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.
A Few Images On or Including Sentinel Dome