Posts Tagged ‘Michael Frye’

Photographing Sunbursts

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Aspens and morning sunlight along Rush Creek, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Aspens and morning sunlight, Inyo NF, CA, USA

I’ve always felt that the best photographs capture a mood or feeling. It’s easier to convey a mood when the weather gets stormy, but how do you capture a mood on a clear, sunny day? The answer, I think, is to go with it—to emphasize the sun, the blue sky, and the brightness of the day. Find the visual elements that say “beautiful, sunny day,” and highlight them.

One way of doing this is to include the sun in the frame. Nothing says “sunny and bright” like the sun itself. But putting the sun in your photograph brings challenges. First, you’re likely to get lens flare. This is not the end of the world—in fact, many photographs use lens flare to great effect—but sometimes the flare can be distracting. The other challenge is getting the exposure right.


Eastern Sierra Sunrise

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Sunrise on a peak in the eastern Sierra, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Sunrise on a peak in the eastern Sierra, Inyo NF, CA, USA

I made this photograph yesterday morning during my first Eastern Sierra Fall Color workshop. It’s just so beautiful over here! We had a great time, and I’m looking forward to the second one.

With sidelight like this, a polarizing filter can actually lighten a reflection if it’s adjusted correctly. By lightening the refection and darkening the sky the polarizer helped to balance the contrast of this scene, and from there it was relatively easy to process this image in Lightroom using Highlights, Shadows, and the Graduated Filter tool.

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: A Landscape Transformed; Autumn Snow

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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.

Proposed Changes to Yosemite’s El Capitan Meadow

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
El Capitan after an autumn snowstorm from El Capitan Meadow, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

El Capitan after an autumn snowstorm from El Capitan Meadow, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

I know many of my readers have a close connection with Yosemite, so I thought you would want to know about some proposed changes to El Capitan Meadow. In most of the proposed alternatives for the park service’s Merced River Draft Management plan, fencing and signs would be installed to keep visitors from trampling the meadow.

John Sexton wrote a thoughtful post on Facebook about this issue, which I recommend reading. El Capitan Meadow has long been a favorite spot for photographers in Yosemite. Ansel Adams made his Oak Tree, Snowstorm photograph from there. Galen Rowell captured one of his most famous images, Clearing Storm Over El Capitan, from this meadow. John posted one of his wonderful photographs on his Facebook post. El Capitan Meadow is certainly a favorite place of mine too, and I’ve made many images there, including all the ones included here.

I know that the park service has a difficult job. They have to balance preservation with public use and enjoyment of the parks. Meadows are fragile, and are easily damaged by too much foot traffic, and the easiest way to prevent that damage is to fence off the meadow.

On the other hand, what makes Yosemite Valley so wonderful, so extraordinary, is the juxtaposition of soaring cliffs with the serenity of the meadows and meandering river on the valley floor. There are other places with magnificent cliffs. There is no other place with an idyllic valley surrounded by such high walls. The quintessential Yosemite experience is to wander out into a meadow, stare up at the cliffs and waterfalls, and soak up the tranquility. I would hate to see that experience taken away. There has to be a better solution than fencing and “Keep Out” signs for the valley’s meadows.


A Harebrained Idea

Thursday, April 11th, 2013
Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from near Old Inspiration Point, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from near Old Inspiration Point, Yosemite

It was a harebrained idea, but sometimes harebrained ideas work.

On Easter Sunday the forecast called for showers and thunderstorms, with a 100% chance of rain. So I decided it would be a great day to hike 6 miles and climb over 2,000 feet up to Old Inspiration Point.

I could have just gone to Tunnel View. Tunnel View is a wonderfully photogenic spot, where I could have waited out any rain showers in the car, then walked 50 feet to the viewpoint if something interesting happened. And if the light didn’t cooperate, well, no big deal – it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve struck out at Tunnel View, and it wouldn’t take much effort to come back and try again.

On the other hand, I have lots of photographs from Tunnel View, and every other easily-accessible viewpoint in Yosemite Valley, but I’d never been to Old Inspiration Point. And I was in the mood for an adventure. I asked Claudia if she wanted to come with me (carefully explaining what she might be in for, I swear), and she said sure. She’s always up for a hike.


In Praise of Soft Light

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Redbud along the Merced River, Merced River Canyon, near Briceberg, CA, USA

Redbud along the Merced River, Merced River Canyon, near Briceberg, CA, USA

Last weekend I visited the Merced River Canyon, looking for flowers. As I wrote last week, there are more blooms than expected, given our dry winter, but it’s still a below-average year for poppies. The redbuds, however, were in great shape last weekend. Some were starting to leaf out, while others weren’t in full bloom yet, so I’d say it was just about peak for redbuds. More will start to leaf out every day, but there should still be many beautiful redbuds this weekend and beyond.

Sunday afternoon it was very windy in the canyon. I found the scene above, with a redbud against the flowing river, and waited for half an hour for the wind to die down before giving up and walking upriver. On my way back to the car it seemed that the wind had calmed a bit, so I set up my tripod again, only to realize that it was almost as windy as before. I waited another half hour, and finally it became perfectly, completely still for about a minute, and I was able to make this photograph.


Surprising Wildflowers

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Oaks, lupine, and poppies in the Merced River Canyon near El Portal, CA, USA

Oaks, lupine, and poppies in the Merced River Canyon near El Portal, CA, USA

Claudia and I drove up the Merced River Canyon west of Yosemite Sunday afternoon on a scouting mission, looking for wildflowers that were rumored to be blooming. And we did find some flowers – despite our dry winter. The redbuds are coming out all along the canyon; most are just budding, but we found some in full bloom, and the rest should get there within the next week or so.

