Having worked the two locations I had sent as projects for this trip, I scouted around for another to experiment with. The light was unremarkable, the skies were boring, and my knees were limiting my wandering around, so I ended up at an old favorite, an area along Southside drive near the boardwalks out to the Merced that has a really nice view of Upper Yosemite Falls. I’ve shot here many times, and it’s a nice, classic composition that can be tricky depending on the light, the wind and the crowds, but it can get you anything from really tight shots of part of the falls to wide angle vistas, and it’s a fun place to experiment.
It’s also a fun place to hang out and talk to people, and having a camera out on a tripod is a good way to have people pop up and chat. I ran into a French couple that was in the park for the first time, and had a great conversation with them about locations to explore beyond tunnel view. Hopefully that helped them get some nice shots.
I wanted to use this stop to really experiment with my new ND filters. For Christmas, I asked for and got a new set of filters from Breakthrough Photography, including a polarizer and 3 and 5 stop NDs. This was the first chance I’d had to run them through some real world shooting and see how they work. I’ll do a more thorough writeup of them down the road — I still need to get and test the 10 stop — but I’m really impressed with the build quality. They’re thin, the threading is very well done, and I had zero issues with them. They also seem effectively close to zero color cast, although I want to wait until I use the 10 stop for a few outings before I say anything definitive about that. They were, though, a joy to use.
Since I had nowhere to be and we were headed into late afternoon, I hauled out the gear, set up the tripod and the camp chair, sat down and played with the waterfall, using shutter speeds from about 1/50 of a second all that way to four minutes.
In general I found the really long shutter speeds didn’t improve the look of the water, but attenuated it so it wasn’t as prominent. After studying them once I got back home, I decided my favorites used a shutter speed around 3 seconds, although the shots below vary from half a second to about 2 minutes. Above 2 minutes I just didn’t like the look as well. All of these were shot at F/22, which seemed to be what I shot everything at this trip, in part because on this trip I was also reviewing some instructional videos from Frans Lanting and his shooting technique intrigued me so I adopted it to see how it worked (hint: not surprisingly, quite well).
I don’t think of these images are game stoppers, but I think they’re nice additions to my collection of yosemite images. At this time of year, the falls still has that mini-glacier at the bottom, but unlike mid-winter, it’s not building up ice along the cliff face, which can lead to interesting and recurring ice falls as the build-up becomes too heavy to cling and drops. I found that ice at the bottom complicated compositions in ways I didn’t expect, because going in too tight and clipping the edges of it just looked wrong, so it limited me in ways that a later spring shoot when that goes back to rocks wouldn’t have. A fun challenge, though.
I ended up with 30 images or so I liked, but whittled it down to these six that I’m adding my my library as the best, and as a varied set that doesn’t duplicate itself.
When the wind kicks in, it can blow the falls out of alignment, and if you watch it for a while, you’ll see it curve and sometimes almost dance. On really interesting days, I’ve seen S curves in it, and I’ve seen push way out to the left, and then dance back right. On this trip, I had some of that, but none of the images I took showed it in ways I felt were that interesting or distinctive, so I didn’t keep them for the final collection. There is a bit of that in image 2 if you look closely.
So this is the results from my third, and as it turned out, final location for the trip — which I’ll discuss more in the overall trip report. And I think I did fine given the circumstances, but none of these are going to be award winners. Which is, of course, perfectly okay. They do, I think, improve my collection of images from Yosemite, and that’s what matters.
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