It’s never been easier to start your journey
Photographer Ansel Adams once said: “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”
And indeed, the iconic photographer certainly had a knack for doing just that. He stood in Yosemite National Park and snapped sweeping vistas, towering sequoia trees, the kaleidoscope of Tunnel View, the crystal clear waters of Bridalveil Fall, the vast glaciated granite view of Glacier Point. Yosemite was a place of inspiration for him; Adams is a source of inspiration for me.
I yearned to emulate his landscapes, to see things and snap things the way he had. I knew where to go, but I wanted Yosemite to be a journey and a destination. I wanted time to think, time to reflect—I wanted someone else to take the wheel.
Tracing footsteps and photographs
I reserved accommodations across the park months in advance, studying how to get around every day in the meantime. I plotted out the steps I would take to snap where Adams snapped, and get my version of his photos along the way.
Equipment in hand and backpack snug, I was whisked along on an updated version of Ansel Adams’ own path from San Francisco to Yosemite. Adams certainly didn’t have the myriad of options visitors choose from today: train, plane and bus!
I chose bus. For my journey, the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) would make it easy for me to explore Yosemite National Park. By letting someone else take the wheel, I could focus on my photography and ponder how dramatically different Ansel’s experience was just getting near the Sierra.
The entire drive, I gazed out my window and imagined the scenery that wasn’t yet in front of my eyes: Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Valley and more. All these silhouettes are striking in black and white, and no doubt will be even more powerful to see in person. Along the way, landscapes transformed from foggy city to clear skies, tall trees in emerald shades and welcoming sunshine. I took a deep, clear breath when the bus parked, then walked over to the Yosemite Shuttle.
Sight to see
I adjusted my lens’ depth and pointed directly at Yosemite Falls, which spilled thousands of feet to a lower fall, surrounded by mists that made the falls look like a cloud.
Click. Adjust. Click. Adjust. Click. Adjust.
When I wasn’t gazing through my camera’s viewfinder, I was looking around me. Apart from the clicking of my camera, I heard water rushing in the distance, the chirp of a nearby bird, and every rustle of my shoe when I adjusted my position. I didn’t need a camera to see what Ansel Adams found beautiful here—all of it.
I looked at each photo back on the shuttle, this time on the way to Half Dome. No, this wasn’t the same shot that Ansel Adams had taken, but it was my own. I knew that years from now, these photos would bring back more than what they showed—the sounds, smells, and experience of being on my own journey in Yosemite.
Click. Adjust. Click. Adjust. Click. Adjust.
I looked at the photo I’d taken of Half Dome and then I looked around me. A tour group of people with British accents was marveling at Half Dome. They pointed and smiled and used their smartphones to catch memories of the landscape and each other. They, too, would look back on their photos fondly.
I might have been inspired by Ansel Adams to come here, but I was finding something I wasn’t expecting, I found a place where I breathed easier, where the sun shined brighter. I was on my own, with the support of a park that encouraged visitors to explore farther. I strolled slowly along the path that winds its way through the Valley—what might happen if I simply saw where it took me?
It’s a snap
A friend shared a take away from a previous trip to the park: enjoy the park in solitude and get to Yosemite early. Yosemite was still and quiet as I stared up at El Capitan. I took a photograph as the sky lit up in pink and orange, only hearing the sounds of nature and my shutter. Arriving early was totally worth it.
I returned to my lodging for a quick breakfast then caught YARTS, with Tuolumne Meadows in mind. As I walked on the trail, I paused to look around me and then closed my eyes, memorizing another dimension of what the photograph showed. The fresh smell of the air, the feel of the sun’s warmth on my arms—this was a memory to keep and one I might not have found if it weren’t for convenient transportation around the park.
Of course, I stopped by the Ansel Adams Gallery. The images I saw there took my breath away again, but in a different way. I saw his photos, but I knew so much more now. I knew the thrill of exploration, the hunt of setting up a perfect shot, the ease of letting someone else decide where your journey is headed, and the surprise of what is discovered along the way.
In the future, I might return with a more robust photography skillset—I might even give Adams a run for his money. But for now, I’m grateful for the inspiration he stirred in me, the reminder of how wonderful wanderlust is. I got exactly what I needed from Yosemite. A journey of my own.
Yosemite National Park is a motion picture in real time; a cinematic and captivating environment that births new life from each crack, crevice, canyon and cliff side.
Ansel Adams knew that “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” I know that a good story is one that’s inherently your own.
What will Yosemite show you, with or without a camera? Each gateway into the park is unique and offers visitors a different experience. Each makes it easy to discover the ease of getting around—via YARTS, by plane, on a private charter, and more—allowing you to focus on your own journey.