Category Archives: Yosemite

Yosemite’s Tunnel View vs. Artist’s Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

Tunnel View at Yosemite needs no introduction, I doubt there are many photographers left on earth who haven’t seen an image taken from this iconic location.  The view is grand, majestic and truly awe-inspiring.  Plus this guy named Ansel Adam’s took one of the 20th century’s most famous photographs there:

Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

You may have this snapshot before: Clearing Storm by Ansel Adams 1944

Among photographers, there has been a bit of  buzz lately about a ‘better’ location called Artist’s Point.  It’s not far from Tunnel View and earlier this year I checked it out to see if it truly was superior.   I found that the answer to that question will really depend on your priorities.

Tunnel View

Pros

  1. The view is magnificent….You have El Capitan to the left, Bridalveil Falls to the right and Half Dome anchors the center of the image.  One glance and you will fully understand why this is the most popular spot in Yosemite.

    Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

    The view back into the tunnel at Tunnel View…

  2. It is super easy to get to.  It is located at the mouth of the tunnel on Wawona Road (see this link for a map).  Tunnel View is a large paved overlook (with parking) that allows you to experience the grandeur of the Yosemite Valley only a few feet from your car.  It is a perfect, easily accessible spot for photographers…you can shoot here any time of the day or night and get memorable images.

Cons

  1. The biggest downside is that its popularity has resulted in untold millions of photos being taken here.  So it is truly challenging to capture unique images here.
  2. Plus, it can be busy.  Even though there is a lot of room, you might need to arrive an hour or more before sunrise/sunset to get a prime spot during holidays or during the summer.   Photographers will be lined up with overlapping tripods.

Artist’s Point

Pros

  1. The view is (also) magnificent.  Artist’s Point is located at a higher elevation about a half mile away (as the crow flies) southeast and offers a subtly different view than Tunnel View.   Take a look at the two shots below and see if you can spot the differences.
    Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

    The view from Artist’s Point…

    Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

    and the more famous view from Tunnel View

    • A close comparison will reveal that from Artist’s Point you can see Bridalveil Meadow, North Dome, Ribbon Falls and Royal Aches but you can’t see Sentinel Dome and Half Dome is a bit less prominent.
    • Is one view really a better view than the other?  Opinions differ, but personally I think the differences are so darn subtle that calling one ‘better’ than another is splitting hairs.  I doubt that more than 1 person in a 100 would say one is superior to the other.
    • However, even though the views are very similar, Artist’s Point does have the advantage of not looking exactly like those bazillion shots taken at Tunnel View.  If you are one of those folks (like me) that strives to create images that are unique, then maybe even these minor differences might be enough to tip the scale in favor of Artist’s Point.
  2. Another advantage is that you will likely be the only person there.  It won’t make a bit of difference in your photos, but life isn’t completely about photography (at least it shouldn’t be).
    Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

    Tunnel View isn’t exactly the place to go to enjoy solitude!

    Unlike the carnival atmosphere at Tunnel View, the experience at Artist’s Point is much more intimate.  The last time I visited Tunnel View it was packed with over a hundred folks…plus a wedding shoot was in progress and noisy tour buses and motorcycles were continually disgorging even more tourists.  But during my visit to Artist’s Point, I didn’t see another person for over three hours and heard nothing but wind rustling thru the leaves.  Take a look at my short time-lapse video to get a better idea of what an afternoon at Artist’s Point is like.

Cons

  1. The only down-side of Artist’s Point is that it isn’t as easy to reach as Tunnel View…you can’t just drive up in your rental car and start shooting.  You have to hike.  It isn’t a bad hike. The first half mile is steep and can be a bit difficult to follow, plus the trail isn’t really maintained, so you will be climbing over some fallen trees…but your average person can reach Artist’s Point in about 40 minutes.

If you decide to hike to Artists Point, here are some helpful hints.

