sorry, I’m not made of money.

    /I do have some pictures of money, though. I bought them at the last thread auction.

  • Bobc519

    Who in Hell is Uncle Earl(e)??? And why should we care? The photo(s) in question are good … that'd all that matters!! I imagine that “Uncle Earle(e) doesn't care either wherever he is!!

  • Voxphoto

    One reason for making two plates of the same subject–Ansel did this too–is to try a different filter. Photographers shooting B&W use yellow or red filters to make clouds stand out more. This also cuts through atmospheric haze.

    Notice that even though the Norsigian image is reproduced with darker contrast in this comparison, the horizon looks lighter and hazier on that one.

    My bet is on Uncle Earl wanting to try two versions, with different filters, and the clouds shifted a bit during the time he made the swap.

    That skew in the auto-align was probably because the TV crew filmed Mrs. Walton's print at a slight tilt. Check the news story footage:
    http://www.ktvu.com/news/24432262/detail.html
    Her Uncle Earl prints are framed and under glass; so the TV crew probably didn't want their cameraman's reflection in the shot, right? ;-)

  • definley.com

    I thought that they identified the pencil writing on the envelopes as being Ansel Adams' wife's handwriting. So, what's up with that now?

  • http://www.armory.com/~cmraman Phantom Photographer

    The round image on the right of the mystery picture is part of the KTVU 2 station logo. This is a video screen capture from their nightly newscast. Comparing these two low-res screen captures really proves nothing. (I don't personally think these *are* Adams negatives, but I'm trying to keep an open mind on the subject.)

  • Iamsprtkus

    porttia,
    the 200 million is not the asking price. that’s an estimate of what they’d be worth after all the books and prints and calendars are made and sold. and even if someone wanted to spend 200 mil of their own money on a pine cone or a toothbrush or whatever it is that blows their skirt up, why do you think they should feel bad about it? do you really think that it’s up to people who make a good living based on the choices they made to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.. really?
    do you think they would even appreciate it.. i mean do they ever question where the aid comes from as long as it comes? it sounds like you have a nice place out there.. maybe you could sell it and buy those crackheads some food.. it’s the same principal only the scale is different. nobody has the right to tell someone what to do with their money or their lives, or to shame them into it based on ones own beliefs.

  • Iamsprtkus

    porttia,
    the 200 million is not the asking price. that’s an estimate of what they’d be worth after all the books and prints and calendars are made and sold. and even if someone wanted to spend 200 mil of their own money on a pine cone or a toothbrush or whatever it is that blows their skirt up, why do you think they should feel bad about it? do you really think that it’s up to people who make a good living based on the choices they made to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.. really?
    do you think they would even appreciate it.. i mean do they ever question where the aid comes from as long as it comes? it sounds like you have a nice place out there.. maybe you could sell it and buy those crackheads some food.. it’s the same principal only the scale is different. nobody has the right to tell someone what to do with their money or their lives, or to shame them into it based on ones own beliefs.

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  • Ningrowley

    the picture is taken by the same person with a time difference probably long enough to reload the old manual type camera in those days it would take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes or longer just to take out the used film-frame and reload those giant size frames and at the main time the sun, clouds have moved and start to slowly coming apart. Look at it again. The position of the photographer has not moved because of its stationary giant size tripod but the time, sun, and clouds have moved long enough to do the manual process of load/reload those dino-days of a stationary camera. LOL!!!!!!

  • Ningrowley

    You people are making a hill out of a MOLE. Go figure. Nobody want to be fooled but there it is….gazillion dollars paid for a piece of black and white paper that is not to most people including me worth a spit. Fools and their money….soon Parted. Serves you right.

  • Ningrowley

    but then again i could be wrong because if one person took two shot from the same camera with time difference, then there should be two negatives on file although negative in those days are also singular which could only means that he took two shot with the intention to keep one with negative, and sell the other one with negative as well which would then explain why there is no extra negative for the other shot. That's my deduction. They should have given that money to the human society instead of letting get themselves swindled by some “photo-expert” get real nobody is really expert in anything. Everyone is learning and making it up as they go and most swindlers like to go with dead famous people's work just to make an extra buck with out sweating. Like nobody ever heard of someone selling the London bridge for a two-dollar bill.

  • Fsedlow

    What have you been Drinking? Put your Glasses on. The Clouds are Differant.

  • Fsedlow

    What have you been Drinking? Put your Glasses on. The Clouds are Differant.

  • Belle

    Yes, they are nice photos and “in the style of Ansel Adams” , but after all he authored several books detailing mush on his methods and techniques….appears Uncle Earl was an apt student. Even tho’ not likely Adam’s work (unless Uncle Earl bought them many eaons ago & perhaps family presumed he had taken them himself, or he passed them off as his own work- did Earl’s family mention anything about photo developing equipment & talents of Uncle Earl? Type of camera he used? -when did Uncle Earl live? In 1923 Adams had only just began selling his work & Adams hmself wasn’t yet serious about his photography thinking he would be a pianist.

