Posted by: kerryl29 | November 14, 2022

The Story Behind the Image: Nevada Fall Power

Late in the morning one day during my time at Yosemite National Park a few years ago, I made something of an on-the-fly decision to hike the Mist Trail. Those familiar with Yosemite are probably scratching their heads at this revelation. Why would I decide to hike the very popular (and, thus, very crowded) Mist Trail at the height of the tourist hour (i.e. when a heavily-visited trail can be expected to be at its most crowded)? As best I can recall, my attitude was on the order of, “what the hell.” I’d had a wonderful morning of photography, it was now a classic blue sky day, and if I didn’t hike the trail that afternoon, I probably wouldn’t have had time to do it at all before leaving the area in a couple of days. So basically, why not?

There are numerous ways to hike this trail, in part or in full–meaning all the way up and beyond Vernal Fall (where the vast majority of people turn around), all the way up and around Nevada Fall, and back to the trailhead (by one of several routes). The full loop is a minimum of something like eight miles with substantial elevation gain and loss. I had hiked the loop once before (back in 2001) and was keen to do it again, and so I did, with the full knowledge that, with time for photography (in the grotesquely plodding way in which I typically engage in the pursuit), this would take most of the remaining nine-odd hours of daylight.

Given the record snowfall in the Sierra-Nevada that winter, the waterfalls were absolutely roaring, and after working my way around the anticipated crowds below the waterfall, I donned my waterproof gear as I made my way through the extended splash zone, where the trail runs past Vernal Fall. As expected, there was far less foot traffic on the trail once I moved past the top of Vernal Fall. (By the time I got back near the bottom of Vernal, near the end of the hike at the bottom of the loop, it was less than an hour before sunset. The area that had been choked with visitors near noontime was almost completely deserted.)

As I made my way along the John Muir Trail, on the back side of the loop, I stopped a number of times to make images of Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall from the numerous spots when both were visible. These features were bathed in sunlight, but it was now flattering angular light. Still, as is so often the case in Yosemite, monochrome renderings were often on my mind.

Nevada Fall, particularly in the spring and especially after a record snow winter, is an extraordinarily powerful cataract, and I decided to highlight that fact. Using a telephoto lens, I zoomed in on a section of Nevada Fall’s upper half, and–unlike my typical waterfall rendering–chose a relatively fast shutter speed. The simple composition had little color anyway, so black and white was a natural consideration. Post-processing was relatively simple: a contrast bump and a bit of modest, selective burning. The final product is below.

Nevada Fall Intimate Black & White, Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park, California


  1. Love it!

    • Thanks, Jane!

  2. The faster shutter speed provides detail in the water that definitely adds to the feeling of the power of the falls. I think it was the right decision.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  3. Wonderful juxtaposition of textures between rock and water; shutter speed was perfect to get just enough definition in water. Very nicely done.

    • Thanks, Steve!

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