Yosemite Trip: Part 1 – Debriefing to Begin With

San Diego – I know, it is a little odd to START with the review but I’m still trying to find time to work on the images to show you all and then to figure out how to sequence them.  Usually I do it chronologically since I can enter stuff each day.  But this time I was back before there was ever time to try to upload data or shots since we were going from early each morning to later at night.

It was quite dry and warm for this time of year; it was more of what I would have expected to experience in June.  Water was certainly flowing but not at the normal spring volume.  Many of the temporary ponds that flood the depressions in the meadows of Yosemite Valley and provide wonderful reflections, were very low or already empty of water leaving only some mud and soft ground.

The good news, however, was that the road to Glacier Point was opened up on Friday so we were able to take that in and, coming back, saw a wonderful sunset over the many ridges of mountains way off to the east and what I assume was the far off coastal range.

There was a lot of haze in the valley floor that filled the shadows and turned them blue.  This haze seemed to be there every day but especially in the afternoons.  That was a disappointment to me since I wanted to do some night photography but shooting through the light and low-lying clouds seemed to slightly fuzz up the images.  I’ll have to wait till I can get to the desert in a few weeks to do the illustrations for a handout I’m working on.

The students, and we had nearly a dozen this time including a few “guests” from former Landscape Classes (that is part of the deal: if you have had a Landscape class with me you can then come along on the field trips with later classes), all seemed to enjoy the trip and based on what I was shown in playback on a few of their cameras, they will have some really good work to show for the trip.  A couple of them even climbed the steep trail to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls and have some spectacular shots from up there on the north rim of the valley.  Now that was impressive.

For myself, since this was my 8th or 9th field trip to Yosemite, it was a chance to start “playing” and experimenting since i long ago got the standard fare.  Obviously if i saw a chance to improve on a previous shot I would leap at it, but now i could relax and see what new perspectives and points of view I could try.  In addition to trying to find unusual views I also decided to play with the running water with both extremely slow exposure (10-15 seconds) or extremely fast (1/4,000 of a second) since the effects change at those extremes.  This gave me a chance to do some experimenting and noting the effects to pass on to other classes.

I also had a second chance to work with the 24mm tilt-shift lens and I have to admit have changed my mind about it.  You may recall from the last entries on it I was not initially impressed with it for a landscape lens since the 24mm focal length on my workhorse 17-40mm lens certainly has a world of depth of field.  I suggested the 24mm TSE lens was really only all that good for architectural work.

But I have to admit that where it came through was when the shot of a distant feature also had something of importance compositionally that was right in front of the lens.  Then it really showed its value.  One shot I’ll include is of Yosemite Falls from Cathedral Beach with picture elements literally inches from the lens but also way beyond the infinity point.  Now using a tilt setting following the Scheimpflug rule really made the shot work in a way it could not have done with the non-tilt-shift lenses.  Hmmmm… so much for first impressions.

So once again here was an example that in order to capture an image that renders the vision for the subject accurately, the tool was critically important.  Could a good shot have been made with the non-tilting 24mm?  Of course, but it would not have been THAT shot.  I would have had to work at finding a compromise composition that I could live with since my desired one could not otherwise have been done.

Starting with the next post I’ll be showing some of the images I took and have worked with on the trip.  In addition to the experimentation noted above, I found myself also returning to my roots and shooting some things I felt needed to be monochrome since they were largely visual tonal/texture poems and did not need the color to help tell their stories.  And that let me play with some subtle “toning” effects too.

For this series I think I’ll depart from the normal approach and sequence the shots and entries topically,  breaking them down by the major features of the area:  rocks, water, and growing things.  There will be some overlap to be sure but I think it will work.  I’m sure you will let me know if it does not…

So stand by, I will hopefully be able to start posting them by mid week so keep checking back.

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About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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