People often ask me what is the best time of year to visit Yosemite. While winter is probably my personal favorite, there is no best time. The park is beautiful year round and unless you see it in several different seasons you’re doing yourself a disservice.
The park’s transformations are the most dramatic during the changing of seasons. Nothing highlights those transformations like this image. I shot basically this same scene last month with a completely different result. Higher spring water levels and the gift of a blanket of fresh snow made for a completely different feel.
Photographically, this is a challenging scene. Taken from full shade, the dynamic range in this frame is well above what the camera is capable of recording. One technique would have been to capture several frames, at various exposures, and combine them via software. Rather rely on the computer, I used a Singh-Ray 3 stop hard edged split neutral density filter. The level horizon allowed me to place the filter transition directly down the middle of the frame.
With the filter balancing the exposure there was another problem that I needed to address. Reflections are always darker, generally by about 1 stop, than the subject being reflected. If I didn’t point it out you may not notice but something might not seem “just right.” With the filter on the top half of the frame, I needed to darken the reflection to keep it natural looking. Since I always use a polarizer during the day, it was a simple fix. I simply rotated the polarizer to produce the maximum reflection and then backed it off to darken it slightly.
Even though I teach digital image processing, my preference is always to get the picture as close as possible in the camera rather than resort to processing tricks. It’s much more satisfying, to me, to do it that way.