Behind the scenes of this photo
Taken along the Merced River near Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite National Park on January 31st, 2015
In late January I was leading a 1-on-1 photography lesson for Holly, a client from the UK (by way of Australia). At sunset I took her to one of my favorite “secret spots” in the Valley: a bend in the Merced River that provides an amazing view and reflection of Half Dome. Since it’s a relatively unknown location there generally aren’t any other people around, but when Holly and I rolled up to the location we found about 15 other photographers perched on the banks of the river shooting the warm afternoon light splashing across Half Dome. Turns out we had stumbled across a workshop by acclaimed Yosemite photographer Michael Frye. In fact, there were so many other photographers there that the only spots on the bank with a clear view of the Dome were right in front of a downed tree in the water which was completely ruining the reflection.
Not one to let something like a tree stand in my way I took off my shoes and socks, rolled my pants up, and waded in to the chilly Merced. With a little help from a few of the folks on the bank I disengaged the tree from the river bed and guided it downstream as it floated away from the group. This opened up a whole section of riverbank to shoot from, which Holly and I were smack dab in the middle of.
The obvious shot from that location is one of Half Dome as the setting sun paints its face redder and redder. But whether it’s because I’ve been to that spot numerous times, or because my river foray had me thinking about trees, I couldn’t help but notice the pale trunks of the trees just on the opposite bank of the river. Their white bark contrasted beautifully with the darker tones of the deeper foliage, and the monochromatic intimate feel of the scene stood off strikingly from the larger, more colorful view at hand. I was also struck by the graphic quality to the scene and knew that these tree trunks would make a lovely black and white image.
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