How To Take A Great Selfie in Yosemite

By Eric Weintraub

Ansel_Adams_and_Camera.jpgThe Yosemite Valley was a paramount source of inspiration for famed photographer Ansel Adams. When you go hiking through the sweeping valleys and towering hills of Yosemite, you too will be tempted to pull out your camera every five seconds to ask your friends to photograph you. If your friends have become tired of taking a picture of you in front of every lake or meadow you pass, you should think about taking a selfie. Selfies aren’t as easy as the high school girls of Facebook make them look. They can come out awkward: you wouldn’t want a close-up of your face blocking a shot of Tioga Pass, or for your disproportionately huge nose and right cheek to distract from Half Dome. With these tips, you’ll be able to take the perfect selfie in the most beautiful place on Earth.


As tempting as it is to spend all day at Sentinel Dome creating a selfie version of Ansel Adam’s most revered photography destination, it’s important to take the best picture you can and move on. Yosemite Valley covers over 1,000 square miles of gorgeous landscape. Don't use all your selfie juice in one place.  
Every professional photographer knows that no one gets the perfect photo on the first try. Maybe your best selfie will not be on a mountain peak, but in front of your cabin. Don’t erase any of the photos until you finish your trip and have a chance to compare them. If they all turn out well composed, you can create your own art installation of Yosemite selfies.


Your selfie isn’t meant to double as your author book jacket photo. Don’t look longingly at the misty mountains of Artist Point as you ponder the meaning of existence.
Have fun with your selfie to make it unique such as resting against the bark of an enormous sequoia tree. Use forced perspective to look like you’re leaning back to chug water from Bridalveil Falls behind you. Pose like you’re filming a nature documentary when you come across a rare Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep. You can take an average selfie anywhere; do something here that is unique.


There’s nothing worse than a selfie where the sun blows out half your face. Position yourself within available light to ensure your face comes out with a well-exposed tone. While overcast days may not be as pretty, they make the sunlight more even and keep harsh shadows from falling over your skin.
At the same time, know how to use harsh light to your advantage. If you find yourself hiking in Mariposa Grove, where the beautiful sequoia trees’ leaves sprinkle your face with light, use the shadows to create a high contrast photo with an artsy black and white filter.


Phone cameras are the easiest ways to make selfies because of their reversible camera ability. Afterwards, you can run the photo through Instagram and go crazy with an assortment of filters. These filters can be beneficial. They can boost the color temperature of a warm sunset, or bring out the jagged lines in a cliffside. 
However, it’s important to stay somewhat of a purist when photographing a place so influential in the history of photography. Don’t go too overboard with your filter options. Don't crush the colors so they look like they were run through an HDR process, and don’t use the purple and yellow filter that will turn Yosemite Valley into the colors of a Laker’s jersey. Yosemite already offers miles of natural beauty. Let the lush greenery and deep blue sky speak for itself.


Your camera may have full HD capability, but that’s nothing compared to the resolution of your eyes. It’s important to admire the scenery around you and create memories outside your photos. Don’t stop hiking up Half Dome every five minutes to snap another photo.
When you reach the tallest summit in Yosemite, take a moment to admire a view you may only see once in your lifetime. Then pull out your camera, frame yourself having conquered the highest peak in Yosemite, and take the magnum opus of all selfies.
By following these steps, you’ll leave Yosemite with a collection of selfies to last a lifetime. Back up your favorite ones to return to in the future. The next time you journey to Yosemite, you may want to replicate your favorite poses, to show how you’re selfie skills have evolved over the years.
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