Half Dome by Starlight

Last week I went to Yosemite. As my kids might say, this was an “opposites day” venture: my plan was to photograph at night and sleep during the day.

More or less, my plan worked out with an unexpected fringe benefit: even at the height of the summer season I didn’t see too many people.

My most important goal: to photograph the night time vista from the top of Half Dome.

My trip was carefully planned to coincide with the summer solstice to give me the most daylight possible to get into position. Of course, the downside to the long days was that I needed to stay up late to make it into true night.

A typical wilderness hike for me involves a trail and a route, but no set-in-stone destination at any particular time. This trip was different, more like a targeted insertion. I had to plan very carefully to be a certain places (some harder to get to than others) at specific times.

On Monday afternoon I got to Yosemite Valley. I picked up a pizza to go and headed up the Glacier Point road. Sunset saw me at the fissures hard by Taft Point. These fissues are narrow cracks that fall straight down into the valley.

In the gathering dark I hiked back to my car and headed for Glacier Point. Down below, the lights from Curry Village, the Ahwanee, and campgrounds looked like either a shanty town, or a not-so-small civilization. Camera on tripod I pointed at Half Dome, lit by stars and ambient light. I exposed the image above at about 10:30PM at 2.5 minutes, ISO 640, and f/4. An hour later I exposed the image below for 15.5 minutes at ISO 100 and f/7.1.

You can see the impact of the differing shutter speeds in the rendition of the stars. At 2.5 minutes, they still seem to be points of light. At 15 minutes, the stars are curved paths of light in the sky.

From my dark perch on Glacier Point I looked across at Half Dome, knowing that if all went according to plan the next night would find me photographing from the top.

Half Dome by Starlight 2

View this image larger.

Related story: Midnight Rambles.

This entry was posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite.

7 Trackbacks

  1. […] igital Photographs and Techniques from Harold Davis

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    Snakes and Ladders

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  2. […] der 3 minutes duration will mostly render stars as pinpoint light sources. (This story has an example of more or less the same scene rendered each way.) You don’t get many cracks at 15-30 […]

  3. […] foreground of the photo. For more of the story behind this image, see Snakes and Ladders, Half Dome by Starlight, and Midnight Rambles.

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  4. […] foreground of the photo. For more of the story behind this image, see Snakes and Ladders, Half Dome by Starlight, and Midnight Rambles.

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  5. […] tos/harold_davis/622905765/” title=”Photo Sharing”> View this image larger. Read the back story featuring this image.

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  6. […] story of how and why I made this image, see Moon Shadow of Half Dome, Snakes and Ladders, Half Dome by Starlight, and Midnight Rambles.

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  7. […] t night, see Yosemite Valley from Half Dome, Moon Shadow of Half Dome, Snakes and Ladders, Half Dome by Starlight, and Midnight Rambles.

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