Standing in God’s Temple

Upper Yosemite Falls and pines, Yosemite National ParkI had a curious experience in Yosemite when I was up there photographing with Chuck a couple of weeks ago. John Muir, the great naturalist who spent much time in Yosemite and had a lot to do with preserving it, once said, “No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite” and “This glorious valley might well be called a church, for every lover of the great Creator who comes within the broad overwhelming influences of [Yosemite] fails not to worship as they never did before.”

The trouble was, here I was, standing in the Yosemite Valley looking at Yosemite Falls and I failed. Well, that’s not to say that I didn’t consider this a beautiful place, and a place that showed the artistic hand of God. No, I was bored and I felt guilty being bored in this beautiful place. That seemed like an affront to nature and God.

One problem, I know, is that having been editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine for so many years, and having loved Ansel Adams work, I had seen this scene so many times before, even though I had never been to Yosemite Valley before. To top it off, a gentleman came along, and seeing my camera and tripod, said that there must be 20,000 photographs of that falls from this spot (which is probably on the low side as there are not many angles to this falls that show it off like the location I was at). That didn’t cheer me up.

I feel that nature deserves our best as photographers. Taking another photo that everyone else has taken is not only boring to me, but also for me, it also doesn’t honor nature and the Creator as much as we might be able to do if we find a fresh way to show off the glory of a scene so that it grabs the attention of an often bored public as well. S0 I still felt bad.

Well, I looked up and saw these wonderful trees. They definitely said something about Yosemite Valley today. And I saw the falls and thought they would be interesting together, but the trees were in deep shade and the falls in bright sun. There is no camera in the world that can handle that range of brightness.

Then I remembered HDR. This is a special technique that allows you to take a series of exposures of a scene to capture detail in the dark areas, the bright areas, and the tones in between. Then you combine those exposures into one image that comes much closer to reality.

This was a shot I had never seen before of a place that everyone seems to know! I knew it was different because HDR is still relatively new (if you are a photographer and want to know more about it, there is info on my blog, — search for HDR). I finally felt I had something that honored this very special place and that I could now enter Muir’s church without feeling guilty.

–Rob Sheppard