Posts Tagged ‘fall color’

Autumn Light

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
Late-afternoon sun in an aspen grove, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA

Late-afternoon sun in an aspen grove, Eastern Sierra. Backlight makes autumn leaves glow, but to avoid lens flare you have to either shade the lens (if the sun is out of the frame), or partially hide the sun behind a tree, as I did here.

Light is a vital aspect of any photograph, and always the first thing I think about when deciding where to go with my camera. The more you understand light, the better your photographs will be.

Any kind of light can work for fall color – under the right circumstances. But some kinds seem to work better than others. While photographing and leading workshops in the eastern Sierra, I was usually looking for backlight or soft light on the aspens – or best of all, soft backlight.


East Side and West Side Color

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Quaking aspens, autumn, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Aspens near Lee Vining, Sunday afternoon

Claudia and I got home last night after our two Eastern Sierra Fall Color workshops. We had a great time, as always. Both groups were really nice, the color was great, and some clouds added interest to sunrises and sunsets.

The color on the east side was a little early this year. When we left yesterday the lower-elevation areas like June Lake Loop, Lee Vining Canyon, and lower Lundy Canyon were at about peak. Mid- and high-elevation aspens were past peak, but you could still find colorful patches mixed with the bare trees (a photogenic combination, in my opinion). I’m sure there will still be good color in those lower-elevation spots this weekend, but probably not far beyond that.

On the drive home I made a short detour through Yosemite Valley to check on the color, and things are progressing slowly there. The bigleaf maples on the south side of the valley are starting to turn. There’s a nice patch of yellow along Southside Drive, underneath Middle Cathedral Rock (across from El Capitan). The maples in this area are perhaps 60 percent yellow and 40 percent green. Some maples near Pohono Bridge and the old dam are turning as well, but those areas are still predominantly green.

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

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Back in the Sierra; Early November Magic in Yosemite

Did you like this article? Click here to subscribe to this blog and get every new post delivered right to your inbox!

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael 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.

Back in the Sierra

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Aspen-covered hillside, autumn, Toiyable NF, CA, USA

Aspen-covered hillside, yesterday afternoon, near Bridgeport, California

I’m back on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, my home mountains, getting ready for our upcoming workshops. There’s some great color over here. I made this photograph yesterday afternoon up near Bridgeport, and especially liked the mix of colors on this hillside, with yellow, gold, orange, and green.

Overall, the color looks pretty typical for mid-October. The higher elevation aspens are mostly bare, but the lower-elevation trees are a mix of green, yellow, and orange. The color progression might be a little earlier than average, but not much. If there’s anything unusual, it’s that some typically early-changing groves are still mostly green, while other groves that usually turn later have progressed further.


North Lake Sunrise, and an Early Fall Color Report

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Stormy sunrise at North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Stormy sunrise at North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon, Sunday morning

After photographing lightning near Bishop on Saturday night (see my previous post), I thought there might be some interesting clouds still hanging around on Sunday morning, so I woke early and drove up to North Lake, near the upper end of Bishop Creek Canyon.

And there were clouds – almost too many. Another small rain squall was moving up from the south along the Sierra crest, approaching Bishop Creek Canyon just as the sun was due to rise. There were enough clouds to the east that I thought they might block the light. And I think some clouds lingering over the White Mountains did block the very first sunlight, but just after sunrise some clouds started to turn color overhead, and soon the peaks began to light up as well.

It evolved quickly into a dramatic scene. It was a little breezy, rippling the water surface, but there were still nice reflections at first. Then the wind increased, so I climbed up the ridge along the eastern shore of the lake to get a different perspective, one that didn’t depend as much on reflections.


Yosemite Valley Fall Color

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

California black oaks in El Capitan Meadow, autumn, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

California black oaks in El Capitan Meadow, autumn, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

I’m flying to Dallas today to teach a Lightroom workshop for the Sun to Moon Gallery, but I wanted to give you a quick update on the fall color in Yosemite Valley. And there’s still plenty of color. The yellow big-leaf maples are mostly gone, and the dogwoods are also past peak, but the black oaks were close to peak when I left the valley on Saturday, and the cottonwoods were still at least 30% green. Leaves tend to linger on the oaks, so I expect both the oaks and cottonwoods will look good for at least another week.

I made the photograph above last Wednesday, and if you look closely you can see that there’s still a touch of green in some of the leaves. The image of cottonwoods below was captured on Thursday, and again you can still see some green leaves. It’s not uncommon for these trees to peak in early- or even mid-November in Yosemite Valley. Fall isn’t over yet!

