Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Nevada’

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.

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Top Posts of 2013: Adventures

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Rain squall over Yosemite Valley from near Old Inspiration Point, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Rain squall over Yosemite Valley from near Old Inspiration Point, Yosemite

Photography encourages us to go to new places, and to be out during the most beautiful times of day when others are asleep or eating dinner. And sometimes – for me anyway – getting to those places can turn into a bit of an adventure.

Last April, on Easter Sunday, Claudia and climbed over 2,000 feet in elevation through rain squalls toward Yosemite’s Old Inspiration Point. We never actually made it there, but we found another good spot nearby, and had a great adventure, as described in my post A Harebrained Idea.

In August, the Rim Fire broke out west of Yosemite. The fire spread rapidly, expanding into Yosemite, and eventually becoming the third-largest fire recorded in California.

I knew this was a big event in the history of Yosemite, so I turned my attention to photographing the fire. During my first attempts I stayed close to the road, as I described in this post. But later Claudia and I made an epic bushwhack to a dome near the Tioga Road, where I captured a panorama of the fire at dusk, shown below.

In my original post about this day I actually didn’t go into much detail about the bushwhack. I’d visited this dome once before, many years ago, to photograph a shapely Jeffrey Pine visible from the road. I remembered it as being a tough hike – only about three miles, roundtrip, but with lots of brush, and clambering over rocks. Yet this seemed like the best place to get a view of the Rim Fire. We decided to go for it, hoping the trip wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

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What’s the Least Interesting Part of This Photograph?

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Moon rising between El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks from Valley View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Moon rising between El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks from Valley View. What’s the least interesting part of this image?

The best compositions are simple; they present only the essentials, and leave out extraneous clutter. The most common mistake in photography – by far – is including too much in the frame. Anything that’s not adding to the photograph’s message is detracting from it.

To help simplify your compositions, ask yourself, before you press the shutter, “What’s the least interesting part of this photograph?” Try to identify the weakest area of your composition, and find a way to get rid of it. Then, once you’ve done that, ask the same question again: “Now, what’s the least interesting part of this image?” And get rid of that. And keep doing that until there’s nothing left that you could possibly cut out without losing something vital.

To give you some practice, look at the photograph above. What’s the least interesting part of that image? And if you got rid of that, what would be next – what’s the next least interesting part of the photograph?

I’ll give you a minute to think about it. When you’re ready, take a look at this next photograph, and answer the same question: what’s the least interesting part of this image?

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Close to Home

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Flames on Buckingham Mountain during the Carstens Fire, Monday afternoon

Flames on Buckingham Mountain during the Carstens Fire, Monday afternoon

We live in a fire-prone area, and we’ve had two dry years in a row. On Sunday afternoon a fire broke out about three miles from our house in Mariposa. Named the Carstens Fire, it started from a neglected campfire and quickly spread, pushed by winds and fueled by dry brush, grass, and timber.

I first heard about the fire when my wife Claudia called me on Sunday afternoon. She was in Fresno, and had received a call from a friend about the fire. I went outside, and from our driveway could see smoke to the north, so I got in my car and went on a reconnaissance. The good news was that the fire was about three miles away – close, but not an immediate threat. The bad news was that it was already a sizable fire, and the wind was blowing it towards our house.

We packed the essentials in case we were evacuated: computers, hard drives, important papers, valuables, mementos, clothes, supplies for our dog and cats. But the wind seemed to shift a bit, taking the smoke, and the fire, more to the east. We heard about evacuations in the Jerseydale area, about five miles to the northeast of us, but evacuation didn’t seem imminent for us. After sunset we went on another reconnaissance drive, and were mesmerized by the beautiful, eerie, orange glow behind ridges to our north.

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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.

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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.

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