Photography by Jim Doty

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Last Light on El Capitan
Jim Doty, Jr.

Last Light on El Capitan
Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is a spectacular place to visit in any season of the year . If you are there in the winter, the ideal time to create images is right after a snowfall when snow coats the trees.

The "golden hours" right before and after sunrise and sunset are a favorite time of day for landscape photographers because you often find the best light of the day.

I was in Yosemite Valley at the end of a cloudy day and it was getting darker. I thought I was done for the day when the clouds began to lift, allowing the last warm rays of sunlight to paint part of the face of El Capitan. I wasn't in a good spot to photograph El Capitan so I had to drive to a better location, hike quickly in the deep snow to a good location with a nice foreground, set up my tripod, and grab a few frames before the light show was over. The light lasted only a few minutes and I barely made it to a good location. I liked the cool blue foreground light on the snow covered trees which provided a nice contrast to the warm light on El Capitan.

My camera didn't have a spot meter, so I couldn't meter the narrow band of sunset light on El Capitan. I didn't want the meter to be fooled by the darker light in the shadows so I metered the blue sky in the upper left of the frame, picking an initial exposure that would make the sky a medium blue tone. Then I bracketed exposures on either side of the initial exposure to be sure I had the best possible exposure.

Exposure data was unrecorded. I was using Fujichrome 50 slide film in a Canon AE-1 camera.

More information about exposure is in my highly rated book, Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies.

March 6, 2012

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