Which one of these versions of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley do you prefer?

Pictured Above; The original version: El Capitan reflected in the Merced River, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

Can you help me, please? Over the last month I’ve been sharing images from my recent blog post that highlighted My Favorite Landscape Photos of 2016. One of those images was this shot of El Capitan reflected in the Merced River, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park. Now I have two versions of this image, but only one version can go into my Yosemite Portfolio Gallery Collection. My question to you is simple: Which version do you prefer? If you also wish to share why you like one better than the other, I would be delighted to hear that as well.

When I was first processing this image, I did it how it came out of the camera, looking at the reflection with El Capitan upside down (as seen in the photo above). On a whim, I wondered what it would look like if El Cap was seen right-side-up. In a way, I kind of liked how it looked, with the clumps of grass hanging in the ‘sky’ similar to how clouds would naturally appear in the scene. This was how I presented it in my “Best of” blog post:

Image: El Capitan reflected in the Merced River, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

But alas, I’m just not sure if I like it enough to keep the reversed view, or include the original as-shot view in my gallery.

So, which version of the image do you think I should add to the collection: the original upside-down or the post-processed flipped one? Thanks so much in advance for sharing your valued opinion.

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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 10 Comments

  • Pete Miller says:

    Hey Gary,
    My personal preference is the original image, with El Cap looking upside-down (as reflected towards you). The reason for that is it invokes what any potential visitor would see/experience, should the visit that location.

    – –
    USKestrel Photography

  • Ross W says:

    El Cap right side up. It takes a known scene and puts a fun twist on it. I also like that you’ve cropped out the strip of earth below the pine trees. That distracted me from the upside down El Cap. Fun!

  • Bill Heiser says:

    I prefer the version with the tufts of grass at the bottom. Somehow it strikes me as more like what I’d actually see. The tufts of grass aren’t tall enough to create that kind of reflection from above, whereas the trees and cliffs are (at least how they appear to me) 😄

  • I prefer the original view. It isn’t an “upside-down” photo, it’s a reflection displayed in context.- something we experience in nature often.

  • It’s against many of my instincts, but the upside-down version works better for me compositionally. In the rightside-up version, that middle tree takes my eye straight down the grass and I get stuck there, but in the flipped version my eye goes up the tree to the grass but then roams back through El Cap and the other trees and keeps traveling. Emotionally, I feel like the flipped version is actually about the beautiful reflections with a surreal touch from the grasses, whereas the normal version feels like I’m staring at the grass clumps and my feet are wet.

  • Diane Barros says:

    I also prefer the original view. It’s a reflection. I love Yosemite have been numerous times and love photographing there, I have some great photos.

  • Margaret Roder says:

    Definitely the original image Garry, but the reversed image is fun to play with

  • Ron Calvert says:

    I like the first one.

  • Right-side up is the way to go from an artistic standpoint in my opinion. Are you making art or making a technical only change to the image based on an upside-down reflection that is readily recognizable to be how reflections are seen anyway? Some images have mystery naturally, but to add it by using such a mundane trick would not be recognized by anyone as art, or maybe it would by some, but not by most…? If you want the grass at the top because it looks like clouds, experiment with actually changing the grass to clouds, or changing half of it, or transitioning from tufts to clouds. Then it would be art based on a concept rather than just turning the image upside down, which is too obvious and not all that creative or interesting, unless you just like images upside-down because you have nostalgic memories of large format photography.

  • To put it another way, using an analogy, if I wrote a short story using text based on pairing sentences with the same sentences with the words in reverse order, such a cute, simple trick might get published as an oddity in the local paper or maybe Reader’s Digest because they like simple, quirky stuff, but not in the New Yorker or a literary magazine.

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