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Thread: Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

  1. #1
    tgtaylor's Avatar
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    Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

    Anyone going this year?

    Last year was my first time photographing the falls. I shot it from the meadow in El Cap picnic area with a 400mm lens on a Pentax 67II camera (200mm 35mm equiv and ~ 600mm 4x5 equiv) with the only roll of 120 color negative film at The Ansel Adams Gallery. The image seems identical with the one posted on Michael Fry's website - identical perspective as if he came by and used my camera!

    I printed the image last year using a filter pack that was optimized for the rock and let the sky go a shade of grey like in Galen Rowell’s version. I just started to reprint for a blue sky using an acetate mask to mask for the sky and rock. Some folks think that a blue sky isn't appropriate for this image as the color of the sky in the west at sundown isn't blue. What do you think? A good blue sky... pale blue...grey?

  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

    Why the hell do you want to make fake-looking shots like Galen Rowell did?

  3. #3
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    Re: Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

    Actually Galen's shot wasn't fake. I found that out last year while printing mine. At the time I never thought about making a mask for the sky and instead printed the image with one exposure that was "optimized" for the texture and color of the rock (I tried to maximize the yellow and bring out the beautiful browns). My best print came out with a light grey sky and IMO a far better rendition of the "face" than Galen's with the rock texture being very palpable in the print. Although pleased with the face, I was concerned about the grey sky and went on Galen's website to see how he printed it. I couldn’t find it so I checked my copy of Mountain Light where I found that his also had a grey sky. A grey sky made sense since to change the color of the sky you would need to make a mask (digital printing wasn't an option at that time) and I don't think Galen did his own printing. This time I made a mask and printed the face as red instead of orange red and the sky the same blue as in Michael's print.

    Athough I didn’t know it at the time but Horsetail Fall is a popular venue among many photographers . There must have been 100 in the El Cap Picnic area and at least that many at a location across the Merced. We were actually leaving the park when we noticed that it was flowing and drove over and got the last parking space in the Picnic area.

    If I never shoot it again, I’m perfectly satisfied with the negative (3) that I got last year.

    Thomas

  4. #4
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

    Wasn't referring to just this shot in particular. Actually, I knew the person quite well
    who did his R-prints in the pre-digital days, and am also aware of who did his digital
    ones. For someone who made it his esthetic to treat third-world cultures with respect, Galen certainly didn't have much respect for the quality of natural light when it came to marketing. Reminds me of that spoof of duck hunters in a movie where they each point a machine gun toward the sky as a flock went overhead and
    kept their finger on the trigger until a duck finally fell to earth. But in Galen's case,
    if he finally landed a coot he would spray it with fluorescent paint until is resembled a mallard.

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    Re: Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    Wasn't referring to just this shot in particular. Actually, I knew the person quite well
    who did his R-prints in the pre-digital days, and am also aware of who did his digital
    ones. For someone who made it his esthetic to treat third-world cultures with respect, Galen certainly didn't have much respect for the quality of natural light when it came to marketing. Reminds me of that spoof of duck hunters in a movie where they each point a machine gun toward the sky as a flock went overhead and
    kept their finger on the trigger until a duck finally fell to earth. But in Galen's case,
    if he finally landed a coot he would spray it with fluorescent paint until is resembled a mallard.
    Not sure how fair this is (as I don't know Galen's work too well) but just a damn good analogy!! Just had to comment.

  6. #6
    tgtaylor's Avatar
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    Re: Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

    I don't believe that. Galen never printed or developed any of his images and always made the original Kodachrome slide available for inspection - keep them in a big fire-proof safe that you could see from the window. Like other accomplished photographers of his genre, he shot a carload of film, knew how to get the color to pop and, in his case, hired accomplished printers. He was, first and foremost, a shooter.

  7. #7

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    Re: Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

    What is the ideal date to have optimum light on the fall?

