Category Archives: Yosemite

Along the Merced River in Yosemite

Three Brothers - Yosemite - 2010

There’s a special spot along the Merced River in Yosemite where, in the late autumn with the river flowing so gently, the reflections are really quite special.

This image is just one example – a monochrome from 3 bracketed images shot with my Canon 5D Mark II back in the fall of 2010. My son David and I spent a very special day with Michael Frye and he took us to this spot as the sun was rising. It was early October when we were there. The river was beautifully calm, like glass, and the sun was just lighting up Three Brothers as we clambered down to the water’s edge with our tripods.

A wonderful memory – one we’ll never forget.

Sometimes, when I’m trying to relax, I try to think about places like this – quiet beauty at Lake Tahoe, the majesty of Yosemite in autumn – it just doesn’t get much better than this.

Oh Yosemite!…

Yosemite Falls - Yosemite - 2010

Have you been to Yosemite?

I hadn’t – until just a few years ago – even though I’ve lived within a few hours drive for over twenty years. Finally, I took a few one day quick trips in – and came away in awe of the beauty of Yosemite Valley.

This image is from one of those trips – shot with a tiny Canon PowerShot S90. This is early June 2010 – three years ago – when I made one of those one day dashes into the valley. Yosemite Falls was flowing and I was able to capture this image from along the road heading west out of the Valley.

If you haven’t been to Yosemite, you must go. Try to go in the spring or fall to avoid the crowds – but, even with the crowds, it’s an amazing place. You won’t be the same again after seeing it!

See more of my Yosemite posts. Join the club!

The Majesty of Half Dome

Half Dome - Yosemite - 2010

There’s no other word for it – majesty. Yosemite’s Half Dome is majesty. Sheer majesty indeed.

This image was taken three years ago from Glacier Point looking across at Half Dome with my Canon 5D Mark II. It was an amazing day in early June that brought me close to majesty.

Stop, take a deep breath or two, and appreciate how we’re so lucky to see such wonders.

Back to Yosemite’s Three Brothers

Three Brothers - Yosemite - 2010

Earlier today, I was looking the Ansel Adams Gallery’s special sale of platinum-palladium prints by Kerik Kouklis – which got me exploring some new techniques using a Curves adjustment layer for toning in Photoshop.

I decided to try the technique on an image shot in October 2010 along the Merced River in Yosemite. My son David and I were doing a private workshop that day with Michael Frye – and this location was one of the special spots Michael shared with us. A color HDR version of some other photos of Three Brothers is one of my favorites from that day.

This image is a single shot RAW image taken on a tripod with my Canon 5D Mark II using the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L lens. I processed it in Photoshop CC using a few of Tony Kuyper’s basic luminosity masking techniques, converted it to black and white using a gradient map, sharpened it using the Sharpen 2013 action of Don Margulis’ Picture Postcard Workflow – and then toned it using a curves adjustment layer using a curve from Paul Butzi.

Beautiful Yosemite Colors from Denise Dewire

A friend of mine, Ventura-based Denise Dewire, has posted some beautiful fall color images taken on a recent visit to Yosemite.

Denise and I met earlier this fall in another fall colors workshop in the eastern Sierra. We’re both Canon 5D Mark II shooters – and she makes some great images!

Be sure to also check out her portfolio on 500px!

Revisiting Yosemite – Three Brothers and the Merced River

I recently had a request for a large print of my Yosemite – Three Brothers image.

After looking at my earlier 2010 processed version, I decided to re-process it again using some of the techniques I’ve been learning. I think a better, more natural image resulted. See what you think…

Here’s my 2010 effort at an HDR (High Dynamic Range) version:

Three Brothers - Merced River - Yosemite - 2010

And, finally, here’s my late 2012 version – a more sophisticated workflow and, hopefully, a better and more natural image:

Three Brothers - Merced River - Yosemite - 2010

Click on either image to see a larger version.

Funny how our tastes change as we learn more about what to look for. The earlier version is one of my most popular images – but, frankly, it’s a bit overdone. That’s what we tend to do as we learn new tricks. Instead of that earlier version, I’ll be printing a 20×30 inch version of tonight’s version – and looking forward to seeing how it turns out!

This image was shot during a one day private workshop that my son David and I took with Michael Frye in early October 2010. I was shooting with my Canon 5D Mark II, David with my tiny Canon PowerShot S95. With Michael’s great help, we learned a whole lot about photography from some very special spots for shooting in Yosemite Valley. A great trip!

How We Appreciate Great Photographs

Three Brothers - Merced River - Yosemite - 2010

What makes great photographs? On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, I attended (Tuesday) and watched (Wednesday) the first Google+ Photographer’s Conference in San Francisco. It was a great event and I enjoyed it very much. Lots to absorb, much to learn.

