The One That Almost Got Away: A Photographer’s Tale

Rising Moon, Gates of the Valley

Rising Moon, Gates of the Valley

Not every photo has an interesting story behind it, but the approaching full moon reminded me of the eventful day I had before making this image from Gates of the Valley in Yosemite.

I had been skiing at Badger Pass, and while gliding to the top of the Red Fox run I saw a snowboarder out of the corner of my eye. He was facing left, making a right turn into my path, and moving fast. He clearly didn’t see me and I didn’t have time to turn, so I yelled, “Look out!” and braced for impact.

I found myself sprawled in the snow assessing the damage. I didn’t feel any major pain, but was dazed and had the wind knocked out of me. The snowboarder said, “Geez I’m sorry!” and then, “Are you all right?”

My ribs hurt, my left knee too, but eventually I decided that I could make it down the mountain under my own power. I wanted to continue skiing, but eventually decided that returning to the slopes was foolish, and drove down to the medical clinic in Yosemite Valley to get an assessment. I hoped that I could get in and out fast enough to photograph what looked like a promising sunset.

X-rays were negative. The verdict was bruised ribs and a probable strained lateral collateral ligament in my left knee. They handed me Tylenol with Codeine and sent me home.

But all this had taken a long time, and leaving the clinic I saw it was too late to catch the sunset. I took my time driving out of the valley in the dusk, but as I approached Gates of the Valley I noticed lots of cars, and photographers with tripods. What were they still doing out there in the dark? I stopped and immediately saw the reason: the moon was rising between El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks. Damn! I’d forgotten about the moon during my eventful day. It would be full at 11 a.m. the next day.

I quickly got out my camera and tripod, found a perfect spot next to the water that was inexplicably not occupied by another photographer, and bracketed a series of exposures as the moon rose through the mist. Eventually the shutter speeds reached two minutes and it was too dark to continue.

If I hadn’t been hit by the snowboarder I wouldn’t have gone to the clinic, left late, and been at Gates of the Valley just when the moon was rising. In the end I guess this is just another story about being in the right place at the right time.

(By the way, my knee and ribs are fine now.)

—Michael Frye

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author and photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters, plus the eBook Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom. He has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

In the Moment: Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

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