The Hike:

  • First, check out this hiking guide to Artist Point.  It provides a wealth of detail.
  • The trailhead for the hike starts in one of the two Tunnel Valley Parking Lots.  It isn’t the lot on the side of the actual overlook, it is the one on the north side of Wawona Road.  The trailhead sign doesn’t actually say “Artist’s point”…the sign reads “Inspiration Point” or the “Pohono Trail.”  The trail to Artist’s Point is the same one as Inspiration Point for the first .6 miles.  By the way, although Inspiration Point has a great name, it really isn’t much of a view for Photographers.
  • I know of many folks who have tried to reach Artist’s Point and failed.  It’s not a long hike, but the first half mile is poorly marked.  To avoid getting lost my first time, I used the AllTrails app on my smartphone.  This app lets you download the hike ahead of time and it tracks your progress while hiking via GPS to within 10 feet or so.  Next to having a guide, this is the best way I know of to find the spot.   This link will take you to iphone version and this link will get you to the Android one.
  • The first half a mile is narrow and steep…you won’t win any speed records but take your time and an average hiker can make it with no problem.
  • At that point you are going to come to a trail crossing.  The trail you will cross is wide…more than 7 feet wide.  It is actually the old stagecoach road and you will see these two signs:
  • Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?
  • Now, take the trail left (east) which is the direction of the Bridalveil Falls Parking Area.  You will follow this wide trail another 1.6 miles.  You will probably have to climb over/under some trees that have fallen across the trail.
    Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

    Like I said, the trail isn’t maintained…but it sure is nice and wide.

    You will start to get glimpses of the valley to your left but it will be largely obstructed by trees…just keep going.  Artist’s Point doesn’t have a sign or marker but when get to the spot shown below that has a clear view, you will know you’ve reached your destination.

    Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

    180 degree iPhone panorama from Artist’s Point.

Equipment:

  • Keep in mind that if you want to be there for sunset, you will have to hike back in the dark so take a headlamp or two.

    Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

    Bridalveil Falls shot from Artist’s Point with 140mm lens

  • You will definitely want your wide lens.  A minimum of 35mm on a full frame camera (about a 50mm on a crop-sensor APS-C sensor camera).  Plus, a longer zoom (say 70mm to 120mm) will allow you to grab nice portraits of Bridalveil Falls and El Capitan.
  • If you are shooting at the beginning or end of the day, a tripod will allow you to take the necessary longer exposures.

Bottom line, if this is your first trip to Yosemite and time is tight, then just go to Tunnel View.  But if you’ve been here before, have the time and you’re the type that appreciates solitude, take the hike up to Artist’s Point and soak in one of the world’s most majestic vistas in peace and quiet.

Jeff

Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

Yosemite's Tunnel View vs. Artist's Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

Artist’s Point

PS;  Oddly enough, even though Artist’s Point is the ‘new’ hot spot, it actually is older than Tunnel View which didn’t exist until 1933 when the Wawona tunnel opened.  However, back in 1855, artist Thomas Ayres stood at Artist’s Point and drew a picture of Yosemite Valley that as was published in California Magazine.  Not long after, a stagecoach road was extended into Yosemite Valley that ran right by Artist’s Point.  The road was paved in the early 1900s but abandoned after the shorter route into the valley was completed in 1933.

 

Yosemite’s Tunnel View vs. Artist’s Point: Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

Yosemite’s Tunnel View vs. Artist’s Point:  Which is the Better Choice for Photographers?

Also posted in Photo Tips and Guides Tagged , , , |

Yosemite Time Lapse from Artist’s Point (Tunnel View)

Yosemite is one of the world’s most loved National Parks and no location in Yosemite is more famous than Tunnel View.   Ansel Adam’s photo from this spot (Clearing Winter Storm) was one of the iconic shots of the 20th century.  Not only is the view spectacular, you can easily drive right up to it on Wawona Road.   So it really isn’t surprising that this is the most popular and photographed location in the park.

2017 California 03 15 5126 crop

Tunnel View. One of the most recognized and incredible vistas anywhere.

But it wasn’t always so.  Until 1933 when the tunnel was opened, Tunnel View simply didn’t exist as we know it now.  For the previous 7 decades, Wawona Road had entered the valley via a different route that included the most famous spot in the park:  Artist’s Point.  This was the location where in June of 1855 the first image of the Yosemite Valley was drawn by a professional artist.  The artist was Thomas Ayres and when his picture was published in California Magazine it captivated and amazed the public, which helped spark the nation’s facination with Yosemite.   Later a stagecoach road was built to the valley that ran right by this spot and in the early 20th century it was even paved for the new-fangled horseless carriages.  When the tunnel was completed in the 1930s, Wawona Road was rerouted and the section that included Artist’s Point was abandoned.  Now, after 80+ years of neglect, it is nearly forgotten, crumbling and overgrown.

