Archive for February, 2012

Winter Storm Warning for Yosemite

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
El Capitan and the Merced River, February 15th

El Capitan and the Merced River, February 15th

Earlier in the week forecasters weren’t expecting much precipitation out of the storm that’s arriving now in the Sierra, but the National Weather Service is now predicting up to a foot of snow in Yosemite Valley, and they’ve issued a winter storm warning for today and tonight. A foot of snow will make driving and walking in Yosemite Valley difficult, but it should be beautiful when it clears.

The two accompanying photographs are from the morning of February 15th. About four inches of snow fell the night before, and the storm cleared just before sunrise, creating perfect conditions. If you were to rank Yosemite sunrises on a scale of one to ten for their photographic potential, this one was a ten. Were any of you there that morning?

The current storm may revive Horsetail Fall, but the window of best light has passed. The light on Horsetail can still be beautiful in early March, but the color, at best, will be gold, not orange or red. I don’t expect this one storm will cause a sudden gushing either, but it should create some flow.

—Michael Frye

Related Posts: Quick Horsetail Update; Horsetail Dries Up!

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 eBook Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom. 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

Three Brothers and the Merced River, February 15th

Three Brothers and the Merced River, February 15th

Horsetail Dries Up!

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

On Thursday evening there was enough water to give Horsetail Fall a nice glow at sunset. Last night there wasn’t. Apparently nearly all the snow has melted on top of El Capitan, and it looks like the show is over for this year. Just wanted to let you all know in case you have plans to photograph it this weekend.

Bummer! Hope some of you got some nice images while it lasted.

—Michael Frye

NPR Interview

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

In case you didn’t catch this yet, I was interviewed about Horsetail Fall for NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday. You can listen to the piece here. All I can say is that they did a good job of editing this! It was a lot of fun and quite an honor to be on this premier radio program.

—Michael Frye

Falling Fire

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 1995

Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 1995

What makes Horsetail Fall so special? It seemed appropriate at this time of year to re-post this article from my 25 Years in Yosemite blog, where I talk about the photographic history of this waterfall, and the unique topography that creates the lighting phenomenon so many photographers have tried to capture:

Many people remember Yosemite’s firefall. On summer evenings from 1872 until 1968 the owners and employees of the Glacier Point Hotel pushed burning hot embers off the top of the Glacier Point cliff toward Yosemite Valley. The effect resembled a waterfall of fire. When the hotel burned down in 1969 the park service decided to end the ritual because this unnatural event caused visitors to trample meadows in their attempts to find a viewing spot.

I first visited Yosemite in 1980, so I never saw the firefall. On the park’s centennial anniversary in 1990 rumors spread that the park service would reenact the firefall, unannounced, but it never happened.

Yosemite, though, has an amazing natural “firefall.” For about ten days each February, if conditions are right, a thin ribbon of water dropping from the East Buttress of El Capitan, called Horsetail Fall, turns vivid orange when backlit by the setting sun.

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Quick Horsetail Update

Sunday, February 19th, 2012
Horsetail Fall, 5:27 p.m., Wednesday, February 15th

Horsetail Fall, 5:27 p.m., Wednesday, February 15th

First, a reminder that this is the last day to get a discount on my new eBook, Exposure for Outdoor Photography. Until midnight tonight you can use the code EXPOSURE4 at checkout to get the book for only 4 dollars. Or use the code EXPOSURE20 to get 20 percent off if you buy five or more Craft & Vision eBooks—including my previous volume, Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom.

Now, on to Horsetail Fall. Yosemite Valley received about four inches of snow on Tuesday night, and higher elevations got a little bit more. Unfortunately that precipitation did little to improve the water volume in Horsetail Fall. It’s flowing, but barely. Yet it’s amazing how little water it actually takes. You can strain your eyes to detect any flow at all for most of the day, and then as the sun lowers it highlights the fall perfectly and makes whatever water there is stand out.

