Is that…Half Dome?

In Photography

Paul Davis sent me this photo proving that you don’t have to drive way out in the country to see Half Dome from the Central Valley, in fact, he took this shot at Highway 99 and Fulkerth Road in Turlock, California. If you click the photo you’ll see a larger (not as large as the one Paul sent me though) image.

Awesome stuff, Paul. Thanks for sending that in. I’ll be posting the other photos you sent as upcoming Photo of the Day. They’re absolutely beautiful. The rest of you will just have to wait to see the other photos Paul sent me. Stick around, you’ll love’em.

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23 commentsOn Is that…Half Dome?

  • Are we really going to go through this again? You are really brave, dear sir!

  • Oh my goodness. It’s baaaaack.
    This photo keeps popping up – same photo every time.
    Interesting piece of photo alteration but clearly not an actual view of Half Dome.
    Makes me chuckle each time I see it.

    • Actually Jim you really CAN see it. I’ve seen it five times now. Granted the conditions have to be perfect so the Central Valley air is clear but usually right after a storm you can see it. I’ve even seen it from Yosemite Blvd. (Highway 132) in Modesto just outside of the downtown area. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some video soon. Shot video a couple of weeks ago but it was too hazy to see HD.

  • This was hashed out and scruntinized a year ago. Only the photographer knows if its real. In my opinion, the angles don’t work out – that much of Half Dome would be blocked by the Western ranges (e.g. the Tunnel View doesn’t reveal this much of the rock) and the resolved image of HD is way too big for the distance involved.

    2 cent opinion

  • I can’t believe there is still controversy about this. I was just about to link to Tony Immoos’ photo of the same angle but admin beat me to it. This is legit people, take a look at Tony’s flickr page for more info. He even mapped out where you can see half dome (and other iconic yosemite areas)…

  • I think I have the answer. “ARCTIC MIRAGE.” In the article “The Arctic Mirage: Aid To Discovery,” there is an illustration of how “Arctic Mirage allows seeing objects over the horizon. Scale is greatly exaggerated.” As pointed out before, the photographs in Turlock looks a lot like those taken from near Mt Hamilton. Search “arctic mirage.” It will make you a believer.

    • Good answer but, no. You’re able to see Half Dome because it’s taller than the peaks in the Merced River drainage. The drainage has a very flat V shape. You’re not far enough away from Half Dome for the curvature of the Earth to obscure it’s view. As the crow flies you’re less than 60 miles away. Driving is more because roads aren’t straight.

      Remember surveyors of the original California surveys put bench marks on tall peaks and used them as platforms. They’d survey peaks up to 80 miles away.

  • Then why is this view only seen in the winter?

    • Winter is the time when the air is the clearest. Dust and pollen are at a minimum. The inversion layer that traps smog and pollutants over the Central Valley has dissipated leaving the air somewhat breathable. In spring/summer the air is too crappy to see the mountains in either direction unless it’s immediately following a storm.

      Personally I’m waiting for someone from the NPS to decide that the front peak is disrupting the view of Half Dome in the photo and to try to remove the peak like they did the trees at Tunnel View.

  • It’s amazing to me that people are so quick to cry “FAKE” when seeing these photos. I guess until an image makes the national news or publication there will always be the naysayers. I have now seen images from about dozen or more people. In the past year my image has been discussed in forums at many websites and blogs and it was always the same thing…. WOW… cool… mmm??? FAKE!!! Arguments ensue and in the end someone always goes out and takes his or her own shot and after the doubters finish by saying the image misrepresents the view they slink back into their caves. In reality, the view is there, exactly like I photographed. The best way to describe the shot is, “It’s a highly cropped section of the view”, but it’s there.

    There was a new discussion at in January and another is just finishing up now at About a year old photo! It does bring a lot of views to my photostream though. 😛

    If I upload my image of HD from Olmsted Point showing the guy standing on top will it cause a stir too?


    • You can see a guy standing on top of HD from Olmsted? How clear is it? You’re just hanging onto these things and not sharing? WHAT IS WITH YOU? SHARE ALREADY! Uhh..ok I guess I don’t need the rest of that pot of coffee.

