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Evening Light, Upper Young Lake

Evening Light, Upper Young Lake. Yosemite National Park, California. September 14, 2010. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell - all rights reserved.


Early evening light on a tree-covered rocky peninsula at Upper Young Lake, Yosemite National Park, California. (larger)


I've visited these lakes almost annually for a number of years, since I first visited one autumn on a long day hike from the Tuolumne Meadows area. Many people visit the lower lake on day hikes, quite a few others backpack to the area and visit all three, and climbers on their way to Mount Conness also pass through the area. My plan was to stay several days so that I could do a lot of photography in the area. The upper lake provides a beautiful sub-alpine scene, surrounded by relatively level meadows with small hills interspersed with rocky rises and groves of trees. Because the area is open to the west there can be stunning evening light here... and that I precisely why I went to the lake on this evening.


I was camped at the lower lake, where I had photographed in the morning. After I finished up my morning photography I spent a good part of the late morning and early afternoon eating a post-shoot late breakfast, more or less hanging out, reading, doing a few camp chores, and finally having a very early dinner at about 3:00 - the plan is to eat the big meal of the day early, go off and do photography as the evening light approaches, and then return to camp after dark and have something to eat before climbing into the sleeping bag.


The route that I prefer to use to get to the upper lake is not really exactly a trail. Anticipating that I'd be returning from the upper lake via this route in near or actual darkness, as I climbed it I made sure to remember a series of landmarks that I could use to find my way back. At various junctures on the route - as I would do on any similar route - I stopped to look backwards and fix in my mind certain obvious route cues that I could follow on the way back: stay above the thicker trees, stay in the middle of the bench, cross the low rise while heading straight toward a certain distant ridge, begin the descent at the two groves of trees next to the lake, and so on. I was so focused on this that when I reached my final landmark at the upper lake I barely looked around - I arrived at the final grove and immediately turned right to walk the short distance to the lakeshore and look for compositions. At about this point I recalled that I also had planned to check out camping possibilities for a future visit, so I looked back up at the grove I had just left.


I saw a tent and two people and tripods - all of which I had completely overlooked at first, so fixated was I on my "route." I walked back up to say "hi" when I noticed that one of the two photographers looked quite familiar. I approached and said, "You bear a striking resemblance to John Sexton" - which made a lot of sense in that he was John Sexton. (If you don't know who he is... you should. Follow the link to his web site and perhaps do a bit of searching to find out more.) I have, of course, known of John's wonderful photography for some time and I had most recently been to a lecture at the opening of a show of his work in Carmel earlier this summer. The other photographer was Anne Larsen.


The wilderness is always full of surprises, but meeting John and Anne in the Yosemite back-country was one of the most pleasant in recent memory. We spoke for a while until the light began to become more interesting, but at various times during the evening we again ran into one another and talked about this and that. The next morning I met them once again as we were heading back to the trail head. (I felt a bit guilty about my "tiny" 15 pound load of photography equipment - they were each carrying close to 30 pounds of film gear!)


The photograph is of a tree-covered rocky rise at the end of a narrow curving peninsula that forms a small lagoon near the outlet of the lake. My initial thought had been to photograph a small tree near the edge of the lake - one that I have photographed in the past - but John correctly pointed out that it would be in shadow at the time of best light, so I decided to focus on this subject instead.


This photograph is not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.


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Taken on September 14, 2010