Growing up in San Francisco, Ansel Adams had an isolated and repressed childhood, the only child of an older couple obsessed with the decline in the family fortunes after a financial crisis in 1907. Adams barely made it through eighth grade, taking pleasure only in exploring nature along the California coast and in playing the piano--he was a gifted musician who almost made music his career. As a teenager, he began making photographs with a Kodak box camera, hiking into the wilderness and volunteering for the Sierra Club, eventually becoming its semiofficial photographer. He studied for a while with Mary Austin and collaborated with her on a book about Taos--an important milestone in his career; Paul Strand, Edward Weston, and Alfred Stieglitz were also early influences. Throughout the '30s, Adams spent time in New York as part of the photography scene, showing his work while he tried desperately to make a living doing commercial photographry at the expense of his more artistic work. A famous workaholic, Adams was also a heavy drinker and had constant financial problems. He married Virginia Best in 1928, and had two children. His reputation increased steadily throughout his life, and he was renowned both for the technical perfection of his work and for its beauty; his sublime images of the American west made him one of the last great artists in the romantic tradition. Adams was also a dedicated activist--an eloquent and outspoken advocate of wilderness preservation--and many of the accomplishments of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups can be traced to Adams's influence.