Emerald Merced

Emerald Merced

13×33 prints are $3,000
20×50 prints are $6,000

This image is of the Merced River where it runs through Yosemite National Park. In 2003 I was invited to teach a photographic workshop by the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. I arrived at the park two days early, so I could scout out potential photographic areas for the students to look for worthwhile images. I came across this brilliantly lit quiet scene in the middle of the day right around noon.

There are some images that photograph best in full sunlight, even on transparency film and this is one of them. Full sun was needed to penetrate the naturally green water, to illuminate the rock walls and trees which were being reflected in the water and to provide enough light to catch the ripples without undue blurring. Oftentimes moving water is best shown with enough movement to simulate the way we actually perceive moving water. That is, not frozen in time, like ice, nor excessively blurred.

Obtaining a quick enough shutter speed to render the water the way I wanted to, with full detail in the many small ripples and reflections but still with a smooth “watery look,” required very precise focusing on the ground glass, using the front and back tilts to maximize the image quality. I used a 450mm lens at f/22 for 1/125 second and made one exposure on Ektachrome 100 Plus Professional. Normally I use Fuji film but there was a six month period when Provia had an overall magenta cast, so I used this Ektachrome until Fuji solved the problem.

The image has very delicate colors and tones and it took me two years to be able to successfully print it. We have one of the larger prints in our home properly lit with halogen flood lights. From certain viewpoints the shimmering reflections appear to give a “rippled curtain” effect that provides great depth to the image.

For me there is a luminous peace to the image that I keep coming back to. I continually marvel at the interactions of the pastel warm and cool colors, the wealth of detail in the stones lining the river bed and the shimmering light that plays across the surface.

Format: Panoramic (horizontal)
Location: California
Reference key: emc