Favorite: Sunset Palette

Sunset Palette, Half Dome from Sentinel Dome, Yosemite

Sunset Palette, Half Dome from Sentinel Dome, Yosemite
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
2 seconds
F/20.0
ISO 100
45 mm

Celebrating the reopening of our National Parks,

the third installment in my semi-regular Favorites series features one of my favorite Yosemite images

*   *   *

Usually an image comes together on the spot, an organic blend of location and light unique to the moment. But some images I carry around in my brain for years, fully aware of the elements and how I want them assembled, and hopeful to be present when that happens. I have a number of these “dream” images rattling around between my ears, and every once in a while the stars align and I actually get to capture one. For example, on every visit to Sentinel Dome I would eye the granite indentations on the southeast flank and picture them as pools of rainwater reflecting the sunset sky, framing Half Dome in the distance. Wouldn’t it be great if….

One showery October afternoon a few years ago I made the hike to Sentinel Dome with these indentations in mind. I knew that the recent rain would quite likely have filled them, allowing at least part of my dream to come true. After summiting the dome I beelined to the other side and found “my” pools exactly as I’d hoped.  The sky was a promising mix of blue and gray, but the sun was still at least an hour above the horizon. Nevertheless, the air was clean and western horizon was clear, essential ingredients for the colorful sunset I so wanted. Dare I hope?

I walked around a bit and mentally refined my composition—rather than set up close and use an ultra wide-angle, I moved back as far as the terrain would permit. This allowed me to fit the pools in the frame at a longer a focal length, which would compress the distance separating Half Dome and the pools. To reduce the expanse of granite behind the pools, I flattened my tripod as far as it would go and framed my shot. With closest pool about six feet in front of me, stopping down to f20 and focusing on a point about twelve feet away gave me sharpness throughout the frame. With my composition set and waiting on my tripod, I readied my two-stop hard graduated neutral density filter and adjusted my polarizer, then sat down on the (hard) granite, and waited.

The sunset color that finally came was more than I dared hope for. The sun was at my back, but with clouds overhead and the western horizon wide open, the crimson glow stretched all the way to the eastern horizon. I clicked this frame when the color was at its most intense, so brilliant in fact that every exposed surface seemed to throb with its glow.

11 Comments on “Favorite: Sunset Palette

  1. Excellent here…the 3 different moods of sky in reflection is awesome…thanks for having us virtually feeling it!!!

  2. Thank you so much. I just love pictures of nature. You have a great eye for it.

  3. I Love this one as well, Gary. Always have. The steps you take to bring such beauty to our eyes and spirits are so inspiring and absolutely appreciated. Just beautiful …I hope you have been doing well and thanks very much for commenting to me the other day – I know you are really busy..All the best 🙂 Denny

  4. Gary, this is absolutely spectacular…love Yosemite…and the colors are just great…..
    Had a technical question, I noticed quite a few of your pics are taken at very high f-stops, quite a few flirting with diffraction softening, as well as not in the sweat spot of the lens for resolution….you are have amassing pics, al LOT better than my stuff…..what am I missing….I usually try to shoot around f 5.6-8…. If this is a trade secret, I will understand…

  5. Gary, this is absolutely spectacular…love Yosemite…
    Had a technical question, I noticed quite a few of your pics are taken at very high f-stops, quite a few flirting with diffraction softening, as well as not in the sweat spot of the lens for resolution….you are have amazing pics, all LOT better than my stuff…..what am I missing….I usually try to shoot around f 5.6-8, the sweet spot of the lens…. If this is a trade secret, I will understand…
    Just want to learn from the masters….
    Thank you very much. Dave

    • Thanks, Dave. Diffraction-phobia is an example of why a little knowledge can be more damaging than no knowledge. While diffraction is a real thing, something to avoid when possible, it’s rarely enough of a concern to trump more important exposure choices. I shoot full frame and my default aperture is f11 because I’ve determined that’s where my lenses tend to be sharpest (your results may vary). But when I need f16 (e.g., for more DOF, a slower shutter speed, a sunstar) I certainly don’t worry about diffraction. Whenever possible, I try to get a close foreground in my frame. Using this image as an example, it would have been silly to choose an aperture that clearly didn’t give me the DOF I wanted just to avoid diffraction (which I rarely find discernible anyway).

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