Leaving Lembert Dome, Dusk

Leaving Lembert Dome, Dusk

Leaving Lembert Dome, Dusk. Yosemite National Park, California. July 30, 2007. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Hiker leaving the summit of Lembert Dome at dusk. Tuolumne Meadows, with the Sierra crest in the background. Yosemite National Park, California.

I shot this last summer on an evening when I had just finished photographing the Sierra sunset from the top of Lembert Dome in the Tuolumne Meadows area. The “good light” had seemingly ended and I had packed up my camera, lenses, and tripod and was heading down from the peak when there was a wonderful bit of post-sunset warm, soft light… just at the moment when this lone hiker crossed this section of the granite come below me. Not having time to set up my tripod and other gear properly, I simply grabbed three frames at very low shutter speeds, and I was very pleased when I found that one of them actually turned out beautifully. In this case, I was shooting hand held at such low shutter speeds that I had to rely on the image-stabilization feature of the lens I had on my camera at that moment.

(Update#2: Since I posted this color version I was contacted about licensing the use of  a black and white version of the photograph in a print journal. There are, I think, a few lessons in this shot and this experience.

  • First, not all landscape photography is done at a sedate and leisurely pace, pondering for many minutes the intricacies of composition and so forth. Sometimes things happen so quickly that you must depend upon instincts and react quickly to a situation that only lasts a moment. In this case I could not possibly have anticipated the light or the appearance of the lone hiker – when I saw this conjunction of subjects I had no time to set up a tripod.
  • Second, sometimes traditional landscape approaches (tripod, small aperture, etc.) won’t get the shot and the adaptability of your gear may save the day… or evening. I pulled out my camera and handheld the shot using the lens that was already on the camera with image stabilization and a rather low shutter speed.
  • Third, it probably isn’t news to any one, but sometimes an image that you conceive as color may turn out to work well in black and white, and vice versa. Be flexible.

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4 thoughts on “Leaving Lembert Dome, Dusk”

  1. Your point about “inconvenience” resonates, for sure, Rob.

    It really is about time. Time to go to the place where the photograph can be made. Time to go there more than once and get to know the place. Time to wait and look when you get there. Time to look at the subject from more than one perspective. Time to be patient when a “great shot” isn’t immediately apparent.

    Two more points related to this – one recent experience supporting this notion and the other countering it.

    1. A week ago I found time to drive the coast highway along California’s Big Sur coast. It is such a long drive and there is so much to see that at one point I had started to think more about the inconvenience of stopping than then need to slow down and pause. I’m sure I missed some photographs, but I did “change gears” and begin to stop, and I came back with some photos a that I think work well. (This “stopping” is, of course, one reason that I never do these trips with my wife – I’m sure it would drive her or any other normal person completely nuts.)

    2. Ironically, the image that is the subject of this post is not exactly the result of this approach to shooting. I had hiked to the top of this dome with some specific subjects in mind, and I had finished shooting them and had packed everything away. I was pretty much in “hiking mode” at this point. I was completely surprised – as is often the case – by the sudden and unexpected juxtaposition of the hiker and the post-sunset light. I barely had time to think – just dropped the pack, pulled out the camera, made some quick settings based on hunches and fired of three handheld shots. Sometimes that approach works, too. :-)


  2. Beautiful light. Nicely composed. A great catch. This reminds me of something I have been doing lately (the past 2 weeks.) I’ve become more willing to inconvenience myself for my photography. What I mean is, like you did here, if my gear is packed up but I see something, I take the time to take it back out and shoot. I’ll pull the car over for a shot. Linger longer. Life’s too short to pass up any opportunity to create. You clearly did the right thing here not passing up the exceptional light and this moment.



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