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Morning Crescent, Yosemite Valley

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 25 January 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

The Three Ps of Nature Photography

This is the third and final entry of a series on the mental approach to photography.

Preparation, Persistance, and Pain

As with any artistic endeavor, truly successful nature photography requires uniqueness, something the world doesn't see every day. But you won't achieve uniqueness when and where everyone else photographs, no matter how beautiful the scene. Distinguishing your work from the masses requires a willingness to suffer, an ability to forego the comforts of conventional living to position yourself for the shots others miss.

When I say "Pain," I'm not suggesting that you risk your life. A better word might be discomfort (but "The Two Ps and a D of Nature Photography" just doesn't have quite the resonance I was going for).

It's an unfortunate fact that the best landscape images come at times most people would rather be inside. Sunrise, when we'd all be happier in bed. Sunset, when dinner beckons. And during crazy weather, when we'd simply love to be anywhere else.

Today's picture is of a crescent moon rising above Yosemite Valley. I took it from Tunnel View, probably the most popular photograph location in Yosemite, and (justifiably) one of the most popular photo spots in the world. Finding beautiful images here is a piece of cake; making unique images, not so much. But I can't tell you how many of my favorite (and most successful) images have been captured right here, when I've been the only photographer present. The reason isn't rocket science, nor is it heroic. It's simply that I'm willing to endure a little hunger, cold, wet, or sleep depravation when I think something special is possible.

For today's image, a little research (preparation!) told me a crescent moon would rise above Half Dome on this May morning. I recruited several past workshop participants and photographer friends, and the afternoon prior to the moonrise we drove to Yosemite. We photographed sunset from atop Sentinel Dome, waited for total darkness and photographed star trails, then walked (a mile or so) back to the cars in pitch dark. By the time we returned to our rooms it was nearly 1:00 a.m.

I wanted to be in place before the moon rose, so we were back on the road the next morning, cold and cranky, at 4:15. The eastern horizon was dark and empty as we set up at Tunnel View, and the first hints of daylight a few minutes later were little comfort to our weary bodies and minds. But the moon's delicate tip pushing up from behind Cloud's Rest was a perfect (and immediate) antidote. We photographed all the way until the advancing day overpowered the moon, but the real treat that morning was simply the experience of being there and feeling like we were witnessing the most beautiful thing happening on Earth at that moment.

Oh yeah--breakfast was particularly good that morning.

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

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

Love your images..another great photo!

25 Jan 2010 8:02am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

Great framing with the black foreground !

25 Jan 2010 9:53am

Vitor Martins from Lisboa, Portugal

Beautiful image with the moon nicelly framed with a fantastic sillhouete. I really enjoyed the texts about the three P.

25 Jan 2010 9:56am

KriKridesign from Cully, Switzerland

chineses shadows thearter...

25 Jan 2010 12:01pm

Raul from Elmhurst, United States

Unique image indeed! Congratulations!

25 Jan 2010 2:58pm

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

You always seem to be able to get right to the heart of a scene Gary! (no pun intended, but it does strike me as interesting that getting to the heart of things is something you do so well!)
Thank you for reminding us of the 3 P's...the next time I am out all by myself somewhere I will feel a bit better knowing (realizing?) that I have an opportunity to make something unique- and not just feel like I am out on a crazy mission when all the "sane" photographers are somewhere else!

25 Jan 2010 3:11pm

Self-Indulgence from Chicagoland, United States

Your lessons have been great, you know that? I like your sense of humor about it but underlying is a deep dedication which exemplifies why you are as good as you are.. because you work to be. Sometimes I am encouraged by all the opportunities out there and the helpful advice people give and other times I feel heavily burdened like I'll never get there, still fighting with the simple shots. I also was of the opinion that once I understood my camera and how to utilize properly I'd be able to sight things and just do it. You.. burst my little bubble but maybe that is a good thing because if photographers as good as you are still have to work at it then I know I'm not so far behind as I am one of the bunch, and I'll have to work for it too. Always. Well done image and lessons.

25 Jan 2010 4:08pm

@Self-Indulgence: Thanks Kristen. Please don't let others' successes discourage you--just remember, everyone else only shows their best (this doesn't only apply to photography) so when we compare all of our stuff (whatever it might be) to the best of others, we never measure up. I've seen enough of what you post to know you're doing just fine. (And believe me, I shoot stuff I'd never want anyone to see.) Just keep doing it and I promise you'll notice improvement.

Julie from Easton, United States

I really appreciate all of your knowledge and suck it all in! It is a great feeling to be able to enjoy photographers work as yours and to learn so much from all of you! It is just a great inspiration! Keep up the great work, this picture is just awesome!

25 Jan 2010 4:23pm

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Exquisite. Superb composition. Again, I love the simplicity.

25 Jan 2010 8:17pm

MontereyJohn from Salinas, California, United States

This is really good work and I really appreciate your notes!

I'm adding you to my watch list.

26 Jan 2010 6:27am

@MontereyJohn: Thanks John.

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

beautifully composed and lovely gradient and toning in the dark blue night sky...

26 Jan 2010 7:30am

Nyx Robey from Berkeley, United States

this is gorgeous. Nice contrast too

27 Jan 2010 12:17am

Julie from Easton, United States

Simply stunning!

1 Feb 2010 6:04am