The High Sierra’s
In 1920 Ansel Adams began Photographing the High Sierra’s, especially Yosemite National Park. He was intrigued with the splendor of the mountains and their ever- changing light. Adams spent the next 60 years of his career bringing the beauty of the High Sierra’s to the public consciousness. For that reason, it was inevitable that I would plan an adventure to one of California’s most beautiful parks to experience the majestic mountains and waterfalls for myself.
I have many of Ansel Adams Art books and studied the spots that he frequently photographed. So when I got my first glimpse of Half Dome its sheer elegance was visually overwhelming. Yosemite is nature at its finest, untouched and pure. So it was fascinating when I found out that in the 1930 Adams championed the cause of wildlife preservation because he felt Yosemite was being desecrated by commercialism and automobile traffic. After we returned home I compared what I photographed to his iconic images and it was interesting to see the changes decades have made. First and foremost, the river beds are almost as dry as Death Valley, as is most evident in my photo of the abandoned house at the entrance of the park. This is due to the severe drought that California has experienced over the last several years. You will also notice in many of my photographs that much of the forest is completely burned out. That was caused by last years rim fire in which a hunters illegal fire got out of control and burned more than 257,000 acres of precious land.
It was a happy accident that the first day we arrived there was a full moon. My husband and I drove/hiked up to Glacier Peak, one of the higher elevations, to try and capture the full moon over Half Dome. It is a testament to Adams tenacity and talent that he captured that iconic image. We stayed until about 10:30 and although it had been in the high 70’s during the day it was much colder that we had dressed for that evening. I was amazed at how much light the full moon gives off and how black it is if you turn in the other direction. When we left the moon wasn’t even close to Half Dome, but I was pleased with the images the resulted from that night. They remind me more of sunrise than sunset but oh well.
I photographed almost all of the shots with a tripod and a high density filter and when I processed the black and white images I mindfully tried to replicate the black skies and crisp contrast that Adams made so popular. We only stayed for a long weekend and although our days and nights were packed we barely scratched the surface of all that could be seen. I now understand why Ansel Adams devoted a lifetime trying to capture the alluring grandeur that is Yosemite.