Seeing the small stuff

Leaves and Light, Yosemite

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In a recent post I mentioned that I don’t photograph Yosemite’s Tunnel View much anymore. It’s not that I visit Tunnel View any less frequently, or love being there any less than I once did; it’s more the growing realization collecting images already done (by myself or others) doesn’t really excite me. The longer I do this, the more I appreciate the simple pleasure of  capturing a moment in nature, of finding a small detail or ephemeral scene that’s often overlooked and will never be repeated.

On a recent fall visit to Yosemite I meandered the bank of the Merced River near the Pohono Bridge and Fern Spring. As is often the case this time of year, a number of photographers were stationed on and near the bridge, and the usual swarm of tripods jockeyed for position around the spring. But the world was blissfully quiet among the trees. While the dogwood, usually fiery red in early November, were still mostly green, the maples flashed brilliant yellow. Even the slightest breeze sent a few leaves wafting, but closer scrutiny of those still holding tight showed many with a few molecules of spring green, a sign that the fall display wasn’t quite finished.

Positioning myself beneath an overhanging branch, I zoomed my 70-200 tight, separating the branch from its surroundings to make it appear suspended in midair. Despite a gray overcast and dark evergreen canopy, a few dots of light leaked through overhead. Usually I’ll compose bright sky out of a frame like this, but here I decided to feature it, dialing in a large aperture (f5.6) to soften the individual pinpoints into overlapping jewels. Because a narrow depth of field makes the focus point particularly critical, I switched to live-view and magnified my LCD to ensure precise focus. The narrow depth of field also smoothed the background trees, erasing distractions and setting the sharp foreground leaves against a complementary canvas of color, shape, and light.

These leaves are brown now, decomposing on the forest floor, or perhaps far downriver. While there’s no doubt in my mind that as I clicked this frame many simultaneous clicks captured whatever was going on at Tunnel View, I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world with this image. That’s a nice thought for sure, until I remember that within a few feet of where I stood were an infinite number of other unrepeatable images that I missed. Guess I’ll just have to keep trying….

2 Comments on “Seeing the small stuff

  1. I LOVE the picture, and enjoy your writings as to how you got there…..thanks for sharing!

  2. I am always thrilled to see another great Gary Hart photo–but more than that totally appreciate that “eloquent” way you describe what you did with nature…I such a fan (and usually quietly)..Thanks so much…

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