MY FAVOURITE SHOTS: SUNSET ON HALF DOME


It's been a while since my last blog post in this series but, fresh off the back of some great trips in 2017 (and with more planned for 2018) and finding time for a lot of dedicated landscape photography, now's as good a time as any to revisit another of my favourite shots.

70mm, f/8, 1/125s, ISO 400

Where and when?

Half Dome as seen from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, in May 2017.

The background story

As with most photographers, Yosemite had been high on my list of ‘must-visit’ destinations for years but the trip itself took a lot of planning, in large part because of the huge snowfall that winter. It was a complete lottery as to what would be accessible and whilst Tioga Pass was shut (it eventually opened on 29 June - the latest opening date in 18 years), Glacier Point Road had re-opened a few days before we arrived. Without that good fortune this shot would have not been possible.

Preparation

This is a famous view of an even more famous landmark so not much preparation was required. At the summit of Glacier Point you're treated to this expansive, stunning vista so the main objective was to find a preferred angle and then hope for a magic show at sunset.

How it came together

The skies were mercifully clear this particular evening and as the sun descended it cast this incredible golden light which crept across Half Dome, gradually reducing to the thinnest sliver before the sun dropped below the horizon.

It's difficult to describe just how special mountain light is unless you have witnessed it first-hand. It's gentle and calm but also stunningly vibrant. It's the kind of light that brings life to the landscape. And that is exactly what happened here.

The post-processing was fairly limited - mainly cropping to get the composition exactly how I wanted - and some minor dodging in the shadows to reveal a few of the darkest details. I shot this with a 2-stop ND grad to hold back some of the brighter parts of the sky so the overall exposure in camera was pretty accurate.

Why is it a favourite?

Beyond the obvious grandeur of the setting, there are a few other things that make this photograph a favourite. I love the colour of the sunlight on the mountains on the far right; it was this incredible pinky-red hue that was unlike anything I had seen before. I also like the whispers of snow on the peaks which give a sense of the time of year. And the stark contrast of the cold, dark shadows are a reminder of just how foreboding the mountains can be.

Ultimately, however, it is a photograph that represents the culmination of many things. The months of trip planning. The years of studying Ansel Adams' photographs of Yosemite and being inspired to one day visit. The good luck we had with Glacier Point Road being open. And further luck with having such a great sunset. It's a simple image that was years in the making and for it to come together so well on one visit - my first visit - is really special.


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© 2018 Stephen Wallace Photography

 

Corporate headshots, lifestyle portraits, and personal branding photography across South London, Central London and Surrey.

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