Cathedral Spires, Yosemite Valley

ca. 1861

So spectacular are the landscapes of California’s Yosemite Valley that San Francisco photographer Carleton Watkins invented in 1861 a larger format to capture its vistas. During his first photographic expedition into the valley, he carried his custom-built, extra-large camera, “mammoth” glass-plate negatives, as they were called, and a portable darkroom; he emerged with approximately 30 stunning images of rock formations, waterfalls, and trees, whose clarity and beauty captured the public’s imagination and brought him international acclaim.

National Archives, Records of the National Park Service


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