My Most ‘Unique’ Photograph Of Yosemite Valley

April 1st, 2015 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

My Most Amazing Photo of Yosemite Yet

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California

Always. Do. Your. Home. Work…?

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California. Objects appear by special licensing permission from far out friends of Steven Spielberg.

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California. Sky objects appear by special licensing permission from far out friends of Steven Spielberg. (Click on the image to see large.)

        For many months I have been researching Yosemite National Park photo locations on Flickr, Instagram, 500px, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, The Luminous Landscape, Outdoor Photographer Locations, and how can I forget: Facebook. Then I consulted my photographer’s ephemeris, the Weather Channel, my neighbor who works at NOAA, astrological charts, astronomical charts, phases of the moon, sunspot activity reports, the Gregorian Calendar, the Hebrew Calendar, the Mayan Calendar, Dreamspell, a number of online games, Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Showtime, TV Guide, the Outdoor Channel, the Discovery Channel, Oprah, The Ansel Adams Gallery Blog, Michael Frye’s Blog, various Yosemite web cams, the Ghost of Ansel, the Yosemite Tour Bus Schedule, Bill Clinton’s speaking schedule, the Sierra Ski Report, the Central Coast surf report, literally hundreds of guidebooks, pamphlets, brochures, every hotel and motel and a few dive bars, taverns, bathroom walls and small funky convenience stores within 150 miles, searching for inspiration in Yosemite.

I wanted quintessential Yosemite, but yet my own take on this hallowed place. I input all of this data into a new photographer’s analytics program that I got at Home Depot, or was it Toys ‘R’ Us? Anyway, this is an amazing program. It crunched all this data and then tracked down the almost exact location through shared camera GPS coordinates.

The Sound of A Million Shutters Clicking

I drove seven long hours to capture this amazing Yosemite Valley perspective that is destined to be a centerpiece of my Portfolio One. Just when I thought I was the only person who might have thought of capturing this unique vantage point, I was disappointed to find that hundreds of photographers were already there snapping away. The sound of electronic digital shutters clicking was like a thousand tiny tornadoes. At first I was dumbfounded and even sat down to cry. To think that my unique location had already been discovered. There was a lineup of photographers, shoulder to shoulder, camera bag to camera bag, stretching throughout the parking lot, down into the brush, into the woods and way up the hill as far as I could see, all facing the same direction, all with tripods interlocked.

Finally after a good gnashing, howling and trembling sob, I stood up and felt a little better, resigned to make the most of the situation. I jogged down to the lineup in slow motion and imagined triumphant music and a TV crew tracking me. Esteemed photographer Ken Cravillion was there, a voice of good humor and reason. He offered me his spot between two other “photographers.” I set up my camera and took only One Shot, just as a famous muscle man from Australia has taught.

“I freakin’ nailed it,” I yelled at the top of my lungs with gusto and glee.

Secret Systems and Special Gear Make a Photographer…?

At that moment, way up behind me in the crowd I saw my friend Jim Sabiston from New York City.

“New York City,” I exclaimed when he drew near. “You must have some of the same secret systems and special gear that I do. I can tell that is what has made you an extraordinary photographer. I wonder if that is how all these amazing master professionals knew to photograph here too.” We proceeded to compare notes as I wrapped up my exposure. It turns out he looked up some of the same materials and has many of the same sources.

“Golly-wiz,” I said, “We can’t let this information get out. Pretty soon all the photographs made with these secret toys, ahem, tools, will look the same.” I would not want to spoil the incredible uniqueness already developing online among people who snap photos, post regularly and read each other’s materials exclusively, rarely, if ever, reading a classic novel or setting foot in a museum.

Now that I had my One Shot, I gave my spot in the lineup to Jim. I told him that I couldn’t wait to compare my photograph to his, not visually or aesthetically, but socially, to see which one would get more likes on Facebook. We are in competition because competition is, of course, the name of the game in photography, especially competition for recognition, not necessarily for quality. Quality is sort of an afterthought. What matters are “likes,” retweets, pins and reposts. Nonetheless, even though we are in competition, because it is amazing, I highly recommend checking out Jim’s photograph on his blog.

