Yosemite Field Trip 2013

First a “Thanks” and follow up re the Bristlecone Pines trip upcoming in June.  To my enormous surprise, the spaces of the Bristlecone Pines workshop this summer are nearly all taken; I have one or two more open and then we’ve hit the max for the research station.

OK, now on to Yosemite!

Remember you can click on an image to see it enlarged.

I’ll be honest, it was with mixed reactions that I accepted the class’s vote to go to Yosemite again this year.  Several students had never been there and were very excited to go.  But I had taken the class there for the past 4 years running so was hoping for something new.  But I allowed the class to vote and the vote was as it was: Yosemite.

So for myself I decided to make it a trip of experimentation and focus on really learning some new things about my Technical camera based “digi-view” camera rig.  I also wanted to look for views I had not done before even though I think I have shot nearly every major feature in the Valley.

But of course, one cannot go to Yosemite and not go to Tunnel View.  And once at this incredible vista, no matter how often one has been here or how many photos one has taken here, it is difficult to not take at least one shot of this totally iconic view of Yosemite Valley with many of the major features on display in a single frame.  So, here is my obligatory view of the Valley from the Tunnel.  This one, at least, is from the south side parking lot, a spot I had not previously visited.

Obligatory shot from Tunnel View of the Yosemite Valley.  It is hard to believe that within this valley are highways and villages, shops, markets, restaurants, and lodges.

Obligatory shot from Tunnel View of the Yosemite Valley. It is hard to believe that within this valley are highways and villages, shops, markets, restaurants, and lodges. Canon 5D Mk II w/ 70-200mm F4L @ 70mm

OK, so here I was… what had I not done before?  Well I had not tried to isolate some of the features.  So here is a view from the far left (north) side of the overview where you can look down on the incredible V-shaped funnel valley that channels the winter melt water down over 620 ft. Bridal Veil Fall.

THe nearly perfect "V" shapped valley funnels springs and snow melt over the 620 ft. Bridal Veil Falls.  Internal mosaic with Canon 5D Mk II piggybacked onto Wista SP.

THe nearly perfect “V” shapped valley funnels springs and snow melt over the 620 ft. Bridal Veil Falls. Internal mosaic of 10 frames with Canon 5D Mk II piggybacked onto Wista SP using Linhof Select Schneider 270mm.

Well, that was a interesting start down a new path here.  The use of the swings and tilts on the camera allowd me to use the lens at f16 and yet get both tree and V shaped plateau in focus yet throw the trees at the base of the falls out of focus because I really wanted you to concentrate on the place where the water flows and starts its journey down.  I wondered if the water approaching the edge had any idea of what was in store for it just ahead…?

I also have felt my work is once again evolving stylistically.  Perhaps I’m returning to my roots as a painter and printmaker… but only partially.  I do not want to make photographs that look like paintings nor paintings that look like photographs. What I want to see is whether or not I can combine the sensibilities and my own aesthetics for all of those into one image, based in photography as the initial capture method but allowing me greater freedom to express how I “FEEL” about the subject not just how I “see” it.  I wanted to use the initial capture as sort of an “underpainting” and then use the tools available to complete the work to match my emotional and intellectual responses to the scene.  In other words, I looked at the initial photo captured “sketch” and then asked myself what would I do to that scene if I were painting it?  The shot above of Bridal Veil, shot with the Canon 5D MK II mounted on the Wista SP for a 10 frame internal mosaic, kicked off this quest.

As you come into the Park from the west many people, anxious to see the iconic rock formations, drive right by a delightful little quiet spot called Fern Spring.  But it is as much a part of Yosemite as the rocks so this time I went there several times at different parts of the day to get different light patterns.   It often presents a challenge because it is mostly in shadow but with some very bright shafts of light coming through the trees on to the water.  Those bright spots move with the wind in the trees and are hard to predict.

First here is an overview.  This too was shot with the DSLR piggybacked on the Wista technical camera, with each exposure being about 20 seconds in length.

Quiet little Fern Springs is often ignored by visitors to the park.  But here is an internal mosaic with the DSLR mounted on the Wista Tech camera with each frame shot at 20 seconds.

Quiet little Fern Springs is often ignored by visitors to the park. But here is an internal mosaic with the DSLR mounted on the Wista Tech camera with each frame shot at 20 seconds. Linhof Select Schneider 270mm

For this shot the fromt swing allowed me to alter the depth of field plane to flow along the top of the little water “steps.” and yet shoot at a proper aperture for sharpness.

Later in the day when I returned, with the sun backlighting the surrounding forest, this interesting near abstract showed the bright reflections combining as they flowed over the little rocky shelf.

Backlit trees reflecting in the quiet water of Fern Spring before it starts its journey over the edge and down toward the Merced River.

Backlit trees reflecting in the quiet water of Fern Spring before it starts its journey over the edge and down toward the Merced River.  Canon 5D Mk II w/ 70-200 F4L @ 70mm

I was almost ready to leave when I noticed the brilliant speckles of light from the backlit trees.  They seem to sparkle against the darker forest.

Here are the trees that were being reflected in the pool at Fern Springs.

