Yosemite in Winter
(Iconic or Non-Iconic Image?)
How do you create photographs in Yosemite without copying someone else’ photographic style? How do you avoid the iconic Yosemite image? The view points and vistas are all around you—Tunnel view, Valley view, Sentinel Bridge, Ahwahnee Meadow, and many more special roadside turnouts and locations. Every serious photographer who has visited Yosemite has placed their tripod at these locations. How do you not copy legendary photographers like Ansel Adams, and many other well know photographers who have made many famous iconic images of Yosemite Valley’s special landmarks.
In mid February the valley is flooded with photographers all trying to capture that sometimes elusive image of Horsetail Falls. They come from all over the country, and many make it a ritual to come back year after year at this time. The El Capitan picnic area is jammed packed with photographers’ hours before the magical sunset time. All these photographers will create a very similar image—images with just a slightly different crop, created using a different zoom settings or with a somewhat different lens choice.
In reality actually, if you’re in Yosemite Valley, as a photographer, you just have to take iconic pictures. The beauty and the awesome grandeur of the place calls to the landscape photographer inside of you–demands that you capture the great earth gesture of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the geological forces that created Yosemite Valley. Why go there and not try your hand at taking iconic images.
What I am saying though is also to try to create an image that’s your own, non-iconic, that represents your style and vision. Experiment, try to step out of your comfort zone, if you’re always using a wide angle lens then try a mid zoom for a different landscape composition. Make your photographic weakness, your new strength, by learning some photo technique beforehand, like star trails or painting at night. Or try a composition that does show the valley’s recognizable landmarks; see if you can create a memorable image without them.
Take all your photographic knowledge about light and composition and blend that with solid technique practiced beforehand, freeing your spirit and moving into a special Zen like relationship with your subject. This shouldn’t be hard in Yosemite!
I believe all great photographic images are created when you are in this Taoist state, in complete harmony with the world and your connection and relationship to it. In this state your vision is expanded: you see more, feel more, and are more alive than before. Enabling you in the moment to create great images!
If your successful, then, your non-iconic image of Yosemite will become the next iconic image…and along the way, you’ll develop a style and vision that’s recognizable and your own.
“When I am experimenting with a new idea, I’ll determine technical aspects well beforehand, so when I am shooting, I don’t need to think. This let’s me be as receptive to the moment as possible.” – Chris McDonough
“I am not interested in shooting new things—I am interested to see things new.” – Ernest Haas
“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting beauty. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”— Henri Cartier-Bresson
Quotes from The Tao of Photograph, Seeing Beyond Seeing, Philippe L. Gross and S.I. Shapiro: by Chris McDonough, pg. 110, Ernest Haas, pg. 126, Henri Cartier-Bresson, pg. 106.