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Through the Clouds, Tunnel View, Yosemite

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 3 March 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

Does the world need another Tunnel View image? Probably not. But I'm posting this for two reasons: First, to illustrate a point; and second, because it's my blog and I like it. The fact is, I'm a sucker for Tunnel View shots and am constantly looking for something I haven't seen. Of course when it happens, from the standard viewing area my wide composition variety is pretty much limited to horizontal or vertical, and foreground or sky emphasis.

I'd say about 80 percent of my Tunnel View images are vertical, in direct contrast to the way most people shoot here. It's such an expansive scene that I think people become blinded by the grandeur and try to capture everything. But the scene left of El Capitan and right of Leaning Tower pales in comparison to the scene down the middle--including these extremities generally reduces the true drama of (left to right) El Capitan, Half Dome (obscured by clouds here), Cathedral Rocks, and Bridalveil Fall (Leaning Tower is just out of the frame to the right).

So now that I've narrowed the field of view, I ask myself if there's something interesting going on in the foreground or sky. If there isn't I probably won't even have my camera out (sorry, believe me, I shoot here so much I don't need to add to my collection--if it's your first visit please shoot your heart out no matter what the conditions). But if there is something going on in the foreground or sky the narrowed Tunnel View scene is perfect for a vertical composition.

Going vertical allows me to determine the emphasis. If I like the foreground (e.g., snow covered trees or low mist on the valley floor), then I generally cut the top of the frame a little above El Capitan. If I like the sky (e.g., great color, dramatic clouds, or a moon), I cut the bottom of the frame a little below El Capitan.

Of course this thought process applies everywhere I shoot: nice sky, put the horizon in the bottom third of the frame; nice foreground, put the horizon line in the top third of the frame. The more dramatic the scene, the closer to the top or bottom of the frame I place the horizon. And please don't think my job is done when I get the "obvious" shot. As long as the conditions dictate I'm searching for compositional opportunities. It's rarely long before I break out my telephoto and start isolating elements of the scene.

A little bit about the capture of this image
Today's image was taken at the end of the day that started with my previous image. By mid-morning the rain had settled in, obscuring all but the closest scenes throughout Yosemite Valley. Tunnel View generally clears first, making it usually the best place to wait out a storm (because I can see what's going on all the way through the valley, and I get cell reception which allows me to monitor the NWS radar). So that afternoon we waited in the rain at Tunnel View, hoping the valley would reappear before sunset. I figured if the storm cleared soon enough we could zip down the hill and I could give my group a shot at Horsetail Fall. We actually caught a brief rainbow while we waited, but within minutes the rain started dumping again.

The storm finally started breaking about a half hour before sunset, but I could see it was still pretty cloudy down the valley so I opted to stay put. A few minutes before sunset the sky opened and we were treated to this beautiful gibbous moon framed by the swirling clouds. The clouds came and went, alternately exposing and obscuring the moon, but I was able to fire off a number of frames before darkness shut us down.

While all this great photography was going on right around sunset I had a few minutes of paranoia, fearful that a beam of light would shaft through and light up Horsetail Fall (visible from Tunnel View) and my group would look at me an yell "What were you thinking?!!!" In those stormy conditions it's always a tough call--a sure clearing storm at Tunnel View or a 1 in 100 chance at Horsetail Fall. Especially when I'm leading a group (I have enough Horsetail and Tunnel View images that it doesn't matter so much if I miss something). Turns out I made the right call but I was sweating it for a couple of minutes.

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

Bill Hawkins from United States

Great shot Gary, I really like the composition and color balance of this shot. You managed to capture the moon in this shot to bring a point of interest to the upper part of the image. Excellent!

3 Mar 2010 5:25am

@Bill Hawkins: Thanks, Bill. It's funny because most of my images that include the moon are because I timed my visit to coincide with the moon, but in this case it was a complete bonus I hadn't thought about. Serendipity.

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Wonderful shot , whonderful composition a landscape of my dreams

3 Mar 2010 6:22am

Dulcie from Danville, CA, United States

Ah, very mystical and other-worldly. I really enjoy the scale of this shot.
However, since the majority of the "scene" is concentrated at the bottom of the frame, I find it VERY distracting to have that area marred by your watermark.

3 Mar 2010 6:27am

@Dulcie: No watermark, no picture on the web. Actually, I have an action that puts my watermark the same place on each image and it's inevitable that it will distract sometimes. But it's interesting that it came up in this case because it's probably exactly where I'd put it anyway. That does bring up a good point though--anybody who plans to market their images in any way, or even thinks someday they might market their images, really must watermark them. If somebody finds an image online and can't find any copyright info, they're free to use the image if they can show they made a "good faith" effort (whatever that is) to identify the copyright holder.

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

Nice framing ! Well done :)

3 Mar 2010 9:42am

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

Dreamy image of a favorite view and yes, I was one who, on my one and only visit there was "blinded by the grandeur and try[ed] to capture everything." Being able to visit often, I would change my tactics! ♥

3 Mar 2010 12:09pm

Vitor Martins from Lisboa, Portugal

Magic image. I like the composition that allows to emphasize the sky or the mountains. It depends on how you look at the image.

3 Mar 2010 12:30pm

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Gorgeous. I love it when the clouds come down low like that.

3 Mar 2010 3:24pm

Doug Otto from United States

You forgot to mention the 2 hours that we spent standing in the rain waiting for that break. :)

3 Mar 2010 3:27pm

@Doug Otto: Yeah, that was fun, wasn't it? :)

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

amazing conditions and your have captured this mood perfectly! i like the composition and the reach of this frame - leaving the rock huddled together at the bottom and letting the dramatic clouds reach up towards the sky and the mood - excellent work!

4 Mar 2010 1:08am

Julie Brown from Indianapolis, United States

Gary, it makes perfect sense to me to have a vertical scene. It is called "Tunnel View".

4 Mar 2010 2:11am

Julie from Easton, United States

Very nice composition and the low clouds really are cool!

5 Mar 2010 2:46pm

Barbara Kile from Ft. Worth, United States

A moment worth waiting for! Nice capture with several 'landmarks' coming together - plus the moon!

6 Mar 2010 2:49pm

Sandy Weston from Madison, Maine, United States

LOL Doug.....but this capture was so worth it....for me to look at ;) The low fog...high fog....very dramatic look to this capture making this shot so appealing!

6 Mar 2010 9:30pm

KriKridesign from Cully, Switzerland

Thank so much for posting the previous image..I would have never imagine a road or a parc place in such an area...

10 Mar 2010 1:19pm

drphoto from Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

I love the emotion in this shot - and the moon definitely helps with that.


12 Mar 2010 5:46am