The accompanying photographs were made on Wednesday and Thursday evenings while I was teaching private workshops, and show the current conditions pretty well. On Wednesday some mist drifted past the fall, adding interest, but distant clouds dimmed the light before it reached its most intense color. On Thursday, the light was about as good as it gets for Horsetail, lasting right until the theoretical sunset time, with the cliff behind the fall shaded. If only there was more water!

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New eBook: Exposure for Outdoor Photography

Thursday, February 16th, 2012
Exposure for Outdoor Photography

Exposure for Outdoor Photogoraphy

I’m pleased to announce the release of my second eBook: Exposure for Outdoor Photography.

In photography, creativity and technical skill are both essential. It’s great to have a wonderful eye and imagination, but no one will appreciate your genius if your images are washed out and blurry.

The most essential technical skill a photographer must master is exposure. On the surface, exposure seems easy. It’s simply a matter of making the image bright enough—not too dark, and not too light. But the endless variety of light makes exposure challenging. No two situations are the same, so there can be no exact formula for getting the right exposure. On the other hand, exposure doesn’t need to be overly complicated. The fundamental controls—shutter speed, aperture, ISO, light meters—are easy to understand.

Previously on this blog I’ve written about some of these fundamentals, like reading histograms and adjusting exposure. In this eBook I start with a more comprehensive discussion of these essentials, then go deeper by taking you through ten practical, real-life examples where I’ve used these basic principles to control the exposure, the sharpness, and the photograph’s message.

The examples go from easy to complex, and include using a histogram to find the right exposure, controlling depth of field, freezing and blurring motion, when to push the ISO, spot metering and the Zone System, and HDR and exposure blending. I also include several exercises to help improve your technique. It’s a concise, easy to understand, yet comprehensive course in mastering the most important skill in photography.

Like all Craft & Vision eBooks, Exposure for Outdoor Photography is normally only five dollars. But for the next four days you can get it for only four dollars. Just use the code EXPOSURE4 at checkout. Or use the code EXPOSURE20 to get 20 percent off if you buy five or more Craft & Vision eBooks—including my previous volume, Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom.

Click here to order your copy!

—Michael Frye

Related Posts: Light & Land eBook Available Today!Digital Photography Basics: Reading HistogramsDigital Photography Basics: Adjusting Exposure

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 eBook Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom. 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.

Winter Pilgrimage

Monday, February 13th, 2012
1. Ross's geese taking flight in the fog

1. Ross's geese taking flight in the fog

I’ve had a love affair and obsession with snow geese, along with their close cousins Ross’s geese, for 25 years. Watching a large flock of these birds take flight, filling the sky from horizon to horizon while deafening your ears with their calls, is an unforgettable, transcendent experience.

I’ve photographed these birds in every way imaginable over the years. You can see more images of them in my album of bird photographs on Google+, including some deliberate blurs, and a flash-blur. Last Wednesday and Thursday Claudia and I drove down to the San Joaquin Valley once again to photograph birds. This time I focused on capturing ethereal images of geese in the fog, and tried looking straight into the late-afternoon sun. I’ve included some notes on the accompanying photos a little further down.

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February in Yosemite

Sunday, February 12th, 2012
February light on Bridalveil Fall from near Turtleback Dome

February light on Bridalveil Fall from near Turtleback Dome

First, I’m going to have a big announcement later this week—stay tuned!

Next, I’ve been getting lots of questions about Horsetail Fall. Since my last post about this not much has changed; there is little water in Horsetail right now. There’s snow in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow, so that should help, but they’re only predicting 6-8 inches, and I don’t know whether that will be enough to make a significant difference. If the weather warms immediately afterward and melts some of that new snow the water volume could get a bump, but it’s likely to be short-lived.

But there are other things to photograph in Yosemite in February. That storm is predicted to be a cold one, which means fresh snow in Yosemite Valley. And when the storm ends we could see some nice clearing storm conditions.

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