Archive for the ‘Yosemite Photo Conditions’ Category

Dogwoods, Fog, and Reflections

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Morning reflections, dogwood and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Morning reflections, dogwood and the Merced River, Yosemite, Saturday morning



We had a nice spring storm on Friday. Here in Mariposa we heard some loud thunder, and experienced a torrential downpour for about ten minutes. We got about half and inch of rain altogether, but Yosemite Valley got an inch and a third, which is a big total for April. Snow fell on the rim of the valley, and the Glacier Point Road, which had opened on Tuesday, was closed again temporarily.

The storm cleared after sunset on Friday, and Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley early on Saturday morning, hoping for mist. There wasn’t much mist, but we found some dogwoods in a small patch of fog near the base of Middle Cathedral Rock, which kept me busy for awhile. Later, as the sun started to reach down into the valley, I photographed more dogwoods against the background of the Merced River, with golden reflections in the water.

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The Mist Trail at Night

Sunday, April 17th, 2016
Vernal Fall and Liberty Cap at night with a lunar rainbow, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Vernal Fall and Liberty Cap at night with a lunar rainbow, Yosemite. 20 seconds at f/4, ISO 6400

Claudia and I made a nighttime trip up the Mist Trail recently. The ostensible purpose of this hike was to look for lunar rainbows, and we did find some, as you can see from the photos. But that was just a bonus. The real reward was being up there on a beautiful, moonlit night, with the roar of the falling water filling our ears, and having this normally-crowded trail completely to ourselves. It was so much fun.

The moon will be full on Thursday night, and with the good water flow this spring I expect that many photographers will be making their way to Yosemite to photograph lunar rainbows on Yosemite Falls. Don Olson has posted lunar rainbow predictions for Lower Yosemite Fall, but the spray will be soaking the bridge below the lower fall, making it hard to keep lenses dry during long exposures. Unfortunately Don hasn’t posted any predictions yet for Upper Yosemite Fall, and my trigonometry skills aren’t good enough to make those predictions myself. I think lunar rainbows will be visible on the upper fall from Cook’s Meadow at some point on Thursday evening, and the following couple of nights, but I can’t be positive!

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First Signs of Dogwoods

Thursday, April 14th, 2016
Dogwood blossoms, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Dogwood blossoms, Yosemite Valley, from April 21st, 2007

Last year the dogwoods in Yosemite Valley bloomed two or three weeks sooner than normal. This year they seem to be on a more typical timetable, but may still arrive a bit early.

Claudia and I were in Yosemite Valley on Tuesday afternoon, and saw the first signs of the dogwoods blooming. When dogwood blossoms first appear they’re small and green. Over the course of about a week or so they gradually become larger and brighter until they turn completely white. (Except for the centers, which become yellow-green. Those centers are the real flowers; the white “petals” are actually bracts.) On Tuesday there were lots of green blossoms, and only a few white ones. We didn’t see a single tree with all-white blossoms, only a few that were partially white. But that should change pretty quickly. There should be a few trees with all-white blossoms by this weekend, and I’d guess that the majority will be in full bloom by the end of next week.

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Focus-Stacking Season

Monday, April 11th, 2016
Poppies, lupines, goldfields, and tri-colored gilia, Merced River Canyon, Sierra Nevada foothills, CA, USA

Poppies, lupines, goldfields, and tri-colored gilia, Merced River Canyon, Wednesday afternoon. A focus-stacked blend of four different frames.

It’s spring, which means it’s wildflower season, and focus-stacking season.

There’s been a secondary poppy bloom in the eastern end of the Merced River Canyon near El Portal. No big swaths of poppies, but smaller patches, and some of those patches are mixed with other flowers, which always makes things more interesting. Claudia and I spent the afternoon up there on Wednesday, and had a great time. I’ve included a couple of my favorite images from that day here.

As I was processing the images later, it occurred to me that all of them required focus stacking. Literally every single one. And this is very common for me when photographing wildflowers. I don’t need focus stacking often in other seasons, but in spring I use this technique all the time. It’s just difficult to get everything in focus with one frame when photographing wildflowers. I’m frequently picking out a particularly dense patch of flowers, and using a telephoto lens to emphasize patterns and visually compress the space, making the flowers look closer together. Even with careful focusing and f/22 it’s impossible to get everything in focus with a long lens raking across a field of flowers like that. But even with wide-angle lenses it’s sometimes difficult to get everything in focus with one frame, because I’m getting really close to the foreground flowers, so there’s a tremendous amount of depth.

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Another View of Yosemite Falls

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016
Rainbow, mist, and Yosemite Falls, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Rainbow, mist, and Yosemite Falls, March 14th

I recently wrote about photographing a clearing storm from the Four-Mile Trail, but that was actually my second journey up that trail last month. The first time was a week earlier, on March 14th, as another rainstorm cleared early in the morning. At that time I hadn’t been up the Four-Mile Trail in several years, but I remembered that you could see some great views of Yosemite Falls from the trail, and the unusually high early-spring water levels in falls made it seem worth trying.

