How I Got the Shot: Sierra Point Hammock

My approach to photography is often to try and immerse my viewers in a place. That means making them feel like they’re there, like they’re part of the action, the moment, the scene.

Prior to hiking the Sierra Point trail (a decommissioned and hidden trail in Yosemite National Park) with LifeProof Ambassador Dakota Snider, we were told the view was epic and we should bring along our hammock to hang on an old rusted railing.

Initial thoughts: It sounds crazy (read: It sounds awesome).

After getting out of our groggy state of mind from our 5 a.m. wake-up, our 1.5 mile hike/ rock scramble/ climb over bushes and logs eventually brought us to a view rarely seen by the Yosemite public.  

Getting a photo that encompassed the view plus the feeling of being there was a challenge. First we set up the hammock on the railing. I had Dakota sit in it and then shot a few photos from above.  Sometimes a bird’s eye vantage point is a great way to show scale and perspective. But it just wasn’t doing it for me. I didn’t feel like the photos had a personality or any type of personal connection.

Because I hiked with my Profoto B2 Air strobe and battery pack, I decided I needed to use it.  Initially Dakota was nervous the sun would be hidden by Half Dome that early in the morning, but luckily he was wrong. I set up my Profoto B2 Air with my wireless Profoto transceiver as a key light, complementing the sun (as my main light source). I knew I needed to get closer to Dakota to capture the energy he felt hanging over a cliff.

Climbing out behind the railing exposed 600 ft of open air below me. I was nervous but also confident in myself as I held onto the railing with one hand and leaned back as far as I could.  I didn’t have a harness or any type of safety protection (slight oversight) but what I did have was a strong understanding of my limits. Was I 100% safe? No. Could I have fallen? For sure.

As you grow and continuously shoot photos you learn how far to push the envelope. I was confident in my own strengths, both mentally and physically, that I could safely capture the photo I wanted.

For me, my original photo from above didn’t fit my vision. I needed to change it up and the way of capturing that moment meant taking a little bit of a calculated risk. In the end, if that calculated risk wasn’t taken...well you all wouldn’t be enjoying this photo right now would you?

For all you camera nerds, here are the camera settings used:

  • Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
  • Lens: Canon 16-35mm f/2.8
  • Focal Length: 16mm
  • Shutter Speed: 1/160th sec.
  • Aperture: f/9
  • ISO: 800

Any more questions? Leave a comment below or email us here.