Jeffrey Pine and Rising Moon, Yosemite National Park, California

Jeffrey Pine at Dusk, Yosemite National Park, California

Jeffrey Pine at Dusk, Yosemite National Park, California

These two photographs are two of my personal favorites, taken at the very end of my first trip to Yosemite National Park. For me they're particularly important because they capture, for me, what made my first trip to Yosemite so special - it had a significant impact on my love of photography, and opened my eyes to Yosemite, the National Parks, and really the natural world in general. It's a very special place (go see it!)

These photos were taken on the top of Sentinel Dome - a distinct granite dome east of Glacier Point, and the highest point in the valley after Half Dome itself. It's stands out from it's forested surroundings to offer an unobstructed 360 view of the park. There's very little growing on the solid granite dome - this lone Jeffrey Pine stood out from the surroundings, and grew to be quite large, and has been the subject of many famous photographs, most notably a work by Ansel Adams. Unfortunately it died during a drought in the 1970s (despite the dedicated efforst of people who carried buckets of water up the dome to save it) and it's decay has essentially been documented though photographs since. I strongly encourage anyone to climb Sentinel Dome and see the Jeffrey Pine (but please don't carve your name in it, or encourage you kids to jump on it and break it apart as we witnessed).

During this visit to Yosemite there were a number of controlled burns resulting in very smokey views, as can be seen in this view of Half Dome taken on the same trip. The remarkable consequence of all that smoke was that it created a remarkable anomoly in the light in that after sunset (perhaps 20 minutes) a faint diffuse reddish light lit up the surroundings, and made the white granite and nearly sun-bleached take on that hue. The color was very faint, and really only came out through these long exposures. To date, it is the most remarkable light I've seen, and I'd love to encounter it again - persistance and luck will be key.

I used a 3-stop graduated neutral density filter to balance out the skylight intensity relative to the foreground. After taking these shots my wife and I packed up and hiked back the car in the dark. It's not such a strenuous hike that it can't be attempted in the dark, and it's my top recommendation for a place to wait for the sunset when visiting Yosemite. Maybe take a GPS unit as extra back up though, just in case

Nikon D40 | Nikon 18-200VR@18mm | f/9 | 3s | ISO200 | Tripod
Nikon D40 | Nikon 18-200VR@35mm | f/9 | 8s | ISO200 | Tripod

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