During one of my presentations at NECCC last weekend I expressed my view that Ansel Adams never made realistic photographs. Every photograph he took never ended at the point of releasing the shutter, never. He exposed for a particular vision, then developed the negative in different developers, sometimes in multiple developers with water baths in between. Then in the printing stage he exercised utmost control to produce the print that he had in mind. Then I added “if manipulation was OK for Adams, why is it not OK for digital photographers?” I think the answer lies in the accessibility of the tools for control. In the old days only the most skilled, master craftsman, the most patient could either do it in the darkroom or those who could afford hire the skilled people to do it for them. Today, the tools are well within the reach of everyone interested. That is the good part, but there is the rub; not all are skilled enough to produce the desired results and the technique becomes too visible, and it comes to the forefront.
I stumbled upon an interview with Adams just a few minutes ago where he clearly states that his pictures are not meant to be realistic and always had manipulation. Later in the interview he also talks about the then future electronic imaging. It is worth viewing and contemplating.
(You can see my presentation notes on my site, read from bottom up.)