A Tale of Two Photos

The photo above was taken at a very popular place in Yosemite called Gates of the Valley or Valley View. I’m sure you’ve seen photos from this place before and probably better ones than this. This view of Yosemite, however, is so compelling that it’s hard to take a bad photo from this spot. That’s how it is with most grand landscape photographs. They’re basically documents of extraordinary locations. As long as the photo is exposed well and not horribly composed, it will look good. However compare most photos of extraordinary locations to the experience of actually being there, and being there will win out every time. There are very few photographers who can photograph locations like this and make them unique and their own. Galen Rowell and Marc Adamus come to mind. Mere mortals like me will look for more intimate and less grand places to make compelling images.

This image is probably not a location you’ve seen before. Interestingly enough, it was taken at the same location as the first image. However I was turned about 100 degrees to the right for this one. Being that it’s in Yosemite, there were probably hundreds of photographers in the park that day, but I wonder if anyone else got this photo. Photos like this one require distilling the experience of grand landscapes and putting them into a more personal point of view. Though I would never compare the experience of a photograph to the experience of being in Yosemite Valley, I feel that this photograph is not dwarfed by the beauty of the location. It stands on its own.

I go out in nature to be wowed by the grand majesty of it, but it’s the essence of the beauty and majesty that I try to capture in simpler more intimate images.


~ by danbaumbach on April 20, 2013.

7 Responses to “A Tale of Two Photos”

  1. Well said Dan! And Yosemite is the perfect example of how to expand’s one vision beyond the grand landscape. And you were one that helped me see that! Thanks!

  2. The second photo is by far the more interesting one for me. It not only shows ‘what else’ is there in Yosemite but tells me a great deal about the person who was able to both isolate the scene and present it in such perfect fashion.

    FWIW, I don’t think there is anything less in going after intimate scenes.

  3. That is a great lesson in pursuing your own personal vision, Dan. Though your Gates of the Valley is excellent as well.

  4. Both are beautiful up to a point, Dan. My father made a pretty nice one of that spot in the Fall before it was as popular as it is now. I’m chuckling a bit about the tree snags in the foreground of the “big landscape,” which serves to prove your point further, but also makes your photograph unique. Nobody else has the huevos to photograph those snags these days. People want to make a pretty picture out of it, like most of the other iconic locations. My father would have done it snags and all like you have. Most photographers would probably wade out beyond the first snag to get a better view of that silky water foreground and maybe a better reflection. In all my trips to Yosemite, including living there a whole summer, I’ve never stopped at that spot for the reasons you mention. I like your phrase, “documents of extraordinary landscapes.” So true.

    On the other hand, the second image really speaks to me, and I imagine other viewers, because it is an expression of who you are as a person and photographer. I wouldn’t trade one photograph like the second one for 500 of the first.

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