Earlier this year my son and I decided to hike to Artist’s Point.  We wanted to see if Ayres original location at Artist’s Point could compare with the awe inspiring scene at Tunnel View.  A quick (but steep) 40 minute hike was all it took to reach Artist’s Point and take in the view:

2017 California 03 17 6590

Artist’s Point is at a higher elevation and a bit northeast of Tunnel View, so you do get a slightly different perspective of the valley.

Is it a better view?  Some folk swear up and down that it is.  Jump back and forth between the two photos above and make your own decision.  Personally, I thought the view from Artist’s Point was only subtly different from what you will see from Tunnel View.  But even though the view is similar, the experience is totally different.  Unlike Tunnel View where loud motorcyles, cars and buses disgorge throngs of noisy tourists every few moments, you will likely be the only soul at Artist’s Point.  The quiet and sense of peace is pervasive.  You get a feeling of what it must have been like when Thomas Ayres sat on a rock nearby all those years ago and sketched a pristine and untouched paradise.

Photography is my way of trying to share with you what my son and I experienced at Artist’s Point.  But a photograph shows only a moment of time and fails to capture the dramatic way the shadows move across the valley.  I thought a time lapse might be the best way to show this, so I set up one of my cameras to take a shot of the valley every 15 seconds or so during the couple hours Ryan and I there.

Yosemite Time Lapse from Artist's Point (Tunnel View)

Click anywhere on photo to see my timelapse:  “A Minute of Magic at Artist’s Point”

I call the resulting video “A Minute of Magic at Artist’s Point.”  It’s only a couple minutes long, but I think it truly conveys a sense of the tranquility and beauty this magnificent view inspires.  Just click on the photo to the right and it will take you to my video posted on You Tube (it was just too large for my website).

I hope you enjoy!

Jeff

 

PS:  This video was shot during March which is a great time of the year to watch sunsets because both sides of the valley are illuminated at the end of the day.  Plus, the sun shines thru a small opening in the mountains to the west creating the ‘spotlight’ effect on Bridalveil Falls you see in my photos.

 

 

Also posted in Time Lapse Photography Tagged , , , , |

A Photographic Trek thru Central California: San Francisco, Big Sur and Yosemite

Last month my son and I got to spend a week in one of my favorite locales: Central California.

It was Ryan’s first trip there so I had the added pleasure of introducing a new generation to one of the Earth’s  most photogenic regions.

We flew into San Francisco and although Ryan and I usually avoid urban areas on our trips, this was an exception to that rule:  the City by the Bay is one of the most beautiful places touched by the hand of man.

We hit the highlights:  Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Sea Lions at Pier 39, Cable Cars and Lombard Street

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“Receding into the Past” Fort Point

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How often do you get to photograph old windmills? A early morning shot in Golden Gate Park

How often do you get to photograph old windmills? A early morning shot in Golden Gate Park

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“Hop on board!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toward the end of the day we headed over to Marin County to check out a sunset location I’ve wanted to see for years:  Rodeo Beach. On the way, I had to stop at Hawks’ Hill, which has arguably the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge

One of the world's truly magnificent vistas: San Francisco seen from Hawk's Hill in the Marin Highlands

One of the world’s truly magnificent vistas: San Francisco seen from Hawk’s Hill in the Marin Highlands

Rodeo Beach Sunset in Marin County

Rodeo Beach: I’d wanted to try my hand photographing the sea stacks here at sunset for years. Fortunately my rookie effort got a nice assist from Mother Nature who kindly provided a mesmerizing sunset.

After the sunset we recrossed the Golden Gate Bridge and went back into town for some night shooting.

Night photo of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Frisco

The Palace of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. It is surprisingly massive and after nightfall it appears magically elegant

We welcomed the next sunrise at one of my favorite spots:  Pier 9.  The perspective of the Transamerica Tower from the end of the Pier is epic.

Pier 9 Transamerica Tower

We said goodbye to San Francisco but not until we stopped for breakfast at Safeway (a west coast grocery store).  On our first day, Ryan had discovered the Breakfast Burrito at Safeway and that became his choice for the first meal of the day.  In fact, on our way to the airport at the end of trip, he made me stop at another Safeway so he could have one last one to eat on the plane:)

We spent a couple of days photographing the highlights of the California coast between San Francisco and Big Sur.  The spring rains had destroyed parts of the Pacific Coast Highway and we were unable to reach McWay Falls, which is one of the true highlights of the coast but even so, there was no shortage of amazing places to photograph.

