The irony of my last post; My Best Yosemite Shot Ever!

Picture: Morning clouds and fog fill Yosemite Valley at sunrise from Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, California

Image: Morning clouds and fog fill Yosemite Valley at sunrise from Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, California

For those of you who saw my last post, My Best Yosemite Shot Ever, you hopefully realized that posted on April 1st, it was indeed an April Fools joke. I was part of a group of friends who combined efforts to create a circular story of folks who lined up to shoot one of the best known landscape icon locations in the United States, if not the world. The post was pure fiction, but was meant to poke playful fun at those who seek out or say “Wow,” to the most boring, bland, or sometimes over-processed shots from these icon locations.

The irony was that exactly a week later, and with no foresight at the time of the original April 1st post, I wound up standing at that exact spot taking what would become one of my best Yosemite photos… maybe not ever, but at least in the last couple years. I had gone to Yosemite several days in advance of a storm that was forecast to bring snow levels down to the 4,000′ elevation, which was low enough for it to snow on the valley floor. On this morning, I actually arrived a bit late, having shot a few other frames at the other end of the valley. And in similar vein to my April 1st fictional account: Yes, there was a line of other photographers already in place, and yes, I did have to find a spot in the line.

As I stood there, I was hit with a sudden realization that despite my aforementioned April 1st post, it had actually been a really long time since I shot from the famous Tunnel View. I admit that I’ll occasionally join the line of photographers at certain icon locations, but I’ve always been a strong proponent of saying that once you’ve grabbed your icon shot, move on and go find something where you can express a more personal vision. So how long had it been since I stood in the line at Tunnel View? Well… probably too long by most standards. Prior to this trip, the last time I shot a sunset from Tunnel View was more than 5 years ago, and the last time I photographed from this location at sunrise… sufficed to say I was still using film.

There are photographers out there, myself included, who consider these sorts of iconic landscape photography locations a bit like the low-hanging fruit on the photographic tree, in part because as our April Fools post pointed out, it’s very easy to line up and get a good shot. But from a professional photographer’s perspective, and as someone who values and appreciates a strong personal vision over just another ‘Me Too” trophy shot, we can become very judicious of knowing when a shot is right or not-right. In fact, this is a key hallmark of the progression most photographers make through their skill development, namely transitioning from taking a picture of everything trying to make a good photo happen, to becoming more thoughtful about when and where to point your camera. There have actually been many times that I’ve been to Tunnel View in the last number of years and never taken a shot. Typically it’s been to pull in, look at the line of tourists, look at the scene, (and from someone who considers this my ‘Home Park’) – realized the conditions weren’t special enough, so I’d move on. On this day, the conditions were indeed special enough, such that even though it may be low-hanging photographic fruit, it was indeed especially ripe for the picking.

*Special Note: To celebrate this wonderful shot, I’m offering a chance for ten people to acquire a print of this image at 40% off my normal print costs. If you’d like to get the special discount code, simply use the Contact form on my web site and let me know you’re interested in this special offer and I’ll email you the code and purchase details. Once ten of these coupons have been redeemed, the offer expires.

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Gary Crabbe is an award-winning commercial and editorial outdoor travel photographer and author based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He has seven published books on California to his credit, including “Photographing California; v1-North”, which won the prestigious 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal award as Best Regional title. His client and publication credits include the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME, The North Face, Subaru, L.L. Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Sunset Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Gary is also a photography instructor and consultant, offering both public and private photo workshops. He also works occasionally a professional freelance Photo Editor.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Richard Wong says:

    Fruit worth picking! Congrats Gary. I’m jealous.

  • […] Visit link: The irony of my last post; My Best Yosemite Shot Ever! […]

  • Gary, irony is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? 😉

    Like you, I have been to Tunnel View many times and not taken a shot. Often I don’t even take my gear out. I stop, walk over and sit on the rock wall and look, and realize that it is beautiful but won’t make a photograph that is special in any way — so I don’t make a photo. Perhaps I engage someone in conversation, or perhaps I’m there with someone who has never seen the place before (as I was back in February) — a special treat, indeed.

    But if I’m in the Valley and I think something extra special might happen I’ll go there. Truth be told, on those occasions when I do, I almost always find someone I know there, too, with the same thing in mind. “Perhaps this will be _that_ moment!” If you aren’t there, that moment is going to happen without you. And you _were_ there on this stunning morning, and you got a photograph of the place that is truly special.

    There are a few other things I will do at Tunnel View. First, in really _different_ conditions I’ll sometimes go there — when the snow almost obscures the Valley, in rain and fog, and so forth. Second, I have a long term project to shoot non-iconic subjects from there using a very long lens to pick out small details. Third, occasionally I make the _people_ at Tunnel View my subject. (This got me a photograph of a group with colorful umbrellas that I like quite a bit.)

    Sometimes in our effort to avoid the “same old, same old” (and I’m speaking about myself as much as anyone here) we sometimes adopt what almost seems like an anti-icon position. In truth, I find other things much more interesting and tend to shoot them instead. But there _are_ times when the icon is worth it. As you photograph shows.

    Take care,


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