This will sound self-serving.  Maybe it is.  I was looking at some books of Ansel Adams’ pictures at a local bookstore, and came across several photos taken at Yosemite National Park from Tunnel View (plus a lot of other pictures of the Park).  I have seen more on the Internet: Here and here.  Without a doubt Adams’ pictures are unbelievably fabulous, but there are many other great pictures out there as well.  In particular I would draw your attention to Michael Frye, whose series of Yosemite images are consistently stunning. 

So I was in Yosemite twice in the past four months, and lucked into two unanticipated unstable weather conditions that brought autumn snow to the valley on one occasion, and a mild rain/snow dusting on the other that resulted in the coveted “clearing storm” opportunity.  On each occasion I photographed the valley from Tunnel View with very nice results.

Are they better pictures of Yosemite than those of Ansel and Michael?  That is definitely not the point (A: No).  Because Ansel did not create a picture of Yosemite, but a “feeling” of Yosemite.  It is a picture with much more – “something else”.  In my opinion it doesn’t even matter that his pictures were take in Yosemite (although this probably is a stretch because there is no getting around the fact that Yosemite is glorious).   The place is not the point.  The goal – my goal – is not to have a better picture “of,” but to add my own experience, the “mystery” in the shadows, the “fantasy” in the colors (or shades of B&W), the “unsettledness” of the spirit, the “trepidation” of walking down the valley and disappearing into the distance.  I was there – I felt.  I hope you enjoy my interpretation of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View.

I just returned from northern New Mexico.  Light was "okay" - check out some of the pictures from that shoot using links on the Home Page.  I also created a new video entitled Night Dreams.  Please offer comments.

The Wave


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Reaching the “The Wave” is very doable, but you need a permit.  For 12 strait months my application was rejected by the BLM (I lost the lottery).  So @ $5/month I was out 60 bucks – okay, not a lot, but now I was getting mad.  So I applied for July – and received a two-person permit.  After waiting so long I was expecting a “congratulations” note from BLM; instead I received a warning letter on red paper – “it will be 110 degrees, people die, rescue will be slow if at all, carry at least a gallon of water.”  Now I’m nervous.  I optimized my backpack (25 pounds exactly) and took brief practice walks.  Still nervous. 

My partner/guide was slightly older (I’m older too, but he beats me), a great photographer with a young man’s enthusiasm.  This was to be his 42nd trip to the Wave so he knows the way in (no trail or markers exist).   He said July was a good month to go - Arizona’s monsoon season might give us some special picture opportunities. 

We started walking at sunrise – first hikers out – but were eventually passed by the other 12 people who went in that day.  I became more worried when they all passed us on their way out, before we reached “the end” (meaning to become clear).  Our water was holding (I brought 5 ½ liters), but the morning temperature was north of 95 and reflecting off the slick rock.  Our pace was not good.  My partner frankly had overestimated his ability, and although I appeared to be doing okay at 4 hours in, I wasn’t sure how I would be at 6 or 8 hours. 

We reached the final climb to Wave after 4½ hours.  The climb is in sand and difficult, and seeing my friend take one step and pause for a minute to rest, I knew we were done.  So I took the initiative and made us turn around within site of its entrance.  The walk back of more than 4 hours was slow (understatement), and my anxiety level was climbing.  When we finally reached the wash which leads to the trail head and parking lot, my guide found some shade under a short bush and fell asleep while I hiked the last 30 minutes alone, coming back to pick him up with his 4X4 jeep (after a brief argument with the BLM agent about a humanitarian rescue).

So 1 year and 60 bucks and no Wave picture – not one.  But it was a caper.  I am proud of my fitness (8 ½ hours at 100 degrees and 25 extra pounds on my back) and my decision to quit when I did (maybe I should have done so earlier).  My friend will take great pictures for many years to come, but he has agreed that the Wave will not be one of them.  He remains an inspiration.  I have begun the application process all over, and SOMEDAY!!!!!

Near the end of my recent photography trip I met up with some friends near Casper, Wyoming to fish the North Platt – trout, catch & release.  The lodge gives out “25” logo hats to those anglers who land a 25 inch trout or better.   I am sure I hooked a 28 or 29 incher – a giant – but I didn’t land it – no hat.  Of course I (and my friends) have already signed on for same time, next year.  The “almost” gave me a taste of a truly great fish; I’ll definitely be back.  I love fly-fishing. 

Photography is not dissimilar.  We look for the “25” but often have to settle for the 18 or 20.  We can seek out the best light (dawn and dusk), but can sometimes get skunked if dense cloud cover obscures the rising or setting sun.  More often the problem is a lack of drama or moment – we want some clouds, a rainbow, lightening, a storm, unexpected wildlife showing up in the scene, but no – we make do and still celebrate the beauty, but miss getting the “hat.”

