Fall on Tenaya Creek

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Tenaya canyon lies directly North of Yosemite’s Half Dome. Tenaya creek makes its way through the canyon, from the high country, and joins the Merced river in the valley. The area is often known for Ansel’s Adams images of Mirror Lake.

Mirror lake isn’t a lake at all but merely a large widening of the creek. The size of the area causes the water to slow and often yields a mirror like surface just begging to capture reflections of Half Dome.  It’s a pretty area but in fall it is almost always completely dry. During most years you could walk right past the “lake” and never have any idea that it was ever there. (Don’t ask me how I know that.) Luckily, this wasn’t like “most” years. The storm last week brought spring-like flows to all of the waterways in the park and Tenaya creek was no exception. Mirror lake is far from the only photographable scene in the area. The creek runs directly next to the trail and offers a ton of spots to shoot.

I actually shot this spot more than once.  Each time I walked by it grabbed me and insisted that I spend some time there. What really made this shot was the light. Tourists crave bright blue skies but they’ve the bane of most landscape photographers. On the day that I shot this it was completely clouded over and just starting to rain. The cloud cover acts like a giant “[wikipop]soft box[/wikipop]” and casts a smooth even light. Defined shadows disappear and everything gets a nice soft look. I’ve got more images from this area but those will be posts for another day.

The details. To make this image I used my Canon 24-70 f/2.8L, the lens that is on my camera 90% of the time. My focal length was set to 30mm. I set the aperture to f/11 to get an acceptable depth of field. (If you’ve been reading many of these posts you’ll realize that I spend a lot of time in the f/8-11 range. One of the main reasons is that most lenses are at their sharpest in that range.) With my ISO set to 100, the exposure ended up at 1.6 seconds.