I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures, but it was the advent of digital photography and the ability to process my own images in Photoshop that really piqued my interest. As I assume is the case with most photographers, certain events marked a turning point in my artistic development. For me, one of those moments happened in May of 2014 when I attended my first photography workshop, run by Gary Hart and Don Smith and based in Yosemite National Park.
One of the highlights of the workshop was when we made the trip to Glacier Point to photograph the full moon rising over Little Yosemite Valley. The far end of the viewing area looks out directly at Half Dome, and that’s where most of the photographers were jockeying for position. Don discretely took one other member of the group and me aside, saying there was another view he wanted to show us, but the area wasn’t large enough for the whole group. He quietly led us back to a small stone structure called the Trailside Museum. Below that was a granite ledge barely large enough for three tripods.
Perched precariously above the valley floor, we quickly set up our cameras. As the moon rose, we were blessed with beautiful wispy clouds filling the sky between Half Dome and Mount Starr King. The view was breathtaking, with the Merced River winding its way up the valley to Vernal Falls. A little farther upriver, Liberty Cap stood watching over Nevada Falls. I’m not sure why I was one of the chosen ones, but I’ll be forever grateful to Don for leading me to that spot. I’ve been back to that same ledge several times since, most recently last May to capture the Milky Way rising over Mount Starr King and arching over Half Dome.
Although the moonrise from Glacier Point was spectacular, conditions during the rest of the workshop weren’t great. I can remember standing in Leidig Meadow saying to Gary as he was bemoaning the cloudless blue skies, “It still beats working.” He looked at me, cocked his head to one side and replied, “I am working.” As much as I admire those who have made photography a career, I realized then that I never wanted to find myself thinking of photography as work. I certainly enjoy having my images published from time to time and selling the occasional print, but I want photography to remain an avocation, not a vocation.
I’m now retired, but as a lawyer, I’d joke that it’s called “practicing law” because we never get it right. I think the same can be said for photography, each shot being practice for the next. Just as I used to be a practicing attorney, I like to think of myself as a practicing photographer. It’s been eight years since I made this image, but it remains one of my favorites and one that I like to think comes pretty close to getting it right.
See more of Tom Elenbaas’s work at www.tomelenbaas.com.
Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM at 22mm. Exposure: 0.6 sec., ƒ/11, ISO 100.