I spent two weeks covering Cedar Breaks, Bryce, Coral Pink Dunes, the Pawnee ButtesThe Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  Maybe my inspiration level was low, maybe it was too hot to get enthused, maybe my compositions just didn’t click.  Most of the time “photographic weather” remained elusive, spooking the fishing.

So I am putting up a few of my shots, but like fishing the North Platt, a “25er” will require a return visit (and not in July or August).

Check out the link to my video page, where over the next several weeks I will try to show some hybrid video/still presentations of some of my work.  I am realizing that adding royalty-free music is difficult - I'm doing my best to find something compatible.
Recently I have been taking some pictures of National Historic Landmarks.  From the Web site:

“National Historic Landmarksare nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Today, fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction. Working with citizens throughout the nation, the National Historic Landmarks Program draws upon the expertise of National Park Service staff who work to nominate new landmarks and provide assistance to existing landmarks”.

Most of my photos are of Landmarks located near my home in Northern California, although I do have a couple taken during my trip to Savannah and Charleston.  I have submitted a few of these to the NHL Web site and perhaps one or more will be accepted and published.  Plan on visiting sites nearby your own home areas – definitely worth a visit.

Historic Savannah is geometrically designed and contains multiple (at least 24) 2-block large “squares,” both beautiful and historically significant.  The terrain is flat, and the entire district is easily walkable.  Here are my top 10 suggestions:
1)   To get a layout overview, on day one walk as much of the city as possible.  Don’t miss the river walk along the Savannah River at the north edge of town.
2)   Take the free 5-10 minute ferry ride across the Savannah River for sunrise or sunset pictures of the riverfront area.

3)   Signup for a hugely informative historic walking tour with Savannah Dan – 2 hours.
4)   Go back to one or two of the squares for early or late pictures.
5)   Eat at the best restaurant in town, The Olde Pink House, 23 Abercorn, 912 232-4286.  Outside on the balcony is great, but try to get down to the basement bar for a drink and entertainment (Downey Mosley on the piano) before eating.
6)   Visit Tybee Island, an easy drive from town.  Get to the lighthouse area for sunrise pictures.  Walk on the great beach, and then drive over to the small town of Tybee.  Prior to leaving the island have lunch at the famous Crab Shack, and then take a very informative guided tour of Fort Pulaski.  You can easily be back in Savannah by late afternoon.
7)   Visit one or more of the historic homes in town – information at the Visitor Center.
8)   9)  10)  Drive to Charleston (100 miles), stopping at Bluffton and Beaufort along the way (lunch).  Lots to do in Charleston, the topic of another post.
Click to view a few pictures of Savanah and Tybee Island.

I am very fond of the California coast, particularly its northern half.  Nevertheless I have found it difficult to photograph.  Skies are (usually) not interesting.  Fog is hard to capture.  I have had a hard time creating interesting compositions.  Pictures of haystacks taken from the beach at sunset along then Oregon coast, with splashing waves and sun stars, are beautiful if more common; I want to go there next.  But I keep trying closer to home.  My new slide show (Home Page) gives a glimpse of our coastline.  I have included some lighthouses.  I have taken pictures from higher up, from the beach, standing far back from the beach and looking backward from the beach.  I have placed the point of emphasis miles from the shooting site.   I captured a family of whales (well, flumes).  At any rate I am trying, and will continue to do so.

This is a real photography tip, better than a stock recommendation or a winning parlay.   Obviously there are plenty of great and even extraordinary photographers out there.  Jackson Bridges is one of those, but more.  He has lots of experience.  I am not divulging his age, but I can tell you he doesn’t act it.  I had the privilege of shooting with him over parts of three days near his hometown of Page, Arizona.  This man brings a youthful joy to his work.  Yes we were seeking the golden-hour light, but he was not waiting for it nor abandoning his camera after sunset.  A daytime shadow, a cloud, a pattern – he’s out of his car firing away.  Moonlight is his specialty, but not enough? – add flash or a flashlight.   He loves taking pictures, anytime, day or night.  He’ll also talk you through technical or artistic issues.  If you plan photographing in that area, I would strongly encourage calling him and perhaps spending some camera time with him.  He knows the area, the timing of the best light, etc.  Click on his name to open his Web site – now that’s a guaranteed winner.  

My daughter Audrey died way too young.  She was very artistic dating to early childhood, later excelling with the camera, producing mostly black and white images in her own unique style.  She modified many in the dark room. Her emphasis was clearly on the “B” half of “B&W.”  I have scanned several of her photographs on my computer.  Please click on her picture a view some of her work


Richard Gaston Photography