Natural Bridges State Park Santa Cruz California

Natural Bridges State Park. The full moon provided plenty of light to illuminate the rock arch and the nearby stream that meanders into the Pacific

Ryan wanted to see Sequoias, so we drove inland a bit and hiked in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.Big Basin State Park

Big Basin State Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boy, did he see Sequoias!

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I adore otters.  Well, central California has one of the premier locations to photograph Sea Otters: Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing.

California Sea Otter Moss Landing Elkhorn Slough

You looking at me?

California Sea Otter Moss Landing Elkhorn Slough

“I insist on FRESH seafood!”

I shot over 1700 frames in about two hours there….the image above was my favorite of the bunch.

At the very northern edge of Big Sur is Garapatta State Park.  This occupies a strip of land along the rocky shore that includes an embarrassment of breathtakingly beautiful coastal views…whether you shoot at before sunrise:

Garapatta State Park

I’d hoped to photograph the Milky Way from this spot but the full moon made that impossible. On the other hand, it did a great job lighting up the coast before dawn.

or during a mid-day fog:

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A misty view of the Calla Lillies filling the little valley along Dodd Creek.

or at sunset:

Garapatta State Park

The sea stacks at Soberanes Cove. One of my favorite spots on the California coast…

We also had a chance to hike thru Point Lobos State Park which has a lot of incredible terrain packed into a condensed sliver of heaven:

Point Lobos State Park

The Veteran Cypress. This amazing 1000 year old tree has taken a beating but is still hanging on the side of a cliff refusing to slide into the Pacific!

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the park,  We ran into a local painter right after sunrise who was painting a stunning location called China Cove: China Cove at Point Lobos State Park

After a couple short days on the coast, we climbed in the rental car and headed east across the Central Valley with our sights set on Yosemite, the highlight of our trip.  I had sung the praises of Yosemite to Ryan for years and I was curious if he would feel the same or decide that I had over-hyped it.   As soon as we entered the park I took him straight to the park’s most magnificent vista:  Tunnel View:

Artist's Point Yosemite Sunset

March sunsets ocassionally create a spotlight effect on Bridalveil Falls…it is an amazing sight to witness

Ryan took a long look, grinned, slowly turned to me and said my praise had been severely understated.

We spent three days at the park.  Sleep wasn’t an option.  We were up well before dawn so we could photograph the valley illuminated by the full moon…

Night Photography at Yosemite

A long exposure from “the Gates of the Valley.”

Night photography at Yosemite Falls

Ryan on the trail to Yosemite Falls at “O dark thirty”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the sun was finally up we kept at it until it was dark again…we photographed the valley from dozens of perspectives,

We hiked quite a bit…our favorite of the trip was the Mist Trail.  This hike provides the novel experience of climbing up steps cut into the rock alongside Vernal Falls all the way to the top:

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Vernal Falls from a hiker’s perspective…

Vernal Falls

Rainbows grace the base of the falls in late afternoon

 

The trail is well named and we got happily soaked.  Plus the snow and ice on the steps made the climb, well, let’s say it was entertaining at times;)  I was actually getting kinda proud of myself since it’s a challenging trail and I’m not exactly a teenager…but then a lady in her 70s passed me on the trail with her two grandkids….needless to say, I was appropriately humbled.

We made our way up to Nevada Falls where we conducted our traditional snowball fight (sorry, but when Floridians actually see snow, you can’t expect anything less).  Later that day back at camp we relaxed and soaked in the view (and a few brews).

2017 California 03 17 iPhone 7289

It’s only an iphone shot….but you get an impression of how incredible the view was. Ryan said all we needed was a Hot Tub and it would have been perfect!

I think we could have spent the rest of the trip in that spot.

The remaining days passed far too quickly.  However, there is no doubt that we will return again to enjoy the magic that is Yosemite.

