Posts Tagged ‘fall color’

First Snowfall

Sunday, November 15th, 2015
Snow-covered California black oak, late autumn, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Snow-covered California black oak, late autumn, Yosemite, Tuesday morning

I’m in Dallas today teaching a Lightroom workshop for the Sun to Moon Gallery. We have a nice group of people and we’re having a great time, but meanwhile, back in Yosemite, another storm is arriving. I won’t get to photograph this one, but did get to photograph the previous one last Monday and Tuesday.

That storm featured a brief, misty clearing on Monday morning, a dusting of snow on Monday night, and a couple of surprises. It began on Sunday night, but early Monday morning the satellite and radar images showed that there might be a break around sunrise before more precipitation arrived that afternoon. So I drove up to Tunnel View early, and sure enough, it did clear. It wasn’t the most colorful sunrise, but there was plenty of beautiful mist, as you can see in this photograph:


More Colorado Aspens

Sunday, November 8th, 2015
Aspens and reflections, Uncompahgre NF, CO, USA

Aspens and reflections, Uncompahgre NF, Colorado. This small, remote pond had a beautiful stand of aspens growing next to it. The trunks remind me of a baleen whale’s teeth.

As I said in this recent post, I had many opportunities to photograph aspens as part of a larger landscape this fall. But of course I photographed more intimate scenes as well, and I’ve included a selection of smaller-scale aspen photographs from Colorado here. Some of these images actually encompass a large geographic area, but I made the somewhat arbitrary distinction of defining an intimate landscape as anything that didn’t include sky.

On our first autumn visit to Colorado last year we split our time between the Kebler Pass/McClure Pass area and the San Juan Mountains. This year we spent the whole time in the San Juans, which allowed us to get to know this area better. There’s always something to be said for that. As you become more familiar with a place, you discover some of the lesser-known locations. You also start to learn the weather patterns, and know where to go at sunrise or sunset when there might be interesting clouds.


An Early Winter Storm

Thursday, November 5th, 2015
Clouds and mist from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Clouds and mist from Tunnel View, Tuesday morning

It’s nice to see the Yosemite high country covered in snow on the Sentinel Dome webcam – an uncommon sight in recent years. On Monday a large, winter-like storm reached California, dropping over two-and-a-half inches of rain in Yosemite Valley, and from one to two feet of snow at higher elevations. The winter wet season is off to a good start.

I’m not celebrating too much yet, however, because I remember this happening before. During the last four water-starved winters several large, early-season storms have created initial optimism, only to be followed by months of sunny skies. Let’s hope that this is just the first of many big storms to arrive this winter.


Processing Autumn Landscapes

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015
Autumn sunrise over the Sneffels Range from the Dallas Divide, CO, USA

Autumn sunrise over the Sneffels Range from the Dallas Divide, CO, USA

As I wrote in my last post, it can be challenging to process high-contrast scenes with important, colorful subjects in the shade – like aspens. You need to lighten the shadows even more than normal to bring out the color, and it’s hard to do that in natural-looking way, while keeping contrast and depth.

This photograph is a good example. It’s from the Dallas Divide, one of Colorado’s iconic fall locations. Fresh snow on the peaks added interest, but also created more contrast. The morning sun lit the peaks and clouds, but I knew it would be awhile before that light reached the aspens in the foreground, and by that time the color in the sky would be gone. I bracketed three exposures, each one stop apart, in case I needed to blend them together later. But I didn’t need to blend; the final image was processed in Lightroom with just one frame.


Autumn Landscapes

Sunday, November 1st, 2015
Sunbeams, San Juan Mountains, CO, USA

Sunbeams, San Juan Mountains, Colorado. Driving over Lizard Head Pass we came around a bend and spotted these sunbeams coming through the clouds. Claudia found a place to pull over, and I scrambled to set up my camera as quickly as possible. Wind was blowing rain right toward the camera, so it was a challenge to keep water drops off the lens. I stayed for at least 20 minutes capturing images of the sunbeams as they moved and changed, but this was the very first frame. A challenging photo to process!

With their straight, white trunks and colorful leaves, aspens are great subjects for intimate landscapes. But in both Colorado and the eastern Sierra this fall we had lots of interesting weather, with great clouds, which created many opportunities to capture images of aspens as part of a larger landscape, with mountains in the background. I’ve posted a couple of these photographs already (here and here), but I’ve included a few more in this post.

