Category Archives: Photography

Yosemite in Black Lace

“Yosemite in Black Lace”

Scroll down for photograph details and composition notes…

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Photograph Details:

This was taken on a mid-winter trip to the valley floor after a recent snowfall. The expedition was given to me as a birthday present, but as I had recently been ill, I was unable to do any serious walking. Still, in strolling near Yosemite Lodge where we were staying, this image presented itself. I felt it was quite an unusual perspective on the grand old icon, featuring it behind a veil of black lace, rather than in the foreground.

Composition Notes:

As with almost all of my photographs over the decades, when I see the potential for a shot, I mentally select the heart, focus, or primary focus of the image, then begin to walk around the area where I first discovered it, moving closer and farther, side to side, peering at it from tip toe and ground level.

I begin to narrow my wanderings until I am moving in a smaller space, zeroing in on what I believe is the absolute most dynamic position from which to experience the subject.

Once I have set my camera position, I begin to fine tune the composition of the frame. I look to the edges and corners, looking for dynamics that anchor them, point to the subject, or provide counter-balance.

When I have locked down the specific presentation, I snap the shot and move on to the next.

Here are the elements of this photograph that determined my framing – first in broad strokes, and then in details and refinements:

I chose to frame the shot along the top just above Half Dome and along the bottom just below the lowest part of the granite face that could be seen. Since Half Dome is the subject but is in the background, this framing ensured the focus would be on the icon itself, not on the foreground.

Framing on the left was chosen to create a border with the left branch of the silhouetted tree, while the base of the tree is anchored in the lower left corner and leans diagonally into the frame, drawing the eye to the intended center of attention – the crest of Half Dome.

Framing on the right side is more complex. The lower right anchors with largest of the background conifers, which also runs up the right side a bit, providing an edge. The diagonals of the two major branches on the upper right split the diagonal between them, drawing the eye toward the center of the frame.

The nest silhouette in the upper right covers an open snowy area of Half Dome that would have been glaring white and unsightly, drawing attention away from the curve of the crest. The tangle of branches in the mid-right to lower-right add weight to the frame to counter-balance the left-hand side which is heavy with the major tree trunks and the curve of Half Dome which draws the eye toward the left.

Overall, some of the smaller branches follow the curve of the rock on both the left and right in the top 1/3 of the frame with one splitting down and pointing to the center of the frame and the other side of the split pointing up to the crest.

Collectively, they surround the upper face of Half Dome so it becomes almost vignetted behind the “black lace.”

Ansel Adams and the Beginning of My Art

My son-in-law gave me a book of 400 Ansel Adams photographs a couple years ago. Ansel is another of my heroes.

The book is organized chronologically, and the first chapter shows photographs Ansel took when on vacation with his family in his teens. Almost without exception, they are quite ordinary and pedestrian, showing none of the unique vision that would define his future career. (Did you know he almost because a professional concert pianist instead?)

When I first got a 35mm camera from my parents for high school graduation in 1971, I was eager to experiment and dive deep into this new form of expression. And like Ansel, my early photographs are nothing to write home about.

Here’s one taken in that first year – just a few days after receiving the camera. Having played around with the 50mm lens, I discovered the value of depth of field and of selecting a focal point that popped a shot.

Playing around with this new ability the camera afforded me, I snapped this shot of an amaryllis growing in the front yard. This is a poor quality can from a much more colorful slide. I should redo those early scans sometime.

But, you get the idea of the shot as I tried my hand at photographic self-expression while establishing my own artistic vision.

Now, some of you may say this is far better than any of my later work from the following 50 years. Perhaps you are right!