Half Dome From the Other Side

August 10, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

On Playing Nice and Getting Lucky


Sunset light provides a golden glow from snow and Ice on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park


A few years ago I visited my uncle in southern California to celebrate his 80th birthday. He celebrates on Halloween so it becomes quite a lavish costume party and tons of fun with family and friends. For a lot of the family, it’s the only time we get together so most of us make an effort to get to LA for this event.

Since I don’t get to visit the west coast very often I decided to make a trip up to Yosemite on my way back to Colorado. It’s not really on the way but Yosemite is my favorite national park to photograph so somehow I found the time. I decided to travel north along the historic coastal highway and head east from beautiful Carmel. The weather was terrible for photography on my drive up the coast so I didn’t make a single stop for photos. After a warm bead and great dinner in Carmel I turned east the next morning and enjoyed the easy drive to Yosemite National Park.

Being late autumn in the mountains I really didn’t know what to expect in the park. Finding places to stay was unusually easy. Upon my arrival I discovered that the park had received some early snow and all the leaves were off the trees. The valley was brown and not all that photogenic so I decided to try the Tioga Pass Road for a higher vantage point. It was closed!

A simple saw-horse-like barricade was set across the road and there I was with another photographer from Colorado looking at the signs and wondering if we should just move the barricade or turn back. We talked about our options for a while. After 20 or 30 minutes of contemplation a park ranger approached us. She told us the road was closed because there were a few patches of ice on the road and that California drivers had no idea how to handle a car on ice. After checking our Colorado plates she suggested we meet her at the barricade the following morning at 8 am.

The next morning the ranger pulled back the barricade and allowed us to pass, closing the road behind us. I’m not sure about the other driver but I enjoyed an awesome day on Tioga Pass Road high above Yosemite valley making photos and just being in nature. That evening I caught up with the other photographer at an overlook across the valley from “Cloud’s Rest”. The sun had set and the sky was turning orange. We hurried to set up. A different ranger showed and told us that we must leave. We took turns distracting the ranger while the other took photos of an incredible sunset on Half Dome. The ranger must see this view all the time because he was only interested in us packing up and getting behind the barricade before dark. We didn’t quite make it but we did get some unique photos. At least they were unique to two photographers from Colorado. The ranger wasn’t terribly upset.

If I can find a moral to this story it would be this. You’ll get more cooperation from authority figures if you’re willing to play by the rules even if you’d rather not. We got some great photos because we treated the rangers with respect. We never begged or put up any kind of fight or argument.

Respect. It’s just another tool you should keep in your camera bag.

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Crested Butte, Colorado photographer, Dusty Demerson creates fine art photography displayed as prints and canvases and provides private photo tours in and around western Colorado.

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