  • It’s true, I’ve seen it with own eyes. To add my two cents also, the snow helps with contrast. If we had a big rain in the summer, I think all the mountains would just blend in with each other. Too bad Ripley’s Believe It or Not is no longer on the air, this would make an interesting segment- even if only for Californians and/or Yosemite/photog buffs.

  • Was out on Hall Road yesterday, but it was too socked in with clouds to see a damn thing. Now that I know where the spot is, I’ll be taking the occasional trip out there to see if I can capture it.

    I’m willing to trust Tony Imoos enough to make the trip from Yosemite to Hall Road. But the big question is, will anybody believe *me*?


    No matter. The truth is out there.

  • Loyd,

    Yeah, it’s a shot of only 200mm and shows the entire rock so the person is small. It’s not like you can see the buttons on his shirt, lol, but he/she is there, all alone. I plan on showing 100% crops also, of one person climbing the cables and others on a flat area at the base. The image was shot June 1st, it was hazy and really low contrast so I had to work it a bit to make it worth uploading, but it’s ready.

    I took several shots consecutively and you can watch the progress of people climbing the sub dome also. One note, I have acquired a 1.4X tele-converter so my 400mm lens now shoots at 560mm. On my cam with the small sensor that equates to 1120mm field of view. Just waiting for the right time to get my next telephoto landscape with that setup. Could be soon. 😉


    P.S. I’ll post the HD pic in the morning.

  • That is a beautiful photo! I’m surrounded by flatlands, and can barely see 1/4 mile today. What a world away..

  • I’m the original poster at the Fred Miranda site from last year.

    I’m stunned and amused that the pot has begun to boil over in controversy again!

    I don’t understand why the “flat earthers” can’t understand the mathematical concepts of a right triangle – in this case nothing tall enough between Half Dome and the valley to block the view.

    I’ll be anxious to drive up and have a look for myself when I can get a few days where the conditions are predicted to be clear enough.

    Aside to Edie: I’m the fella that spoke with you at Tunnel View during the recent Michael Frye workshop and showed you my 5 “Yosemite Duck Rangers” on the dashboard of my Jeep.

    I’ll expect to see you at Horsetail Fall soon.

  • Yeah we concluded it was real on Fred Miranda. If you want to follow our discussion it’s here:

  • I have a hard time understanding why this is so hard to believe for others. Google earth & topo maps aside, my best evidence for its plausibility come from my own eyes. It always struck me as amazing that at sunset Yosemite Valley seems to be so perfectly designed that light finds it’s way through the narrow canyon to light up so much of Half Dome, and the top of Cloud’s Rest, when everything else is already in shadow. – for example

    Logic says that if there’s a line of sight through the valley to light up Half Dome like this (from where the sun is crossing the horizon all the way out at the coast), then surely it’s feasible.

    The other argument to me is that if you’ve stood on half dome (which I haven’t, so I’ll use Sentinel Dome as my reference) and looked back to the west, you can see into the central valley and all the way out to the coastal mountains on a clear day. Logic dictates the reverse must also be true.

    (sorry to just perpetuate the whole argument).

    Thanks for posting another great shot of this cool, and clearly controversial, perspective. 🙂

  • It’s kinda fun to see the very convoluted arguments from folks explaining very carefully why we can’t see what we very clearly have seen and photographed. Really, why would a dozen or more photographers come together in a vast conspiracy to make everyone think we saw Half Dome from the Central Valley by altering our photos?

    Anyway, here is my post with the shot I got last November. A clearing storm obscured the peaks behind the dome, so it stood out better: I have another six or seven fuzzy shots if you want to see it from other angles (they were shot in a moving car).

    • I took Keyes Road to Snelling and then Hornitos to Cathey’s Valley and into Yosemite last Night. Could see Half Dome almost the whole way. Clouds were lower than the peak and wrapped the middle. Clearest view I had was just outside Snelling. Could see Half Dome on one side and the Coast Range on the other. Didn’t stop for photos though. Should have.

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