In the shadow of the valley of light, words evaporate like mist. A claw and crag, a solitary tree, the changing moods of El Capitan and Half Dome— Beyond the reach of words, these scenes are a pang in the throat and chest. Thank goodness for landscape photography!
Claw and Crag
El Capitan: Three moods in two days
Half Dome: Handheld at high ISO for a super grainy, painterly effect
Departure: Driving home through Modesto
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I first saw Yosemite in my early thirties. I arrived late at night with a boisterous crew. We made camp under large trees. They blocked the light from the moon and the stars. Darkness was complete. I saw nothing. I knew nothing beyond my meager cone of light. Then I slept. When I woke, I was utterly astonished. Actually, that word is too puny. It was more like rapture, except that word is too flabby. My reaction was coarse, visceral, and lightning fast. Holy fuck, I whispered. Holy fucking shit. I stopped breathing. I gazed in wonder and disbelief. I’d never seen anything like it. I won’t attempt to describe what I saw. But I will share some images I recently made while I was at Yosemite with my family on fall break.
Two Half Domes make a whole. Or, art makes the world whole. Yes, I like the sound of that, even though it’s only half true.
Not even a language barrier got in our way. The man fussed with a tripod, then ran to his bride. He did this many times before I smiled and pointed, Here, I said without a word. They understood. They stepped where I’d pointed. They smiled back. Then I flourished my hand across my face, and the man’s hand followed suit. Her smile makes me indescribably happy.
After the couple left, I waited for the light to mellow out. It did. And the chapel played peek-a-boo behind the trees.
This is my wife. She has eyes like exotic insects. She’s doing what I did when I first beheld the granite walls of Yosemite. Gazing, raptly.
Alex Honnold immortalized himself on this massive chunk of granite in Free Solo. Although the image is nice after a fashion, it’s basically false, because it doesn’t adequately communicate the sheer scale of the rock. Not even close.
Here’s a stone bridge over the Merced river with drifting smoke from camp fires.
Sometimes reflections are more real than the things themselves.
I worked hard for this last image, fighting off other heathen photographers. Half Dome at twilight. It has the right balance of magic and realism that produces that holy-fucking-shit moment I had in my thirties when I woke up to a new world on the valley floor. I added a lot of grain to prevent color banding. But the high-res version of the image is fantastic and will print beautifully. If you’re interested in a copy, give me a shout. I’ll be doing a large print run soon.
Contact me for kids, teens, couples, family, and corporate photography in the Bay Area.