"Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space." -- Ansel Adams
I was first introduced to Ansel Adams in my Introduction to Art class, during my freshman year of high school. The assignment was to select an artist, from any time period and any medium, and write a report about them -- the hook being they had to share our birthday.
Fast forward a lot of random Google searches later, I arrived at some of the most striking black and white landscape images I had ever seen, in particular, this one of Half Dome in Yosemite, with the moon rising ever so gracefully above it. I had found my subject, a certain Ansel Adams (Ms. Feeney made an exception for me here since his birthday is technically a day after mine), and subsequently, an obsession that would see me through to this very day. His command of contrast, lighting and composition are, of course, unrivaled but I think it was his uncanny ability to make a landscape appear more as a character: from brooding to ominous to downright joyful, that had me hooked. His images have always struck me more like portraits, than they do landscapes.
Years (and many Ansel Adams calendars and prints) later, I still had never ventured to Yosemite Valley, which really is only a several hour drive from both Reno or San Francisco. Camping space reservations are admittedly hard to come by and it always seemed easier to head to Tahoe or to drive up the coast instead. That is, until a recent trip back to San Francisco, when my guy and I, on a complete whim, happened to snag one of the last camping spots left for the weekend, packing up just a few hours later to hit the road.
Granted, it was a whirlwind 48-hour camping trip, complete with snow and moody skies the first day and a crisp, clear blue summer day the next. We roamed around the valley floor, taking in everything as mere small observers in such a vast and grandiose space and then hiked up to Glacier Point, again, feeling smaller still, perched high above the valley below, with Half Dome and El Capitan flanking us on either side.
All the while, I couldn't help but wonder, how Ansel Adams must have felt when he had first ventured to the valley himself -- how quiet and pristine and alive he must have felt, alone with these giants. These larger than life characters, at home in their perpetual sunrise of green and golden wonder.
Needless to say, I think I'll be coming back to Yosemite for more. Very soon.
Photos by Tyler Graff and Krystal Bick