I had a vague memory of finding some good views of the falls that weren’t very far up the trail, but apparently my memory was faulty, as all the lower views were partially obscured by trees. I found a decent view about 600 feet above the valley floor, but kept going up and up the switchbacks until I reached some better spots. On the way I also saw misty scenes looking west toward Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan, which I had to photograph, giving me a convenient excuse to stop and rest:

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Redbuds and Poppies

Thursday, March 17th, 2016
Redbuds in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Mariposa Country, CA, USA

Redbuds in the Merced River Canyon, Monday afternoon

The redbuds have been coming along nicely in the Merced River Canyon, along Highway 140 west of Yosemite. I drove through the canyon on Monday, and most of the redbuds were blooming. Not all of those that were blooming were fully open yet, and some redbuds were still just budding. On the other hand, I saw a few that were starting to leaf out. Overall I’d say they were not quite at peak, but there were plenty of beautiful redbuds to photograph. They’ll probably peak around this weekend, or next week.

It was harder to tell what was going on with the poppies in the canyon. In late February it was starting to look like we would have a great year for poppies. There were a couple of very colorful hillsides in the western part of the canyon, and the bloom was spreading further east. But since then we’ve had a lot of rain. While rain is usually good for wildflowers, poppies like warm sunshine — at least once they begin blooming. A stretch of cold, rainy weather will cause already-blooming poppies to pack it in for the year and go to seed.

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Staying Flexible on a Snowy, Misty Morning

Sunday, March 13th, 2016
Sun breaking through fog in an oak grove, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Sun breaking through fog in an oak grove, Yosemite, 8:06 a.m. yesterday

Friday’s storm got cold enough to drop a couple of inches of snow on Yosemite Valley. The storm cleared during the night, but showers lingered until the wee hours Saturday morning. It seemed possible that we might find some mist at sunrise, so Claudia and I drove up early to Yosemite Valley.

Indeed there was some mist, and broken clouds overhead. That seemed like a perfect combination for Tunnel View; if the clouds lit up it would be a gorgeous sunrise from there. But soon after I arrived at Tunnel View the clouds dissipated. There was still some mist down in the valley below, but it would take awhile for the sun to get high enough to light that mist, and without clouds to block it the sun would be right in my face, making it difficult to avoid lens flare.

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A Stormy Weekend

Sunday, March 6th, 2016
Morning sunlight on Yosemite Falls, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Morning sunlight on Yosemite Falls, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

After a very dry February the weather pattern has changed, with a series of storms dumping large quantities of rain and snow on California this weekend. Yosemite Valley received almost four inches of rain since Friday as a wet “atmospheric river” lined up to hit the northern and central parts of our state.

It was a warm system, with snow levels over 8,000 feet during most of the storm. The dry, sunny weather over the last month had already created exceptionally high flows in Yosemite’s waterfalls for this time of year, but all that rain over the last few days gave them an extra boost. I drove up to Yosemite Valley this morning and found the waterfalls roaring. They looked more like May than March. And there were small, ephemeral waterfalls everywhere.

Before the storm started to clear this morning I photographed Lower Yosemite Fall in soft light, and then as the sun began breaking through I decided to stay and photograph the upper and lower falls. The sun reaches this waterfall earlier in the morning during March than it does in April or May, making the light much more interesting. You don’t get many opportunities to photograph it this time of year with so much water – and with mist around the upper fall. Here’s one of the photos from this morning.

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Looking for Poppies

Sunday, February 28th, 2016
Poppies in the Merced River Canyon, Sierra NF, CA, USA

Poppies in the Merced River Canyon, April 2014

Spring has arrived early this year. It seems the poppies in the Merced River Canyon west of Yosemite liked the warm February weather we’ve been having, and they’ve been appearing in greater numbers over the last two weeks. On Friday, when Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley for the Yosemite Renaissance opening reception, we saw some vibrant patches of poppies on the north side of the canyon (opposite Highway 140) a few miles easts of Briceberg. Other spots further east were just starting to show tinges of orange, but I expect those areas will become more colorful. It’s shaping up to be a good year for poppies in the canyon, but it’s just getting started, and the flowers are likely to last for several more weeks if the weather cooperates.

I’ve also seen photos of brilliant poppy displays in the southern Sierra foothills (east of Fresno and Bakersfield). And Death Valley is having a good bloom right now also. But southern California has received below-average rainfall so far this winter, so some of the best wildflower spots in the state like the Carrizo Plain and Antelope Valley probably won’t have great displays this year unless they get more rain soon.

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Horsetail Fall, El Capitan, and a Cloud

Friday, February 19th, 2016
El Capitan and Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

El Capitan and Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite

I rose early yesterday morning to go up to Yosemite Valley, thinking the storm might clear just after sunrise. But showers persisted, and the sun didn’t break through until almost ten o’clock. By the time I finished photographing it was almost noon, so I decided to stay in the valley until sunset.

In the afternoon typical after-storm condensation clouds formed around the rim of the valley. Thinking those clouds might add something to a photograph of Horsetail Fall, and allow me to capture something a little different from my other images of this waterfall, I headed for a spot with a good overall view of El Cap and Horsetail.

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