December 31st, 2015

Happy New Year!

Ross's geese lifting off from a San Joaquin Valley marsh, CA, USA

Ross’s geese lifting off from a San Joaquin Valley marsh, CA, USA

Happy New Year everyone! May all your dreams take flight in 2016.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the nominees for my best photos of 2015, and you’ll get a chance to vote for your favorites and help me pick the top ten. Keep an eye out for the post! You can see last year’s nominees here, and the winners here.

Here are a few images from a recent trip to the San Joaquin Valley. Every year millions of migrating birds make their way to California’s Central Valley to spend the winter. Watching and listening to these massive flocks as they land and take flight is one of our favorite things to do, so Claudia and I try to get down there every chance we get over the brief winter season. We’ve only managed one bird-photography day so far this winter, but it was a good one, as we got to witness several mass goose takeoffs in beautiful light.

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Morning light, Gates of the Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Morning light, Gates of the Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

After the big rainstorm last week I drove up to Yosemite Valley early Wednesday morning. I knew there wouldn’t be fresh snow, but I hoped for some mist and interesting light. It turned out that mist was scarce, probably due to below-freezing overnight temperatures, but there was a little bit here and there.

I stopped at a couple of places, and found myself at Gates of the Valley (aka Valley View) as the sun started to hit El Capitan and light up the clouds above. After making a few photographs with fast shutter speeds, I decided it would be more interesting to smooth out the water with a very slow shutter speed. My seven-stop neutral-density filter did the trick, allowing me to lengthen the exposure to 15 seconds. Thinking about the nighttime panorama I made from this spot recently, I decided to try that again, using my 24mm Rokinon lens in a vertical orientation, and making four exposures to capture the broad sweep of this scene. After a few minutes the light actually got more interesting, with a thin beam of sunlight raking across the face of El Cap.

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December 27th, 2015

That Moonlit Night

Half Dome, North Dome, and the Merced River by moonlight, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome, North Dome, and the Merced River by moonlight, Yosemite. This photograph was made about 11:30 p.m. When I first arrived at this spot Half Dome was completely obscured by fog. But I waited, and soon Half Dome and North Dome started to appear through the mist. I made a series of images with similar compositions as the clouds and mist shifted, but I particularly liked the light in this one. Sony A7rII, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens, 20 seconds at f/4, 4000 ISO.

I promised to post more moonlit images from last Saturday night and Sunday morning, so here they are. In case you missed them, I posted a photograph from that night made at Gates of the Valley here, and another image from Tunnel View here. But it was such a beautiful night, with fresh snow, and mist that stayed around for a long time, so I photographed for almost four hours, and was able to try many different viewpoints and ideas. I’ve included extended captions to give a little more information about each photograph here.

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December 24th, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Yosemite Valley lit by the setting moon,  with Jupiter above, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Yosemite Valley lit by the setting moon, with Jupiter above, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

To all of you who celebrate the day, Claudia and I wish you a very Merry Christmas! We hope you have a wonderful holiday, full of peace, joy, and the love of family and friends.

This is another moonlit photo from Saturday night (actually early Sunday morning). After making the image Gates of the Valley that I posted on Sunday, I headed up to Tunnel View. When I arrived the valley was hidden by a thick bank of fog, but eventually the mist parted, revealing stars, Jupiter, and cliffs lit by the setting moon. Claudia thought this had a Christmas feeling to it, and I had to agree, so it seemed like an appropriate photograph to post today.

We hope you have a great holiday season!

— Michael Frye

December 22nd, 2015

Biggest Storm in Years

Over the last couple of days Yosemite received a big dose of rain and higher-elevation snow. It was one of those “atmospheric river” events, with subtropical moisture streaming into the northern part of California. Usually when this happens satellite photos will show a direct, straight line of clouds extending from somewhere near Hawaii toward California. But this time the river took a detour, starting north of Hawaii, then bending up toward the Gulf of Alaska and back down to Northern California. This screen shot from the Upweather app at 2:00 p.m. yesterday shows that path:

The "atmospheric river" aimed at northern California at 2:00 p.m. yesterday

The atmospheric river aimed at northern California at 2:00 p.m. yesterday

Since Sunday afternoon Yosemite Valley has received over 5.5 inches of rain. We got over 3.5 inches at our house in Mariposa. That’s easily the biggest storm in this area since 2011, before the drought.

