Yosemite, Part 2 – Redemption | Kevin Scott Banks

Yosemite, Part 2 – Redemption

I love the concept of redemption.

It’s biblical – in the grand sense, God in his grace offers to redeem us from our sin through his son Jesus. And in many smaller ways in life, we see this principle of redemption at work. It’s been a theme in my life over the past year or so, and it certainly was the theme on our second day in Yosemite.

You might recall from my last post that I had last visited Yosemite over four years ago. On the last day of that trip, I woke up early to take photos…at least I thought it was early. I drove around and found a magnificent view to photograph, only to discover that another photographer had already found and claimed the spot. That day, all I could do was settle for a photo of him taking a breathtaking photo:


It was a great photo, for sure. I liked how it revealed the human element, and the dedication required to capture a stunning image.

But he got the money shot that day, and I did not.

I never forgot that morning, nor that location. So this time around, I was determined to get the money shot myself. We woke up early, before sunrise this time, and set out on the valley road. It wasn’t long before we came upon this very same location. It’s right off the side of the road, and the same fallen tree trunk was still lying there in the water. But this time, I got there first.

I set up my tripod and camera and framed the reflection just the way I wanted it. There was just one problem…the lighting was non-existent. There was still a fairly thick cloud covering that morning. The forecast had suddenly showed that the clouds would clear, but not until later that morning. So I did what any good landscape photographer has to do…I waited. And I prayed. I prayed for sun, even though the original weather forecast promised we had no chance of seeing it.

And after a couple hours of waiting, sure enough, the sunlight started to trickle onto the top of the highest peak. I fired away with my camera, and I got my money shot!


It was a very rewarding experience. Over 1,500 days had passed since that last visit, but with the right gear, knowledge and preparation, I returned and found redemption in this image.

Of course, there was still a lot more daylight left, and many more sights to photograph. So we packed up and continued our search for beauty. The morning light was UNREAL! I had to work hard to contain myself while I was shooting, so I could concentrate on getting the shots. Rest assured, though, I stopped several times to just stand and stare in awe and wonder at God’s creation. I must have said out loud “Wow, this place is incredible!” a dozen times that morning, no exaggeration. The beauty is impossible to describe.

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The one and only “El Capitan.” The sunlight was hitting the cliff face at an angle, and the early morning fog was still rolling through. I love how everything came together for this shot. Somehow there are even a few “fall-colored” trees to the left, despite this being, ya know, Spring!


The previous shot is the better one, but I’m including this one with our little Prius, because it gives a little context as to how enormous the trees, and especially the cliffs are. I think my favorite thing about Yosemite is how unbelievably tall the trees are, and yet how small and insignificant they appear sitting at the feet of the massive cliff faces.

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My set of neutral density filters came in so handy for shots like this one. I was able to slow down my shutter to get the flowing appearance of the water, while still capturing the color and detail of the sky.


On my last visit to the valley, I didn’t even hear about “Tunnel View.” This amazing viewpoint shows off the best that Yosemite has to offer. This time, we made a long stop to take in the extraordinary view.

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El Capitan is the large cliff on the left, and Half Dome is nestled in the middle of the image, peeking its rounded head out from behind the mountain in the foreground.

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Our last pit stop for the day was the popular “Sentinel Bridge.” It’s one of the best places in the valley to view Half Dome. I got a couple of final images before we said goodbye and headed for home. And wouldn’t you know, it started raining just as we were leaving the park. What perfect timing!

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Thank you for following along and enjoying this journey with me. It’s been such a pleasure to visit all these fantastic places, and share the images with all of you. I’m sure I’ll be processing this whirlwind trip for quite awhile. There are still so many more photos that didn’t make it on the blog, and I can’t wait to go through the rest of them.

I also took quite a bit of video footage, both with my DSLR and my drone. I’m intending to put together a short recap video of the trip, and trust me, you will want to see it. The aerial footage especially has absolutely blown my mind.

In the days leading up to this trip, my sister and I held several planning sessions to make sure our trip went smoothly. During one of those meetings, she got so excited about the trip, that she exclaimed, “We’re gonna WIN LIFE!” It was her adorable way of communicating how much fun this trip was going to be. I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant to “win life.”

But now that the trip is complete, I think I have a better idea :).

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