Posts Tagged ‘fall color’

Colorado Color

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
Aspens near Red Mountain Pass, Colorado, USA

Aspens near Red Mountain Pass, Colorado, USA

We’ve had a wonderful time in Colorado – again. The color hasn’t been as good as last year, but all the locals said that was one of the best autumns they’ve seen. This year the color was shaping up nicely around the San Juan Mountains in the southwestern part of the state, but then last Friday strong winds blew the leaves off many of the aspen leaves. Some areas seem to have received especially strong winds, leaving either bare trees or green ones, and few yellow leaves. But other places weren’t affected much at all, so there were still large swaths of spectacular color.

Here’s a photo from last week near Red Mountain Pass, outside of Ouray. This was made before the wind storm, but this is a high-elevation, early-changing spot, so some of the leaves had already fallen. Sometimes, however, a mixture of colorful leaves and bare trees is more interesting than just a mass of color; in this case the bare patches helped to make the diagonal lines of color stand out and create a pattern.


From Eclipse to Aspens

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
Autumn afternoon in the mountains near Telluride, CO, USA

Autumn afternoon in the mountains near Telluride, Colorado, yesterday afternoon

I had planned to go to the Alabama Hills or Death Valley for last Sunday’s lunar eclipse, but high clouds streamed in from the Pacific and threatened to block the view. So at the last minute Claudia and I decided to go further south, toward clear skies that were visible on satellite photos. We ended up in Joshua Tree National Park – along with many, many other people who seemed to think this was a good place to view the eclipse.

They were right of course – it was a great place. And the skies cooperated for the most part. I captured a sequence that I think will work, but I haven’t had a chance to process it yet, because the next morning we started driving to Colorado. We loved our autumn visit last year, and just had to go back. Colorado welcomed us with some nice clouds on our first afternoon; I’ve included one image from that evening above.


Early Fall Color Report

Monday, September 21st, 2015
Quaking aspens, autumn, Lee Vining Canyon, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Quaking aspens, Lee Vining Canyon, October 24, 2003

Claudia and I just returned from our annual trip to the Millpond Music Festival and (as Joe Craven puts it) “consciousness-raising event.” We had a wonderful time, as usual. The festival may or may not have raised my consciousness, but it sure was relaxing and fun.

Since the festival takes place in Bishop, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, the trip gives me a chance to check on the early fall color over there. Every year, it seems, some early-changing leaves lead to online predictions that the aspens will turn early. This year I’ve also heard a lot of speculation about the effect the drought will have on the autumn color, and even seen a few actual reports of aspens turning brown and dropping their leaves early.

Driving down to Bishop last Friday, the color didn’t look early at all. There were some yellow and lime-green aspens at the mouth of Warren Canyon (along Highway 120 in upper Lee Vining Canyon), and some lime-green trees on Parker Bench, but everything else looked dark green. Warren Canyon and Parker Bench are both high-elevation, early-changing locations, so that all looked pretty typical for this time of year.


Knowing What to Look For

Thursday, November 13th, 2014
Aspens in fog near Ridgway, CO, USA

Aspens in fog near Ridgway, CO

Claudia and I have been busy since our trip to Colorado in early October, so I haven’t had a chance to post more images from our travels until now. But maybe that’s a good thing, as that time has given me a chance to reflect on the journey.

It had been a dream of mine to photograph the autumn aspen display in Colorado, and it more than lived up to my expectations. Colorado veterans said it was the best fall there in many years, and it certainly looked good to us. The sheer number of aspens covering the hillsides was astonishing.

The problem was that I didn’t know the area. At all. I’m usually writing about photographing Yosemite, or maybe the aspens on the eastern side of the Sierra, places that I know intimately. That knowledge is a big advantage, giving me a greater chance of being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the light, weather, and conditions.


Yosemite Valley Fall Color

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Big-leaf maples along the Merced River, autumn, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Big-leaf maples along the Merced River, yesterday afternoon

Yesterday afternoon Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley to check out the fall color. We photographed the oaks in El Cap Meadow, then walked along a stretch of the Merced River that I hadn’t explored in depth before – imagine that! But conditions were right, with maples and cottonwoods adding lots of yellow color to the riverbanks. I’ve included a few photographs from yesterday above and below.


First Storm

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014
Half Dome and clouds reflected in the Merced River, autumn, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and clouds reflected in the Merced River, Saturday afternoon

It was good to hear the rain drumming on the roof Friday night. We’ve seen occasional showers during the summer and fall, but Friday brought the first significant storm of the winter rainy season, dropping over an inch of rain in Yosemite Valley, and over a foot of snow in the high country. Everyone in California is hoping for many more storms like this over the next six months.

The storm started to clear around midday on Saturday, so Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley that afternoon. It turned out to be a really beautiful afternoon in the valley, with lots of autumn color, and some great light and clouds. We found a wonderful scene near the east end of the valley, with clouds and mist-wrapped Half Dome reflected in the Merced River. I included some cottonwood leaves in the foreground to give the image a touch of autumn (right).

Early this morning we drove up to Yosemite Valley again, hoping to see fog in the meadows. We found a little mist, but not much, so we decided to go back to El Portal, which had been very foggy when we drove through. I’m glad we did. There wasn’t as much color as in Yosemite Valley, but the fog more than made up for that. I’ve included my favorite image from the morning below, with the sun breaking through the mist and silhouetting the gray pines.


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

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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.