Something that is fascinating to me about where we are now with photography is how much it’s about “living online”. On Wednesday, Trey Ratcliff spoke about what he’s been learning about sharing images online – and what seems to provoke more significant responses from the rest of us. I thought his list of photographic elements found in great photographs was useful.

He spoke about his most popular images having five elements: water, distance, trees, path, and weather.

For each element, he briefly reflected on how we, as humans, value each of them – which he believes influences our response to images that contain them:

  • Water, especially fresh water, being within walking distance
  • Having trees – and shelter – nearby
  • Wide open spaces with prairies and grass – space to separate us from predators and grains for food
  • Some distance to see any weather coming
  • And a path or road – some sign that there’s human habitation someplace nearby

A good list, I think. Lots of great photos exist without any of these elements – but when landscape photographs contain these elements (think Yosemite, Point Reyes, Point Lobos, etc. in my portfolio), they’re usually pretty strong images. The image above – while not having much of a path or road, contains most of these elements. It’s a shot of Three Brothers in Yosemite along the Merced River in October when the river flow is slow and the reflections are almost perfect.

Valley Glow – Yosemite – 2010

Valley Glow - Yosemite - 2010

This image was taken during a one-day session in Yosemite that my son and I took last October with Michael Frye. Shot using my Canon 5D Mark II, I had accidentally left my lens on manual focus for the first 20 or so shots of the morning. This was one of those first 20 shots.

Yet, I loved the colors and composition – the question was whether there might be a way to salvage something from the image – in spite of the lousy focus.

I post-processed the image using a combination of Topaz Simplify – BuzSim, Nik’s Viveza 2, Color Efex Pro 3 and Silver Efex Pro 2. My general goals were a) to have something about Half Dome work in the image, b) capture the morning fog line along the far trees at the edge of the meadow and c) highlight the yellow leaves and structure in the foreground.

It’s obviously finished in a painterly style – hopefully it works. For me, it brings back great memories of that early morning out shooting with Michael Frye and my son!

PS: Michael has recently released a new iPhone application that I think is the best tool for photographers wanting to capture Yosemite. The app is an updated iPhone version of his earlier definitive book on photographing Yosemite. The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite is highly recommended!

The Valley in January – Yosemite – 2011

The Valley in January - Yosemite - 2011

We’ve all seen photographs of this particular vantage point – Tunnel View as you enter Yosemite Valley on Wawona Road. When the valley opens up in front of you as you emerge from the tunnel, it’s stunning. And photographers love shooting the valley view from this site.

This January we spent a few days in Yosemite – and, naturally, we stopped at Tunnel View to snap a photo or two. As I was relaxing this Labor Day, I went looking through those photos to see if one might have potential. I chose this one taken in the late afternoon – because of the expansive view – and also because of how the sun shadow swept across the valley from upper right to lower left.

In the original image (see below), the shadow area in the lower right quadrant is almost completely darkened. I wondered what I might be able to accomplish with post-processing and first did a single-image tone mapped HDR of the original RAW file taken with my Canon 5D Mark II. Photomatix Pro did an amazing job of popping the details up out of the shadow area – including beautiful Bridalveil Fall. But, the rest of the image was very busy – a cluttered mess. I wanted something that was non-traditional – a different kind of perspective from this iconic location.

First, I used Nik’s Silver Efex 2 to convert the image to black and white. I adjusted the toning a bit, added a vignette – but was still unhappy with the result. After trying a couple of other filters, I settled in on the combination of the Low Key filter in Nik’s Color Efex 3 and Topaz Simplify. The toning is the result of Low Key, the reduced complexity/busy-ness of the image is the result of simplify. I used a tweak in Viveza to drop a control point on Bridalveil and brighten that up just a touch before pulling the image back into Lightroom for final noise reduction.

The result is different from the traditional valley view photos – hope you also enjoy the difference! Click on the image to see the large version.

Yosemite from Tunnel View - January 2011

Young and Old – Half Dome in Yosemite

Young and Old

I’ve posted an all black and white version of this image before – “The Real Yosemite” – taken in Cook’s Meadow looking at Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. It’s one of my favorites – with big Half Dome in the distance and the young family playing in the snow in the meadow below.

Lately, I’ve been re-learning some tools and techniques for post-processing images and decided to take another try at a slightly different approach to this particular image – you see the result above. This has a very minimalist use of selective color – on the child’s jacket – along with some subtle toning that, for me, adds a bit more depth to the image versus my earlier black and white treatment – included below.

Which version do you prefer?

Half Dome with Family from Cook's Meadow - Yosemite