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Leaf and Cascade, Bridalveil Creek, Yosemite

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 28 June 2009 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

Forgive me as I lament the infinite blue skies of a California summer and indulge in a vicarious diversion to the clouds and color of autumn....

A frequent frustration of nature photographers focused on the grand vista is the limitations of the camera’s rectangular box view of the world. But this “limitation” becomes an advantage when we want to call attention to a subject that would otherwise be lost in the larger scene.

This was just one leaf among many brightening the forest shadows beneath Yosemite’s Bridalveil Fall. I love nature's intimate scenes and spend much of my time in the field looking for individual elements like this to isolate inside the larger scene. Without the boundaries of the frame, this leaf would be lost in the larger scene; carefully positioned within the frame's boundaries it becomes the focal point.

Bridalveil Creek may just be my single favorite place to photograph in Yosemite, though few of the images I create here are identifiable as Yosemite. I like it for the infinite compositional possibilities, a feeling that seems to be fairly unanimous among the workshop participants I share it with—they rarely want to leave and usually ask to return.

Beneath the fall Bridalveil Creek separates into three branches, but by autumn it's often down to one. That's when I most like to scramble among the rocks and cascades with my 70-200 lens, looking for individual elements to isolate. I search for a focal point to anchor a scene; telephoto zoom lenses are ideally suited for this, enabling me to identify and refine my composition. I think telephotos are seriously underrated for landscape photography, particularly in Yosemite--while I can sometimes run out of wide compositions, I can always find something to shoot with my telephoto.

With my 70-200 (or more bulky 100-400) attached, I'll remove my camera from my tripod and slowly scan the scene, up/down, left/right, zooming close and wide, shifting between horizontal and vertical. I try not to think of "rules" and just wait for a feeling that tells me to stop scanning--when that happens I know there's a shot there; I bring in my tripod, reattach the camera, scrutinize the composition, make adjustments, and shoot.

One interesting piece of trivia about today's image is that when it was chosen for a recent cover of Sierra Heritage magazine they asked if they could clone out the little pine needles next to the leaf. I happen to think they add an element and don't find them a bit distracting, but I didn't feel strongly enough about it to object (and I appreciated them asking).

BTW, if you're interested in exploring this hidden corner of Yosemite with me this fall, I still have a couple of openings in my October 29-November 1 workshop: In addition to photographing my favorite fall locations, (weather permitting) we'll also photograph a rising full moon and do at least one night of moonlight photography.

Next post: July 1 (please view my previous posts by clicking the arrow in the upper left of today's image)

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Ana Lúcia from Leiria, Portugal

Superb image of autumn times.

28 Jun 2009 5:53am

dobbino from Cape Town, South Africa

Gary - this is just simply magnificent! I must say I really enjoy the writing that accompanies your images. You are very generous in sharing your thoughts and processes with us, and I for one am most grateful. And my telephoto lens will be something I will use much more often - thank you!

28 Jun 2009 8:26am

@dobbino: Thank you, Dobbino, I'm glad you appreciate the writing. I've found that doing it benefits me too, crystalizing thoughts I've been aware of but never focused on.

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Very beautiful shot - I like the water speed and the opposition between this speed and the leaf on the rock
a very beautiful composition and very beautiful colors

28 Jun 2009 10:37am

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

No wonder it made the cover of the magazine, Gary; it's wonderful.
I was happy to read of your use of your telephoto lens. I love the flexibility of mine and use it as my main lens most of the time. I don't have the beauty of Yosemite 'around the corner' but still ... :D

28 Jun 2009 11:54am

@Judy: Thanks, Judy. I was a little rushed as I wrote this so I may revisit it in the next day or so to clean up and maybe add a bit to the telephoto part because I think it's a very important point.

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Stunning. The composition and the lighting and the detail are all breath taking. I could look at this photograph for hours and never tire of it.

28 Jun 2009 2:02pm

@john4jack: There's no higher compliment for a photographer, Jack--thanks.

Maji from Honolulu, United States

Wow! Great shot!

28 Jun 2009 7:29pm

pernilla from Andonno, Italy

Wonderful shot and composition.

28 Jun 2009 8:33pm

alex centrella from California, United States

stunning shot !

28 Jun 2009 11:53pm

Onlymehdi from Wayne, United States

This is Superb .......... WOW

29 Jun 2009 3:01am

Mags from France

Wonderful compo, this picture is just fantastic!

29 Jun 2009 10:59am

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

Exellent image, like the long shutter time and the fantastic colors!

29 Jun 2009 9:19pm

Magda from Vancouver, Canada


10 Jul 2009 1:57am

Did from Ispagnac, France

Great shot !!!

25 Jul 2009 9:09pm