Here are the trees that were being reflected in the pool at Fern Springs.  Canon 5D MkII w/ Canon 8-15 @ 15mm full-frame fisheye

While I was there by the spring, several cars stopped and hauled out water bottles to catch the spring water.  I confess I’m skeptical about the brilliance of that plan…

Taking that shot got my mind into issues of reflections and how they really combine two worlds into a single view.  In the early morning light, as the sun just starts to scrape across the craggy rocks, there is a stillness in the air, as if the whole valley is anticipating the oncoming light to both warm it and reveal its wonders to the visitors.  About midway into the valley the Merced River slows as it briefly levels out and gets its breath before plunging down the canyon to El Portal.

Morning haze filled the air and a long 20-second exposure allowed the ripples in the water to smooth out and form a sort of two-way mirror.  Some of it reflected the rocks and in other places you could see through it to fallen trees now underwater.  This surreal and somewhat ethereal scene is added to by the swirl of leaves caught in an eddy in the lower right of the frame.

A long exposure creates a quiet reflecting surface on the Merced to capture a tranquil morning light.

A long exposure creates a quiet reflecting surface on the Merced to capture a tranquil morning light. Canon 5D Mk II w/ TS-E 24mm using front tilt for depth of field.

Of course at least one shot of the valley rocks was called for but I had shot Half Dome and El Capitan dozens of times.  (You can see some of my Yosemite shots in my gallery at http://www.ndavidking.com/Yosemite/Yosemite_Intro.htm.

I had wanted a shot of the water-filled meadows but I fear we were a little early for that; only a small pool had formed in one of the meadows.  But the downed wood created some interesting patterns in the early morning light and nearly camouflaged another visitor enjoying breakfast. I shot it with the DSLR riding piggy-pack on the Wista 45 with a Linhof Select Schneider 210mm.

Morning in a Yosemite meadow.  internal mosaic with DSLR piggybacked onto Wista 45.

Morning in a Yosemite meadow. internal mosaic with DSLR piggybacked onto Wista 45.  Linhof Select Schneider 210mm lens.  Here using the tilts on both front and back allowed the deep depth of field roughly along the ground plane from the grass in foreground to the deer’s back.

So while wandering through the meadows I saw this shot through the trees.  I am not even sure of the rock formation’s name.  But I was beginning to get the hang of carting the “digit-view” rig around and using it not just expand or limit the depth of field as is usually done but to completely control it while still shooting at the more optimal apertures of the lenses.

Black and White version of an internal mosaic done with the 5D Mk II and the Wista Tech camera.

Black and White version of an internal mosaic done with the 5D Mk II and the Wista Tech camera w/ Linhoff Select Schneider 270mm lens.  Using front swings allowed the deep depth of field (the tree is only about 20 yards away).

This gave me a chance to return to more traditional black and white imagery which seemed perfect for the dramatic rock face.

There was still snow in the shadows of the forest.  Here is a shot from the trail to view Yosemite Falls.  From here you can catch a glimpse of both the upper and lower falls and see the snow still on the ground.

Snow still hides in the forest below the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

Snow still hides in the forest below the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.  Canon 5D MkII with 17-40 mm F4L @ 40mm.

Thursday and Friday were fun shooting for everyone but Saturday, someone let the gate down and all of the humans in this quadrant of the galaxy decided it would be a perfect day to visit Yosemite.  I usually avoid the place in summer because of all of the people but I’ve never seen it this crowded on our Spring visits.  So I took the time to pay more attention to the river views along the road up from El Portal.

Here is a morning shot of some rapids along the road to the west entrance of the park.

Rapids along the Merced River near the west entrance to Yosemite.  Taken as an internal mosaic with DSLR piggybacked on a 4x5 technical camera.

Rapids along the Merced River near the west entrance to Yosemite. Taken as an internal mosaic of 10 frames with Canon 5D Mk II piggybacked on a 4×5 Wista technical camera.  Shot w/210mm Linhoff Select Schneider

So, for me the trip was both fun (as usual) but also gave me a chance to become more comfortable with the Wista Rig as a field camera.  I learned some important lessons from it, not the least of which was that my little carbon fiber tripod and ball head are pathetically weak for holding the weight of the combined cameras steady, especially as the adapter plate is flipped for the second row of the internal mosaic.  A couple of shots were lost when the tripod head moved during this part of the operation, something that had never happened using my heavy tripod with the 3-way pan head.

The Linhof multi-lens viewfinder was perfect for selecting the right lens for a shot.  Interestingly most of the shots selected for the blog were shot with two lenses and during the whole time I only used four.  I also discovered a way to hang the ground glass back on the tripod so I did not have to lay it on the ground when I removed it to use the DSLR adapter.

Now I have one remaining mechanical/engineering issue having to do with the adapter needing to be flipped for the rows but obviously designed for a single direction insertion into the camera’s Graflok back.  Time to visit my go-to friend for such issues, Lee Peterson.

This week will be a madhouse with multiple events and projects all hitting at the weekend so I’ll certainly not be able to take off for some more shooting for a while.  but as soon as I can there will be more to post.

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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2 Responses to Yosemite Field Trip 2013

  1. Some really wonderful shots in that collection of images.

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