On a hazy night in August, landscape photographer Coty Spence and several friends stopped at a pullout near Yosemite National Park’s Gates of the Valley viewpoint. After a productive evening shooting long exposures at Glacier Point, the group was beat and ready for some shuteye. That’s when Spence noticed the fog.
It was thick—so thick, in fact, that he could just barely make out Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Falls, three of the viewpoint’s most prominent landmarks. Tired as he was, Spence hauled himself out of the vehicle to photograph the spectacle, just to see what would happen. The scene was almost totally dark to Spence’s eyes, but with a 30-second exposure, his camera saw this:
Spence, a 22 year-old UCLA student, admitted that he spends a much larger portion of his time planning backpacking trips and shooting in the field than he does studying to complete his degree.
He created “Yosemite Under Moonlight” at f/5.6 and ISO 2000 with a Nikon D600 full-frame camera and a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle lens. Believe it or not, the image isn’t a composite—it’s just one single RAW file created through a 30-second exposure on a foggy night in August. Using Adobe Lightroom, Spence then upped the contrast and vibrance, reduced noise, and made a few other tweaks to create the final image.
“It’s hard to take a photo of Yosemite that truly stands out since so many people travel there, but every once in a while, you may get lucky,” said Spence. “The moonlight mixed in with the fog (and possibly some haze from the recent fire) really gave the scene a mysterious and dark look, something I have never seen from this location or [from] Yosemite in general!”
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