Watkins made his name with views of the extraordinarily beautiful Yosemite Valley, which he photographed repeatedly over a twenty-year period, beginning in 1861. By that time, he was a virtuoso practitioner of the difficult wet-collodion process using "mammoth" glass plates, which rendered the vastness of the landscape and its infinite details with unsurpassed scope and clarity. Watkins, whose livelihood was dependent on sales of his California views to tourists, no doubt made this image with a mind to impressing Easterners and propagating the notion that the West was America's own amazing Garden of Eden. To illustrate its awesome scale, Watkins posed the explorer Galen Clark at the base of this massive three-hundred-year old tree known as the Grizzly Giant. Along with the Yosemite Valley, the Big Trees in the Mariposa Grove were on every early tourist's route through the region. Following his bankruptcy in 1876, Watkins lost his gallery and negatives to his competitor Isaiah West Taber. Without crediting him, Taber continued printing the most famous of Watkins's early Yosemite images, including this one.