My Unconventional Trip to Yosemite
Written By Alex Chamberlain
I finally got to Yosemite. Ansel Adams shot there, kinda put the tunnel view on the map, photographically speaking, and basically helped America fall in love with the place. “So wait,” you might ask, “you’re a landscape photographer, and you’ve never been to Yosemite?” That’s what I’m telling you. Only, now I have been, and it was a spur-of-the-moment, last-minute, crazy-under-prepared kind of embarrassing story that I’m still having a little trouble deciding whether or not should actually get put out there for the public to discover. Whoops, too late.
When I found out I was headed to Adams Land, I contacted Clik Elite and asked them what kind of backpack I should take with me. “Are you going to be doing a lot of backpacking, or camping overnight?” they asked. “Nope.” was my reply. The Obscura was deemed the bag of choice due to its quick side-pocket access, and internal aluminum frame. “Great!” I was on my way.
Turns out we were backpacking a long way to a back-country campsite. Somehow, I managed to cram all of my photo gear along with all of my camping equipment into the Obscura except, of course, my bear canister, which I ended up carrying under my arm. The trail was the Glacier Point trail, the first leg of which covers 4.8 miles, and 3,200 feet in elevation gain near the face of “the sentinel.” Once we reached the top, it would be a mere 5 or 6 miles to camp.
I have to say, Yosemite did not disappoint. The views were truly magnificent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the (very physical) hike up the cliff-side. As the sun began to set, however, our little group realized that we had a problem– We were nowhere near our intended campsite, and it was certainly not legal to camp where we were. My shirt now looked tie-dyed from perspiration, and I was probably faring better than some of the other members of our group. I had inserted a hydration bladder into my Obscura, and it seemed to be a bottomless well. Score another for a roomy pack! However, some of the other members of the group were nearly out of water. After weighing our options, we decided to press on just a little farther, at which point, our group leader nearly tripped over an odd shaped up-cropping in the dark.
It was a drinking fountain. As we pondered its presence in the middle of this nearly-intractable wilderness, we raised our gazes a little farther up the trail. A woman in high heels and a nice dress walked past the trail. We all did that thing a dog does with its head when it doesn’t understand what its master wants. A few feet past the well-dressed-woman-crossing, we noticed a snack shop and a parking lot just beyond a sign that read: “Welcome to Glacier Point.” At last, our hard work had paid off, and we could commune with nature in solitude. . . or we could hitch hike down and find a hotel. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to shoot some long exposures of Half-Dome first, so while my companions made sweat-angels on the sidewalk, I hauled out my gear and shot the milky way and the stars. The moon, which was still down when we arrived, was waxing toward full, so I timed a set of stackable shots as it rose, which made for a beautiful color shift in the clouds as they moved through my composition.
Ansel Adams would probably disapprove of both my photography and the level of planning that went into my first Yosemite outing. At the very least, I’m certain he would have taken exception to the olfactory consequences some poor good-Samaritan suffered that night for giving us a lift down the mountain in his car. That said, I think stories that involve leaving a little bit (or an awful lot) up to chance sometimes come out alright. . . especially in bear country. . . hiking on sheer cliff-sides. . . maybe not. Whatever the case, the Obscura stepped admirably up to the plate and kept my gear safe, and my body hydrated long enough to get some shots of which I am proud. I won’t even tell you about losing our spoons. . . my new Obscura came in handy for that too.
Alex Chamberlain’s love of photography began at a young age as his father is also a photographer. Exposure to professional imaging was a ubiquitous part of Alex’s childhood years. Whether it’s shooting a lightning storm, a Mountain Lion, or a fierce toddler with a pack a vicious siblings, Alex always looks for an angle to call his own.
Alex’s work has appeared in Outdoor Photographer Magazine, on National Geographic Television, the BBC, Al Jazeera, and countless other national and international venues. Alex considers his most important photographic work to be in the field of education, and he fulfills that calling by helming the photography program at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah.
Clik packs have kept Alex’s gear dry, safe, portable, and handy for several years. “I find myself reaching for my Pro Express more or less constantly throughout any given day,” Alex says. “I’m kinda flabbergasted that it can fit all my essential gear along with my iPad and laptop and still be used as carry-on-luggage!”