Yosemite Photo Conditions

Over Tioga Pass

Ice and reflections in Ellery Lake, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Ice and reflections in Ellery Lake, Inyo NF, Wednesday evening

Claudia and I love going over Tioga Pass on the day it opens, whenever possible, and we managed to tear ourselves away from our desks on Wednesday afternoon and do just that. I photographed some beautiful puffy clouds and reflections from Tuolumne Meadows late in the afternoon. Towards sunset the clouds started to dissipate, so we headed over the pass to Ellery Lake, which had some great ice patterns.

Tenaya Lake was totally free of ice, while Tioga Lake was almost completely frozen. Ellery Lake just right, with a photogenic mixture of ice and open water. But I’m sure that will all melt soon, while Tioga Lake should be getting more open patches of water.

Meanwhile, the park did get some showers on Friday and Saturday, with a dusting of high-elevation snow. The Tioga Road has been closed off and on since Friday night, though as I write this it’s open. With showers in the forecast over the next few days it’s possible that the road may close again temporarily.

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Tioga Pass is Open!

Mammoth Peak reflected in snowmelt pond, near Tioga Pass, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Mammoth Peak reflected in snowmelt pond, near Tioga Pass, Yosemite, from 1993

Tioga Pass opened today. I love photographing the Yosemite high country when there’s still snow on the peaks and ice covering the lakes, so this is a great time to go up there. However the forecast calls for snow on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the higher elevations of Yosemite. The park service has been ultra-cautious about the Glacier Point Road this spring, closing it when there’s any chance of snow. They’ll probably be even more cautious with the Tioga Road, so I expect it will close again on Friday, and probably remain closed through the weekend. 🙁 I could be wrong, but if you have a chance to go up today or tomorrow, take it!

— Michael Frye

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May Showers

Spring sunrise, Gates of the Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Spring sunrise, Gates of the Valley, Yosemite, Sunday morning

First, to my subscribers, thanks for your understanding about the email glitches yesterday. I really appreciate all the supportive emails so many people sent. Your kind words turned a frustrating day into a great one.

I haven’t posted anything new on the blog for awhile because I was teaching a workshop, and then working on our new website. The new site is still a bit of a work in progress, so if you find any broken links or other issues please let me know. But the new site better integrates the blog with the other content, makes it easier to add and update portfolios, and will work much better with phones and tablets, so I hope it will be a better experience for everyone.

Meanwhile we had a great workshop, with flowing waterfalls, fresh spring greenery, dogwoods, and some interesting weather and clouds. And the cool, showery spring weather has continued, which I love. I’m not ready for the summer heat, and always happy to have clouds and mist to photograph.

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Dogwoods, Fog, and Reflections

Morning reflections, dogwood and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Morning reflections, dogwood and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

We had a nice spring storm on Friday. Here in Mariposa we heard some loud thunder, and experienced a torrential downpour for about ten minutes. We got about half and inch of rain altogether, but Yosemite Valley got an inch and a third, which is a big total for April. Snow fell on the rim of the valley, and the Glacier Point Road, which had opened on Tuesday, was closed again temporarily.

The storm cleared after sunset on Friday, and Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley early on Saturday morning, hoping for mist. There wasn’t much mist, but we found some dogwoods in a small patch of fog near the base of Middle Cathedral Rock, which kept me busy for awhile. Later, as the sun started to reach down into the valley, I photographed more dogwoods against the background of the Merced River, with golden reflections in the water.

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The Mist Trail at Night

Vernal Fall and Liberty Cap at night with a lunar rainbow, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Vernal Fall and Liberty Cap at night with a lunar rainbow, Yosemite. 20 seconds at f/4, ISO 6400

Claudia and I made a nighttime trip up the Mist Trail recently. The ostensible purpose of this hike was to look for lunar rainbows, and we did find some, as you can see from the photos. But that was just a bonus. The real reward was being up there on a beautiful, moonlit night, with the roar of the falling water filling our ears, and having this normally-crowded trail completely to ourselves. It was so much fun.

The moon will be full on Thursday night, and with the good water flow this spring I expect that many photographers will be making their way to Yosemite to photograph lunar rainbows on Yosemite Falls. Don Olson has posted lunar rainbow predictions for Lower Yosemite Fall, but the spray will be soaking the bridge below the lower fall, making it hard to keep lenses dry during long exposures. Unfortunately Don hasn’t posted any predictions yet for Upper Yosemite Fall, and my trigonometry skills aren’t good enough to make those predictions myself. I think lunar rainbows will be visible on the upper fall from Cook’s Meadow at some point on Thursday evening, and the following couple of nights, but I can’t be positive!

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First Signs of Dogwoods

Dogwood blossoms, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Dogwood blossoms, Yosemite Valley, from April 21st, 2007



Last year the dogwoods in Yosemite Valley bloomed two or three weeks sooner than normal. This year they seem to be on a more typical timetable, but may still arrive a bit early.

Claudia and I were in Yosemite Valley on Tuesday afternoon, and saw the first signs of the dogwoods blooming. When dogwood blossoms first appear they’re small and green. Over the course of about a week or so they gradually become larger and brighter until they turn completely white. (Except for the centers, which become yellow-green. Those centers are the real flowers; the white “petals” are actually bracts.) On Tuesday there were lots of green blossoms, and only a few white ones. We didn’t see a single tree with all-white blossoms, only a few that were partially white. But that should change pretty quickly. There should be a few trees with all-white blossoms by this weekend, and I’d guess that the majority will be in full bloom by the end of next week.

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