"First Light: Yosemite Valley" is one of the few paintings I've done of Yosemite National Park -- so far. Yosemite is one of those places that has been painted and photographed to death, and trying to come up with an original concept just ain't easy!
But one June when we were camping in Wawona Campground, it occurred to me that the sun would rise somewhere behind those distant monoliths of granite. I wanted to get out to Tunnel View at dawn so I could see what the Valley looked like.
So one morning, I awoke when the sky was just starting to get light. I crawled out of the tent and raced like a madman (well, everything I do is done like a madman!) to the parking lot on the valley side of the tunnel and set up the camera and tripod.
I wasn't disappointed after making the effort. I was set up for picture-taking when the scene almost looked like the painting: the sun was barely clearing El Capitan (I painted the sun as it appeared a few minutes later) and was projecting a narrow beam of golden light through the valley floor.
The photographs didn't accurately show the place as it looked -- the shortcomings of photography rendered much of the valley very darkly except for the distant Half Dome and beyond. But the light beam was there, so the photo helped me remember what I saw. I was able to fill in the details with pictures I took with "normal" lighting, and thus was able to accomplish one of those tasks that is completely unsuited to photography -- I could get past the limitations of film and show Yosemite Valley as it actually looked early on a June morning, featuring the magic of the rising sun on a magical place.