These images were sometimes challenging to process. Often the aspens were in the shade, with sunlit, sometimes snow-covered peaks above, creating a lot of contrast. Yet all of these images were processed in Lightroom, with just one Raw file – no exposure blending or HDR. I used Lightroom’s wonderful Highlights and Shadows tools, plus some dodging and burning with the Adjustment Brush.


A Stormy Afternoon, and a Fall Color Report

Thursday, October 29th, 2015
Sunset light, Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Sunset light, Tunnel View, yesterday evening

Some interesting weather passed through the Sierra Nevada yesterday. It so happened that I had an errand to run in Yosemite Valley, which gave me an excuse (as if I needed one) to go up there and check on the weather. After taking care of the errand, Claudia and I ended up at Tunnel View, where we waited out a thunderstorm. I tried to take a nap in the car, but was rudely awakened several times by loud claps of thunder. After the rain stopped I went out to the viewpoint and waited for the sun to break through, joined by a number of other photographers, including some friends and acquaintances. Tunnel View is, by virtue of its popularity, the social gathering place for photographers in Yosemite.

Finally, just before sunset, the sun did break through and light El Capitan (see the photograph above). It’s funny how all those photographers can suddenly become quiet as they concentrate on composition and camera settings.


Yosemite Valley Fall Color

Sunday, October 25th, 2015
El Capitan and the Merced River, autumn, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

El Capitan and the Merced River, autumn, Yosemite Valley. This photograph from 2006 shows big-leaf maple leaves covering the foreground shoreline.

On my way home Thursday I drove the loop around Yosemite Valley to check on the fall color progression. The first thing that struck me was the cottonwoods, which have all dropped their leaves without turning yellow. Is this a sign of the drought? Maybe, but I saw the same thing happen in 2011, after one of the wettest winters and springs on record for Yosemite Valley. There are a lot of factors that affect fall color, so it’s hard to pinpoint one cause.

Some of the black oak leaves also seem to be turning brown. I’d say half of the oaks look fine (though still mostly green), and half appear to be wilting.

On the other hand, the big-leaf maples and dogwoods look pretty normal, though they’re turning late. Many maples sport a few brown leaves, but that’s actually pretty typical. The rest of the leaves are either healthy green or starting to turn yellow, and once they all turn yellow you won’t notice the brown leaves. Most of the dogwoods look quite normal overall, though they’re turning late.


Eastern Sierra Fall Color Update

Sunday, October 18th, 2015
Carson Peak and aspens during a clearing storm, June Lake Loop, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Peak and aspens during a clearing storm, June Lake Loop, Friday morning

The past week has been very warm, so there hasn’t been a big color change at the lower elevation aspen groves in the eastern Sierra during that time. But there’s definitely more color in those areas, and some great spots, although much of the June Lake Loop and Lee Vining Canyon are still green. Conway Summit, which is a little higher, has some very colorful groves, although it also has some bare trees, and green ones as well. Several spots in the greater Lee Vining area seem to have more oranges and reds than usual.

We also found some beautiful color in Bishop Creek Canyon. North Lake is past peak, though there was still some nice color along the shore. But lower down we found lots of colorful trees, especially along the road to South Lake.


Fall Color in the Eastern Sierra

Monday, October 12th, 2015
Aspens and lodgepole pines, Lee Vining Canyon, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Aspens and lodgepole pines, upper Lee Vining Canyon, yesterday afternoon

After returning from Colorado, and spending a couple of days at home, Claudia and I are back in the eastern Sierra. Yesterday we scouted areas around Lee Vining, and most of the aspen groves here are at about the stage you would expect for the second week of October. That means that the lower-elevation aspens still have a lot of green, and more color can be found in the mid- and high-elevation areas. The best color we saw was in Warren Canyon (in upper Lee Vining Canyon), around Conway Summit (including the lowest part of the road to Virginia Lakes), and Dunderberg. The June Lake Loop and lower Lee Vining Canyon still show a lot of green. We didn’t visit Lundy Canyon yet, but heard there was some nice color there.

We also found some aspen groves that seem to have lost their leaves prematurely. These tend to be in drier areas, so that might a sign of the drought. But these places are a minority, and most of the aspens look healthy and are changing according to their normal schedule.


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.