Early November Magic in Yosemite

Sunset from Tunnel View, Saturday, 4:48 p.m.

Sunset from Tunnel View, Saturday, 4:48 p.m.

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

Lone cottonwood, Friday, 7:39 a.m.

Lone cottonwood, Friday, 7:39 a.m.

Dogwoods along the Merced River, Friday, 9:09 a.m.

Dogwoods along the Merced River, Friday, 9:09 a.m.

High key dogwood leaves, Friday, 12:40 p.m.

High key dogwood leaves, Friday, 12:40 p.m.

Oaks and blowing snow, 4:05 p.m., Friday

Oaks and blowing snow, Friday, 4:05 p.m.

Misty Three Brothers, Saturday, 7:51 a.m.

Misty Three Brothers, Saturday, 7:51 a.m.

El Capitan reflected in the Merced River, Saturday, 8:21 a.m.

El Capitan reflected in the Merced River, Saturday, 8:21 a.m.

Half Dome and the Merced River, Saturday, 8:52 a.m.

Half Dome and the Merced River, Saturday, 8:52 a.m.

Mule deer does and fawns browsing oak leaves, 9:35 a.m., Saturday

Mule deer does and fawns browsing oak leaves, Saturday, 9:35 a.m.

Backlit oaks, 9:57 a.m., Saturday

Backlit oaks, Saturday, 9:57 a.m.

El Capitan with oaks, 10:23 a.m., Saturday

El Capitan with oaks and pines, Saturday, 10:23 a.m.

Cottonwood leaf in the snow, 11:00 a.m., Saturday

Cottonwood leaf in the snow, Saturday, 11:00 a.m.

Maple and reflections, 11:11 a.m., Saturday

Maple and reflections, Saturday, 11:11 a.m.

Related Posts: More Images From That Magical Day—and a Call for PhotographsA Great Day for PhotographyAutumn Progress in YosemiteA Beautiful Autumn in Yosemite

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author and photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite 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.

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94 Responses to “Early November Magic in Yosemite”

  1. Marco says:

    Michael, just in one word: WOW!!
    Greetinx, Marco

  2. Andrys says:

    Many very striking images!

    My favorites are
    Dogwoods along the Merced River, Friday, 9:09 a.m. and

    El Capitan with oaks and pines, Saturday, 10:23 a.m.

    But that’s out of a great collection.

  3. Denise Dewire says:

    I’m so jealous! Beautiful images. Thanks for sharing so many fantastic captures.

    • Michael Frye says:

      Thank you Denise. As another workshop student once said to me, “Isn’t making your friends jealous the whole point of photography?” :) Seriously though, I wish you were in the park this weekend.

      • Denise Dewire says:

        Good one….gotta remember that. Seriously wish I could have been there too. And while I don’t have the snow and fall colors, we’ve had some spectacular weather and low tides at the beach. I posted some pics on Flickr of the Pelican frenzy! Never have I seen anything like it on the ocean. And today walked for two hours along the low tide coastline and got more pelican shots! I love those birds!!

  4. [...] Michael Frye”s blog  has a set of photos showing the great combination of snow and fall color at Yosemite this past weekend. You can see his work at: Early November Magic in Yosemite « In the Moment: Michael Frye’s Landscape Photography Blog I…. [...]

  5. Rochelle says:

    Hubby and I moved from LA to Sonora to be closer to the grandeur of Yosemite that you’ve captured. Where were we this weekend? LA! Dagnabit!

  6. Paolo Nadeau says:

    Hi Michael,

    Some really fantastic landscapes, especially “Misty Three Brothers”.

    My favorite though, is the photo of the Mule Deer.

    Animals are my favorite subjects when I am shooting videos, and still photos, so I may be slightly biased on this. :-)

    Take care.


    • Michael Frye says:

      Thanks Paolo! I started my career as a wildlife photographer, so I understand the attraction. I don’t do much wildlife photography any more, but sometimes opportunities present themselves, like the deer here.

  7. Shekhar Mahatme says:

    Beautiful pictures! Especially the Tunnel View sunset and the ‘Misty Three Brothers’ are amazing!

