It’s personal

Top of the World, Glacier Point, Yosemite

Some of my oldest, fondest Yosemite memories involve Glacier Point: Craning my neck from Camp Curry, waiting for the orange glow perched on Glacier Point’s fringe to grow into a 3,000 foot ribbon of fire; stretching on tiptoes to peer over the railing to see the toy cars and buildings in miniature Yosemite Valley; standing on the deck of the old Glacier Point Hotel my father’s breathless excitement at the sudden shimmering rainbow arcing across Half Dome’s face.

The National Park Service doused the Firefall in 1968 and my father died almost eight years ago. While El Capitan’s Horsetail Fall delivers a no less spectacular (albeit less reliable) February show across the valley, and my father’s rainbow image is a vivid reminder on my mom’s living room wall, those Glacier Point memories are irreplaceable.

Glacier Point closes with the first significant snow each fall, and doesn’t open until the snow melts in late spring–avoiding summer’s crowds and interminable blue skies means I don’t make it to Glacier Point much anymore. So I was thrilled to learn that this year’s dry winter enabled the NPS to open Glacier Point on April 20, early enough for me to share it with last week’s workshop group.

Because I already had plans for Mirror Lake, moonrise, and moonlight photography later in the workshop, I decided that the workshop’s first sunset was the best time time for the Glacier Point trip. Stopping first at Washburn Point just a short distance up the hill, we were treated to a harbinger of what was to come later–a mix of wave clouds and alto-cumulus above the Sierra crest to the east, and wonderfully warm light on Half Dome. Not knowing how long the light would last, I hustled the group to Glacier Point, arriving soon enough to get a front row seat for what turned out to be the best sunset experience I’ve ever had at Glacier Point.

The light held out all the way to sunset, warming from amber to pink and finally red, painting the sky and saturating the granite landscape with shades of magenta. As it turned out we had many other photogenic moments (dogwood, a moonbow, and the rise of the “super” moon above Yosemite Valley) in the workshop’s remaining three days, but this sunset on Glacier Point will be my fondest memory.

That’s Half Dome front and center, Cloud’s Rest behind it to the right, and Nevada (top) and Vernal Falls in the lower right.

5 Comments on “It’s personal

  1. When I was a kid I lived in Merced CA and we would go up to Yosemite frequently. We always stayed in camp 4, and I loved it up there. I remember the beautiful fire falls, Glacier Point, skiing, El Cap, Half Done, all of the falls, it was magic. I sure do miss it. Like you say, it’s personal.

    • I feel so fortunate to have so many great memories of the Firefall, which I got to watch from several locations in Yosemite Valley and also from Glacier Point. Camp 4 is now where the climbers hang out. Some might not consider it a great environment for kids, but the climbers have their own culture and charm, and you sure have to respect their passion (if not their judgement). 🙂

  2. Very nice shot Gary–Great sky. Just curious as to why Aperture a F11 for a shot like this.
    You are so lucky to have such great memories with your father.

    • Thanks, Donna. Lenses tend to be sharpest in the f8-f11 range, so I try to stay there unless my DOF needs call for something different (or unless I forget to change the f-stop from a previous shot). Because in this scene the hyperfocal distance at f11 and 28 mm was about 8 feet, I was sharp from 4 feet to infinity, more than enough DOF. What f-stop would you have used?

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