Quick trip to Yosemite

Erin and I made a really quick trip to Yosemite National Park this weekend and since the main goal of the trip was to hike Half Dome, I only took a few pictures.  Saturday was completely consumed by hiking Half Dome and getting cleaned up and fed afterwards, and then getting to bed pretty early.  This morning I woke up at about 4:30 though and got my butt in gear to get somewhere before the sun came up.

A quick look at Michael Frye's Photographer's Guide To Yosemite told me that Cathedral Beach to catch the early sun hitting the top of El Capitan would probably be a good bet.  I managed to jump in the car and get there well before the sun rose, to find the area completely deserted, and the "beach" completely under the very-high Merced River.  Just as I had staked out my place and started to wait for the sun to hit El Cap, another photographer hiked up and proceeded to set up his brand-new-to-him Fotoman 6 x 17 panoramic camera (See my note about Fotoman below)

We chatted a bit since we had some time to kill waiting for the light and it turns out we have quite a bit in common.  He's in software in the Bay Area too, and like me he was shooting with a reduced-frame dSLR and just getting fed up with the limitations of the system.  Although he'd never shot film before, he decided the next step for him was medium format panoramic so he bought the Fotoman used last month.  Like him, I'm trying to decide what my next step is going to be, and I'm frustrated with the large-print-making ability of my current system.  I've often thought that medium format film was the way to go - I'm just not sure how I would deal with the workflow of film, the lack of instant gratification, etc.

While we were chatting he mentioned that the sunset the previous evening had been one of the most spectacular he had ever seen in The Valley.  Erin and I had noticed the bright color even though the thick canopy of the North Pines campground but by that time on Saturday neither of us were in much shape for going out photo hunting.  We had pre-allocated all of Saturday to be a hiking day and I certainly can't complain about how well our hike went - it's just hard to sit around the camp fire getting ready for dinner when you know there's something spectacular only a few miles away, and knowing that it'll be gone by the time you're ready to capture it.

The light finally hit the top of El Cap and we both got in a few shots - 30 for me, and probably about 4 or 8 for him.  He only gets 4 shots per roll of 120, so it's a bit of a pain for him.  I'm sure there are plenty of people that will say the patience and precision his equipment demands probably makes him a better photographer.  I don't disagree with that.

After I got a shot I was happy with I wandered around and found a steaming log in the sun that looked cool.  After that the sun was getting pretty high so it was time to head back to camp for breakfast, now having been out and about for about 3 hours.

On our way out of the park we got lucky and found a young bear grazing in a meadow near the turnoff to Toulumne Meadows, causing a "bear jam" of spectators.  He was pretty far away given his size, so even the 70-200/4.0 with the 1.4x tele-extender didn't bring him very close.  There was a guy behind me with a 300/2.8 and a 2x tele that was letting random passerby look trough the viewfinder at the bear.  Could I look through your lens too?  With my CAMERA???  :-)

Overall, we had a great weekend trip.  I think I got three or four nice pictures - which is pretty good for not really planning to take many pictures.

Note about Fotoman:   According to their company news blog, they've apparently gone out of business as of April.  I hate to see small makers of neat equipment go under.  Apparently they made over 1,000 cameras over their entire career.