Wildflowers, Tuolumne Meadows, 1986
It’s wildflower season in the Yosemite high country, which made me think about this image that I made 25 years ago, in August of 1986, in Tuolumne Meadows.
In the 1980s large swaths of Lemmon’s paintbrush and shooting stars were common in Tuolumne Meadows in the summer. But 1986 brought the best bloom I’ve ever seen there, with this great mix of paintbrush, little elephant’s heads, lupine, shooting stars, penstemons, and… that yellow flower (arrowhead butterweed?). For some reason though wildflowers have diminished in Tuolumne Meadows in recent years, and those great blooms seem to be a thing of the past.
In the summer of 1986 I was working at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley. On the day I made this photograph I drove up to the high country after work. A thunderstorm had rolled through, leaving the meadows wet and the skies overcast. But just before sunset the sun crawled underneath the clouds and lit up the peaks in the distance.
I actually think I did a pretty good job with the composition here. I needed to find some kind of structure or design to hold the foreground together and lead the viewer’s eyes into the distance. The little V- shaped group of flowers at the bottom of the frame accomplished both those things, giving the foreground some structure and leading viewer’s eyes toward the background. As a bonus, that V-shape mirrors the upside down Vs of the peaks.
The horizon line is high, but I think that’s appropriate here: the foreground is much more interesting than the sky. I’m glad I wasn’t overly concerned about putting the horizon a third of the way from the top.