Like my previous image, this image from last week is a product of California's schizophrenic spring. I had driven to Yosemite with a two-day private workshop customer who had flown out from Kentucky to photograph poppies. We photographed plenty of poppies on our drive to and from Yosemite, but in the park it was full-on winter. Six inches of fresh snow draped every exposed surface, and small flakes still swirled in the cold wind. We spent the afternoon watching spring push back, photographing parting clouds and intermittent sunlight, finally ending up here beside the Merced River for sunset.
One of the challenges in photography is effectively rendering a three-dimensional world in a two-dimensional medium. Adding a foreground helps create an illusion of depth that at least partially overcome this limitation. Anywhere in Yosemite with a view of Half Dome is great for sunset, but I particularly like this location for the river and cottonwoods provide the foreground options I look for. Often I need to contend with a distracting hodgepodge of footprints and debris in the immediate foreground, but the fresh snow that evening erased these distractions and made the riverbank an additional attractive feature.
Most scenes including Half Dome are ruled by Half Dome. But in this scene I think the wintry foreground is the primary element, served by Half Dome looming in the background. To compose I moved along the river until Half Dome and its reflection were framed by the V made by the stark tree and snowy riverbank. The bare cottonwoods upstream hold the eye in the bottom half of the frame, causing the viewer to linger in the frigid foreground just a little longer. Even though the river's surface was far from mirror-like, I took care to ensure that Half Dome's reflection wasn't obscured by the snowy bank. My final decision was how to handle the river's motion. With little wind and no hope of freezing the water, I opted for a very long shutter speed to, which blurred the small bubbles drifting on the surface and underscored the symmetry of the water's flow.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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