On April 10, 1927, Ansel Adams clambered through Yosemite’s LeConte Gully trail with four of his friends in tow. Their destination on that chilly spring morning was Half Dome, the park’s iconic granite summit rising some 5,000 feet from the valley’s floor.The aspiring photographer had made the trek before, once with an uncle and later with a painter acquaintance, who nearly broke his neck making the treacherous descent back down the narrow gully. But this time, Adams was intent on capturing the perfect shot of Half Dome to add to his portfolio—a shot that would launch his career as one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century.For most of his 25 years, Adams had considered himself a musician first and a photographer second. He was an accomplished pianist, and had spent a winter in San Francisco teaching music lessons and performing as part of the Milanvi Trio. But it soon became clear to Adams that his level of talent would only garner him local fame, never national.So he decided to chart a new course. In 1926, his mentor Albert Bender, a patron of the arts in San Francisco, tasked him with producing a portfolio of large-format black-and-white photographs of mountains that he would finance and help the young artist sell.