Valley View

Gorgeous Sunset of The Whole Yosemite!

Before leaving for San Jose after a whole day of driving to East Yosemite, we decided to stop at Valley View to take picture of the Sunset since we spot the cloud would make some dramatic view of the scene.

Valley View is close to Tunnel View (about 3 minutes away) but at the ground level. One will notice the sign before quickly turning into the exit of the park so be careful not to miss the sign. Otherwise, you will need to drive all the way back on the one way road.

The parking lot has about 8-10 stalls so it could be crowded during the day.

We came there 30 minutes before the sunset but we couldn’t find the parking space at all. However, there is not much you can do here so people often take quick pictures and leave. We waited about 5 minutes and some people were leaving but some Asians drove right in front of us and signaled to get into our spot! Wow, what a jerk! We honked the car to let them know that we had been there long before. That car left and another Asian car did the same thing! I can’t believe that such behavior exists in the US. Anyway, we finally got the spot after waiting 20 minutes just right before the sunset 🙂

The light was hitting El Capitan and the Three Brothers at a low angle with flattering light and we noticed some high cloud that excited us a lot! I used the Canon 6D and Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 with a 10 stop-ND filter and 3-stop graduated filter on the lens. The 10-stop ND filter will slow down the lens like a sun glass that permits less light onto the sensor, meaning I would need to expose longer time. This would smooth out the water flow and made it silky! The 3-stop graduated filter helped block the highlight on the sky while allowed more light from the darker valley. In addition to the filters, I also took 3 different exposures to create an HDR picture that looks much better than 1 exposure.

Most people make mistakes by leaving too early, as soon as the sun sets. The best time would be 10-20 minutes after the sunset, called Blue hour. At this time, you wouldn’t blow up the highlight because the sun is no longer there, and the light would be evenly distributed so there would be not much contrast. In addition, the high cloud would turn pink or orange only after the sun is set. Thus, don’t leave too soon!

Overall, I only got 1 good shot after thousands of pictures taken in 2 days at Yosemite but I felt really good. Photography requires lots of patience and practice; it’s normal to get just one good picture after many days. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece as Ansel Adams’ works but maybe one day, one of my photos could make it, who knows? 🙂


Alex is a Software Engineer at Google, an educator and an amateur photographer living in the beautiful Orange County

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Go top