A camera’s reality

Spring, Dogwood and Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite

Spring, Dogwood and Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
1/250 second
ISO 400

I knew the dogwood bloom in Yosemite had really kicked in this week (quite early), so when the forecast called for rain in Yosemite on Tuesday, I cleared my schedule and headed up there for the day. It turns out I only got an hour or so of rain and solid cloud cover before the sun came out and started making things difficult, but it was still worth the drive.

On my way out of the park that afternoon I stopped at the Bridalveil Fall view turnout on Northside Drive, spending about an hour lying in the dirt with my 100-400 lens, trying to align dogwood blossoms with Bridalveil Fall (about 1/3 mile away). I found the more impressive aggregation of blooms were about ten feet too far downstream to align perfectly, but as I headed back to my car I took a closer look at a single, precocious little flower in a much more favorable position. I’d overlooked it earlier because, in my haste to get to the more impressive flowers, I wasn’t seeing like my camera. To my human eye, this flower was imprisoned by a jumble of disorganized, distracting stems. But this time I decided to give it a try, knowing that the narrow depth of field of my 100-400 lens would render the scene entirely differently from what my eyes saw.

While the flower is clearly the only point of focus, the way the out-of-focus branches and buds blurred to shapes and accents that actually enhance the image was a pleasant surprise. While Bridalveil softens beyond recognition, I was pretty sure most viewers would still recognize it as a waterfall; even if they don’t, I didn’t think it was a distraction.

Words can’t express how much fun I had playing with this little scene. I’ve been photographing things like this for a long time, but I still find myself caught off guard sometimes by the difference between my vision and my camera’s vision. I love these reminders. I guess if there’s a lesson here, it’s to emphasize how important it is to comprehend and master your camera’s very unique view of the world. Images that achieve that, while nothing like the human experience, are no less “true.” Rather than confirming what we already know, they expand our world by providing a fresh perspective of the familiar.

More rain in the forecast tomorrow—guess where I’ll be….

Raindrops, Dogwood Leaf, Yosemite

Raindrops, Dogwood Leaf, Yosemite
When I arrived in Yosemite that morning a light rain was falling. Used my 100mm macro and 20 mm of extension to focus extremely close to this backlit dogwood leaf. It’s difficult to see, but these droplets are actually on the opposite side of the leaf. There is one way to tell—can you see it?
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
1/200 second
100 mm
ISO 800


10 Comments on “A camera’s reality

  1. it is so unfair you live so close to Yosemite
    great capture !

    • Thanks, Patsy. I don’t live that much closer than you do. From Sacramento it’s about a 3 1/2 hour drive (plus 15 minutes to recharge at Starbucks).

  2. Thanks for this post and reminder. I need to get up to Y and check on the dogwoods myself; rain or shine.
    Love this image!

  3. Both shots turned out fantastic! I love playing with the camera too, and experimenting, although I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable and skilled as you. I especially like the leaf shot you got. I think the biggest clue that the drops are on the other side, is found around the edges of the leaf, where you can see a bit of the actual drop on the other side. But also, there is a bit of flatness, or one dimensionality? is that the right word? to the drops as well. Great shot though!

    • Thanks, Sylvia. I see the droplet peaking around the leaf—that’s another clue, but not what I was looking at. What I see is the lack of a lens effect from each droplet. If they’d been on the front side of the leaf, the drops would have distorted the path of the veins.

  4. I agree with Patsy! 😉 But man I can relate to your words about passing something by at first, only to be kicked into revelation/epiphany by a piece of photographic equipment. We talk about the camera’s dynamic range being inferior to our eyes but on oh so many plains, our cameras have soul…if we just feel it with them! You do that and we are so lucky . This is wonderful Gary! Cheers – dj

  5. Re the leaf you can see the veins better
    on the backside . Did I answer the quiz correctly 😉

  6. No “shine” on the droplets
    So looking forward to moving next yearand being “only” 650 miles (7-8 hr) from Yosemite instead of the current 2700 miles (5 days by car) or even the 7-8 hr flight followed by a 3 hr drive from Oakland

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