I captured the frame for this image almost exactly 2 years ago on a spring weekend trip to Yosemite. Spring time starts to get popular at Yosemite with the general public and I know many photographers who head there trying to make images with flowering plants. On this particular visit, I was too early for the flowering dogwoods and with a crystal clear sky, there was no pretty sunrise and no dramatic fog.
I got out there pretty early in the morning and being a weekend and that time of year, two separate workshops joined me. I was set up in an area to photograph a reflection of halfdome in a pool of water and if there had been a spectacular sunrise, it would have been a spectacular image. The workshop organizers had a similar idea so we shared the spot for a while. I like to photograph in a social way, interacting with other photographers, but with nearly 20 people crowded around this small pool of water, I decided to do my own thing after it was clear the sunrise was going to be a bust.
I was drawn to this iconic Yosemite Elm and liked the way Halfdome was behind it, I made some verticals with just these two elements for a bit. I really wanted a third element and thats when I realized that the sun would soon peek over the mountains in the back. I figured I had several minutes to compose and came up with what you see here, having 3 dominant elements, the sun-star, Halfdome and the Elm. Stopping down to f/22 is essential to get a good sun-star and I wanted to make sure I got it at exactly the right moment when the sun first peeked over the mountain, otherwise it would be too bright and things would be too washed out. I still used a neutral graduated density filter to bring the bright sky under control (may have even stacked a couple).
Curiously, I was the only person capturing this scene even though there were two workshops in the area. After about 15 minutes when it was clear the sun was out in full force, I started packing up to leave. Its then that a couple of photographers were hurrying from their parked cars to my area starting make similar images.