A Tunnel View Story

Ansel Adams said famously, “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” Few spots I’ve visited make this as plain and as simple at the equally famous Tunnel View that looks over Yosemite Valley. As a fellow photographer said yesterday morning, “This shot has everything.”

The line of photographers was at one point 17 across (not counting the tourists with as many or more point and shoots), with gear in use ranging from consumer DSLRs to pro models to 4×5 film cameras to digital medium format to an 8×10 view camera. The night before the valley had received nearly a foot of snow and for hours we waited for the thick fog to open up and show us the view. Finally it did, but not before the warming air had melted much of the snow that had blanketed the tree tops at sunrise. Still, it was quite a breathtaking view, standing there elbow to elbow with other photographers.

It was my pleasure to meet and chat for a while with the owner of the 8×10 viewcamera, Michael Fatali. A friendly, approachable fellow, he takes some fantastic photographs and admitted to having a 10×24 view camera. Sadly, he’d not brought it with him from Utah on this trip. I’d love to have seen that monster in person.

I also enjoyed speaking with several of the other photographers I met that morning. They say photography is basically a solitary endeavor, but on a snowy morning at Tunnel View, there is plenty of company to keep.

  • Ah, it’s nice to see a few view cameras among the crowd. I’m jealous of your experience here – one day I hope to catch a heavy snowfall in Yosemite too.

    It’s interesting that I happened to check in with your blog this morning, just after reading a bit about Fatali’s exploits at Delicate Arch and a few other places a few years back (causing some well-know permanent damage).

  • What a coincidence! I had not heard of him when we met, but I read all about the ‘incident’ what I got home and Googled his name. So what do you think, Tyler–does setting a fire by your subject count as “natural” light?

  • I’m going to have to say… no. Even in a stretch you might consider burning some fallen timber nearby ‘natural’, but it’s rumored that he used manufactured fireplace logs. In that case, it certainly doesn’t count. 🙂 (I don’t think I’ve ever seen the resultant photographs either)

  • Have to agree. Whether you fire a strobe or light a fire, that seems like man-made and thus not natural light as I think of it. I was disappointed to read about the cause of the incident being an artificial fire after having just read about how natural light is a big part of his approach. The damage to the stone is another matter entirely, but that has seen plenty of discussion elsewhere. All that said, and regardless of light sources, he has made some wonderful images and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking to him.

  • I’m sure he’s probably a nice guy, and he has apologized profusely for the damage (though he was a repeat offender, which doesn’t bode well). I’ve seen a little of his work too and it’s pretty stunning. Apparently he’s really quite a masterful printer too. It’s a shame that the fire-incidents immediately come to mind when I hear the name.