Monolith | Yosemite Valley, California

The story behind the picture:

Though this is far from my best work, I’ve always had a soft spot the image, and even more for what it represents.  This is a single, solid block of granite on the way to the Mist Trail that winds up from the Yosemite Valley Floor to Vernal Falls and then Nevada Falls beyond that, eventually to connect to the John Muir Trail.

This was the first backpacking trip to Yosemite for Teresa and me. I’d previously stayed there with my parents for a few days, and  later brought my kids there the same way.  But though I had a love of the outdoors and had hiked and camped in scouting, including one twenty mile hike with a sleepover in the woods under the stars, I’d never actually backpacked and neither had Teresa.

I had taken Teresa on her first ever to Yosemite, just the year prior, as I recall.  She had always avoided going there because so many of her friends had told her how spectacular it was that she didn’t want to see the reality of it and be disappointed.  But, she went with me, and as we came out of the tunnel that reveals that classic view of the valley topped by Half Dome, she cried because it was all real and more wonderful even than she had been told.

So, shortly thereafter, we began to plan our first excursion into the Yosemite backcountry for three or four days, and our route began with a climb up the Mist Trail, a visit the last porta-potty before entering the wilderness (the out house had solar lighting, strangely), and then we left civilization truly behind for the first time in our lives.

This picture represents to me that moment of the first taste of freedom and real independence, just us and nature and whatever gear and supplies we carried on our backs.

Compositionally, this isn’t much, but I am taken with the sense of size and upward thrust, partly due to the shape of this massive stone and amplified by the tilt of the pine trees, all reaching up to a point in the sky above the material plane.  I like the color contrast as well, the rich blues and vivid greens against the slate grey monolith.

What to me is most surprising is that this image was taken on a second generation digital camera with 800×600 resolution.  Later you’ll see some really remarkable shots taken with all kinds of cheesy cameras.  Sometimes camera flaws and limitations can be used to artistic effect.

NOTE: This image and commentary are part of a new book I’m compiling of my best images that have stories attached.

You can find my existing published books of photographs, as well as my fiction an nonfiction on my author’s page on Amazon.