Visiting Yosemite National Park with my wife in July, we had two things on our must-do list: Climb Half Dome, and backpack to Young Lakes. We succeeded with Half Dome (and adventure worthy of another write-up another time), and a few days later we were underway to Young Lake. This photograph is, to me, the culmination of a tremendous amount of time and effort, and one of my absolute favorites of all time (even though I don't expect it to resonate with others on quite the same level).
When visiting Yosemite back when I lived in California a couple years prior, I was introduced the some outstanding photography on display at both the Ansel Adams Gallery, and the excellent Mountain Room Restaurant at the Yosemite Lodge. A couple of photographs from Young Lakes had the greatest impact on me, and also got me convinced that Large Format photography was something I needed to tackle myself. I purchased my Tachihara shortly after, and have been fumbling with it ever since.
Two years later, now living in Seattle, I felt like I had unfinished business in Yosemite. My wife and I had a busy spring, hiking plenty to get ready to hike Half Dome. We also got our first-ever backpacking trip under our belts with a fairly simple trip to Shi-Shi Beach. Finally, in July, we were off to Yosemite and backpacking to Young Lakes, Large Format gear and all. It was a pilgrimage of sorts for me.
The hike itself was beautiful, but challenging. With 7+ miles and about 2200ft elevation gain, I questioned my decision to carry the extra 15lbs or so of Large Format equipment with each step. We pushed past the lower and middle lakes to reach Upper Young Lake, the highest of the three at just over 10,000ft elevation. With the high-country spring thaw, the mosquitoes were unlike anything I've ever seen - and they are particularly active at dusk and dawn, the same hours a photographer likes to keep. In fact, as this photo was taken as the sun was setting, you can see the ripples in the water as the trout fed on a dinner of abundant mosquitoes.
Young Lakes, and particularly the Upper lake, are spectacular. The sit at high elevation with no obstructions to the west whatsoever to block the rich warm light at sunset. The colors light up the white granite mountains surrounding the lakes on the south, and create one of the most beautiful settings imaginable in which to enjoy a sunset.
This young pine tree was the subject of one of those influential photographs that motivated me to visit, though my composition is rather different. I was drawn to the colors of the water, grass, and granite in the early evening light, and the side-lighting on this Young Pine. This was one of my first photographs on my first evening and my personal favorite of lot (With my Large Format equipment, I was able to take only 18 sheets of film total, so each had to count). I had this film drum-scanned and, after looking at the 100MP scan for hours, the small size online does not do it justice. I plan to print this in the near future - it's one of very few I hope to have on my walls.
I hope you enjoy it.
Go to Yosemite!
Tachihara 4x5 | Caltar 210mm f/6.1 | f/22 | 1/2s | Fuji Velvia 50 | Tripod
See more related images in my Yosemite National Park Gallery.
All text and images © Tyler Westcott, All rights reserved, Unless otherwise noted.