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December 20th, 2015

Gates of the Valley by Moonlight

Gates of the Valley by moonlight, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Gates of the Valley by moonlight, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

A small storm arrived yesterday morning. It looked like it might clear before sunset, but by early afternoon it became obvious that showers would linger throughout the day. There was, however, another window of opportunity, as the two-thirds-full moon was due to set at 1:45 a.m. When the clouds started to break up around 9:00 p.m. I drove up to Yosemite Valley.

This storm was a little warmer than the previous ones, bringing mostly rain instead snow to Yosemite Valley, but in typical fashion the temperature dropped at the tail end of the storm, and I found a light dusting of snow. I arrived just before ten o’clock, almost four hours before the moon was due to set, so this was the lunar equivalent of an early-afternoon clearing, with the moon still high overhead. But there was abundant mist, and moonlight breaking through clouds, so it was quite beautiful. And the mist lingered for hours, so I stayed and kept photographing until after the moon set.

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December 17th, 2015

A Snowy Morning

Reflections along the Merced River, winter, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Reflections along the Merced River, winter, Yosemite. I tried several different versions of this photograph. I initially wanted to include a wider view, with more trees on the sides, but a distracting log just out of the frame on the right bothered me. In the end I liked this tighter, simpler, distraction-free version better.

Yosemite Valley received two doses of snow this past weekend, first on Friday night, and then again on Sunday night. I wasn’t able to make it up there on Saturday, but Claudia and I drove up early Monday morning after the second snowfall.

The storm had cleared around midnight, and temperatures then dropped down to 25 degrees. Below-freezing temperatures inhibit the development of fog and mist, so the skies were clear when we arrived in the valley. But we found three to four inches of fresh, fluffy snow coating all the trees.

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December 13th, 2015

A “Poor” Autumn

Aspens and sagebrush, autumn, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Aspens and sagebrush, autumn, Inyo NF, CA, USA

In most people’s estimation – including mine – this year was a poor one for fall color on the eastern side of the Sierra. Some aspen groves just turned brown and dropped their leaves early, probably because they were stressed by the drought. Other more well-watered groves turned late. It was hard to find areas where most of the trees were at peak color at the same time.

And yet, despite all that, we found some wonderful color on the east side this fall. I had a great time photographing the aspens before, during, and after our workshops. I posted a couple of eastern-Sierra grand landscape scenes earlier, but here are some more intimate views of the aspens on the east side. Whether the color is early or late, good or bad, there’s always something to photograph over there in October. Nature is resilient, and ever-beautiful.

— Michael Frye

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Thanks to all of you who bought the new second edition of Digital Landscape Photography, either directly from us, or through Amazon. I really appreciate all the support! We have sold out of the limited number of copies we had on hand, but we will be getting more, and I’ll let you know when we do. In the meantime you can get the book from Amazon, although of course it won’t be signed.

Thanks again!

— Michael Frye

Digital Landscape Photography Cover - 2nd Edition

Ilex Press and Focal Press have just released the second edition of my book Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters.

This book looks at the techniques of past masters of landscape photography – particularly Eliot Porter, Edward Weston, and Ansel Adams – and explores how those techniques can be adapted to digital photography today. In this new edition, I tried to infuse the book with even more of the master’s words, ideas, and images. I was happy to also be able to include images by Minor White and Philip Hyde, in addition to photographs by Adams, Porter, and Weston. I was also able to interview people like John Sexton and Charles Cramer who knew Ansel and his techniques, or had, I thought, particular insights into how traditional film and darkroom techniques relate to modern digital photography.

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