“The splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious.” These were the immortal words that Ansel Adams wrote when he first visited Yosemite in 1916.
Decades later, as I gazed upon the Yosemite Valley and its majestic granite peaks from just outside the Wawona Tunnel, I heard these words in my head as if he’d spoken them to me and knew that they were true. It was indeed GLORIOUS. And it was humbling.
I closed my eyes and I could almost see him with his trusty Kodak Brownie capturing everything with great enthusiasm like I was going to as soon as I finished breathing it all in.
It took me several minutes and a moment of panic I have to admit. The truth was everything there was so arrestingly beautiful that I didn’t know whether to just sit there and consume all of it with my own eyes or start capturing everything on film. It didn’t help that I was standing there along with a hundred or so tourists, oohing and ahhh-ing and clicking away with their digital cameras and camera phones like maniacs.
The valley looked just as pristine and as untouched as it was a hundred years ago. But looks are at times deceiving and I knew that a closer look would prove that Yosemite had become somewhat of a circus in the last few decades. So it was comforting to know that the golden meadows, crystal-clear lakes, and granite mountain tops that had inspired Ansel Adams are still there, existing and inspiring people… inspiring me.
My mind was already racing as I tore my attention away from the scene before me and reached for my cameras, which until then were slung over my shoulders forgotten. I was armed with many rolls of film and I wanted to use them all to capture every inch of that place. I wanted to photograph everything and anything! Unfortunately, I was only there for the weekend and that wasn’t enough time to photograph Yosemite’s prominent features, let alone every inch of its 700,000-something acres.
As I took several shots of the famous Tunnel View, I tried to decide on five things I wanted to do most but it was no use. How could anyone possibly chose when there were hundreds of things to experience and photograph?!
I managed to calm myself down enough to realize that Yosemite had been around for hundreds of years and it will be for a few hundred more. I had time. I could always come back. After all, even the great Ansel Adams had to go back several times before he could capture the perfect shots.
So I stepped back, took a deep breath, and let myself go.
And then I let Yosemite capture me, instead.