A fading half moon, setting in the west, illuminates a valley carved from a solid block of granite. Rock made of primary minerals reflect the moon's light like millions of tiny mirrors. The stars above, etched in deep indigo and the quiet of a midnight, inform a mountain peace. A lone artist paints what he feels, packs up and moves on.
The week was filled with the harsh light of an approaching summer and yielded little in photographic pursuit. Feeling a lack of inspiration and wanting a little change, I packed away my camera and signed up for a watercolor class. I spent three peaceful mornings wandering the valley painting with pigment rather than light. It was marvelous to sit in one spot and really study a scene. To watch the shadows unfold and the light change throughout the hours. The watercolor paintings I produced were horrid, but every visual artist should spend time away from their chosen medium. After the third day I had had my fill and was eager to get my camera back in my hands. The weather hadn't changed, but I decided to get started after the sun went down.
The half-moon light was of perfect intensity. The granite of Yosemite is quite reflective, so a full moon would have reflected too much light to balance the sky and rock in a single exposure. Not being a fan of star trails (the long arc of starlight produced by very long exposure times), I wanted to get pinpoint starlight. My exposure couldn't be longer than 16 seconds or the stars' movement would become apparent. At 16 seconds, I could get the deep indigo in the sky, pinpoint stars, a perfect exposure of the rocks, and Bridalveil Falls all in a single exposure.
It's quite a thing to feel the pull of an artistic medium, the physical extension of your creative self: to know it, understand it and feel awed by it.