Every summer for the past 30 years or so, my wife and I have set aside time to hike or backpack in the high country of Yosemite National Park. We cannot let a season slip by without a visit to the mountains. We took our daughter to all the High Sierra Camps when she was about 10 years old and I still remember carrying her to the summit of Mt. Hoffman on my back. We have spent many warm afternoons swimming in the high mountain lakes and rivers. The Vogelsang area remains our favorite and we remember the adventure of hiking cross-country from Vogelsang to Sunrise High Sierra Camp.
When hiking in the high country, I am always searching for locations that I can revisit when the lighting is dramatic, usually at sunset, sunrise or when the weather is stormy. The vast landscapes in the Sierras require patience and thoughtfulness to capture them with the right condition. If they were portraits, I would be waiting for the perfect expression to reveal their inner personality—that fleeting moment when several elements converge and the image is there.
The relatively small valley floor of Yosemite National Park is well known for its famous landmarks such as Half Dome, El Capitan, and numerous waterfalls. Over the years I have taken hundreds of photographs of these locations and they have provided a foundation from which I continue to search for fresh perspectives. These landmarks can be incorporated into a variety of dramatic images. With so many excellent photographs being taken in Yosemite, it has become increasingly difficult to find a new way of seeing and presenting. A strong image reveals thoughtfulness, patience, good lighting and just the right mix of elements which allow it to be seen time after time and still offer something new to the viewer.
In Yosemite, this might mean capturing the mood of the weather or the feeling of being in nature. When I look at a photograph and can recall it clearly the next day, I know that it is a successful and enduring image.
EARLY MORNING AT FLETCHER LAKE
Fletcher Lake is located next to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, one of the most beautiful locations in the high country of Yosemite.
FALLEN LOG ONTHE MERCED RIVER
This location along the Merced River has striking views of El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall, but the color of the setting sun on the river and the dogwood tree in bloom caught my attention.
This photograph was taken during a winter workshop I teach.On this cold and wet evening we were looking for moody images, which take advantage of the black oaks and rising mist in El Capitan Meadow.
These stark black oaks stopped me as I drove by. It was almost dark and raining, and after taking several “normal” photographs I decided to move my camera while the shutter was open, which created this dynamic and striking image.
Douglas Steakley is an award winning photographer from Carmel Valley. Three books of his images have been published and he is currently working on a new project, “Monterey Wild.” Steakley works closely with several land conservation groups, and in 2003, he received the Ansel Adams Award from The Sierra Club for his environmental photography. In 2008, an image he took in Yosemite National Park was the Grand Prize winner in a photography contest co-sponsored by National Geographic and Energizer batteries. Steakley teaches an annual photography workshop in Yosemite and leads a variety of classes in other locations. The next “Winter in Yosemite” workshop is held January 28-31, 2010. Fine art prints and additional information are available through www.douglassteakley.com.