Valley View is one of the “you can’t screw up this shot” scenes in the valley that, short of dropping your camera in the river, you will invariably get a good picture[i]. The typical shot that grabs most of us is the standard, picture post card view like my feature picture (above). The challenge is to take a picture that depicts the scene in a different light or contain something out of the ordinary.
Before I get too far a field, let me say that Valley View is on the west end of the valley to the left side of Northside Drive (as you’re heading west, leaving the valley[ii]). It is just prior to the Pohono Bridge that will take you to Southside Drive and back into the park. And, by the way, click on any image to get a larger view.
I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with an “ordinary” shot — for years, I’d shoot exactly the same scene, from the same place, hoping to get a better shot than before. Sometimes I would and sometimes I wouldn’t. Maybe the season was different or maybe it was a different time of day. One time it had clouds and another time it had blue skies.
This one, for instance, is pretty much the same shot, but there are more interesting things in the foreground (Valley View Late Summer).
And the next one was taken during winter. I don’t know which one I like the best. I think maybe at I like different ones at different times.
It really is difficult to “top” the standard “ordinary” shot, but after a while I started looking for other things to capture or other ways to look at the scene. For example, one morning (was still shooting film) I happened upon the Valley View and the sun was back lighting the grasses. So I took a couple shots of it. I don’t remember how they turned out, but I had a “cheapy” point-and-shoot with me and those shots turned out fine (See Morning Light).
On another morning, more recently, before dawn, I found dew in the bushes and ground fog to make the whole scene kind of eerie. I was intrigued by the ground fog on the meadow and then another bank of it behind the trees, but in front of the cliffs, to the right of Bridalveil.
The log in the foreground was a nice added touch. There have been logs of various sizes at Valley View since, at least, 2002.
This particular log, I don’t know for sure, but it appeared kind of fresh in October of 2013. This photo was taken in February, 2014.
One year I was passing through and a lady was set up, painting the scene. She allowed me to take a picture of her work in progress.
Sometimes, the scene itself isn’t what inspires the shot.
One winter afternoon, I was wandering up and down the scene looking for a new angle. The fallen tree was very prominent, so I was trying angles to take in the foreground as a compliment to the overall view. I was working on making the exposed root ball part of the bigger picture when I notice that the root ball, itself, had interest enough.
Along similar lines, which comes under the heading of “dumb luck” more any particular skill, is lighting. I was fortunate enough to be at the Valley View near dusk and a clearing storm. Just as the clouds broke up, the setting sunlight shown through.
Finally, merely focusing on an aspect of the view is interesting all by itself. Here is part of a larger image where I just focused on just El Capitan.
[i] Well, maybe not. Given that most of us don’t do our own printing now, or back in the film days, the final product was at the mercy of some mindless light-averaging automatic exposure printing machine. That could easily leave lights too light, darks too dark and the middle fine, but uninteresting. Like my first shot of Valley View.
[ii] Usually, this road is one way going west (out of the valley) while Southside Drive is one way going east (into the valley). Sometimes during the winter months, one or the other of the roads is closed off completely for repairs or maintenance so the other one will be set up for two way traffic.