After the craziness of proofing my latest book, a couple weeks ago, I decided to jet to Oregon for a few days of personal photography. Preferring the back roads to the busy highways, I found myself within arms reach of Yosemite National Park in California mid-day on the drive up. Instead of pushing on, I decided to spend the afternoon exploring a place I had only seen twice before.
As I approached the park, I started channeling my inner Ansel Adams, who’s photographic legacy in Yosemite is unmatched. Tapping into visualization (a process Ansel and fellow photographer Minor White encouraged and used in their own work), I brought up a catalog in my mind of various popular photographs Ansel made in Yosemite and wondered how I could put my own spin on each of them. I remembered a few past Outdoor Photographer magazine articles that challenged photographers to think like Ansel, so I considered, “Where would he go to photograph if he were alive today? If he photographed Yosemite today with a digital camera, how would he approach it? How would he render his classic scenes in color?”
I thought about exploring some of the more remote, unnamed areas tucked among the 1,190-square-acres of spectacular scenery found within Yosemite’s borders, but I figured if Ansel hadn’t found something gorgeous to shoot in those spots, I sure wasn’t going to! With that in mind, I decided where I was to spend my afternoon: I had tunnel vision for Tunnel View.
When I pulled into the Tunnel View parking lot, I could not believe the scene. Oh sure, the majestic Yosemite Valley looked as stunning as ever. The snow-dusted monoliths, the grace of Bridalveil Falls, and the wispy clouds dancing in the clear blue sky backdrop (I really wanted similar moody clouds as Ansel had previously captured, but I didn’t want to copy his rendition exactly so I had hoped for even clearer skies…). However, what caught my eye was just how many other photographers were already there blasting away! At least 50 other photographers were doing a tripod tango at the overlook! I thought I’d have the place to myself!
I looked around for a little space to squeeze into in between all the interlocking tripods, but wasn’t having much luck fitting in. As a little frustration set in, a familiar voice called to me, “Hey Colleen!” Much to my surprise, it was my good friend and fellow photographer, Jim Goldstein! After chatting for a bit, he offered me his spot in the line-up. I felt so fortunate, because quite honestly, he had THE best position for the best view of Yosemite Valley.
I set my 16-35mm lens to ISO 100 and f/16 to achieve the broadest depth of field. Aiming for a unique composition, I waited a few minutes before shooting to allow the shadow line to run from my bottom left corner into the frame towards the falls (the payoff). This created a nice sense of movement into the frame…and made the classic arrangement different enough to call it my own.
I snapped just a single frame (the photo above) when I heard some shuffling behind me. Then, a man’s voice sputtered in jest, “You know, Colleen, Ansel would have never used a digital camera for this scene.” I laughed and turned around to see who the comedian was. Lo and behold, my good buddy and fellow photographer, Olivier du Tre, stood behind me with his over-sized backpack slung over his shoulder, looking for a place to shoot with tripod in hand.
We spent a few minutes catching up, but the light on Yosemite Valley was fleeting. Having already nailed my shot and considering Olivier had traveled all the way from Alberta, Canada to capture this one moment with his slow-to-set-up 4×5 camera, I offered my spot to Olivier so he too could make his own unique image.
And boy, did he ever! I enjoy seeing what other photographers take away from the same spot, and Olivier’s photograph won’t disappoint. Check out his blog to see his spin on this beautiful scene: blog.olivierdutre.com/2015/04/tunnel-view.html
Happy April 1st!