What the? Is that Half Dome?

In Yosemite Photos

This photo popped up in the Patterson Irrigator and was reported to have been taken just outside Patterson (west Central Valley) city limits. In the photo what appears to be Half Dome is visible in the center.

I say appears to be because in all my life living in the Central Valley I have never seen this. In fact, I was under the impression that Half Dome, not one of the tallest peaks in the Sierra, was in fact hidden from the Central Valley by other peaks in front of it.

I know my Dad said he had photos from Lick Observatory of Half Dome and Professor Leubke at Modesto Junior College also had one. But I find this strange. Anyone?

Garry, do you have any thoughts?

Photo by Elias Funez, Patterson Irrigator, Patterson California

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17 commentsOn What the? Is that Half Dome?

  • It has to be an optical illusion of Half Dome.
    I have looked over Google Maps and Google Earth and there seems to be no way to get that angle of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome from the Valley floor. I have spent a lot of time driving on Hwy 99, Hwy 41, etc looking into the mountains since childhood, and have been unable to see any view like this into Yosemite. The photo actually looks more like it is an aerial shot, looking into Yosemite, but definitely not a legitimate view from the valley. Either it is an optical illusion or a hoax picture.

  • There’s now way that that is Half Dome. It’s just an optical illusion created by light, shadow and distance. Or, as EC said, it’s a hoax. Half Dome is big, but there is now way it would look that big in a photo from that far away.

  • It definitely is Half Dome, happy to say. My family lives on West Taylor Road, just north of Turlock town, and they’ve seen Half Dome at various times over the years. Sorry that EC doesn’t believe in this beautiful granite piece being viewed with the camera and the naked eye. I’ve tried looking for it when we’re down there, but just haven’t been lucky enough to get this exciting view of it.

  • If that were Half Dome, it wouldn’t appear that large. There is a chance that you could see HD from the top of some foothill peaks, but I agree, I don’t think you could from the valley floor. If seen the valley from Trumbell Peak, above El Portal, and you can see the Central Valley clearly from there, and a good view of Yosemite Valley, but it appears pretty small on the landscape.

    On a side note, check out Yosemite Nature Notes, my web video series. There’s an episode on Half Dome.


    Steven M. Bumgardner

  • I’m thinking it could be legit. My guess it was taken right after a storm. Usually those are the days when the smog/farm dust are cleared out of the atmosphere. I remember in the book Above Yosemite there was a photo from the coastal range that you could see the same type of view. While I was going to school in Pomona the smog from LA would obscure the view of the eastern mountains on all but the days when a storm or Santa Ana would clear out the air. The curvature of the earth would cause only the top of the range to be observable from that distance. So concieveably this could be a real picture. If not then my Geography degree has failed me again. lol

  • I had family outside Oakdale, and they swore that in the right conditions they could see Half Dome. Of course, I was never there during the ‘right conditions’, so maybe chalk it up to ‘rural legend’

  • I’m going to have to disagree with EC, I’ve just spent a bit of time with Google Earth (terrain on), and I think it’s entirely possible. From Sacramento Lassen Peak is clearly visible from 125 miles away and Shasta can be seen on very clear days and it’s 190 miles away. Half Dome is only 90 miles away from Patterson (exactly), and in the screen shot from GE (link provided at the end), you can clearly see that Patterson is directly in line with the valley. Of course you would have to know just where to look as Half Dome would be very small. It’s not the best of images to work with, but it looks as though it WAS taken with a long lens, I just might be up for that challenge! I’ll keep you posted!


  • In my other post, I forgot to mention the road just down from my daughter’s place is called Monte Vista, so…go figure! That road is the ideal spot…if you can see Half Dome, from there. And, West Monte Vista runs almost all the way to Patterson, so…a good, lucky shot of a great mountain.

  • It is a known weather phenomenon, similar to a mirage. I remember seeing an example on APOD, but a clearer explanation is here: http://mintaka.sdsu.edu/GF/mirages/mirintro.html

  • Well, after thinking about it, I decided to check it out for myself. I left Sacramento at about 12:15 and drove down Hwy 99 to take some photos. Turlock was my destination as it is directly in between Patterson and YNP, the closer the better right? I got back home at 7:30 after taking 203 pictures over 2 hours and 8 minuets. which I’m sure tells the end of the story right there. Using a 135-400mm and 500mm mirror lens on my Oly E-3, which doubles the effective focal length, I got some interesting shots. Focus was very critical so I’m going to have to look at all of them to find the best. Will post something first thing in the morning, or after midnight if I’m still up, try to maximize the potential for it to hit “Explore” in Flickr. I also have to come up with a long winded story to accompany the image(s).

  • I’ve always thought, and actually have memories of, seeing Half Dome from Yosemite Blvd in Modesto. I was told, many years ago, that the road was so named because on a clear day you could see into Yosemite.

    Of course, my memories could be false, but the photograph looks EXACTLY like what I remember seeing.

  • Well I hope we get some additional info from Tony’s photos, because I am very curious about the alleged photo. I looked at it for quite some time last night. Definitely looks like Half Dome, but I can’t imagine getting that angle and seeing so much of Half Dome. It would seem more realistic if it were just a portion of Half Dome. I would make the drive myself, but I am currently living SoCal (grew up in Madera County).

  • I take back what I said in my comment. Tony proved it. Good job. Your shot on Flickr is amazing. I would have never guessed it was possible.

  • Here is Tony’s Flickr page with the shots he took. It seems unbelievable, but see for yourself. It is amazing a photo like this has never been done before. Amazing!
    I still can’t get my head around the idea that you can see it from the valley floor.


  • Well, Loyd, you referenced me on this question, and here I am, a little late to the discussion. I have watched for Half Dome from the valley, and I have seen it from the Keyes Road overpass on a particularly clear day, and also from Keyes a bit further to the east. My memory is that it didn’t look as big as in the spectacular photos, but that may very well have something to do with the telephoto effects. Nice post, and I really like Tony’s photo.

  • I e-mailed ‘Patterson Irrigator’ photographer Elias Funez asking him to tell me a little more about his fascinating photo.

    He replied and suggested I visit his blog site for a full explanation:


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