Ghost In The Machine

It was not until I opened my photograph in Photoshop Camera Raw that I noticed that something very unusual had indeed happened after all. At first these flying objects that I could not identify in the sky were very faint. Yet, after I applied my layers, presets, plugins, knockoffs and knockouts, I found the objects were much clearer. I still am not sure what they are. They look like something from Star Wars or Star Trek, but as some people have pointed out, all three of them are the same size, even though they are each a different clarity and brightness. Something is shooting a beam off into space toward the upper left of the image. I am not sure if this has anything to do with the objects, or The Arcanum, or with Bridalveil Falls lined up with it in synchronicity on the right, but this beam is clearly there in the image and even in some other images I saw taken at the same time. If the objects are indeed flying, people have pointed out that the perspective is wrong for them to be behind one another coming toward us. I am amazed some people have even made comments like, “The sky is all messy in that spot. It looks like you Photoshopped those objects into your photograph.” Can you believe it? I was flabbergasted. I tried to explain that it might be due to the beaming in process. Skeptics.

My own theory is that at the decisive moment of capture, each object was in the process of beaming in from somewhere else. This explains the differences in appearance. Also, if you look closely and squint your eyes, you too may see the objects becoming even clearer before your very eyes. They have been getting clearer in the photograph gradually all along. I am not sure how to explain this phenomenon. The objects seem to be beaming into the photograph just as they beamed into reality. I did not see the objects at the time of exposure, nor did anyone else that I noticed, though there was that one pet woodchuck that was freaking out quite a bit there in the parking lot at Tunnel View. I have asked around and as far as I know, nobody else captured these objects on their digital SD Cards or film. It remains a mystery. I suppose the case of the unidentified flying objects is one that cannot be over-thought or over-explained as is the practice with everything else in photography.

Happy April 1!



  1. Alex Bond says:

    Very funny David, and sadly oh so true. We are confusing popularity with the herd as success, a very different motivation to exploring our own photographic journey to discover our potential. One is an reaction to external factors, the other comes from within.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Alex. Well said yourself.

  3. Wonderful post. 🙂

    Bathroom walls would have been my first choice the Clinton schedule.

  4. I appreciate the visit, Monte. Not sure what you’re saying there, but if “The words of the prophets are written on subway walls and tenement halls,” then bathroom walls may hold the keys to our future, which might be a much better future than the one some predict. Certainly it would be a better future than one where the majority of photographers spend most of their time tracking down their view of the same old icons like Tunnel View, Mesa Arch, Zabriski Point, Oxbow Bend and so on… wait, we are already in THAT future. Nothing wrong with an icon now and then, but as the usual fare, they get old quickly.

  5. Wow, I read my comment and wondered who wrote it. Makes little sense to me when rereading it. I will blame lack of caffeine that morning and was using my smart phone to make the comment. My intended humorous comment failed so I will try it again.

    I enjoyed reading your post and got a laugh out of it. I wanted to express my joy at reading through the list of researching you made. As I read each one I chuckled. You mentioned some I had not thought of. 🙂

    A few years ago a fellow photographer and I shared expenses on a week long trip to the Smoky Mountains in October. One morning we spent shooting in Cades Cove. He knew of an image of one of the cantilever barns he desired to have even though there were hundreds of them already out there. Once there he became involved with his work to duplicate the scene. As there was not really a place for me to setup and shoot the same scene I moved on and wandered around the area. I ended up with images of a spiderweb covered in dew and a grasshopper also drenched in dew. Keepers that no one else would have. When we returned to our hotel he was frustrated with me because I did not share those opportunities with him. We’ve not shot together since.

  6. Thanks again, Monte. I believe they are called “smart” phones because the phone itself thinks it can outsmart us, which it does not, especially in trying to read our minds while performing auto-correct. The internet is a brilliant tool for many things, but it has also spawned this strange attitude among some photographers that we should all share with each other our photographs and locations and everyone should have the same images. It’s only fair and open like an open society after all. Ha. Sounds like the recipe for the doom of an art, if you ask me, which to a large extent has already happened. Photography has died as an art form and been rebirthed as “fine art,” a phrase that has no meaning any more because it usually refers to the most schlocky, cheesy, crowd-pleasing photos of cats, dogs, goldfish, potted cactus and iconic landscape views. While I don’t believe it is wise to over-define art, some discernment is necessary to know the difference between “fine art,” which anymore has very little artistic merit and quality photography. I don’t define it, but I know it when I see it, to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.

  7. pj finn says:

    It’s been a real kick following this around the various sites. Your take on it had me in stitches. Hilarious…

  8. PJ, I imagine it would be entertaining to a photographer with your taste and sensibilities. Not just saying that because perhaps not everyone will get the humor and doing it this way gives away the April Fooling factor. It is a sad commentary on how much information and misinformation exists online that many aspiring artists are drifting and pinging around like a pinball trying to make sense of it all. Some comments on the other blog posts in the daisy chain were made by people who took the posts seriously, saying things like, “I don’t see what is so unique about a photograph of Tunnel View.” I guess they already get it, but didn’t get the joke. Oh well.

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