  8. #8

    Re: Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

    There must have been 100 in the El Cap Picnic area and at least that many at a location across the Merced.
    It has been exciting seeing, sharing and photographing Horsetail through the years and I sincerely feel everyone should see it, just not all at once. ;-)

    The crowds that gather now each evening are getting scary. Two years ago, a rescue on the Yosemite Falls trail occupied the park service who would otherwise have been out directing traffic and issuing parking citations. Northside Drive was closed, there were three foot walls of snow on both sides of Southside Drive and only half a dozen parking spots. There were probably 300 people gathered on the shoulders of the road, many were ramming their cars head-on into the snowbanks in attempts to park, making it nearly impossible for vehicles to pass in either direction.

    So, while I do enjoy seeing people stopped dead in their tracks, transfixed by its beauty, fortunately there are lots of other less accessible spots where it is still possible to have the wind be the soundtrack.

    I'll be in the park for two weeks teaching beginning the 10th, with Horsetail one stop of many, many that make the park so wonderful in the winter. We're a pretty busy bunch, running non-stop from 6am to 9 pm, so I doubt I'd have a chance to see anyone. But, happy hunting.

    There is approximately a ten day window each year in which conditions for the saturated color occur. Roughly from around the 11th to the 21st. Each person seems to have their own perspective on what constitutes the optimum days, depending on whether the cliff behind the fall is in shadow or not, whether the color is most saturated the full length of the fall, etc.

    That is not to say it isn't beautiful other times of day besides sunset. AA photographed it "El Capitan Fall" and William Neill has a wonderful image that was featured in Communication Arts magazine taken earlier in the day when the water was silvery against a deep blue sky.

    And while Galen's image is definitive of the neon orange moments, my favorite has no color at all. Mike Osborne (Oz) has a stunning windblown version of the fall that more than any other I have seen, resembles its namesake. Oz's version was taken earlier in the day in a wet year when the water volume was significant and is wonderful, pale "horsetail." It is in his book, "Granite Water and Light: Waterfalls of Yosemite Valley."

  9. #9
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

    Until his digital days, Galen just had relatively cheap R prints made by a local lab. No
    masking and limited dodging/burning. Some of the color characteristics were simply that of the print medium itself. If you know anything about printing transparencies,
    you'll recognize that this is hardly an exact rendition of the original chrome. How his book images were scanned I don't know. Started making prints from internegs which came out better, then the switch to digital, which eventually got patently fake. His students are often ten times as worse - machine gun and saturate beyond belief in photoshop. Nice guy around the community, but just another Geographic commodity photographer as far as I'm concerned. Before I was married, my house was often a
    hangout for a number of extreme climbers - I wasn't one of them, though they
    respected me for my ability to prop a Sinar atop various class 3 routes. I know the
    mindset pretty well, and what is necessary for these folks to obtain funding to do the
    kind of expeditions they like. With Galen it was all those SUV commercial sterotypes of
    the mtns, or that outside adventure stuff which made cute posters in the 90's. Now
    with PS nobody pays attention to amazing light. Twice in my life I have photographed a true apricot-lavendar sky in the high Sierra with LF - first time was after the Mt Pinatubo volcano exploded. Nowadays people would simply assume I cooked it in PS, and wonder why I didn't saturate it even more. Those kind of colors are dime a dozen now, because they are so easy to fabricate. And who needs to look at anything, if you can just concoct something? But I'm drifting off-topic, and will save my own
    Horsetail Falls story for another round.

  10. #10
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Horsetail Fall, Yosemite

    Well it's disrespectful to anything bad about the departed. Just before Galen left town
    and still had his unsuccessful gallery/lecture hall here in the Bay Area, I mentioned that
    my wife and I wanted to visit Guilin in China. He gave me a very disdainful out-of-the-corner-of-the-eye look, since Guilin is an obvious tourist attraction to westerners, and
    his lifestyle was to visit eveything as non-western as possible. What he didn't know is
    that my wife has a degree in Chinese literature and studied a year in Beijing with the
    greatest living caligrapher, so has concrete cultural reasons for wanting to visit things
    so deeply seated in their traditions and literature. Galen was very polite of course.
    But so was I, as I was glancing at all his pictures on the wall with an out-of-the-corner disdainful look of my own. So I guess that made us even.

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