During our recent trip to the eastern Sierra I hiked up a trail I’d never been on before. I hoped the trail might lead to view overlooking a hillside full of aspens. It didn’t – at least not directly. I had to leave the trail and work my way out on some rock outcrops, where I did finally reach a spot with a view of that aspen-covered hillside, and made the photograph above.
I was pretty happy with that image; I liked the curving line of bare trunks, and the way the clumps of pines in the lower-right and upper-left corners played off each other. But my eyes kept getting pulled to some aspens next to the rock outcrop. The leaves on these trees displayed a wonderful kaleidoscope of hues – yellow, orange, red, green, even a bit of maroon. I realized that these aspens right in front of me had at least as much photographic potential as the ones on the distant hillside.
I moved around and tried a number of different compositions, honing in on the areas with the greatest variety of color, and looking for patterns that would give that color some structure and design. You’ll find two of those images below. I tried to give these photographs a bit an abstract-expressionist quality, with color splashed all over the frame – and some pointillism thrown in too:
Over the years I’ve learned to pay attention to what my eyes are drawn too. I may head to a spot with a certain image in mind, but if my attention gets pulled to something else there’s probably a good reason for it. Often our preconceived ideas don’t work as well as we’d hoped, but there are always other possibilities if we stay flexible and keep our eyes open.
— Michael Frye
Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael 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.