The J. Paul Getty Museum

[Yosemite Valley from the Best General View]

Object Details


[Yosemite Valley from the Best General View]


Carleton Watkins (American, 1829 - 1916)




Yosemite, California, United States (Place Created)




Albumen silver print

Object Number:



41 × 52.2 cm (16 1/8 × 20 9/16 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

Carleton Watkins had the ability to photograph a subject from the viewpoint that allowed the most information to be revealed about its contents. In this image, he captured what he considered the best features of Yosemite Valley: Bridalveil Falls, Cathedral Rock, Half Dome, and El Capitan. By positioning the camera so that the base of the slender tree appears to grow from the bottom edge of the picture, Watkins composed the photograph so that the canyon rim and the open space beyond it seem to intersect. Although he sacrificed the top of the tree, he was able to place the miniaturized Yosemite Falls at the visual center of the picture. To alleviate the monotony of an empty sky, he added the clouds from a second negative. This image was taken while Watkins was working for the California Geological Survey. His two thousand pounds of equipment for the expedition, which included enough glass for over a hundred negatives, required a train of six mules.

Carleton Watkins: Western Landscape and the Classical Vision (March 13 to May 27, 1990)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), March 13 to May 27, 1990
Carleton Watkins: From Where the View Looked Best (February 15 to June 4, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 15 to June 4, 2000
Dialogue Among Giants: Carleton Watkins and the Rise of Photography in California (October 14, 2008 to March 1, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 14, 2008 to March 1, 2009

Naef, Weston J. and James N. Wood. Era of Exploration: The Rise of Landscape Photography in the American West, 1860-1885, with an essay by Therese Thau Heyman (Buffalo: Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Boston: distributed by New York Graphic Society, 1975), plate 19. See page 37 for comparison with C.L. Weed image from 1864.

Fels, Thomas Weston. Carelton Watkins: Western Landscape and the Classical Vision, exh. brochure (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1990), figure 2.

Naef, Weston J. Carleton Watkins in Yosemite (Los Angeles : J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008), pl. 6.