  8. John Wall says:

    Beautiful work, Michael. I felt the same way you did about wanting to stop time to be everywhere at once. I’m so glad I made the trip. It was a fantastic two days. My pix are at http://www.jwallphoto.blogspot.com/2012/11/snow-in-valley.html and http://www.jwallphoto.blogspot.com/2012/11/snow-in-valley-pt-2.html

    • Michael Frye says:

      Thanks John! And right back at you – thanks for sharing your photos, great work. I know right where your first photo (with the maple leaves in the foreground) was made. My last image in this post (Maple and reflections) was from across the river and includes the tree that’s near the top-center of your photo. And judging by your fourth photo from that first post we must have been at Tunnel View at the same time on Friday. I didn’t include my image from that time here, but that was a nice sunshine break.

      • John Wall says:

        I’m surprised I didn’t recognize you from your blog photo! I think I was only at Tunnel View once on Friday, and only two other photographers were there, one of ‘em being a 4×5 shooter. I laughed inside when I saw that rock with the maple leaves on it (near Fern Spring, yes?) because it looked very much the same as when I shot from that spot a couple of years ago (but w/o snow).

  9. Aram Langhans says:

    Amazing. I guess we should have been there a week later, but then we would have had a terrible time driving our little RV home with the snow we have up here.

    Glad you live so close so you can keep me drooling. :-)

    Sorry you live so close so I have to drool. :-(


  10. Shel Mosk says:

    I really enjoy experiencing the splendor of Yosemite vicariously through your beautiful images and insightful comments. I’m glad you’re in Yosemite at these special times when I cannot be, and that you so graciously share your experiences in your blog. Thanks for sharing the magic, Michael!

  11. I didn’t see you up at Tunnel View Saturday but I was there as well!
    Here’s one of my favorites of the day!

  12. Connie says:

    Wow, is right! Lovely & magical day! Thank you for sharing!!!

  13. Carol Ouzounian says:

    Thank you for sharing the beauty of Yosemite–all the way to my desktop in Indiana! You help fill a place in my heart that Yosemite itself engraved within since the first time I visited. I may have left Yosemite, but Yosemite has never left me.

  14. Doug Wiggers says:

    In late May of 2008, I stood at Tunnel View for the first time and instantly fell in love with Yosemite. My passion for photography began during that vacation and my appreciation for the grandeur of Yosemite grows every time I see one of your photos, read your latest blog post, or learn from one of your books. In a month my wife and I are moving to CA (from Indiana!!!) because of a job change. Living much closer to Yosemite is a dream come true — hopefully I’ll be able to take one of your workshops, or at the very least bump into you somewhere in YNP!

  15. Joolz says:

    So many wonderful shots!!! Thank you for running around to get them. I love your idea of a universal remote!

  16. Robert says:

    Michael – fantastic photos of a magical time. You were so right, we should have come back!

    I don’t know if this has been requested before, but in the interests of learning from an expert, would you be prepared to publish exposure/ lens information with your pictures (like Dan Mitchell http://www.gdanmitchell.com/ does if you hover over his images)? Many thanks. Robert.

    • Michael Frye says:

      Thanks Robert! I don’t know how Dan does that – I’ll ask him. You know I never found such information very helpful, even when I was just starting out in photography, without some context. In other words shutter speed and aperture are pretty meaningless by themselves without knowing how those settings compare to a meter reading, or a histogram. So help me understand this – what do you learn from this information?

  17. William Hocking says:

    These are some wonderful images. The convergence of seasons, your great eye and Yosemite make a great combination.

  18. Jason Branz says:

    Oh my that Misty Brothers is just magical. Very nice! Thanks for sharing these as they are fantastic.

    I wanted to get up there on Saturday but I had an art show that night, so I went up Sunday and spent several hours photographing. My favorite capture was sunset from Valley View: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jason_branz/8183785271/

    What a magical transition of seasons.

  19. Milind says:

    Simply superb, every picture is a gem.

    Looks like I just missed running into you. I reached the valley around 1 pm on Saturday but didn’t make it up to Tunnel view. I did have the pleasure of running into Mike on Sunday and reminiscing about last year class.

  20. Michael,

    I was also lucky enough to be in the Valley for the week. It was incredible! It was also very nice to see you again. As always, your images are incredible and inspiring….

    My pictures from the week are the latest few in my Photostream:


    Best regards,

  21. Patti says:

    Michael, there are times you leave me speechless. This is one of them :-)

  22. Vivienne says:

    I noticed Robin Black was posting some Yosemite magic on her Flickr stream and thought it would be just a matter of time before you posted something to your blog. I am not disappointed! Well, only in that I missed it. And I was even on the correct side of the country…just too far north, in Seattle, and working! :( I guess I just need to come back often to this blog and sigh in envy.

    Gorgeous. I can’t pick out a favorite, but I am liking the simplicity of the cottonwood leaf in the snow.

