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.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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