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Circles over Upper Yosemite Falls

Circles over Upper Yosemite Falls

I love it when a plan comes together. If you don't know where that catch-phrase is from, you're probably too young to have experienced the A-Team in the 80s. I watched an episode recently and was struck by just how terrible it was. Alas, I was only about 6 then and there's no accounting for taste for a 6 year old.

My trip to Yosemite this weekend was probably the least productive of my photo trips. All the sunsets and sunrises were duds, I suspect due to the fact that there was not a single cloud over much of California.

However, I noted before leaving that the moon would be up during the day, leaving night time moonless. Since the sky was clear of clouds, I figured I'd at least try to do some star trail photography. Based on where Highway 140 was relative to Upper Yosemite Falls, I figured it would be the right subject. So during the day on Saturday while walking around the area with the family, I used the compass on my phone to figure out exactly where I wanted to be and which direction to face.

That evening I drove out to exactly the right spot, set up my tripod pointing in the right direction and was shooting in less in 5 minutes. I also knew I wanted the star trails to play a dramatic role in the image, so I knew I wanted to use my 24mm tilt/shift lens and shift up. The biggest challenge was acquiring focus, which I did just by trial and error.

One thing I wasn't sure about is how well the waterfall would be illuminated. I got lucky there with the light from the camps below providing just enough illumination to balance things out.

I took 10 minute subs, each at ISO 1600 and f/8 (to account for the error in focusing). I only had time to make 5 sub-images (for a total exposure time of 50 minutes) before the fatigue of having gotten up at 4:30 that day got to me. I'd love to go back another moonless night to make 3 hour exposure.


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