 

Jeff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also posted in California

Photo Tips for Yosemite Moonbows: A Photographic How-To Guide

One of the things I love most about photography is that it entices me to venture out into the world and see wonders I would never otherwise experience.  For example…have you every heard of a ‘moonbow’?  Well, I hadn’t either until a few weeks ago.   I was doing some research for a trip to Yosemite when I saw a mention about moonbows and it caught my attention.  It turns out that a moonbow (also known as a lunar rainbow,  white rainbow or space rainbow) is a rainbow created by full moon at night (instead of direct sunlight during the day).  Although recorded by observers from Aristotle to Benjamin Franklin, they are still not well known due to their rarity.   Not every waterfall can host a moonbow, in fact, the list of well-known locations is pretty small: Yosemite, Victoria Falls in Africa, Hawaii’s Waimea  Falls and Cumberland Falls in Kentucky.   The five required conditions are:

  1. Correct “rainbow geometry” when the moon lines up correctly with a waterfall’s mist
  2. A clear sky (few, if any clouds),
  3. Abundant mist at the base of the fall,
  4. An absence of artificial light,
  5. Bright, direct moonlight (full or nearly full moon)

So how do you know if there is “correct rainbow geometry?” Well, that was a problem for years.  Although back in the 1870s, famed naturalist John Muir was singing the wonders of Yosemite’s “elusive, ethereal moonbow”, no one could predict when you would be able to see one.  It wasn’t until 2007 that astrometers in Texas figured it out and published a schedule of future moonbow dates.  So there is no guessing anymore, a quick click onto the Texas State University website and you are good to go. Note:  don’t confuse the Texas State University with the University of Texas (which is a mistake I made when I first wrote this blog)…my thanks to William Cardwell for pointing out my error…Go Bobcats!)

Well, by the time I finished reading all this, I was very interested.  When I checked the Texas website and saw that one of the predicted moonbows would occur while I was at Yosemite, I was EXCITED!  All I needed now was a bit more luck… a clear night.  Did my luck hold?   Check out the shot below:

Yosemite Moonbows: A Photographic How-To Guide

Looks just like a regular rainbow…right?  Whoops, not quite…check out those stars!   To be honest, it doesn’t quite look like this to the naked eye (this is a 30 second exposure).  In person, a moonbow has very subdued colors .   It really depends on the cone color receptors in your eyes, if yours are sensitive, you will see colors, if not, you will see more of a greyish-white ‘bow.’  Either way, it was everything John Muir promised.  In fact, even though it was wet and freezing, each time the moon hit the mist just right, the moonbow would shiver into sight and you could hear the assembled photographers gasp and call out to one another in amazement.  And that’s saying a lot, because my experience is that landscape photographers have a tendency to be quiet and reserved…but you would have never known it that night.

Personally, I was so enthralled that I stayed at the falls for nearly three hours the first night, and nearly as long the next.  I’ll tell you, it is really nice to be able to feel that same sense of wonder that you experienced as a child.  Perhaps it doesn’t happen as often, but I think the emotion is deeper felt than when I was younger.

Tips for my fellow Photographers:

  1. Where to Photograph From

    • There are usually at least two locations that the moonbow is visible from:
      1. Lower Yosemite Falls:  The bridge and terrace at the base of the falls (see map below)Moonbow map for Lower Yosemite Falls-
        • There is parking available on Northside Drive, just east of Yosemite Falls Lodge.
        • Plan on a short 10-15 minute stroll on the paved trail.  Just follow the signs to ‘Lower Yosemite Falls.’  When you come to a 50 foot bridge at the base of the fall, you have found the spot.
        • The concrete terrace just to the west of the footbridge is the favorite location of most photographers because the bridge can shake a bit when folks walk on it and the terrace tends to get hit with less mist
        • At the terrace, move as close to the north end as you can (closest to the falls).  There is a large fallen log that borders the edge of the terrace, if you can get right up to it, I think you will have the best seat in the house. This location is ‘up close and personal.’  The view, sound and mist are incredible.
      2. Upper Yosemite Falls
        • You can see a different perspective of the moonbow from the parking lot at Sentinel Bridge or just south from Cook’s Meadow
        • It won’t be as crowded but frankly, this view just doesn’t excite me nearly as much as the terrace at the lower falls.
  2. When to Go

    • Check the Texas Website and see when moonbows are predicted.
    • The water flow is usually best in the spring which should generate more mist, which should result in a better moonbow.  That isn’t a sure thing, but if you had a choice of when to go, choose the predicted dates earliest in the year.
    • The best tripod locations fill up early, so I’d get there about an hour before the start of the predicted moonbow
    • When the moonbow first appears, it will be high on the falls.  As the night progresses, the bow will move lower and lower toward the base of the falls.  Many viewers think earlier views are the best
  3. What to Wear

