Posts Tagged ‘Yosemite National Park’

Dogwoods Have Arrived

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Dogwoods over the Merced River at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Dogwoods over the Merced River at sunset, from last spring

The last time I was in Yosemite Valley was just over a week ago, and only a few dogwood blossoms had appeared by then. I returned to the valley yesterday, and found that the dogwoods had fully emerged already. This is one of the earliest blooms I can remember, but that’s not terribly surprising with the warm and dry spring we’ve had.

Although the flowers will last a couple of weeks, they’re most photogenic when new and fresh, so they’re near peak now. The valley is quite beautiful, with lots of fresh, bright-green leaves everywhere, the waterfalls flowing – and of course the dogwoods. The waterfalls will peak early this year, probably by early May, if not sooner, but for the moment it seems like a pretty normal spring.

Meanwhile, there are still some nice poppy displays in the eastern end of the Merced River Canyon, near El Portal, but they’re fading fast and will probably be mostly gone by next weekend. It’s been a great year for poppies though – one of the best I’ve seen. There will be a variety of other flowers blooming in the canyon for awhile, but these typically aren’t found in big patches, so they’re more suited to closeups rather than broader views.

I start a five-day workshop with The Ansel Adams Gallery today, and then will be heading to North and South Carolina right after that, but I wanted to give you a quick update first. I’ll post further updates and photos when I can! This is one of my favorite dogwood images from last spring.

— Michael Frye


Divided No More

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley with fog, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley with fog, Thursday morning

Not long ago, photographers were divided into two camps: color photographers, and black-and-white photographers. Sure, there were some people who did both, and even some who did both well, but they were rare. Most photographers specialized in one medium or the other – and I use that word deliberately, because it almost seemed like they were different mediums, not just different palettes.

Part of this was the materials. You had to decide, before you put in a roll of film, whether you wanted to photograph in color or black and white, and then you were committed to that choice for the next 36 frames. This encouraged you to stick with what you liked and knew best.

Also, color and black and white required different skill sets. Apart from the ability to “see” in color or black and white, processing and printing color film was (and is) difficult, and most color photographers, even serious ones, avoided it by using transparency film and outsourcing the processing and printing to labs. You could do that with black and white too, but getting the most out of black-and-white film required (and still requires) doing it yourself, with access to a darkroom, and possession of considerable printing skills.


Yosemite Storms

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Dappled light on Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from near Old Inspiration Point, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Dappled light on Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from near Old Inspiration Point, Saturday afternoon

Two storms unfolded almost exactly as forecasters predicted last week. On Wednesday night the first system dropped about 1.5 inches of rain on Yosemite Valley. The second storm on Friday dumped almost exactly two inches of rain. Badger Pass, 3,000 feet higher than the Valley, got about 18 inches of snow overall.

Despite these storms, rainfall totals are still only about 50% of average. In a normal year, Yosemite Valley would have received 26.9 inches of rain since last July 1st, however the current rainfall total for the season is only 12.9 inches.


Approaching Storms

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Clearing storm at sunrise, Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Clearing storm at sunrise, Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

In our extreme California drought, any potential precipitation is big news. This week two storms are forecast to reach the Sierra Nevada: one tonight, and another, stronger system on Friday, continuing into Saturday. While these are colder storms than the last ones, it doesn’t look like Yosemite Valley will get any snow. The snow level is expected to drop to 4,500 feet on Saturday night, just above the valley floor (at 4,000 feet), so it’s possible the valley could get an end-of-storm dusting if the snow-level predictions are a little off. But lower elevations should get a couple of inches of much-needed rain, and the high country could get over two feet of snow – a very welcome addition to the snowpack.

While the window of best light on Horsetail Fall has passed, any precipitation brings the potential for a photogenic clearing storm. Based on the forecast, it looks like we’ll see some clearing tomorrow, and again on Saturday or Sunday (or maybe both). We’re approaching the best time of year to photograph Tunnel View and Valley View (a.k.a. Gates of the Valley), because the late-afternoon light is balanced between El Capitan on the left and Cathedral Rocks on the right. If a storm clears late in the day that will create ideal conditions at both of those classic views. Of course I describe both of these spots, and many others, in The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, available as both a softcover book and iOS app.


Another Clearing Storm, and a Horsetail Fall Forecast

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Misty sunrise, Half Dome, Merced River, and clouds, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Misty sunrise, Half Dome, Merced River, and clouds, from yesterday morning

Northern California received some desperately-needed rain over the weekend. Most of that rain fell further north, so while Yosemite Valley got around 2.6 inches of rain, Blue Canyon, along Interstate 80 west of Lake Tahoe, got over 9 inches. But I’m not complaining. I’ll take whatever we can get, and those areas further north need the rain just as much as we do.

Like the last storm, this one also had a good sense of timing, clearing just before sunrise Monday morning. I rose early and photographed at several locations in Yosemite Valley, but my favorite image was this one of Half Dome from along the Merced River. I’ve posted other sunrise images from this spot before, but the cloud formations above Half Dome yesterday were exceptional.

The snow levels with this system were high, above 8,000 feet most of the time. I haven’t been able to find snow totals for Tuolumne Meadows, but Mammoth Mountain got two to three feet of snow, and Tuolumne probably got similar amounts.

The waterfalls in Yosemite Valley got a big boost from this storm. Their flow will diminish as the immediate runoff from the storm dissipates, but that new high-elevation snowpack will help feed the waterfalls for awhile, and we should see near-normal water flow for at least the next month or so.


