February 2nd, 2016

A Clearing Storm by Starlight

Stars, mist, Three Brothers, and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Stars, mist, Three Brothers, and the Merced River, Yosemite, Sunday night

Every storm has to end eventually, of course. Even Noah got a reprieve after 40 days and 40 nights. I didn’t have to wait quite that long for this past weekend’s storm to clear, but at first it seemed like the timing was less than ideal.

There was a small chance that the storm might clear before sunset on Sunday, so Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley that afternoon. It was snowing when we got there, and kept snowing, and it soon became apparent that clearing wasn’t imminent. I photographed snow-covered trees until it got dark, then we joined our friend Charlotte Gibb for drinks and dinner at the Yosemite Lodge bar.

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January 31st, 2016

Waiting for the Storm to Clear

Misty sunset over Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Misty sunset over Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Two weather systems have brought over two inches of precipitation to Yosemite Valley since Friday night. It was very warm at the beginning, with snow levels at 9,000 feet, but now the temperature has dropped, and it’s snowing in Yosemite Valley. I can even see flakes falling outside my window in Mariposa, at 2,800 feet, but it’s a little too warm for the snow to stick.

It looks like the storm might clear this afternoon, but these things are always hard to predict. Radar images show the tail end of the precipitation approaching, but that can be deceiving, as showers often linger over the mountains longer than you would otherwise expect. I’ll be keeping a close eye on things this afternoon, especially since there’s no precipitation in the seven-day forecast, so this might be the last chance to photograph a clearing storm for awhile. We’ll see what happens!

In the meantime, here’s a photograph from a clearing storm back in January of 2012. Chances are low that this current storm will bring an opportunity like this, but you can always hope.

— Michael Frye

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January 26th, 2016

Stormy Weather

Yosemite Valley through the mist from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Yosemite Valley through the mist from Tunnel View, Yosemite, last Tuesday afternoon

We had a great time during our workshop last week in Yosemite, with a wonderful group of people, and some interesting weather. Although we didn’t get any new snow, we were able to photograph two clearing storms, plus two moonrises, and some misty trees. I’ve included a few of my favorite images from the week here.

We’ve had sunshine the last few days, and the fair weather is expected to continue until Friday, when another storm is predicted. The National Weather Service is expressing uncertainty about the strength and timing of this upcoming system. It should start off with high snow levels, which means rain in Yosemite Valley, but then the temperatures might drop enough toward the end of the storm to bring some snow down to the valley. We’ll see. But either way, more precipitation is good news in this state.

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January 20th, 2016

Horsetail Fall Forecast

Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite

Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite

We’re getting close to Horsetail Fall season, and I’m getting lots of questions about the water flow and the right time of year to photograph it.

As I said in my last post, there’s a healthy snowpack at higher elevations of Yosemite. Badger Pass ski area still reports 60 inches of snow on the ground at the base of the mountain (7,200 feet), and 72 inches at the top (8,000 feet). Horsetail’s small drainage on top of El Capitan lies at similar elevations, but faces south, and the slopes of Badger Pass face north. That means Horsetail’s drainage gets more sun, and the snow melts faster. But there should still be at least three or four feet of snow on top of El Cap right now, and it’s hard to imagine how all of that could melt between now and the third week of February. After four years of drought, it looks like we’ll finally have a good flow in Horsetail Fall at the right time of year.

But water flow is just one element. You also need the sun to set at the right angle to backlight Horsetail and make it turn orange, yet have the cliff behind it in the shade, so that the glowing, backlit, orange water is set against a dark background. My best estimate is that this happens between February 16th and 23rd, and perhaps even a few days beyond. (I delve into more detail about all that here.)

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January 17th, 2016

Misty Morning

Half Dome and North Dome above Yosemite Valley, winter, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and North Dome above Yosemite Valley, Friday morning, 8:24 a.m.

I’m so grateful for all the rain and snow we’ve been getting. After four years of drought, it’s wonderful to have a normal, wet winter. We’ve had storm after storm, and although most of the recent ones have been small, they add up. Yosemite Valley has received 24.63 inches of rain since July 1st, which is well above average. Badger Pass, at 7,200 feet, has 60 inches of snow on the ground, and the deepening snowpack raises hopes of full waterfalls this spring.

All this weather has been great for photography. It seems like we’ve already had more snow and clearing storms this season than the last four winters combined.

