Saturday, January 5, 2008

In the house of Saint Ansel

Over the summer I spent a week in Yosemite. It was my fourth trip and it is a place that keeps drawing me back.

Every time I photograph here, I see the famous images Ansel made. John Muir may have saved Yosemite, but Ansel took it's fame to a whole new level with his photography. The Ansel Adams Gallery is still doing business in the park. By the way- this is as much of a must see stop as anything else in the park. Not only can you see the work of Ansel, but many other modern masters of the Sierra- Bill Neil, John Sexton, Alan Ross, and Mike Frye to name a few.

When I was in the park this summer I set about planning which icons I would photograph. High on my list was El Capitan. This huge wedge of granite dominates the front half of Yosemite valley and is a draw for climbers from around the world.

I photographed El Cap from several different locations. Each one seemingly already made famous by a great photograph (or three). That makes it difficult to be there, because every place I stopped I thought of how Ansel made this or that from here or of that rock. It also did not help that the sky was "severe clear" and the summer drought in California had already dried up most of the waterfalls by June. Still, this was Yosemite and I was not about to let things get in the way of being there with my camera.

One morning, I was down along the Merced River and could see El Cap rising above the river and the trees. It was already well on in the morning (at least for me). I normally do most of my photography in the twilight before the sun appears in the sky. One thing about Yosemite, though, is that it is so deep the light does not get into the valley for over an hour after sunrise. That was the case here. The light was just striking the east face of El Capitan and I knew I had to get an image.

It required a little bit of work and a wide angle lens. The mountain is so big you need a wide lens to get the river and the rock which towers above it. You also need a good filter to hold back the bright sky from the darker river area. It took a while and I made use of the view camera's ability of rise and the grad filter to keep the sky from blowing out. I took a color image but I already had the idea that this might be a good trip and location to do conversion to black and white.

After I made the image, I just stood there staring up at the big rock. It sure is impressive from any angle and I know why Ansel kept coming here.

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