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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  • Porttia

    Sorry Diane in NC…that last comment was for Lr7660…I hit the wrong comment button as I was taking pictures…honest mistake. Pictures of what or who you ask? Just…a good ol' boy named “Smokey”! I'm not taking any more pictures of trees and clouds…it's just too controversial right now.

  • Earl

    They is suck the dick!

  • Snowladyliz

    I know what has happened….. the grandson has paid this lady some big bucks to come up with this story so the pictures will be worthless and then perhaps he can get them from the person who got it at the yard sale for maybe twice what he gave and then he will authenticate them and put them in his gallery … everybody walks away some some money in there pockets………… just some food for thought LOL

  • http://www.grandrants.wordpress.com Gerry Ashley

    Back in the 80s, I did some extensive photography out on the Monterrey Peninsula and I have a photo that is strikingly similar. That makes me one of about a zillion people who can make the same claim. So let's end all the speculation right now: Mine is NOT an original Ansel Adams photo. So forget the $200 Million price tag. I'll let mine go for a mere $5 million. Postage & Handling extra.

  • Roy

    Why days apart? Those shadows are exactly the same. Could it not have been only minutes apart instead, after the clouds had moved in the wind?

  • Roy

    Why days apart? Those shadows are exactly the same. Could it not have been only minutes apart instead, after the clouds had moved in the wind?

  • Calling you out

    Portia–You are really quite a liar!! I see that once you sold your photos, you are off to Hawaii and laughing all the way to the bank. What happened to all that altruism you were spouting off about? Why not take your $500,000 and help all those people you were talking about–you know the ones that are dying of starvation and illnesses and who are homeless and losing their livelihoods. What a lying, hypocritical piece of cr*p you are. Not so caring it seems once the money is in your bank account. Nice fake sympathy! What a loser!!

  • Calling you out

    Portia–You are really quite a liar!! I see that once you sold your photos, you are off to Hawaii and laughing all the way to the bank. What happened to all that altruism you were spouting off about? Why not take your $500,000 and help all those people you were talking about–you know the ones that are dying of starvation and illnesses and who are homeless and losing their livelihoods. What a lying, hypocritical piece of cr*p you are. Not so caring it seems once the money is in your bank account. Nice fake sympathy! What a loser!!

  • Valv6fan

    what bothers me is the photoshopped picture had to be distorted or skewed to overlay so perfectly. If the camera was on a tripod and they were taken just a few seconds apart, that wouldn’t have been necessary.

  • Valv6fan

    what bothers me is the photoshopped picture had to be distorted or skewed to overlay so perfectly. If the camera was on a tripod and they were taken just a few seconds apart, that wouldn’t have been necessary.

  • Sanchezn29

    you do know that clouds do not stay still, they move constantly daaaaaaaaaa

  • Sanchezn29

    you do know that clouds do not stay still, they move constantly daaaaaaaaaa

  • yahoo69

    clouds move in minutes and look different.also they shield the sun and change the shadows. But someone is greedy in this story, having held them back for years to “authenticate” them. you choose whom.

  • Allan Johnston QBE

    This is why we have jails, finally use them to put away people like this till they are fit to walk among us!
    My the guy pay 200 M to people who need it.

  • Jk

    You do realized there are several negatives, right? They could have been taken minutes from each other when the clouds moved. the odds that ansel Adams and uncle put their tripods on exact same spot of land are pretty slim.

  • Jk

    You do realized there are several negatives, right? They could have been taken minutes from each other when the clouds moved. the odds that ansel Adams and uncle put their tripods on exact same spot of land are pretty slim.

  • truth2u2

    Let's see…who has a motive to lie here, the old lady or the guy who wants $200 million. Uncle Earl was just as good as Adams!

  • Llama

    The clouds are the same. If you look really closely, you can see that they are the same clouds, but they’ve just shifted slightly. This can happen in a matter of a few seconds, so it’s very likely that it’s Uncle Earl’s picture.

  • Llama

    The clouds are the same. If you look really closely, you can see that they are the same clouds, but they’ve just shifted slightly. This can happen in a matter of a few seconds, so it’s very likely that it’s Uncle Earl’s picture.

  • Dreadmon9

    I believe that you have hit the nail on the head. It looks as though the pictue was shot from the same exact locale and the difference being the location of the clouds

  • Dreadmon9

    I believe that you have hit the nail on the head. It looks as though the pictue was shot from the same exact locale and the difference being the location of the clouds

  • Blob

    differences in darkroom processing can bring out things that werent there before… but the most troubling thing for me is the cloud on the top left. The angle is EXACT, the position of the branches is NEAR EXACT. everything else makes me think it COULD be the same photo except that top left cloud. Also – Photoshops auto-align thingy may have stretched the image or changed the angle, etc. these are screencaps? whats the resolution of the image they are capping from? is it a tube TV of a news broadcast or is it a scanned image?

  • Blob

    differences in darkroom processing can bring out things that werent there before… but the most troubling thing for me is the cloud on the top left. The angle is EXACT, the position of the branches is NEAR EXACT. everything else makes me think it COULD be the same photo except that top left cloud. Also – Photoshops auto-align thingy may have stretched the image or changed the angle, etc. these are screencaps? whats the resolution of the image they are capping from? is it a tube TV of a news broadcast or is it a scanned image?

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  • 8533321

    if you have ever spent time in a black and white dark room, you know how much exposure controls will change clouds from print to print. As you adjust the exposure and contrast settings it will change how much of the cloud you see drastically. the overly looks just like the kind of variation that I would expect to see from two prints made from the same negative at different times.

