Morning light on Cook’s Meadow

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Yesterday marked the end last Yosemite workshop with Gary until fall. I’m always sad to see them end but after 4 solid days of shooting and instruction I look forward to getting back home. Mother nature provided an amazing variety of weather conditions that made for some very interesting, and often challenging, shooting. We went from sunshine and moonbows on Monday, to rain, snow and some hail by Thursday.

Similar to the winter workshop, after awakening to a fresh blanket of snow in the valley, Gary and I had to switch from photography instructors to slave drivers. Spring snows seldom last in Yosemite so we rushed the group to as many locations as possible in a race against sunlight and rising temperatures. I shot this in Cook’s Meadow, near the base of Yosemite falls.  Even though the sun had barely crested the ridge, the layer of snow on the meadow was already starting to disappear.

Rather than shoot the standard composition from this location, featuring Half Dome, I opted for something that spoke to the morning and the conditions. I dropped my tripod legs down to their lowest position and composed this fairly wide shot with my Canon 24-70 at 30mm. I felt that close snow in the foreground was important to the essence of the scene. I also wanted the sun to appear as a starburst so I placed the camera where it was almost entirely in shade. At 30mm f/8 would have given me plenty of depth of field but I chose f/20 because of the effect on the sun. The recipe for a starburst is pretty simple: narrow point light source + small aperture == starburst.

Students frequently ask what aperture I use. For many scenes, that answer is f/8 or f/11. I also tell them that I rarely go above f/16 unless I have a special reason, because of complications that can arise from diffraction. This, however, is one such exception.


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