Tracing the path of Arthur C. Pillsburyby
Right now I am on the East Coast working on things that on the face of
it have nothing to do with my grandfather, A.C. Pillsbury. But because of the
curious way that things connect I have found him in unexpected places both
from the presence of his photographic images and from articles on his lectures
This last year one of his prints showed up in an old house in
Pennsylvania. The present owner of the piece is now checking to see if
this print, from 1910, was sent to a friend of relation of Sylvia Ball
Pillsbury, A.C.'s sister-in-law with whom he grew up in Auburn
California. The print was found in a dusty attic in Williamsport,
Pennsylvania, just a handful of miles from the tiny town where Sylvia
was born, Balls Mill, and which was named for her family, who owned and
ran factories and mills there for several generations.
At the most curiously unexpected times I find myself looking at a photo and
realize that even if I have never seen this particular image when I turn it over I
will discover that it is by A.C. I have found his post cards all over the East
Coast, actually they appear there far more frequently than they do now in
California. A friend who sells 'paper' on e-bay finds A.C. Postcards in old
albums, carefully glued in instead of home made photos from that period.
This brings me to the innovation A.C. Introduced to meet the needs of
his customers who really preferred to buy their photos already made
instead of learning how to do it themselves. A. C. produced little copies
of his standard photos that found their way into albums across the world.
These came in several sizes because A.C. always wanted to provide exactly
what the customer wanted.
But A.C. had also written careful instructions for how to produce ones
own photographs. He was well aware not everyone wanted to invest the time
in learning to do it themselves.
For those who did want to know how to photograph Yosemite A. C.
wrote out instructions which appeared in this book in 1021. The text is
reproduced here much as it appeared in the original. As you read through
the instructions A.C.'s love of Yosemite jumps off the the age along
with his delight in sharing his love of photography.
If you want to continue getting this quarterly newsletter for the AC
Pillsbury Foundation send me a note and I will put you on the list or visit
our website at acpillsburyfoundation.com
Photography in Yosemite National Park
Handbook of Yosemite National Park (1921)
by Arthur C. Pillsbury
PHOTOGRAPHY IN YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
By Arthur C. Pillsbury, Yosemite California
No souvenir of a vacation can compare with one’s pictures. They are more
than mere records of the scenery; each has its own associations, and
each brings back memories outside the photo itself. We should strive,
however, to produce photographs which have an intrinsic worth as
pictures—likenesses which express our own impressions to others. In
Yosemite Valley attractive views disclose themselves to every side and
even the amateur will have no trouble in securing beautiful pictures if
he but give a little thought to composition and correct exposures.
Few people realize what an important part light and shade play in the
composition of photographs. Under the high noonday sun most pictures are
"flat" and lifeless, and it is during the morning and afternoon hours
that the photographer gets his best exposures. The Yosemite features
change rapidly in this respect from hour to hour during the day, and the
following suggestions are offered with the hope that they will help to
solve some of the visitor’s problems.
From within the Valley itself the surrounding mountains and cliffs
appear high and near—consequently you would better point the camera /up/
to take their tops. Do not be afraid of distorting them as you would a
tall building if you did the same thing, for in Nature there are no
parallel lines so marked as to offend in a picture
As to lighting, one should remember that no matter how beautiful a
subject is at a given time, it is /most/ beautiful at some certain hours
during the day. Yosemite Falls is a good example. At nine o'clock the
sun is casting shadows across its cliffs, and the Falls are very
beautiful, but the foreground is more or less in the shadow. By ten the
sun is on the foreground and full on the cliffs, but the light is a
little "flat" and stays so until about one or half past. After this time
the Falls are casting their shadows, and every rocket as it shoots out
casts /its/ shadow, so they seem to stand out clear cut from the wall.
This latter effect increases until two or half past, when the lower half
of the Lower Fall is in the shadow. These light and shade effects, in
the writer’s opinion, make the best picture. After two thirty the change
is very rapid and by three o'clock the Falls are almost entirely shaded.
Bridalveil Falls are in the shadow all the morning hours, so close views
are not good until one o'clock when the upper half of the Falls is
touched by sunshine and veiled by wonderfully luminous mist. This, their
best time and condition for posing, continues until two thirty.
El Capitan from "River View" has several lighting effects that are
pleasing. From seven to eight in the morning the shadow cast by the
granite wall makes a bold picture which is particularly good in
enlargements. During the late morning hours the sun beats down on its
smooth face without shadows until one o'clock, when the profile begins
to stand out, and ridges, quite unnoticed half an hour before, begin to
assume shape and substance; these, the best effects, are of short duration.
At Happy Isles, the Meeting of the Waters, the best time for photographs
is from ten to twelve o'clock. Going on up the trail one will find a
triangle of sunshine on the lovely Vernal Falls at ten, which continues
to light their wonderful outpouring of jewels and color until about
eleven; later they are apt to be but a broad white streak in one’s picture.
Nevada Falls seems a thing of life between eleven and twelve thirty when
its great rockets cast shadows upon the face of the Fall, but when fully
lit by the sun it does not picture as well.
Mirror Lake is at its best until, at about eight o'clock, its surface is
struck by the sun, and it loses its reflective power. After this time it
is disappointing unless the sky holds floating clouds which produce the
most beautiful effect of all.
The foregoing remarks are but a few of the many which might be included
if space permitted. The writer will be pleased to make further such
suggestions to those who will see him personally in Yosemite.
A word about the time of one’s exposures. Compared with the smoke-laden
atmosphere of cities, the light in Yosemite is much faster and clearer,
giving strong negatives and good prints and enlargements. The normal
exposure within the Valley should be 1/25 second at U. S. stop 8. Mirror
Lake before sunrise requires about 1/5 second exposure at U. S.
aperature 8, and pictures taken beneath the Big Trees should be given
about 1/2 second with the same opening.
At higher altitudes the atmosphere becomes thinner, with the effect that
the sky appears more intensely blue but at the same time becomes darker,
the sun’s rays become brighter and hotter, and the shadows become deeper
and colder. As we ascend we get less diffused illumination from the
atmosphere itself, and less protection from the direct rays of the sun.
We will therefore get more contract in our negatives which are exposed
at the higher elevations, and on account of the more intense light the
camera should be stopped down to 16 for 1/25 second exposure.
Distant views require only half as much exposure as near-by subjects.
Instead of reducing the exposure the better plan is to diminish the
opening so as to admit less light.
If the above suggestions are borne in mind the amateur will find no
difficulty in obtaining really good pictures during his Yosemite vacation.
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