  • red

    Much of the value comes from the fact that they are previously unknown works and also of historical interest. For example, if you found Pablo Picassos sketchbook, it would be worth a lot. Not because his doodles and salsa stains are a lot better than anyone else's, but because
    a) no one has seen this part of his body of work before
    b) it could fill in gaps in how his work evolved,
    c) shed light on thinking behind other works
    d) complete his “history” ie what days he shot on, who saw what photos, where he took them, why these were hidden…

    Im not saying 20 million is right or wrong if these prints were real, but you can't just judge one photograph, one painting, one doodle, against another, when one is part of something of historical and artistic interest. A lot of art is subjective, and what its worth is based on what its worth to other people. Adams had a big impact on the art world, and anything that could add to his impact, flesh it out, give insight, and complete his history while also being a new image…well that it IS worth a lot of than just a photo of a tree.

    So yes a doodle by Monet is worth more than my finest painting. A trashed Ansel Adams negative is worth than my photos. A note by Abe Lincoln to get more milk is worth more than my all my emails.

  • Pdcmoore

    Actually some of the clouds are very similar. Look at the left side. Typical changes over a few minutes time.

  • Pdcmoore

    Actually some of the clouds are very similar. Look at the left side. Typical changes over a few minutes time.

  • http://twitter.com/carguno Carlos Guillen

    Funny to me how essentially the same photo taken at the same time under a different name is a difference of $200 million.

  • Poltalian

    So we should ALL BE PRAISING the work of the LEGENDARY Uncle Earl NOT Ansel Adams? Granted they're both great artists, but I can't believe the work of Uncle Earl is not in a museum somewhere? He's no average Joe! Tell me if I'm wrong but those shots, look way better than Adams'…

  • Kk325is

    Bingo! Haven taken these with a box camera using glass plates, it would taken several mins to change the plates.

  • Kk325is

    Bingo! Haven taken these with a box camera using glass plates, it would taken several mins to change the plates.

  • Buzbuzzer

    It look like the two pictures come from the same camera. Maybe 10-15 minutes apart.

  • Romeoryan

    Suspects? That presumes criminality. I would suggest that these people may have tarnished their credentials with this one at best.

  • JohnF

    Something else to check, I have several Adams prints, and he used a special film that allowed total focus on distance objects and those close, like the needles. I’m sorry, don’t remember the name of the film, but his grandson would, as they had a club named with that type of film. That is one of the reasons Ansel’s were so stunning! Sure do miss him!

  • Anonymous

    f/64 and it’s NOT a film type, it’s an aperture setting. A very small aperture. It’s sad that anyone who knows so little about photography would own Adams prints.

  • Anonymous

    You, sir, are the waste of time. Also a waste of skin and air.

  • Redstallion

    “It’s sad that anyone who knows so little about photography would own Adams prints”

    Why? Does someone have to know about photography to enjoy it? What an idiotic comment you posted.

  • shutterbug

    Clark-Nova, do you happen to know what camera Adams used?

  • shutterbug

    Aren’t we presuming that the lady believes that Uncle earl took the photo based on her print of the photo and not the negative? The negative is the only proof positive. or close….as long as you did not steal or buy the negative. A print does not mean the owner of the print took the picture does it?

  • Randyhall2009

    lame photography esp back in that time esp by ansel was an art. he was the first to predict the negative before the shot to get what he wanted

  • Ansel’s Pal, Pee Wee

    Yes, the old dodge technique… but doubtful it was done in this case.

  • Tradergar

    Some experts! The clouds definitely show some movement, but unless Uncle Earl and Ansel Adams were there within minutes or an hour at best of each other in exactly the same spot, I think these are Uncle Earl's. Nearly impossible to be Ansel Adams.

  • Miked

    The clouds appear to me to be the same clouds, simply off by a a number of minutes, 5 to 15, maybe twenty. Everything else is clearly exactly the same. Remember that this was using view cameras. Even working quickly, making small changes in shutter speed and aperture, focus, and changing film backs can take a couple of minutes. It wasn't just click, click click. The clouds are NOT different, they are the same, but older, changed and moved. Evolved, slightly dissipated. They are simply too similar for chance. I bet you could have stood on that spot for twenty years and not seen the same cloud formations evolve.

    Clearly, its the Uncles work. Thats gotta be a letdown for the guy who bought them, and a real kick in the teeth for the reputation of those who 'authenticated' them as Ansel's work.

  • Mavericktxn

    Look at the mountains…. they are closer in one photo than the other.

  • mike blom

    WHY????? you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy a painting

  • serloren

    Hmmm…since the “mystery” has as yet not been resolved beyond all doubt (I myself lean one way on some points, and the other way on still other points); allow me to add an idea to the mix for folks to chew on…what if all of this is actually a plot/conspiracy meant to devalue works that really were done by Adams? The price goes through the floor, a handful (at most) of involved people end up quietly acquiring the shots, and a later date, “new” evidence presents itself showing the pics to be genuine…now those same folks are in possession of the gold mine, and due to all the hoopla back-n-forth the going rate would likely be a good deal higher still.

    This isn't a theory I hold mind you, just a passing fancy in an old guys creative imaginings. ;-)

  • AcK

    I'm surprised by many of the “expert” comments I am reading here. Many seem to point to the fact that the clouds are different as proof that they are not the same picture. NEWS FLASH – No one ever said they were the SAME photo. What people are saying is that the location of the leaves, shadows, and rocks indicates that both were taken with the CAMERA in the exact same position. Unlikely, that two different photographers would place their equipment in exactly the same place at the the exact time of day (shadows). The movement of the clouds indicates that these are two photos taken by the same photographer seconds (or minutes) apart without moving the camera.

    How many of you experts set up your equipment and only take one snapshot. You don't. You take several pictures using different settings. Then you select the best of the bunch.

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  • Harold

    It not the technique nor the film type that Ansel Adams photographs are about. It is about the beauty and grandeur of the lanscape.