Monday, February 23, 2009

clearing up the air

around Half Dome that is...I had no idea that one simple photo that took me all of 1 minute to pull over on the side of the road and photograph, was going to cause so much controversy. And not just in the city of Patterson, but apparently in the online communities and blog sites having to do with photography and Yosemite National Park.
The original published photograph that appeared in the Feb. 18th edition of the Patterson Irrigator even prompted another photographer by the name of Tony Immoos, to see for himself if Half Dome is truly visible from the San Joaquin Valley, click on his link to see the product of his efforts... very impressive.

Apparently Tony's quest to find the truth in my photo led him to Denair where he snapped a series of different photos of the alleged dome with different scenes of farmland in the foreground... added proof that I and others are not crazy after all.

--Here's my story. It all started about four years ago when then managing editor of the Patterson Irrigator, Jonathan Partridge, decided to take a hike one day into the hills west of Patterson, namely, 12 miles up off of Del Puerto Canyon road. After climbing up a canyon and reaching a summit, Jonathan received a phone call where folks don't normally receive cell phone reception and continued to talk and talk and talk, until before he knew it, nightfall was before him. He ended up calling emergency services after he got lost, but no one, including a search and rescue helicopter, could find him. Jonathan was instructed to stay put and try to bundle up for the night 'til morning, which he did. In an article that he wrote after his experience, he described the view from the top of the mountain in the morning and said he could see Half Dome from where he was up in the Diablo Range. I, and many others were very skeptical of his description, and from then on I was determined to try and see it for myself.

Sure enough, a few weeks later, a huge winter storm blew through the valley and I figured that of all times, this would be the opportune time to see Half Dome, when the air was clean and clear. I was photographing in beautiful Del Puerto Canyon at the time and still skeptical, decided to climb a nearby hill to get an overlook of the valley. I'll never forget that day when I got that clear look of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Half Dome... sticking out like a sore thumb! At the time, I was photgraphing with a wide angle lens on 35mm color film, but vowed to one day photograph this elusive phenomenon with better equipment. After returning back to my car and the Interstate 5 Patterson exit, I looked to the skyline and was able to still see Half Dome... in fact I was able to see it half way on my way to Turlock! (And as Tony Immoos has proved from Denair as well)

So, fastforward 4 years to Tuesday February 10th 2009. I was running late for a class I'm signed up for at Modesto Junior College when I noticed the elusive Half Dome looming up from a farm off of Jennings rd. I was already late, but I couldn't let it get away from me again, so I pulled over and took a total of 15 frames, the first of which is at the top of this post.

Using the Canon 30D and the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens that I use for work, I focussed on the horizon and took a series of underexposed photos, knowing that it's easier to retain digital information when correcting an image that is darker rather than lighter. The air over the valley was quite clear, but I knew that the image would have to go through some PhotoShop filters and undergo some major cropping before I could even remotely want to have the photo published.

Here's the undoctored original image above.

I zoomed in and cropped it a little.

Cropped it a little more.

Here it is cropped to the original size and format it was when published. I had to use a combination of levels, curves, colorbalancing, and the history brush to get it where it is now.

Here it is cropped in just a little more to really emphasize it's presence. I would have used something along these lines, but I felt that the power line needed to have some context and I chose to include the power pole as well.

While these photos may not be the best photos of Half Dome, I think they clearly show that on a clear enough day, you can see Half Dome with the naked eye from little ol' Patterson. Here's a link to the original blog discussion on a Fred Miranda photography website, thanks Chaz for letting me know.


Anonymous said...

Your photo was a stunning revelation to me. Thanks for the interesting background info as well.

Chuck Cagara

Carol Scoles said...

Love the background info. I had to smile as I read about and recalled Jonathan's adventure in the hills.
Great picture, and a real lesson for all of us to look up and around as we go about our daily lives!