I’ll post more images from the area soon, but I’ll start with this one showing sun breaking through the fog in a redwood forest. It can be difficult to work with this kind of splotchy light, but I loved the mood of this scene, and luckily the sun hit just the right spots, creating a nicely-balanced pattern of light and dark.
Archive for the ‘New Images’ Category
We’ve had off-and-on showers, with periods of soft light broken up by sunshine and interesting clouds. On Tuesday afternoon a rain squall passed through, and then skies cleared late in the afternoon – perfect conditions for photographing some of the sea stacks that are so abundant along the coast here. I’ve included three images from that afternoon below.
I found a redwood grove that gets sunlight very late in the afternoon, and watched beautiful amber light streaming through the forest as I walked along the trail. Photographing a forest with patches of sun and shade is a lot like photographing a landscape with dappled light from broken clouds. The light has to highlight the most interesting parts of the scene for it to work, but when that happens the modulated, chiaroscuro lighting can add depth, dimension, and mood to the photograph. I found a couple of compositions where the light hit just the right places: the image of redwoods and rhododendrons at the top, and the one with faint sunbeams below.
I found time to make the image above one afternoon last week, with dogwoods juxtaposed against reflections in the Merced River. This is good example of the kind of small-scale lighting event I wrote about recently; late in the day the sun hit trees and bushes along the opposite bank of the river, creating multi-colored reflections in the water behind this group of dogwoods.
The dogwoods in Yosemite are pretty consistent performers. They always bloom, regardless of how wet or dry the previous winter has been. But some years are better than others, and this is one of the better ones I’ve seen recently, as most of the trees have more blossoms than usual. The dogwoods arrived early this year, and all of them are now leafing out, but the flowers were still fresh-looking yesterday. In another week or so they’ll start to look bedraggled in the valley, though they should just be starting to bloom at higher elevations along highways 41 and 120, and in the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias.
You want to catch the dogwoods early. The flowers last for several weeks, but they start to look ragged after awhile, and they don’t stand out as much after the trees leaf out. With the weather predicted to warm up this weekend I expect the dogwoods will progress rapidly, and many, perhaps even most, will be in full bloom a week from now. Next week or the following weekend might be the best time this year.
Also, there will be a full moon next Thursday, so let the lunar rainbow madness begin! You can visit Don Olson’s web site to see his predictions for when lunar rainbows will be visible from Cook’s Meadow and from the bridge below Lower Yosemite Fall. You can read my tips about photographing lunar rainbows here, and see what it’s like to spend a moonlit evening in Cook’s Meadow with 200 other photographers here.
Spring has arrived!
— Michael Frye
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 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.
It was a harebrained idea, but sometimes harebrained ideas work.
On Easter Sunday the forecast called for showers and thunderstorms, with a 100% chance of rain. So I decided it would be a great day to hike 6 miles and climb over 2,000 feet up to Old Inspiration Point.
I could have just gone to Tunnel View. Tunnel View is a wonderfully photogenic spot, where I could have waited out any rain showers in the car, then walked 50 feet to the viewpoint if something interesting happened. And if the light didn’t cooperate, well, no big deal – it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve struck out at Tunnel View, and it wouldn’t take much effort to come back and try again.
On the other hand, I have lots of photographs from Tunnel View, and every other easily-accessible viewpoint in Yosemite Valley, but I’d never been to Old Inspiration Point. And I was in the mood for an adventure. I asked Claudia if she wanted to come with me (carefully explaining what she might be in for, I swear), and she said sure. She’s always up for a hike.
I made the photograph above yesterday, and I’m sure many of you will notice the similarity between this image and one I posted two weeks ago. These are the very same trees, and again I’ve used the radiating pattern of the shadows. When I went back to this spot yesterday there were more poppies mixed with the lupine, and the trees had new leaves. So I worked on the same idea, but with different conditions.
I’m not afraid to repeat myself if I think I might be able to improve on a previous photograph. Sometimes I just don’t execute the photograph perfectly on the first try. Other times the conditions are better the second or third time around. What are the odds that you’ll visit a place for the first time and find perfect conditions? Pretty slim, I’d say. And the more times you visit a location, the more you’ll see, and the better you’ll understand how the light changes and affects the area at different times of day.
Is this new version of the oaks, flowers, and shadows, better than the previous one? That’s hard to say. I’ll have to let them sit for awhile until I can look at them with fresh eyes. But I wouldn’t have that choice unless I tried again.
Sunday afternoon it was very windy in the canyon. I found the scene above, with a redbud against the flowing river, and waited for half an hour for the wind to die down before giving up and walking upriver. On my way back to the car it seemed that the wind had calmed a bit, so I set up my tripod again, only to realize that it was almost as windy as before. I waited another half hour, and finally it became perfectly, completely still for about a minute, and I was able to make this photograph.
Redbuds have deep roots, so they’re not affected by drought as much as some other flowers. But the poppies in this area are annuals, and dependent on winter rains, so I was surprised to see quite a few poppies blooming up and down the canyon. The display doesn’t approach last year’s, or the even more spectacular bloom in 2009, but any flowers at all seem like a miracle after our dry winter. And who knows – maybe the show will get better.
Right now the most eye-catching hillside of poppies is about a mile east of Savage’s Trading Post on the opposite side of the river. You can reach the base of this hill by driving to the end of Incline Road and continuing on foot for about a mile down the old railroad bed. But getting up among the poppies requires climbing a very steep hillside. (There are directions to Incline Road in my Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, which most of you probably have, but if not the road is easy to find. Just cross the bridge at Foresta Road, about four miles east of Savage’s, then turn left along the river on Incline Road.)
A Trip to Crane Flat
Yosemite got some much-needed precipitation last week – over an inch total. I kept checking the radar and satellite images online, looking for an opportunity to photograph a clearing storm. Friday morning seemed promising, so I drove up to Yosemite Valley early, but found no snow. It looked like the snow level had been around 5,000 feet, higher than forecast. Worse, from a photographic perspective, the skies were clear and there was no mist.
Shortly after sunrise I noticed light striking a ridge near the tunnels on Highway 120, and on a whim decided to drive up to Crane Flat. I thought Crane Flat would at least have some fresh snow, since it’s at 6,000 feet.
Indeed there was fresh snow – over a foot of it. I parked at the Tuolumne Grove trailhead and walked along the plowed road. The sun had just reached parts of the main meadow, and I found some interesting small subjects to photograph, like tree-shadows on the snow.
Some shafts of sunlight slanting across the snow caught my attention, and then some mist began rising near the edge of the meadow, behind the shafts of light. I immediately recognized the potential to make an image that went beyond an abstract study of shadows – a photograph that had a mood.