In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

Merced River Poppies

It’s still winter in Yosemite, but spring has arrived at lower elevations. Poppies have exploded along the Merced River west of the park. They’re blooming across the river from Highway 140 between Briceburg and the rock-slide detour. The largest, densest patches have sprouted in places burned by the Telegraph Fire last summer, although other poppies are starting to appear in the usual spots further east in the canyon.

I used a 200mm lens to make the image above on my way back from Yosemite this morning. Unfortunately there’s no easy access to the poppies from 140, as they’re all on the opposite side of the river, but it’s possible to photograph them from near the road with long lenses.
The best light on Horsetail Fall is over. In early February the water flow in Horsetail was too low for good photographs. Later in the month the flow increased, but clouds blocked every sunset except one, on February 19th. Consider yourself lucky if you photographed it that day! There were many disappointed photographers in Yosemite this past month. The light on Horsetail in early March can be nice, with a golden glow late in the day, but it’s not the neon orange light that everyone is after.
Water volume in all the Yosemite waterfalls is gradually increasing, and should continue to increase during March and April. A lot of snow has melted, although most of the valley floor is still snow-covered. The forecast is calling for a series of storms next week, which is good news, as we still need more rain and snow.

Horsetail Fall

On Thursday evening I photographed Horestail Fall from near “Rowell’s View,” one of the small clearings east of the El Capitan picnic area. Two friends and I arrived about 4:30 and got the last two marginal parking spaces. There were easily 100 photographers in the vicinity, most set up right in the plowed parking area – not the best view in my opinion, as it’s too directly underneath the fall. But once we left the picnic area we were virtually alone.

On Wednesday morning Horsetail was a trickle, but two days of warm weather had increased the flow to perhaps average or slightly-below-average February levels. The light was slightly muted by some haze, but Horsetail still glowed nicely, as you can see by the photo at right. Last night was cloudy, tonight looks the same, and tomorrow and Monday the forecast calls for rain. So Thursday might have been the one good day for photographing Horsetail Fall this year! By Tuesday we are beyond the window for the best light, although it can still be good, especially if the sun breaks through some clouds at the right time.
But all the “bad” weather has done great things for the snowpack, and bodes well for waterfalls and flowers this spring. Keep it coming!

Snow and… Poppies?

On Wednesday morning I got up early to photograph in Yosemite Valley. I knew there was fresh snow in the valley, but I was also hoping for some mist and clearing storm conditions. Sadly there was no mist – just clear blue skies. But it was still beautiful. I made the photo above in a snowy grove of oak trees.
Driving home to Mariposa I was shocked to see poppies – poppies! – along the Merced River west of rock slide detour. It just seems way too early for poppies, but apparently one warm day was all it took. Many were blooming in areas burned by the Telegraph Fire last summer.

One Storm After Another

The next in a long series of winter storms is due to arrive in Yosemite tomorrow. This one is expected to be warmer than the previous two or three; the forecast calls for a snow level of 5000 feet, so it will probably rain at 4000 feet in Yosemite Valley. But the snow level often drops at the tail end of a storm, so it’s possible that the valley floor will get a dusting of fresh snow on Tuesday. Those of you living in the Bay Area who’ve already been drenched by rain may be surprised to hear that we’re not expecting this storm until tomorrow, but it’s stalled and moving slowly.

This past week it snowed in Yosemite on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with some misty, clearing-storm interludes in between. I took the photo above on Monday afternoon from Tunnel View. I don’t often make black-and-white images, but this scene was perfect for it. Sunrise yesterday morning looked spectacular on the Turtleback Dome web cam, and I was sorry I didn’t make it up there.
There is now plenty of snow on top of El Capitan to feed Horsetail Fall, but temperatures have been cold, so melting has been slow. We need at least a few warm clear days to get the flow going. The forecast calls for some dry days later this week, but I don’t know whether that will be enough.
By the way, you can find links to the National Weather Service’s Yosemite forecast and the Yosemite web cams on the right.

Two Photographs in Yosemite Renaissance

Two of my images have been included in the Yosemite Renaissance XXIV juried competition, including Oak Leaf Floating in the Merced River, above. The exhibit will be shown at the Yosemite Museum, next to the Visitor Center, from February 27th through May 3rd. A reception will be held on February 27th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., where prizes and awards will be announced. This is always a fun event, worth making a trip to Yosemite for!