Inspired by Friday's full moon, I'm posting a moonlight image of Yosemite's El Capitan. In my previous post I suggested that the best nature photography comes at times when most tourists are warm and cozy. Not only do the rest of us get to witness things others miss, we pretty much get these iconic locations to ourselves.
The reflective nature of Yosemite's granite makes it ideal for moonlight photography. So on this night I did what I normally do in Yosemite on a full moon night: drive (or walk) Yosemite Valley in search of scenes like this. When I exited my car at El Capitan Bridge, even in the brightness of a full moon, Cassiopeia's distinctive "W" suspended above El Capitan jumped out against the background of fainter stars. I moved around with my camera, experimenting with compositions, finally settling on this one that required me to set up in the middle of the road. Despite my precarious position, I ended up taking several 20- and 30-second exposures without vehicular interruption (remember what I said about having locations to myself).
Inexperienced photographers often take advantage of their DSLR's amazing ability to accumulate light and adjust color temperature to create moonlight images that look like daylight with stars. But I want my moonlight images to be perceived as night at first glance. A full moon casts ample light on any subject it strikes directly, but its shadows can be quite dark. Here I used this extreme contrast to my advantage, intentionally rendering El Capitan's shadowed side black to create a genuinely night image. And shooting in raw mode allows me to reduce the color temperature in the raw processor, giving the scene a cooler, night-like cast.
Of course what this image can't convey is the glorious silence accompanying the moonlight. Not absolute silence, but rather a world devoid of the manmade auditory intrusions that we routinely tune out. My ears were left with nothing but the music of nature: the whisper trees tilting in a gentle breeze, the constant hum of water and rock jockeying for position in the Merced River behind me.
While a photograph may be a purely visual experience, photography is not. Photography should inspire a relationship with the subject that transcends the medium. Put simply: Love your subject and it will love you back.
<BTW, I still have a couple of openings in my September 29-October 3 Eastern Sierra Fall Color workshop where we'll do at least one night of moonlight photography>
Next post: September 8 (please view my previous posts by clicking the arrow in the upper left of today's image)
* Website: Eloquent Images
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