— Michael Frye


A Landscape Transformed

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Autumn aspens, Conway Summit, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Autumn aspens, Conway Summit, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Here are two photographs I made last week near Conway Summit on the eastern side of the Sierra. The first one, above, is from Tuesday afternoon, with soft backlight filtering through thin clouds and making the leaves glow. The second image, below, was made Wednesday morning under overcast skies as the snow started to fall. I used a fast shutter speed (1/90th sec.) to freeze the motion of the snowflakes, which created a faint white dot pattern across the frame.


Autumn Snow

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Bands of sunlight on Laurel Mountain from Convict Lake, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Bands of sunlight on Laurel Mountain from Convict Lake, Inyo NF, CA, USA

On Tuesday Claudia and I headed over Tioga Pass to Lee Vining. Forecasts called for snow above 7000 feet on Wednesday, so we were trying to get over the pass before the road closed to photograph the snowstorm and its aftermath.

And snow it did. Five or six inches fell at higher elevations on Wednesday, covering the mountains, pines, and aspens. I was like a kid in a candy store; I saw photographs everywhere I looked. I haven’t had time to process or post anything until now because I’ve been spending every spare minute behind the camera, but here are two images from Thursday morning at Convict Lake, and I’ll post more when I get the chance.

Tioga Pass reopened today, so we’re headed back home to Mariposa for a couple of days, but so far the cold and snow haven’t adversely affected the aspens. While the color at some of the higher elevations areas is past peak, many of my favorite lower-elevation areas like June Lake Loop and Lee Vining Canyon still have a mix of green and yellow leaves, so it looks like the color should last a while longer.

— Michael Frye

Related Post: Signs of Autumn

Autumn color along the shore of Convict Lake, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Autumn color along the shore of Convict Lake, Inyo NF, CA, USA


Signs of Autumn

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

September reflections in North Lake after a dusting of snow, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Reflections in North Lake on Sunday morning after a dusting of snow, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Last weekend my wife Claudia and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Millpond Music Festival in Bishop, over on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. We had a wonderful time, as usual; this is either the 14th or 15th consecutive year we’ve attended this event, so clearly we love it.

On the drive over we could see some color changes starting to appear in the highest aspen groves, like where Warren Canyon meets Lee Vining Canyon along Highway 120 east of Tioga Pass, and on the higher reaches of the Parker Bench, above the northern end of the June Lake Loop just southeast of Parker Lake.

Saturday evening it sprinkled in Bishop, and further north several inches of snow fell on Tioga Pass and Sonora Pass, temporarily closing both routes. I knew that the nearby upper reaches of Bishop Creek Canyon would likely have a dusting of snow in the morning, and I’d heard that the colors were already changing up there, so I rose early Sunday and drove up to North Lake before sunrise.


A Few Spots Left in the Eastern Sierra Fall Color Workshop

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Aspen grove, late afternoon, Lee Vining Canyon, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Aspen grove, late afternoon, Lee Vining Canyon, Inyo NF, CA, USA

If you’re not subscribed to my email list you missed the announcement of my Eastern Sierra Fall Color: Composition and Creativity Among the Aspens workshop next fall. We had such a great response to this offering that it sold out the first day! But the good news is that we decided to run a second edition of this course from October 20-23, 2013, and there are still a few spots available.

I made the accompanying photograph during the first edition of this workshop last October. We photographed this aspen grove late in the afternoon as the lowering sun backlit the yellow leaves. This was my favorite image from that spot, but I saw many interesting, unusual compositions by everyone else that afternoon, both on the back of people’s cameras and later during image reviews. You can see some of the participant’s photographs in this Flickr group.


After the Storm, Is There Still Fall Color in Yosemite?

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Oaks in El Capitan Meadow yesterday

Oaks in El Capitan Meadow yesterday

During last weekend’s snowstorm I saw maples and cottonwoods dropping leaves in bunches, and wondered how much fall color would survive. But while teaching a private workshop yesterday I saw that there was still some good color in Yosemite Valley. The oaks are in great shape, as you can see from this photograph in El Capitan Meadow that I grabbed yesterday afternoon. Most of the dogwoods also kept their leaves and their color. But the maples are now mostly bare, and some of the cottonwood leaves changed from vibrant yellow to rusty brown. Strangely though, some dogwoods, cottonwoods, and oaks are still partially green. We even saw some dark green cottonwoods near Swinging Bridge—an odd sight for November 14th.

While the peak color has passed, those green leaves suggest that we might still see some good fall foliage in the valley for another week or two. It’s been a strange, late, yet beautiful autumn in Yosemite.

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Early November Magic in Yosemite; A Beautiful Autumn in Yosemite; Autumn Progress in Yosemite