Mirror Lake 10×8

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People had lived in the Yosemite Valley for a few thousand years before the area experienced its first "tourists": entrepreneur James Mason Hutchings and artist Thomas Ayres. The two created a publicity campaign proclaiming Yosemite to be a paradise. As the valley became the new travel destination, it also brought in many artists, including Carleton Watkins. Watkins worked with a mammoth-plate camera and 18"x22" glass plates, using the wet-collodion technique to create rich, detailed images. His equipment load came out to around two thousand pounds, all resting on the backs of a dozen mules. It is truly a miracle these images survived the trip! His photographs of Yosemite were the first seen back East. The power of these majestic landscapes were a major influence on President Lincoln, who signed the Yosemite Grant in 1864, placing the Yosemite Valley under federal protection (and ultimately paving the way for the National Parks Service).