Amongst the Crowd
Landscape photography is often not about finding the hidden spot, it’s about your vision of whatever is in front of you and how you execute it. Recently I was back in the Yosemite, which always feels like coming home to me. When a place touches you like this it will always have that warm enveloping feeling like coming home to a Thanksgiving dinner or seeing an old friend and picking up the conversation where it was left years before.
Because of deep snow conditions higher up I stayed in the valley, wandering to and fro. With light storms rolling through I went to the most popular lookout spot in the park, maybe one of the most famous in all of the national parks, the tunnel view. Even with the innumerable crowds, it’s hard to beat the grandeur of the vista. The geologic scene unfolds with such immensity it’s easy to understand why so many flock here, and this afternoon was no different.
A row of tripods extended the entire length of the rock lined viewpoint. Shutters rapid fire clicking as if in a fashion shoot. Which is a bit silly with landscape photography, but all too common with digital equipment. And therein lies my main critique of using digital gear out here, a profound lack of observation coupled with an obsession with the immediate.
A scene this grand, this large and this well known requires a conversation with what you’re seeing. It requires you to stop and listen to the wind and what it whispers to you alone.
A storm was brewing from the west and rolling into the valley with pockets of sunlight piercing the scene. I had been in a somewhat dark mood all day, and the plethora of people around me just added to this intense feeling of landscape isolation. I simply saw what they refused to listen to. I was a conductor of my own little quartet, while those around me weren’t listening at all.
I loaded the film back, closed and wound the shutter, held the shutter release cable in my hand and waited, and waited, and waited. Technically I was waiting for a piercing ray of light to illuminate Bridalveil Falls and nothing else in the foreground. Poetically I was waiting for my mind to empty, for the surrounding noise to fall to the background, to enter that realm of slight insanity that is required to hear the music of the universe. And then the waterfall lit up and I clicked and held the shutter open for four minutes. Time for me stood still and like a time-lapse movie those around me sped up, moving ant-like in their haste to be always moving.
I closed the shutter after four minutes, one frame, one capture. I stayed longer, but didn’t shoot. My neighbors left and new ones moved in. It can be lonely amongst the crowd, it can also be freeing.