Glacier Point Dawn, Yosemite

Photographing the same scene as hundreds of other people is less than  exciting, making August in Yosemite a difficult time to realize  photographic creativity. While choice of exposure settings and framing  do allow some originality beyond a generic “point and click” shot, most  of what makes Yosemite such a Mecca for photographers is the scenery itself. Thanks to Ansel Adams, the impressive rock formations,  waterfalls, and vistas are truly classic landscapes (see some of Ansel Adams’ photographs).  Still, while it’s easy to get discouraged by the throngs of “iPad  photographers” shooting Bridalveil Falls or the dozens of more  legitimate-looking professionals staking precious tripod space at Tunnel  View at sunset, nature photographer QT Luong reminds us (in an article in Outdoor Photographer Magazine, and expanded on in a blog post) that all is not lost in Yosemite.

“I  actually like the fact that so many great photographs have been made  there before. Rather than hindering me, this creates a benchmark against  which I can measure my own images and progress, and see if I can do  something new. A lot of photographers do not go beyond the established  trails and overlooks. Often, finding new perspectives is just a  matter of walking a short distance from the designated viewpoints.”

Even  more originality is possible by working at different times of day. I’ve  seen countless Yosemite photographs taken at sunrise and sunset, and  even plenty taken at night by moonlight, but only a few taken during  early dawn. To that end, I’ve found The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) indispensable in planning early morning shoots. More than basic  sunrise/sunset and dawn/dusk times, TPE plots the sun and moon  azimuth/elevation angles vs time, and shows them on a map.

This  photo was taken from Glacier Point at 5:33am, when the sun was 8 degrees  below the horizon, on my second early morning drive there from Yosemite  West. On the first morning, I arrived closer to sunrise, but decided  after some experimentation that I wanted a darker scene. Unlike during  my sun-down photography attempts at Green Bank, here I was prepared to make long-exposures with my tripod and cable shutter release. Number of other photographers present: one.

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