  • Belle

    Yes, they are nice photos and “in the style of Ansel Adams” , but after all he authored several books detailing mush on his methods and techniques….appears Uncle Earl was an apt student. Even tho’ not likely Adam’s work (unless Uncle Earl bought them many eaons ago & perhaps family presumed he had taken them himself, or he passed them off as his own work- did Earl’s family mention anything about photo developing equipment & talents of Uncle Earl? Type of camera he used? -when did Uncle Earl live? In 1923 Adams had only just began selling his work & Adams hmself wasn’t yet serious about his photography thinking he would be a pianist.

  • Belle

    After re-referencing the year it is thought Earl might have taken these photos – scratch the idea of his studying Adams – as Adams hadn’t wuthored any boks at that point- unless he ran into him in the hills of Yosmite- which is possible he could have gotten a few personal tips from the master ……

  • Belle

    After re-referencing the year it is thought Earl might have taken these photos – scratch the idea of his studying Adams – as Adams hadn’t wuthored any boks at that point- unless he ran into him in the hills of Yosmite- which is possible he could have gotten a few personal tips from the master ……

  • Belle

    please excuse typos in both – in a rush ..:)

  • Belle

    please excuse typos in both – in a rush ..:)

  • Porttia

    Lighten up Iamsprtkus before you blow a “Button”…or worse yet stroke out. I see you don’t believe in helping out your fellow Brother. I hear you man but if I were you I’d change my screen name to something else. Spartacus was a TRUE hero of slaves…a Gladiator…or maybe he should have sat on his butt and did nothing like other people with your moral system of belief of “every dog for himself” or “let them lie in their own beds…they made it”. I hope you don’t live in the US…or I mean I am happy that all Americans don’t talk “the jive” like you do or we’d have more homeless,hungry and elderly people without proper health benefits than we do right now.

  • Porttia

    Lighten up Iamsprtkus before you blow a “Button”…or worse yet stroke out. I see you don’t believe in helping out your fellow Brother. I hear you man but if I were you I’d change my screen name to something else. Spartacus was a TRUE hero of slaves…a Gladiator…or maybe he should have sat on his butt and did nothing like other people with your moral system of belief of “every dog for himself” or “let them lie in their own beds…they made it”. I hope you don’t live in the US…or I mean I am happy that all Americans don’t talk “the jive” like you do or we’d have more homeless,hungry and elderly people without proper health benefits than we do right now.

  • Porttia

    I’d like to BUY those pictures of money…how about 200 million?

  • Porttia

    I’d like to BUY those pictures of money…how about 200 million?

  • Porttia

    Got to love those pics…”they’re worth 200 million in words”…can’t ask dead people what the truth is so let the pictures do the talking. I hope they don’t find my stash of pictures…God only knows what I’ll be accused of. My hubby just bought me a 35 mm and I have a lot of da**ing evidence on it already. We live in the Adirondacks, and we have a lot of trees. God only knows who has taken the same exact pictures or did I secretly sneak up on the photographer of the originals and steal his shot only seconds later…when the wind blew the clouds North or was that West? I don’t know my directions well…sorry! But I think the shadow in the pic was facing South…or was that East??? No one is safe around me when I have my camera ready, set and waiting to be FIRED…except my buddy, Mickey.

  • Porttia

    DUH????!!

  • Porttia

    I said I live in the Adirondacks not the Middle Ages. I live in the boonies not in the “Land of Oz”…gee I can read ya know…and even better yet I can Understand what I read.

  • Porttia

    I said I live in the Adirondacks not the Middle Ages. I live in the boonies not in the “Land of Oz”…gee I can read ya know…and even better yet I can Understand what I read.

  • Offers1999

    It turns out that they were pictures of counterfeit bills. I will accept the 200 million in non sequential 3 dollar bills. A check will work also. Make it a personal check. Money orders are a hassle.

  • Offers1999

    It turns out that they were pictures of counterfeit bills. I will accept the 200 million in non sequential 3 dollar bills. A check will work also. Make it a personal check. Money orders are a hassle.

  • Porttia

    LOL…glad you enjoyed my posts! I am thinking about writing a book…think anybody would buy it at an auction for 200 million? Oh, shucks…I'm not established yet!

  • Porttia

    If I send you my phone will you take a pic for me? Or better yet, I can just send you my phone number and you can send me yours and I'll sell it for 10K. It'll save me from buying your phone at your next garage sale…how's that? ;-) Hey, don't thank me you aren't getting any of the profits…I only share with Mickey!