Ansel Adams & The Magic of Glacier Point

If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite and the weather permits, make the adventure to Glacier Point for an epic all-encompassing view of many of the park’s scenic wonders. At an elevation of 7,214 feet, Glacier Point offers a superb lookout onto Yosemite’s iconic landmarks including Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, and Clouds Rest.

From Glacier Point — Vintage Ansel Adam Photograph, 1927

“From Glacier Point,” Vintage Ansel Adams gelatin silver photograph, Negative Date: 1927, Print Date: 1927, Signed “A. E. Adams”

Ansel Adams cherished this magical viewpoint, and ventured to Glacier Point on a number of occasions to photograph the incredible view. The below image is from one of those occasions, a photo captured by Ansel in 1947 using a 5″ x 7″ view camera. The perspective of Half Dome from Glacier Point is a quintessential Yosemite vista, which Ansel composed with a dramatic thunderstorm brewing to the East.

Half Dome from Glacier Point by Ansel Adams

Half Dome from Glacier Point” Special Edition Photograph by Ansel Adams

Ansel’s trips to Glacier Point were animated and often hectic, as his son, Michael, remembers. When Michael traveled with his father when he was photographing, he recalls:

“It was sometimes hectic because a lot of times things happened with the light or the clouds and he wanted to get something before the clouds changed or the light changed…It was enjoying being here [at Glacier Point] in an environment and seeing what Ansel was seeing in the camera and watching him do it.” — Michael Adams

Ansel’s captivation with weather, light, and drama translates beautifully in the collection of images he created from this spectacular location. One of them, titled Autumn Moon, High Sierra from Glacier Point, captures a waxing gibbous moon rising over the Clark Range southeast of Glacier Point.

Ansel Adams’ photo Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point, taken Sept. 15, 1948. (image from the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust)

Ansel kept detailed notes on the technical aspects of his photographs, however information about the date and time of his images was often incomplete or contradictory. Such is the case with Autumn Moon. In a study conducted by a team of astronomers at Texas State University, researchers applied forensic astronomy to Ansel’s photograph using lunar tables, topographic maps, weather records, and astronomical software. The findings of their study shed new light on Autumn Moon’s celestial scene, determining that Adams created the photograph on Sept. 15, 1948, at 7:03 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. (Follow the full story here.)

Ansel’s Moonrise, Glacier Point portrays another enchanting composition of the night sky over the Clarke range of mountains.

Bathed in the light of a rising full moon, the south central high country shines with a silvery glow. Ethereal beams cover the sleek, illuminated granite terrain and the brilliance of the moon pierces through the night.