ALL JEFF MITCHUM IMAGES
The years have passed so quickly since I first walked into Yosemite Valley in the early 70's and saw the sentinel Half Dome acting as watcher over the majestic wonderland filled with dramatic falls, flowing fields of deep green and swaying pines of brilliant red. Oh, the smells and dramatic skies. Little did I know that day as I walked through the valley floor that I was beginning a journey of emotions that would ultimately convey how I would photograph and see the world.
One of the pillars of my creativity, as my collectors know, is Ansel Adams. His attention to detail, technique, visualization and the deep emotional connection he had with his subjects created tools within me that I feel are fundamental to creating a fine art portfolio. So, it should not be surprising that in honor of Ansel’s famous image, "Monolith," that my season to stand on the famous Diving Board had arrived.
It has been twenty years since I started visualizing my own interpretation of this wonderful image and location. Up till now, my portfolio has lacked any of Ansel’s compositions. This has been a deliberate action on my part not only out of respect for my mentor, but also out of respect for my own personal and emotional connection with my subject because, ultimately, this is what the viewer will feel.
Two weeks earlier my good friends Jeremy Long, Josh Cripps, John DeGrazio, Matt Kuhns, David Franks and I made a valiant attempt at shooting the hopeful image. The trek, route finding, scramble, and miles involved are not for the inexperienced. In fact, the hike should be attempted by very few due to the severity and the experience needed for such a capture. Fortunately, this team has the qualities you look for. Unfortunately, the clouds were a flat gray and not what I have been waiting 20 years for so a return trip with the next weather system would be the call.
Two weeks had passed since the ill-fated trip when I saw on NOAA an incoming storm. Knowing that a few days before a storm presents some of the finest light, I began to round up the posse and this time we would have enough supplies to last up to a week if needed. After making the calls to Abe Blair, Jeremy Long, Kevin Herman, Erik, John DeGrazio and Yosemite’s finest climber, Richie Copeland, the assault commenced. We began our journey at 5 a.m. from the Happy Isles camp and were waiting atop the Diving board eight hours later. Watching the lenticular clouds in the distance and their height, my optimism for a successful image finally began to match the years of intense hope.
“The Range of Light” was named years before it was captured for the title perfectly conveys what I have personally experienced; a wide spectrum of Yosemite color and emotion. From the intense black streaks running down the face of Half Dome and the deep reds and greens in the pines, to the glazed-like reds in the rocks below the face and ridge holding the trees. The sweeping views up and through Tenaya Canyon with Mt. Watson to the left and the vast Eastern Sierras in the distance opens up the visual journey unlike any other place in Yosemite. With the sun setting behind Mt. Watson and the sky’s temperature changing color, the release of the shutter was activated. There was a 10-second period where the shaft of light lit up the face of Half Dome and when this journey happened there was an emotional affirmation within me. You know!
Rare moments require rare prints and I am thrilled to share my journey with you through this piece. If the definition of "Wonder of the World" is to contain the full senses; the sight, smells, taste, sounds and textures, then certainly we are standing on holy ground at Yosemite.
Not even a week after this commemorative image was created, my good friend Richie Copeland, who was with me for the special evening, died doing what he loved most - climbing and exploring the immense wildlands and stunning light of Yosemite. Range of Light is dedicated to my friend.
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