A Perfectly-Timed Storm

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

El Capitan and the Merced River during a clearing storm, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

El Capitan and the Merced River during a clearing storm, Friday morning, Yosemite

A clearing storm in Yosemite Valley can be a memorable event, but not all clearing storms are equally photogenic. Some clear gradually, while others finish abruptly and spectacularly. Some storms clear at night, some in the middle of the day, but for photography you’d like the storm to clear just before sunrise or sunset.

Last Thursday, Yosemite Valley got two inches of rain, the first real precipitation in almost two months. Higher elevations got snow, and the temperature dropped enough to give the Valley a slight dusting at the tail end of the storm. The main part of the storm cleared around midday on Thursday – not the best time for photography, though still beautiful. But then showers resumed Thursday night, with the last of them moving through just before sunrise. Perfect timing.

My two brothers were visiting from Washington State, and the three of us rose early, drove up to Yosemite Valley, and headed for one of my favorite spots along the Merced River. The sun broke through the clouds and illuminated El Capitan briefly before the fog thickened and all the cliffs disappeared. But after about ten minutes El Cap re-emerged, the sun broke through, and we were treated to a classic Yosemite clearing storm. The first photograph here is probably my favorite from the morning, but I’ve posted a couple more images below, including a later image from Tunnel View – still a photogenic spot at 10:00 a.m.


Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Sunbeams from Tunnel View, spring, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Sunbeams from Tunnel View, spring, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Happy New Year everyone! To all my readers, thank you so much for your support during the past year. Your participation makes writing this blog fun. I have lots of exciting plans for this blog, and look forward to another great year in 2014!

And don’t forget, tomorrow I’ll be posting the nominees for my best photos of 2013, and you’ll get a chance to vote for your favorites and help me pick the top ten. The image above was the top vote-getter from two years ago.

— Michael Frye


Top Posts of 2013: My Top Ten Images From Last Year

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Three Brothers reflected in the Merced River on a moonlit night, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Three Brothers reflected in the Merced River on a moonlit night, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

As we count down to the new year, I thought this might be a good time to look back at my most popular blog posts of 2013. We’ll start with a post from early January of this year showcasing my best images from 2012, as chosen by you, my readers. The top vote-getter, by a wide margin, was this photograph of Three Brothers by moonlight, but you can see all of the top ten for 2012 here, and see all the original nominees here.

I’ll be doing this again – letting my readers pick my best images from 2013. But the year isn’t over yet, and there’s still time for me to make a few more photographs, so look for the post with the nominees after the first of the year. And in the meantime I look forward to highlighting more of my top articles from this year, including the most popular ever next time.

Thanks to all of you for helping to make this a great year, and Happy Holidays!

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: 2012: My Top Ten Images; 2012: Picking My Best Images

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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.


Friday, December 13th, 2013

Half Dome and moon at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and moon at sunset, February 18th, 2008

There’s something magical about the moon. Putting the moon in a photograph adds a sense of mystery and timelessness, and can elevate an otherwise ordinary scene into something special. Ansel Adams confessed to being “moonstruck,” and I suppose I am too.

The moon will be full next Tuesday (at 1:28 a.m. here on the west coast), and I’m sure many photographers will be trying to capture a rising or setting moon during the coming days, so I thought I would share some ideas about photographing the full moon, and clear up some misconceptions.

Misconception #1

One misconception is that moonrise or moonset photos are taken at night. They’re not: they’re almost invariably made near sunrise or sunset. After dark the contrast between the moon and the landscape is too great, and a good exposure for the moon will make the landscape completely black, while a good exposure for the landscape will wash out the moon. Around sunrise and sunset it’s possible to balance the light between the moon and the landscape and get detail in both, yet have a dark enough sky for the moon to stand out clearly.

Misconception #2

Another misconception is that moonrise or moonset photos are made on the date when your calendar says “full moon.” This can work if the terrain is flat, or you’re at a high vantage point. But if there are mountains or ridges blocking your view of the horizon, you’re better off photographing a moonrise one to three days before the full moon, and a moonset one to three days after the full moon. While the moon won’t technically be full, it will look full enough, and be in a better position than on the actual full moon night. Here’s why:


Gift Book Ideas

Friday, December 6th, 2013

I love ebooks; I’ve written three of them, and I think they’re great for teaching and learning about photography. But there’s something special about a beautiful, well-printed, coffee-table book. Picking one up is like holding an art exhibit in your hands, and the tactile sensations of turning the pages complement the visual experience of looking at the images. So here are four actual, physical books you might not have seen before, but that could make great gifts this holiday season.


LastOceanThe Last Ocean:
Antarctica’s Ross Sea Project

by John Weller

John Weller might be one of the best nature photographers you’ve never heard of. I first met John in the 1990s when he worked briefly at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. John has since gone on to create two beautiful books: Great Sand Dunes National Park: Between Light and Shadow, and his latest, The Last Ocean.

The Last Ocean is part of an ambitious project to document and preserve Antarctica’s Ross Sea, considered to be the most pristine ecosystem left on earth. John made four separate trips to this area and came back with a stunning collection of beautiful and imaginative photographs. And, in something of a rarity for a coffee-table book, the text is as compelling as the photographs, with vivid descriptions of the area, the lives of the animals, and of John’s adventures.

To see some of the photographs in the book, check out this slide show. You can order signed copies of the book directly from John, or get unsigned copies from Amazon.