45 Seconds on North Dome

For 45 seconds I watched the sun’s light move across Half Dome like a flashlight sweeping across the north face. I wasn’t remotely prepared for this. I was all setup with a telephoto when what I really wanted was my wide angle. I made do with what I had ready to go. Then I saw that storm coming with 4+ miles to hike back in the dark. This was one long, incredible day that I will never forget.

This is a photograph reimagined from a hike out to North Dome with my bud Gary Crabbe in Oct 2016. I had my Canon 70-200 f/4 ready to go with the plan of getting a nice shot of Gary against Half Dome. Then the sun poked between the clouds, lighting up the granite face in a way that I can only hope comes across in this series of photographs. I knew I didn’t have the camera/lens combination that I really wanted for this moment since it was unexpected. So, I filled the frame and ran with it.

I want to do more of this kind of thing. Much, much more.

I spent a fair amount of time with Lightroom and Photoshop to bring the colors about the way that I want to get across. There are competing color temperatures in this so it needed a lot of tweaking. Admittedly there’s still a touch of green that I’m not crazy about in the sky. The funny thing is that there are a lot of reflective surfaces here: the granite, snow, clouds etc. All of these reflect more blues from the sky than you’d really imagine. Bringing that back down to something believable takes some effort (and masking in Photoshop). The foreground is this blazing warm tone: oranges, purples, reds as the sun shone across it. Meanwhile the snow in the background is under cloud cover and is reflecting a lot of blue.

This was shot in a couple of years ago now, and my memory of how it looked isn’t nearly as accurate as how it felt. So here I am trying to bring across how it felt.

A few minutes ago a friend of mine asked about the hike back. That was a great question, so I’ll post my response to Anita here:

We got about a mile before it got genuinely dark. That was a good thing because honestly that first mile it’s kind of hard to pick the trail back up since we were on exposed granite. We made a lot of noise (talking etc) to keep the critters uninterested. By the time we got to the cars it was pretty obvious that we were in for a really good storm. We made it to a little camp site in El Portal where we rode out one hell of a lightning storm. I don’t think I ever slept so soundly. That’s the truth.

2018 ten Favorite Photographs

It’s been a custom of most photographers that I know and follow to collect their favorite photographs from the past year. This is the first time I’ve gathered my favorites and let me tell you, narrowing it down to ten was difficult. Whittling it down to the top 30 is pretty easy. The top 20 a little harder. Those last twelve though… ouch. Excluding two favorites was hard because I had to really think about why they were included in the list.

Here we go in no particular order for 2018.

Not surprisingly a lot of photographs are from Yosemite and the surrounding areas. Debbie and I visited our favorite spots and explored some scenes that were new to us.

wild flowers, Hites Cove, Yosemite, spring, 2018
Wild Flowers at Hites Cove. I’ve always loved the look of backlit wild flowers.

I added some new gear this year: A Canon 5d Mk III and a Canon 17-40 f/4 L-Series lens. I don’t want to say that it made me a better photographer, but it did add some new tools and new choices. The 5d Mk III also added couple of new limitations too. I spent the past few years using a Canon 7d, a 7d Mk II, and my trusty Rebel XT, all crop frame cameras. Each one is the right tool for a specific job. Each one will also be the wrong tool in some situations. I found that the experience with the crop frame cameras gave me a solid foundation to put that 5d to good use.

Debbie and I made a trip to Bodega Bay and decided on a stop at Bodega Head. An incredible sunset waited for us along with backlit ice plant and wild flowers.

Sunset at Bodega Head

2018 was largely about seeking new angles and trying new ideas. Of course many of those ideas were explored in Yosemite. Below is a favorite walk to Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Falls, Wide And High

More Yosemite adventures intentionally included areas that I haven’t explored much. Debbie and I went for a long day hike to Chilnualna Falls on the south side of the park. We could have gone lighter and in retrospect I really didn’t need the 70-200 f/2.8 when the 70-200 f/4 would have done just as well and weighed less than half of that beast. Still, this was as much about a physical challenge as it was about making art. I think I saw 20 people all day. I’d see that in the first 2 minutes in the valley.

Chilnualna Falls, April, 2018. I’ll be honest, I had a heck of a time pronouncing “Chilnualna Falls” so you will probably hear me refer to it as “Chalupa Falls” .

One idea I really wanted to explore was long exposures and more different angles. My daughter and I went for a stroll in downtown Santa Cruz on a rainy day. We stopped in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz where I was excited by the reflections, patterns, and lines. I decided to blend exposures of various lengths, the longest was about 240 seconds.

Rainy Pacific Avenue Long Exposure

More black and white and more very long exposures what a big theme for me in 2018. Most of my recent black and white photographs were inspired by Nathan Wirth, Clyde Butcher, and AJ Alfano.

Pigeon Point Black And White Long Exposure

I spent a little more time at Shark Fin cove than I usually do. Again, exploring more long exposures, black and white, and post processing techniques.

Sixty Seconds at Shark Fin Cove

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has been a source of much inspiration over the past several years. This year I was very choosey and very happy with the choices. The patterns of the redwood burl have always excited me and I explored them as black and white.

Redwood Grove, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

One photo was very personal. I rarely post pictures of myself and even fewer of immediate family. My daughter and I made a run for Taft Point for what I expected to be the last day that Glacier Point Road would be open. This photograph is a favorite for many reasons, almost all of them because of the strong emotional attachment. The sky was especially red because of the Camp Fire still raging.

Me and my daughter at Taft Point

By now you probably think that I spent most of my time at Shark Fin Cove and Yosemite. I suppose you wouldn’t be far from the truth. I met with a couple of friends where we explored the typical angles. I wanted something different so I got down very low to capture the details, lines, textures, and reflections. I waited for the sun to catch on a low layer of clouds miles away to create a fun lens flare.

Shark Fin Cove Sunset

Thanks again for visiting and for reading! What are some photos that you are especially happy with from 2018? What are your creative goals for 2019? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.