Aspens and dogwoods along Lee Vining Creek
Here’s another image from my recent sojourn to the eastern Sierra, with aspens and dogwoods in Lee Vining Canyon.
Over on the western side of the mountains I had a chance to check on conditions in Yosemite Valley yesterday, and can report that autumn is arriving slowly. I found some nice color across the river from El Capitan, underneath Middle Cathedral Rock, where most of the maples have turned yellow. Some other maples around the valley have also turned, along with a few dogwoods and cottonwoods, but most of the deciduous trees are still green.
It looks like the peak color is still at least a week away, but the good news is that most of the trees seem to be in good shape. The leaves on a few dogwoods have already wilted and turned brown, but these are a small minority. Last year most of the cottonwood leaves wilted before changing color, but this year the cottonwoods look normal—if still mostly green.
Backlit aspens, Saturday afternoon
Mike Osborne and I just completed our Eastern Sierra Fall Color workshop this past weekend. It was a lot of fun—wonderful people, beautiful weather, and lots of color.
The focus of this workshop was composition and creativity, and it was great to see the participants growing and learning during the class. I saw a lot of beautiful compositions and imaginative ideas on the back of people’s cameras and in the evening image-review sessions.
One of the things we talked about during this class was the creative process. This process varies from one person to another, of course, and can also change depending on the situation and subject. Sometimes—especially with my nighttime work—I plan out every detail in advance. At other times—particularly if I’m in what Mike calls a “target-rich environment,” with interesting subjects and light—then I tend to work quickly, reacting to the changing light and photographing whatever catches my eye at that moment.
The accompanying photographs show a small demonstration of that “reactive” process in an aspen grove on Saturday afternoon. When we first arrived at this spot the trees were in the sun, and the backlit orange leaves against the blue sky were a striking sight. We all tried different compositions—looking up, looking into the sun, using both wide-angle and telephoto lenses. Of my own images, I ended up liking the wide-angle frame at the top of this post the best, with the sun about to dip behind the background ridge.
Misty creek with aspens near the June Lake Loop, Sunday morning
Sunday I returned from teaching a four-day private workshop in Yosemite Valley and Lee Vining. As I reported in my last post, the color in Yosemite Valley is slow to arrive. Over on the eastern side of the Sierra some aspens are turning, but most of the groves near Lee Vining are not yet at peak. Here’s a breakdown:
June Lake Loop: About 20% turning, another 40% lime green, the remaining 40% dark green.
Lee Vining Canyon: The same, about 20% turning, 40% lime green, 40% dark green
Lundy Canyon (along the road up to the trailhead): About 30% turning, 50% lime green, 20% dark green. Most of the best color is in the lower part of the canyon.
Conway Summit: About 30% turning, 40% lime green, 30% dark green.
Above Conway Summit: The aspens in the first half mile of the road to Virginia Lakes are a mix of yellow and lime green. About a mile above Conway Summit there’s a colorful patch of orange but scrubby aspens down in a small valley to the right of the road; that grove was at peak Friday. Further up most of the aspens are bare.
Big-leaf maple along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley (from late October a few years ago)
We had a great weekend with Sierra Art Trails. Sales were good, but it was especially nice to meet many online friends in person, and to renew old acquaintances. Thanks to all of you who stopped by!
I had a chance to check out the fall color in Yosemite Valley yesterday afternoon. Some of the maples and dogwoods are starting to turn, but I didn’t see a single tree that had fully changed. All the maples and dogwoods had at least some green leaves, and most were entirely green. At this point it looks like the autumn color in the Valley will peak near the end of October or beginning of November—the normal time.
Over on the eastern side of the Sierra the higher-elevation aspens started turning early this year, and are now mostly past peak. But recent reports I’ve heard indicate that the mid- to lower-elevation aspens are changing more slowly. They seem to be on a typical schedule, which means there should still be good color over on the eastside for another couple of weeks.
There’s a chance of rain and higher-elevation snow in the forecast for the next two days. The predictions don’t call for high winds, which is good news—strong winds could strip some of the yellow leaves off the trees. If Tioga Pass stays open I’m planning to head over to the eastern Sierra on Friday, so I can give you a first-hand report on the eastside color, and the effect of this weather system—if any.
Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author and photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters, plus the eBooks Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, and Exposure for Outdoor Photography. He has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.
Redbud reflection in the Merced River
This is just a quick reminder that I’ll be participating in the Sierra Art Trails open studios event this weekend. I’ll be at Casto Oaks Fine Wine and Art in downtown Mariposa Friday through Sunday, so if you’re headed to Yosemite or over to the eastern Sierra I hope you’ll stop by and say hello!
I’ll be showing a wide variety of work, including classic daytime landscapes, nighttime photographs, and high-key images. This is my first time doing an open-studio event like this, and during this weekend only I’ll have special pricing on prints that have been returned recently from galleries and museums, so this is a chance to get one of my limited-edition fine prints at a discount. I’ll also have my small matted prints available, plus signed books and posters.
And if that’s not incentive enough, Casto Oaks will be offering free wine tasting, and 10% off all of their wines during Sierra Art Trails, including their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Gold Medal winner.
The $18 Sierra Art Trails catalog is your admission ticket for the weekend, and includes information about all 108 artists and maps to the studios. You can purchase a catalog at Casto Oaks, or at one of the other locations listed here.
Hope to see you this weekend!
Related Posts: Art and Wine in the Sierra Foothills, October 5-7