Illumination

April 22, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Canon 5D Mk II, EF 135mm f2 +2x converterIllumination

My first photography attempt of the trip in Yosemite Valley was a wash out. After a 5:15am start and a 45 minute drive in the dark, with 2 feet of snow on either side of the unfamiliar road, temperatures of -10 degrees and ice on the road, I arrived at Tunnel View with 10 minutes to spare to sun-up. Even as I stared at one of the most famous vistas in the world it was apparent that, with the sun rising at the other end of the valley into a cloudless sky the contrast range would be too bright to shoot a decent vista. Even the use of ND grad filters would leave the sides of the image too dark for my liking, and require too much correction in Photoshop later. I shot several images using ND's, and also made a few attempts at shooting bracketed images thinking I might try a few HDR blends back in the UK. Ultimately I felt I'd have to return in the evening as the location lends itself much more to afternoon and sunset photography in my view. If I'd thought about it a bit more I'd have realised that in the morning, at least at this time of year, its better to be down in the valley, along the Merced river photographing with the sun behind me, perhaps towards El Capitan, or with a bit of luck exploiting some atmospheric morning mist among Toulumne meadows. In any event, I returned later that afternoon by which time the blue sky was rapidly being covered with billowy white clouds. The breaks in the clouds allowed the setting sun, which was now behind me, to illuminate the best features of the valley in an ever changing light show which was just awesome. This shot, of the Leaning Tower on the south side of the valley, and in front of Bridalveil Falls, seemed an obvious one given the contrast of the warm sunlit granite and the moody blue clouds above. I used my EF 135mm lens with a 2x converted giving me 270mm of telephoto power to home in on the spectacle. Does it need something to emphasise its scale, or is the viewer best left guessing? The trees at the top and the single tree on the ledge at the very bottom give some idea of the scale, but it would have been nice to have a climber in the image to truly illustrate the scale. I understand that climbers regard the 700 feet route to the top (first ascended in October 1961) as quite a difficult climb.

 


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