Yosemite Redux – why keeping those extra frames matter.

Picture: El Capitan and Half Dome during a late winter sunset, Yosemite National Park, California

Image: El Capitan and Half Dome during a late winter sunset, Yosemite National Park, California

This week I had a potential client call and ask about a portfolio image similar to the one above. He asked about having Half Dome lighter. I gave him an example of how (IMHO) poorly trying to lighted Half Dome would look if I tried to “Add light” just to Half Dome. Part of the appeal, at least for me, was the strong contrast in the type of warm lighting on El Capitan (on the left) and Half Dome (in the center) in much darker shadowed light.

However, not wanting to disappoint a potential client, I offered to go back and look through my RAW files, and see if there was a more appropriate frame.

I recall once when working for Galen Rowell, a client had seen an image and asked if we had a version with more fill in blank. I vividly remember tearing through stacks of metal archive boxes searching for an outtake from a climb Galen had done back in the 1970’s in Alaska. After hours of searching, I finally found the right box, and four outtakes, kept but not thrown away, even though they were nearly a stop too dark. One of those dark frames had just the variation the client wanted, and as a result we licensed the outtake for thousands of dollars for use as an ad.

With that experience in mind, I plugged in my RAW File Archive Hard Drive, went back to the trip in question, the date in question, and the CF Card in question. Because I had considered this a portfolio-type image, I had saved all of my raw files from this shoot, including exposure, lighting, and compositional variations. I found one frame taken a number of minutes after the original where some additional light had filtered into the scene, and the original raw file was shot with a lighter exposur. I quickly copied over the RAW settings for the select and opened the image in Photoshop, where I selectively added a little extra brightness and contrast using curves, while trying to keep the scene looking realistic.

Of course, I hope the person becomes a client. Even if they don’t, I’m curious which image people prefer? This one, or the darker original portfolio image? It’s interesting for me to think that after several years, maybe the redux is better? Share your thoughts below.

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11 Comments on “Yosemite Redux – why keeping those extra frames matter.”

  1. QT Luong Says:

    This of course reminds of Galen Rowell’s image and comment “lit with superb, but very different light”. Since Half-Dome is, more so than El Cap, the Yosemite icon, I could see someone preferring the new version.

    It used to that I tried to select the “best” version of an image. Not anymore for a website. It’s just simpler for everybody to publish all versions (assuming that they are different enough). I think the only folks complaining that a selection is not tight enough are other photographers.

  2. Tony Dunn Says:


    They both have their appeal, and it would be difficult to choose between them. That said, I do like the extra light on Half Dome in this image because I think in the other image that Half Dome is a bit dark and seems to recede into the background a bit too much. On the other hand, I like the clouds better in the other image. In this image they lake the tonal complexity of the other image. I also like the darker foreground of the other image a little better as well. Both excellent images, however.

  3. Youssef Ismail Says:

    Hard to choose Gary. They are both nice and unless someone, like your potential client, has a specific idea in mind, both work very well. But you do make a good case for keeping outtakes.

  4. Eric Bier Says:

    The fact that there is any question about which is “better” reminds me of the great variation of what different people like. If it is art, the image must please the artist, if it is commercial, it must please the customer.

    I like the dark exposure. I love the light on El Cap and in the clouds. And it just feels better to me!

  5. Today’s Shared Links for May 21, 2011 – Chuqui 3.0 Says:

    […] Yosemite Redux – why keeping those extra frames matter. […]

  6. G Dan Mitchell Says:

    Gary, I’m also one who tends to save the “extra” files rather than delete. I could – but won’t, so don’t worry! – write a short book on the reasons. But among them is the recognition that someone else may well want/need a version of an image that wasn’t my favorite but which is better for their project.

    The whole notion of “best” is complex. At a minimum it is a question of the context within which something is best.

    My initial instinct is to prefer the version at the other link, for what it’s worth.


  7. Richard Wong Says:

    Great story Gary. As for personal preference, I prefer the blog version over the portfolio version. It looks prettier to my eyes.

  8. Greg Russell Says:

    Gary, I’ve become quite the memory hog lately and save most if not all of my RAW files, for just this reason. I’ve lost enough over the years to really regret it.

    As to which one I prefer…its a toss up. They’re both really gorgeous, and by technical merits alone, one simply isn’t better than the other. Tonight, though, I’d have to say my preference is for the blog version, but that may change tomorrow. 😉


  9. R. Weaver Says:

    Definitely depends what you’re trying to show. Like you, I prefer the darker, original image; but if someone was looking for a picture of Half-dome, the lighter one is obviously more effective. Good point, btw. I think it’s about time to get more storage space…

  10. Peter T. Says:


    Both images are excellent, neither one is really *better* than the other but because of the lighting, they tell a different story.

    The one with the darker Half Dome emphasis El Capitan. In that photo El Capitan is the star, and main subject, of the photo.

    In the other shot, with the lighter Half Dome, the photo to me is more about the relationship between El Capitan AND Half Dome. In that photo the tandem of Half Dome with El Capitan is the main story of the photo.

    So in other words, the two photos express two different ideas because the difference in the emphasis of the lighting.

  11. Scott W Says:

    Both are fantastic photographs, but the reedit catches my eye more than the first image.

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