Mirror Lake, Tanaya Creek, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite, Mirror Lake, reflections, autumn color, fall color, foliage, abstract, ig
4x5 view camera, 9:30 am, October 1986,
Polachrome 100, 135mm lens with front tilt
f/16 at 1/4 sec
Would like opinions regarding overall graphic elements and color rendition. Do those yellow leaves on the left distract the eye? The scene was somewhat surrealistic, which is what I look for in a composition. Original chrome somewhat flat due to lighting conditions. Fall colors were at their peak.
Thanks for looking.


You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.

Tim, your glass-like reflections are beautiful and I like the color palate. I might try two things in the trees: (1) lift the shadows a little bit and bring up the yellow/orange luminescence. I don’t think the yellow bush is distracting at all. Nice work; you were lucky to be there.

I think your choice of colour palette is fine for the effect you wanted, Timothy. There is indeed a slightly surreal feel to the image - the bluish cast and the subdued hues of the bg trees seem to me just right for setting off the organic-looking rock forms.

Thanks for your comments and observations, Matt. Shadows are kind of at their limit, as this was on polachrome, which had a 5 stop DR.

Thanks, Ian. I appreciate your comments.

@tim_floyd. Having photographed Mirror Lake numerous times using various formats, including 4x5, I think you did a great job with the composition, overall sharpness, and depth of field control.

The bit of yellow leaves on the left edge do grab my eye a bit. The deep shadows in the boulders have a red cast. Third, the bright tops on the boulders could be brought down some.

I never used Polacolor; mostly Velvia and Astia, but I can sure relate to the very limited DR! Do you still shoot 4x5?

This is a nice image, and would make a nice print.

Thanks, Preston. I missed that red cast probably because I’m red/green color blind, which is one reason I so value peer feedback. I stopped trying to use a color darkroom “back in the day” because one person told me my images looked like I used a blood bath as one of my rinses.

Unfortunately, those bright areas on the rocks are blown out. And since this was pre-digital I wasn’t thinking about blended exposures. I recently tried to take it out with a luminosity mask but it didn’t make much difference.

I let my 4x5 go (actually still have an old 4x5 Graflex SLR) and am mostly digital these days.

Thanks for your comments.

PS. I just burned those bright spots and they did come down some, so thanks for the suggestion!


Welcome to NPN! Looks like you just joined and we’re more than glad to have a 4x5 shooter in the ranks. (There are a number us… I sold all my gear just 4 years ago.)

This is a great take Mirror Lake. I think you did a great job crafting, arranging and presenting the graphic nature of these enormous granite boulders. The entire frame is well balanced actually, including the calm reflection and autumn forest backdrop.

Main issues already mentioned and certainly attributed to the slide film. Honestly, I never heard of Polachrome, but mentioned the DR of the films was quite limited and shadows typically blocked up. As far as the red shadows, yeah I noticed as well. that’s also pretty common. I understand the challenges some have in seeing various colors. One thing you can do is simply use the color sampler to measure the areas. I often would just use a darks mask with Levels/Curves and set the black point. this usually can correct color issues in the shadows.

The bright yellow on the left edge is a minor distraction and eye magnet for me. Cropping is out as that rock is already close enough to the edge. I think selecting the yellows there and turning down the luminosity and saturation easily mitigates. Also, the small rocks on the shore right below the yellow are a little bright as well. (we’re getting real nitpicky now…) I tried a CA-clone and came out amazingly good.

I’m really enjoying this rendition of Mirror Lake. Might just have to make a visit there in a couple months…

Welcome aboard. We look forward to your images and participation.


Thank you, Lon. Nit-picking is good! I’d like it near perfect before printing large. I’ve printed and sold it before but was never pleased. I’m going through my old 4x5 negs and chromes now. I’d like to go back with a modern camera as well, but the last time I was in Yosemite (last spring) it was so crowded that it almost wasn’t fun.

Nice take on Mirror Lake. I like Preston’s suggestions and sound like you have already made some changes to your master file. I shot 4x5 for quite a few years, but never heard of Polachrome, much less used it. I was always a Velvia 50 guy when it used to be available (especially the original version, great stuff). I am digital these days and am selling off my 4x5 gear, albeit slowly.

Thanks, Harley. It’s weird, all my notes (remember with 4x5 we used to actually write down details of the exposure in a little notebook?) from this series say Polachrome, which I remember using, but which I cannot find on the internet now, not even historical references. Mostly I used Ektachrome or if the light was flat I’d put in Velvia. The view camera was an incredible education.