    • Michael Frye says:

      Thanks very much Vivienne. Sorry you couldn’t be here in person, but I hope these photos help you remember the place. :) I’m glad you like the cottonwood leaf too – I thought this was a rather unique situation.

  23. First I said oooh then ahhhhh then ooh ahh, love your work. To me it feels like I’m seeing the creators finest work. I took my first class at Yosemite almost 2 yrs ago w my p/s camera. We have your print of Yosemite Falls to inspire me every day. Sus

  24. Richard says:

    You really captured the mood and feeling those galorious recent days in the Valley. Looking at your photos timeline you were on a tear, moving from place to place. Wish I was following in your wake! Great images Michael. I will post my collection directly.

    • Michael Frye says:

      Thanks Richard, and I look forward to seeing your link. I was moving around a lot, which is not something I would recommend because it’s usually better to spend more time in one spot really looking. But I know the valley so well, and can sometimes visualize in advance a composition that would work with certain conditions or light, and can work quickly when necessary. I guess it’s one of those ‘do as I say not what I do” things.

  25. Beautiful set of photographs Michael. I was in the park Sat and Sun, but I missed the early morning hours on Sat. It was spectacular nonetheless. I will be staring my photographs soon.

  26. Michael, what a wonderful collection of photos. The oaks and blowing snow looks like a painting and the Misty Three Brothers is simply mesmerizing. Thank you for continuing to inspire and motivate me with your beautiful work.

  27. Beautiful stuff, indeed, Michael! :-)


  28. Great images, Michael. Envious to have missed such a nice mix of seasonal colors and weather.

  29. [...] in El Capitan Meadow yesterdayDuring last weekend’s snowstorm I saw maples and cottonwoods dropping leaves in bunches, and wondered how much fall color would [...]

  30. Carol Dashiell says:

    Those photos are scrumptious – must have been an awesome day. Thanks for sharing with those of us who weren’t there at that time.

  31. it looks like you’ve “raised” the bar for us once again. Stunning images. Thank you for sharing.

  32. roberto c ochoas says:

    amazin look

  33. Colin Drake says:

    Hi Michael,

    First: THANK YOU! It’s so cool that you keep us updated on Yosemite and the great opportunities to enjoy it and photograph it. Your email update inspired me to go. I even tried to plan it for the weather coming in and hit it perfectly: a full day of peak fall colors on Thursday the 8th and Winter’s arrival on the 9th.

    Here’s a selection:

    Many thanks and keep up the great work: your photos are stunning and your blog is awesome.



  34. Really impressive work keep up the good work.

  35. Looking at your images always reminds me of that time being at Yosemite, Dec. 1992;
    Thanks for refreshing those memories….very cool images, Michael!

    We have had that kind of weather over here in Southern Bavaria 14 days earlier than you had, at “Berchtesgaden National Park” which is also called “Little Yosemite” ;)

    I hope that authorize me to post that link from that day, 10/27/2012: https://wernerpriller.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/first-snow-of-the-season/
    (please delete it if its not so)


  36. We must have just missed each other, got some of the same shots and might have looked at the same dogwood. The black ice up to the tunnel view was not so fun.


  37. Myra Derry says:

    Thank you for posting this outstanding photography! It is a pleasure to view each picture!

  38. Frances Ware says:

    Michael, I can spend hours looking at details of each photograph. Delightful!!!

  39. john magee says:

    sunset from tunnel view
    this sums up yosemite and all its majesty
    if only I lived 5000 miles closer…

  40. Laura Warfield says:

    Amazing photos all, but my favorites were the lone cottonwood leaf in the snow. And the one of the deer reaching for food on the trees.
    You’re work is such an inspiration to me! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  41. Dorinda Kampmann says:

    Photographs are AMAZING! Fred and I love photography. He mostly is into landscapes, I love florals. Are you using a full format camera? It seems like such a difference compared to our 2/3 Olympus. Can’t wait to view some of your tips!

  42. […] Related Posts: After the Storm, Is There Still Fall Color in Yosemite?; Early November Magic in Yosemite […]

  43. […] Elsewhere in the valley there’s little color so far. The oaks, cottonwoods, and dogwoods are showing just tinges of yellow and gold here and there. The maples will probably reach their peak in about a week or so, but it looks like the oaks, cottonwoods, and dogwoods won’t turn until the first or second week of November. Maybe we’ll get a dusting of snow during the peak color, like we did two years ago… […]

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