Redbuds have deep roots, so they’re not affected by drought as much as some other flowers. But the poppies in this area are annuals, and dependent on winter rains, so I was surprised to see quite a few poppies blooming up and down the canyon. The display doesn’t approach last year’s, or the even more spectacular bloom in 2009, but any flowers at all seem like a miracle after our dry winter. And who knows – maybe the show will get better.

Right now the most eye-catching hillside of poppies is about a mile east of Savage’s Trading Post on the opposite side of the river. You can reach the base of this hill by driving to the end of Incline Road and continuing on foot for about a mile down the old railroad bed. But getting up among the poppies requires climbing a very steep hillside. (There are directions to Incline Road in my Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, which most of you probably have, but if not the road is easy to find. Just cross the bridge at Foresta Road, about four miles east of Savage’s, then turn left along the river on Incline Road.)


Light and Mood With Intimate Landscapes

Thursday, March 14th, 2013
Sunlight slanting across Crane Flat Meadow, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Sunlight slanting across Crane Flat Meadow, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

A Trip to Crane Flat

Yosemite got some much-needed precipitation last week – over an inch total. I kept checking the radar and satellite images online, looking for an opportunity to photograph a clearing storm. Friday morning seemed promising, so I drove up to Yosemite Valley early, but found no snow. It looked like the snow level had been around 5,000 feet, higher than forecast. Worse, from a photographic perspective, the skies were clear and there was no mist.

Shortly after sunrise I noticed light striking a ridge near the tunnels on Highway 120, and on a whim decided to drive up to Crane Flat. I thought Crane Flat would at least have some fresh snow, since it’s at 6,000 feet.

Indeed there was fresh snow – over a foot of it. I parked at the Tuolumne Grove trailhead and walked along the plowed road. The sun had just reached parts of the main meadow, and I found some interesting small subjects to photograph, like tree-shadows on the snow.

Some shafts of sunlight slanting across the snow caught my attention, and then some mist began rising near the edge of the meadow, behind the shafts of light. I immediately recognized the potential to make an image that went beyond an abstract study of shadows – a photograph that had a mood.


Yosemite Meditations for Women is Now Available!

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Yosemite Meditations for WomenIt’s finally here! My wife Claudia did a wonderful job of editing Yosemite Meditations for Women, finding inspiring quotes from writers like Lorraine Anderson, Susan Zwinger, J.K. Rowling, Diane Ackerman, Pam Houston and many others, and pairing the quotes with my photographs. I’ve included some sample pages below.

If you order directly from us through the “Add to Cart” button below, Claudia and I will both sign the book(s). Or you can order directly from the publisher, the non-profit Yosemite Conservancy, or from Amazon.

We hope you like the book, and really appreciate your support!

— Michael Frye

Yosemite Meditations for Women
Hardcover with jacket; approx. 6×5 inches; 96 pages

Add to Cart



A Rare Storm Approaching Yosemite

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Winter sunrise from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Winter sunrise from Tunnel View. With the right conditions Tunnel View can be great in the morning as well as the afternoon

January and February are the wettest months of the year in Yosemite. The average precipitation for January is 6.5 inches, while for February it’s 6.7 inches, which makes 13.2 inches for the two months combined.

But this year Yosemite received only a tenth of that: 1.33 inches total for January and February. The Sacramento Bee says it’s the driest January and February on record for the northern Sierra Nevada.

Since storms have been so rare lately, any forecast that calls for precipitation is big news, and we’ve got just such a forecast this week. Meteorologists are predicting a medium-sized storm to reach Yosemite tonight and tomorrow, with lingering showers on Thursday and Friday. The timing is hard to predict from the current forecast, but it’s likely that we’ll see clearing storm conditions either late Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. With the showery weather there may be several clearing-storm events during that time.


A Quick Horsetail Fall Update

Saturday, February 16th, 2013
Horsetail Fall at 5:34 p.m. yesterday

Horsetail Fall at 5:34 p.m. yesterday

It’s been quite dry in Yosemite since December, but there’s still some snow on top of El Capitan, and I thought that the warming weather over the last few days would melt some of that snow and increase the water flow in Horsetail Fall. But the flow is still disappointingly meager. I had a chance to photograph Horsetail last night, and I would say the water level is about the same as last year. The accompanying photograph was made from the Southside Drive area at about 5:30 p.m. yesterday. What water there is gets nicely highlighted when the light is just right, especially near the bottom of the fall, but… I wish the flow was better.

With low water like this I think the Southside Drive spot (Location 10 in my Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite book and iPhone app) works a little better than Rowell’s View near the El Capitan picnic area along Northside Drive (Location 1). From Southside Drive you’re a little further away, and you can see a bit more of the bottom of Horsetail Fall, which is the part that shows up best with conditions like this.

It’s supposed to be warm again today, so that might help increase the flow, but then temperatures are expected to trend downward tomorrow and Monday. On Tuesday forecasters are predicting the arrival of a snowstorm, which is expected to leave even colder air in its wake. The bad news is that the colder temperatures will slow down the flow in Horsetail Fall. The good news is that… a snowstorm is coming! And that, of course, brings the possibility of photographing snowy trees and cliffs, and maybe a clearing storm.