The Story Behind the Shot: Being Bear Bait, by accident…

Posted on November 11, 2014

It’s no secret that I like to go on road trips. After teaching a workshop on night photography around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah, I spent about three weeks driving west and then north scouting future workshop locations. In all my travels I’ve never made my way through Yosemite National Park and decided that needed to change.

My friend Sergio knows the park well and met me there for a couple days. There were forest fires outside of the park causing smoke and haze in the air. This did end up cutting my time there short, but not without first shooting a bit at night. Sergio is not a photographer, but was totally willing to come with me for some shooting. We pulled off at a viewpoint on the way down to the valley floor where I took my first exposure of the night. When the image came up on the screen Sergio caught a glimpse and couldn’t believe I had just taken that bright of an image at night. After a brief explanation of long exposure, I offered to let him use a d800e I had with me and my 24-70 2.8. We made our way down to the valley and found a clearing that we could shoot in. I gave him some basics for exposure at night and focusing and over the next forty-five minutes we happily clicked away.


This specific image is of El Capitan. The points of light you see on it are climbers either settling in for the night or completing their ascent after dark. We noticed that a cyclist out for a night ride had pulled over to the side of the road about 100ft (30m) away. Most people when they see you with a tripod in the middle of the night are wondering what the heck you are taking pictures of. Expecting this to be the same with our new onlooker, I offered up a greeting.

“There’s two bears crossing the street slowly headed for you guys,” was the response we received instead. At this point I think we decided we had all of the images we needed for the night and hastily packed up our gear.

The next day I followed Sergio back to his house north of the park for lunch before driving to the coast. After introducing me to his girlfriend, the first thing out of his mouth was, “wait until you see these pictures I took. You’ll never believe it was nighttime!” As someone that gets great joy from sharing with others something I enjoy so much, I couldn’t have been happier!


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