Self-portrait of Carleton Watkins posing as a gold miner<br /> in Calaveras County, 1883.
Self-portrait of Carleton Watkins posing as a gold miner in Calaveras County, 1883.

Photographer Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916) traveled to Yosemite in 1861. His photographs were some of the first ever taken of the valley. The beauty of his subject and his technical prowess gained him worldwide acclaim. Watkins would return to Yosemite many times, including on behalf of the California State Geological Survey. His photographs helped to inspire legislation preserving Yosemite as a National Park.

Watkins photographed much of California throughout his career, including Mendocino, Sonoma, and the Sierra Nevada foothills. In 1867, he opened the Yosemite Art Gallery in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Watkins eventually lost his studio due to debts. He retired from photography after much of his work was destroyed in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.