Because most of its "classic" views feature shaded subjects against the brightest part of the sky, Yosemite Valley isn't a particularly good sunrise location. But all that changes when there are clouds on the eastern horizon to catch the sunrise color.
This is from a chilly October morning a few years ago. Given the clear sky forecast, it would have been far more pleasant to stay in bed that morning. But I learned a long time ago that I'm a far more productive landscape photographer when I actually go outside, so I dragged myself to Valley View for sunrise. As you can see, it doesn't take many clouds to change a normally bland (or at least as bland as anything in Yosemite can be) scene into something special.
I saw these clouds as soon as I arrived at Valley View and had time to prepare my composition before the light struck them. In this light there's very little of interest to the left of El Capitan and the right of Bridalveil Fall. And since the primary features of my composition, the rocks, mound of grass, reflection, and sky were oriented vertically, the decision to orient my frame vertically wasn't difficult. Once I'd made that decision, it was simply a matter of arranging foreground. I positioned myself so the rocks framed the reflection.
Exposure was tricky, but a three-stop soft graduated neutral density filter allowed me to save the color in the bright sky and pull out a little detail in the shadowed foreground. In post processing I dodged (lightened) the foreground and burned (darkened) the sky to even the light.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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