Tag Archives: Artist’s Point

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?

Posted in Photo Tips and Guides, Yosemite Also 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.

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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:

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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.

 

 

Posted in Time Lapse Photography, Yosemite Also tagged , , , , |