Archive for March, 2009

Spring Conditions

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Last weekend’s storm brought the precipitation total for the season in Yosemite Valley up to 31.35 inches. The average through the end of March is 30.5 inches, so we’re a little above that. It looks like it might be a “typical” spring in Yosemite Valley, which would mean that dogwoods would begin blooming around the end of April, the peak flow in the waterfalls would be around the end of May, and Tioga Pass would open just before Memorial Day. Of course the weather in April will have a big influence on all of that.
The poppies in the Merced River Canyon are finally starting to fade, although there will still be some nice patches around for awhile. Some new flowers are emerging, including lupine and dense groves of tri-colored gilia. The photograph above, including poppies and gilia, was made two days ago along the Hite’s Cove trail.

Poppies, Redbud, and the Return of Winter

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

The National Weather Service is predicting a cold, wintry storm to reach Yosemite tonight and tomorrow. The snow level will be high—7500 to 8000 feet—to start, but it’s expected to drop as low as 3000 feet on Sunday.
A storm like this always provides good photo opportunities, especially as it’s clearing (probably Sunday afternoon or Monday morning). But what will it do to the poppies in the Merced River Canyon?
Overall the poppies still look great. Some of the earliest-blooming spots in the burned area have started to fade, but have been replaced by others. More than replaced actually, as the overall acreage in bloom has expanded. Although the snow level with this storm is unlikely to drop low enough to snow on the flowers, it will still become cold and wet, which might cause some poppies to pack it in for the season. But I don’t expect them all to disappear overnight.
Redbud are also starting to bloom in the Merced River Canyon west of Yosemite. Only a few have reached their peak color, but many more should come out in the next week or so.
The photograph above, Redbud and Oaks, will be one of the raffle prizes at the Sierra Foothill Conservancy‘s Spring Celebration tomorrow from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Michael and Jeanne Adams’ house, 5054 Bullion Street, Mariposa. This should be a really fun event, and supports the great work that the Sierra Foothill Conservancy does, so I hope you can stop by if you’re in the area. For more information email Bridget Fithian: bridget.fithian@hotmail.com.

Spring Light in Yosemite Valley

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

The spring equinox is only a few days away, and the light is changing rapidly in Yosemite Valley. In winter the rising and setting sun strikes formations on the north side of the valley like El Capitan, Three Brothers, and Yosemite Falls. In summer the best light shifts to the rocks and falls on the south side of the valley – Glacier Point, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, and Bridalveil Fall.

For Yosemite Falls, the best light doesn’t match up with the biggest flow. As the water volume grows in spring, the sun rises further and further north, and the light doesn’t reach the falls until 9:30 to 10:00 a.m. in April and May.
But Bridalveil Fall is better situated for spring light. From late March through about the end of April the sun sets through a gap to the west, and Bridalveil receives beautiful golden light just before sunset. The accompanying photo was made on March 27th, 2007 from Tunnel View. In May and June the light gets cut off earlier, but it’s still nice.
Bridalveil Fall can be photographed from across the river along Northside Drive (location 4 in my book, The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite), Valley View (location 5), Tunnel View (location 8), or from the Bridalveil Fall parking lot and trail (location 7). You can see a rainbow right from the parking lot between about 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. throughout the spring. (Unfortunately the book is temporarily out of print; it should be available again sometime this spring.)
Poppies Update:
The poppies in the Merced River canyon are still going strong. While the earliest-blooming spots – mainly in the burned areas – may start to fade soon, other areas have just started flowering and should last a little longer.

More Poppies

Monday, March 9th, 2009


Since my post from February 28th, a little over a week ago, there’s been a poppy explosion in the Merced River Canyon. The acreage in bloom has probably tripled. Most are still in the burned area across the river from Highway 140, two to three miles east of Briceburg, where the flowers now reach to the tops of the ridges, but “Grandy’s Hill,” a bit further east on the highway side of the river, is blazing.

The vantage points looking across the river from the Highway are actually quite good. It’s possible to hike east from Briceburg to be on the poppy side of the river, but you’d have to climb up very steep hillsides to be among the flowers and get a decent view. Grandy’s Hill and most of the other poppy spots also require steep climbs for a close-up view. While these hills aren’t so steep that you’ll die if you fall (at least not in most places), you could easily slip and break and ankle, so don’t attempt this if you’re not agile and sure-footed. The one place where you can reach poppies easily is the beginning of the Hite’s Cove trail.
I made the accompanying photo of poppies and popcorn flowers on one of those steep hillsides yesterday. I used a 200mm lens to compress the space and create a pattern out of the bands of color.

Missing Items

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Due to a mixup with my web hosting service, some images have been missing from this blog recently, and all the new additions to my web site were also missing for a period of time. Everything should be okay now, and I apologize any inconvenience or confusion.

New Photo Tips

Monday, March 2nd, 2009


I’ve made several additions to my web site, including a Tips and Tutorials section, with two tips: one on reading histograms, and another about how to re-create the effect of a graduated neutral-density filter in Photoshop. The foreground of the Mono Lake photo above was lightened using my “digital graduated filter” method. I’ve also added a Books & Posters area, plus an Articles section.