When photographer Ansel Adams looked through his camera lens, he saw more than Yosemite’s rocks, trees, and rivers. He saw art. Hues of wildness surfaced in this great American photographer’s stunning black-and-white prints. And for most of his life, Yosemite National Park was Adams’ chief source of inspiration.
Ansel’s photographs are know the world over. I have a collection of them in a book at home in the United Kingdom and have always enjoyed the quality of composition and his choice of subject matter. Ansel was a leading exponent of the f64 group of photographers – you need to have used old school cameras to understand what that means. “The name of this Group is derived from a diaphragm number of the photographic lens. It signifies to a large extent the qualities of clearness and definition of the photographic image which is an important element in the work of members of this Group. The chief object of the Group is to present in frequent shows what it considers the best contemporary photography of the West; in addition to the showing of the work of its members, it will include prints from other photographers who evidence tendencies in their work similar to that of the Group.
So here I am on a trip to Ansel’s famous Yosemite Park. When stepping out of the boat a few years back, I never ever dreamed that I would get to visit here. According to the National Park Service. For tens of thousands of years, humans have changed, and have been changed by, this place we now call Yosemite. The Ahwahneechee lived here for generations, followed by the arrival of Europeans in the mid-1800s. The rugged terrain challenged many early European travelers, with just a few—only 650 from the mid-1850s to mid-1860s—making the journey to Yosemite Valley by horseback or stage. By 1907, construction of the Yosemite Valley Railroad from Merced to El Portal eased the journey, thereby, increasing visitation. Today, about 4 million people enter the park’s gates to explore Yosemite. We can learn from the stories of those who walked Yosemite’s trails before us and honor the echoes of their distant footsteps that have led to conscious preservation.
People: Seven present-day tribes descend from the people who first called this area home. As Europeans arrived in the mid-1800s, violent disruption ensued that displaced the native populations. Early white settlers arrived and hosted writers, artists, and photographers who spread the fame of “the Incomparable Valley” throughout the world.
Places: Within Yosemite’s history, various populations thrived and left their mark. From historic mining sites, the remains from miners who came to the Sierra to seek their fortune in gold, to early lodging establishments, like the Wawona Hotel, offered a more primitive setting for the Valley’s first tourists and today’s visitors, and more elegant lodging, like The Ahwahnee, was added to satisfy those looking for comfort.
Stories: History books detail the Mariposa Battalion entering Yosemite Valley in 1851 to remove the Ahwahneechee. As Euro-American settlement occurred, people arrived on foot, on horseback and by rail to rustic hotels. Parts of the landscape were exploited, spurring conservationists to appeal for protections. President Abraham Lincoln signed an 1864 bill granting Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to the State of California. John Muir helped spark the creation of Yosemite National Park in 1890.
I am with two other students from Bethel having travelled through Lassen, Reno and Monobasin to get to the park entrance we drive (yes drive) 10,000 up a mountain pass to enter the park. The Ford Expedition was struggling at the lack of Oxygen for this visit.
I am not to be disappointed. My friends leave me to climb the high peaks. I do not want to risk my foot on trekking these days and confined myself to the valley bottom. These are some of the photos I grabbed.
Monobase near to the edge of the Park.
I was tired at the end of the first day. My two friends had climbed half Dome and were had managed to run out of mobile phone battery. I waited until well after dark for them to show at the agreed meeting point. At the moment I left to go and search other possible places they appeared out of the gloom of the mountain pass. We drive to the hotel and find a restaurant for some Tri Tip BBQ.
On the second day, the high mountain pass to see Half Dome was open for the first time this year, the snow having cleared. I drove in an half an hour what took my friends half a day to climb. Here I am with half dome in the distance. The power contained deep within the earth to shape such mountains and blow them apart always inspires me.
Leaving the park each day provided me with my two Ansel moments. This fiery moment of the setting sun reflected on rocks and water.
And a thunder storm about to lash down on the second day of our visit. My favorite picture of the trip by far.