The latest in the series of small storms came through on Thursday night. I didn’t pay much attention to it, because it was predicted to be a weak system, and a warm one. I happened to wake up at about 4:00 a.m. Friday morning, and checked the radar images on my phone. It was raining pretty hard at our house, but the radar showed that the precipitation might end soon, possibly right around sunrise.

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January 10th, 2016

A Snowy Day

Snowy oaks, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Snowy oaks, Yosemite. 1/125th of a second at f/11, 800 ISO, 150mm.

On Wednesday Claudia and I were in Yosemite Valley during a snowstorm. At times the snow was heavy, and wet, with big, fat flakes falling. It’s difficult to keep the camera dry and prevent water drops from getting on the lens under those conditions, but if you can manage that stuff you can find some beautiful scenes. The falling snow thickens the atmosphere, creating a fog-like effect, and the falling flakes themselves add to the snowy mood.

When it’s raining or snowing a lens hood is essential to keep water drops off the front glass. You also need to constantly check the front of the lens to make sure it’s clean, because it’s hard to see the drops through the viewfinder, but they become glaringly obvious later when looking at the images on a big screen, and are often impossible to clone out or otherwise fix. Telephoto lenses have longer hoods, which are better for keeping the front glass dry; all the photos here except one were made with my 70-200mm zoom.

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January 4th, 2016

My Top Photographs of 2015

The votes are all in and counted, and here are my top photographs of 2015!

We had an amazing response this year: a record-breaking 510 people looked through my initial selection of 46 images and voted for their favorites here on the blog, on Facebook, Google+, and through email. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to look through these photographs and voice your opinions! I also really appreciate all the kind words expressed along with the votes. I wish I could respond to every comment, but please know that I’ve read them all and am very grateful for all your support. And also, many thanks to my wonderful assistant Claudia who tallied all those votes!

To express our gratitude to all the voters we’ve decided to give away two prints this year. We assigned each person who voted a number, and used a random number generator to pick the recipients. And the winners are… Mike Lynch and Gabor Ruff! Mike and Gabor will each receive a signed, numbered, matted 16×20 print of their choice from among the 46 original selections. Congratulations Mike and Gabor!

So here’s the list of the ten images which received the most picks, and the number of votes they each received:
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Sand dune and the Milky Way at night, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Sand dune and the Milky Way at night, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Just a reminder that if you want to vote for your favorite images of mine from 2015 the deadline is midnight tonight, Pacific time. Just follow this link to see the nominees and cast your vote. And to those of you who have already voted – thank you very much!

— Michael Frye

January 1st, 2016

Picking My Best Images of 2015

I’ve closed comments on this post, since the voting deadline has passed. You can see how the votes went in this post with the top ten. Thanks to all of you who voted!

Happy New Year!

Like champagne, Auld Land Syne, and the Tournament of Roses Parade, it’s become a New Year’s tradition on this blog to pick my best images from the past year, and once again I’m inviting you to help me make these difficult choices. I’ve posted 46 of my best photographs from 2015 below, in chronological order. After you look through these, please post a comment listing your ten favorites.

You don’t have to list your ten favorites in any order, or even name them – just numbers will do. (The numbers are in the captions underneath the photographs. Also, you can click on the images to see them larger.) Once the votes are in I’ll post the top ten on this blog, and submit the final group to Jim Goldstein’s blog project, where he’ll be showcasing the best images of the year from over 300 photographers. The voting deadline is this Sunday, January 3rd, at midnight Pacific time.

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December 31st, 2015

Happy New Year!

Ross's geese lifting off from a San Joaquin Valley marsh, CA, USA

Ross’s geese lifting off from a San Joaquin Valley marsh, CA, USA

Happy New Year everyone! May all your dreams take flight in 2016.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the nominees for my best photos of 2015, and you’ll get a chance to vote for your favorites and help me pick the top ten. Keep an eye out for the post! You can see last year’s nominees here, and the winners here.

Here are a few images from a recent trip to the San Joaquin Valley. Every year millions of migrating birds make their way to California’s Central Valley to spend the winter. Watching and listening to these massive flocks as they land and take flight is one of our favorite things to do, so Claudia and I try to get down there every chance we get over the brief winter season. We’ve only managed one bird-photography day so far this winter, but it was a good one, as we got to witness several mass goose takeoffs in beautiful light.

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