My friend Jeff Grandy talks about “edges of seasons” — how the transitions between seasons can create great opportunities for photographs. Early November in Yosemite Valley is one of those transition periods, as fall blends into winter. Autumn color lingers in the oaks and cottonwoods, the sun tracks lower and creates interesting lighting angles, and sometimes the first winter storms generate clouds, mist, or even snow. It might be my favorite time of year in Yosemite.
This year the autumn color was late, but exceptional, with all four major species of deciduous trees turning at the same time. That in itself would be great, but then, at the peak of fall color, a storm brought snow last Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday. Friday was gorgeous, but Saturday was even better: a snow squall ended just before sunrise, the sun broke through shortly afterward, and soon we had a classic Yosemite clearing storm combined with snow and fall color.
I photographed in Yosemite Valley all day on Friday and Saturday, stopping only to eat and for a much-needed nap on Saturday afternoon. When conditions are this special it seems like great photographs can be found everywhere, and I want to be in ten places at once. I’m hoping someone will invent a truly universal remote control, with a pause button that can stop the universe at a moment when the light is particularly good so I can run around and take a bunch of photographs. Lacking that remote I did the best I could, and certainly missed more images than I made, but it was tremendous fun — two days that I’ll never forget.
Here’s a sampling of my photographs from Friday and Saturday — a portrait of the diverse beauty of Yosemite over 36 hours in November. I saw many other photographers in the park enjoying the wonderful conditions, including a number of friends and online acquaintances. I’d love to see the images that everyone made, so if you photographed the park on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday (November 9th, 10th, and 11th) please post a link to your photos in the comments.
This is the third year in a row we’ve had interesting weather and special conditions in early November. I wrote about a beautiful November day in 2010, and another last year. What will next year hold? I don’t know, but if it’s early November in Yosemite it’s bound to be beautiful.
— Michael Frye
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.