    • You will likely get wet photographing from the terrace/bridge at the Lower Falls.  Bring good Gore-Tex raingear (preferably something with a hood)
      • If your camera isn’t weather sealed, you will want to have something to cover it with.  You can find everything from cheap plastic covers to high-end Think Tank Hydrophobias easily on Amazon.
      • If you get wet, you will likely get cold unless you have a good jacket under your raingear.  I was dry but freezing my first night because I had thought a forecast of 60 degrees Fahrenheit didn’t require anything warm under my raingear….I was wrong.
      • Thin fleece gloves will make the experience more comfortable as well
  4. Bring a Headlamp

    • A headlamp will keep light on your subject while keeping your hands free
    • If your headlamp has a ‘red light’ feature, it will help preserve your night vision
    • Please be careful not to shine your light into the eyes and cameras of your fellow photographers.
  5. Tripod/Remote Shutter Release/Extra Batteries

    • You will be taking long exposures and will need a tripod.  And, if you have a tripod with an extending center column, then bring it.  I had my full sized tripod with me and by raising the center column to its full height, I was able to photograph OVER the heads of photographers who had got there before me and staked out the best locations.
    • A remote shutter release will ensure that no vibration will ruin your shot.
    • You will be taking a lot of shots over a couple hours and if it is cold, your batteries will drain quicker than normal.
  6. Lens suggestions

    • Bring the widest, fastest lens you have.
    • On a full frame camera  you will need about 28mm to get the entire falls in the frame (about 42mm on a cropped APS-C sensor camera).
    • A 2.8f or faster lens is ideal but you can still get good shots with slower lenses…you will just need longer exposures.

      Photo Tips for Yosemite Moonbows: A Photographic How-To Guide

      Check out the double moonbow! This spot closest to the fallen log on the northern edge of the terrace has a great perspective. To see this shot in full res, click anywhere on the photo

  7. Lens Cleaning/Drying Cloths

    • Bring LOTS of these.  I found that I had to dry my lens after EVERY shot.
  8. Focus on Infinity

    • Getting good focus at night can be a challenge.  Autofocus will not be your friend, so use Manual Focus.
    • If your camera has a Live-View feature, use it
    • Check your LCD after every shot to make sure you have the focus tack-sharp
    • Be careful that you don’t mess up your focus when you are cleaning the lens.  I made this mistake a couple times before I could figure out why my focus kept changing!
  9. ISO/Shutter Speed

    • There is a trade-off decision you will have to make between these two settings.
    • If your shutter speed is over 30 seconds, the stars will no longer show as pinpoints…they will start to streak
    • Higher ISO settings will let you use shorter shutter speeds, but will result in higher noise levels
    • With a Nikon 800E and a f/2.8 lens, I was able to shoot at ISOs between 140-200 at 30 seconds with fine results.  Experiment with your camera/lens combination and see what works.  Fortunately, the moonbows often last for a couple hours, so you have time for some trial and error.
    • Use your histogram to confirm that you got a good exposure.
    • Even with a histogram, I’d suggest that you bracket your shots to ensure that you do get shots with perfect exposure.
  10. Okay, I’m all set…but where is that darned Moonbow?

    • Remember, the skies need to be pretty clear for a good moonbow, even if you are there on the right night.  If it is a bit cloudy, stick it out and with a bit of luck, the moon will peek thru the clouds before your ‘window’ is over,
    • After you spot the moonbow once, you will know what to look for.  Remember, the colors won’t be vivid to your eye, but the ‘rainbow’ shape will still be there…look for it.
    • See if you can find your head’s shadow and then draw a line between it and the base of the falls…the moonbow should form a 42 degree arc above that line.
    • Even if you still can’t see it, I’ll bet that when the moonbow appears, the folks around you will start pointing at it…that should help!

So, there you have it.  A new potential adventure for you to try and certainly one that will be long remembered.  In fact, often my ‘non-photographic’ friends only pay ‘polite’ attention to me when I drone on about my photo shoots, but when I started talking about moonbows, I think they were truly interested;)

Remember, photography is about a lot more than just pretty pictures!
Jeff

Photo Tips for Yosemite Moonbows: A Photographic How-To Guide

This image was taken later in the evening. Note that the moonbow is much lower than in the previous shots taken earlier.

 Photo Tips for Yosemite Moonbows:  A Photographic How-To Guide

Also posted in Landscape Photography, Night Photography, Photo Tips and Guides, Waterfalls Tagged , , , |