Posts Tagged ‘Yosemite National Park’

Starry Skies Adventure Workshop

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon rising at dawn, Mono Lake, CA, USA

Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon rising at dawn, Mono Lake, Saturday morning

We had a wonderful time during our Starry Skies Adventure workshop last week. We managed to dodge the fires and had four clear, smoke-free nights. It was a really nice group, and photographing under a sky full of stars is always such a great experience.

One of the highlights of the workshop was viewing and photographing a dawn alignment of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon over Mono Lake last Saturday. It’s hard to convey how gorgeous this was in a photograph, but you’ll find my best attempt above.

We also photographed star trails and the Milky Way, and went to Bodie on our last night. I’ll save the Bodie images for a later post, but you’ll find a selection of other images from the workshop below.

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Stars Over Three Brothers

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Stars and clouds over Three Brothers, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Stars and clouds over Three Brothers, Tuesday evening; 20 seconds, f/2.8, 6400 ISO

Tuesday evening Claudia and I drove to Yosemite Valley. The moon was due to rise about 90 minutes after sunset, so I hoped to photograph the northern end of the Milky Way over Three Brothers, with the rising moon adding a bit of light to the peaks.

We got to the Valley well before sunset, but there were some interesting clouds, so we decided to head to Tunnel View, where we found the usual August assortment of tour buses and people taking selfies in front of the panorama. I photographed some interesting patterns of dappled sunlight and clouds, then, just at sunset, after the crowds had thinned, the sky turned pink and a beautiful array of tufted clouds drifted overhead (below).

We had a little picnic along the Merced River as we waited for the sky to get dark, then I started taking photos of Three Brothers. At first the clouds blocked most of the stars. But the sky gradually cleared, revealing more stars, and then, looking at the photos on my camera’s LCD screen, I could see the clouds taking on a pink hue, and a hint of light on Yosemite Point in the distance. This was the lunar equivalent of a predawn glow, with the moon still below the horizon, but already adding some light and color to the scene. My eyes couldn’t see the color, but the camera could (right).

Later, as the moon rose for real, the clouds and peaks turned gold, just as they would at sunrise. Again, it was too dark for the cones in my retinas to pick up the color, but the camera recorded it perfectly. And some of the cloud formations were spectacular, fanning out in big V shapes above Three Brothers (below).

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Smoky Beauty

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Sun rising through smoke from the El Portal Fire, 7/28/14, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Sun rising through smoke from Tunnel View, 7/28/14, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Early Monday morning I drove up to Yosemite Valley, hoping that smoke from the El Portal and Dark Hole fires might create some interesting atmospheric effects. Yes, I went looking for smoke, something that photographers usually avoid. But smoke can impart a wonderful, ethereal quality to photographs – like fog, but with more color.

At Tunnel View the smoke was thick enough to give the scene a misty, painterly look, but not so thick that you couldn’t see anything. Eventually the orange ball of the sun appeared through the smoke, accompanied by a patterned cloud formation (above). Later, along the Merced River, the smoke lent a similar painterly mood to scenes of El Capitan and Three Brothers (below). And much later, near sunset, the sun turned into an orange ball again as it sunk into the smoke to the west (below).

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A Surreal Night

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

El Portal Fire, Yosemite NP and Stanislaus NF, CA, USA; 1:51 a.m., 7/27/14

El Portal Fire from the Glacier Point Road; 1:51 a.m., 7/27/14

We had no inkling that anything was wrong until we reached Crane Flat, where a ranger told us the road down to Yosemite Valley was closed.

Claudia had said that the wildflowers were nice in the Yosemite high country, so we decided to go for a hike up there yesterday afternoon. We drove through El Portal sometime between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. and continued up the Big Oak Flat Road to Crane Flat. Everything seemed normal. Near Yosemite Creek we passed the Dark Hole Fire. This is a lightning-caused fire that the park service is letting burn, but it looked pretty active yesterday afternoon, with a big smoke plume.

We continued on past Tuolumne Meadows, started our hike, and found some gorgeous wildflowers (you can see a photograph below). Then we returned to the car, and started home at about 10 p.m. Near Yosemite Creek I decided to stop and photograph the Dark Hole Fire (below), then we continued west back to Crane Flat, where we saw a ranger vehicle blocking the road down to Yosemite Valley.

We were surprised that the road was closed, since we’d just driven up it a few hours earlier. The ranger let us through, since we had a park sticker, but he told us there was no stopping, and to watch out for fire crews. Fire crews? We knew these crews weren’t for the Dark Hole Fire, as that was miles away, and still pretty small. What had happened?

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Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Moon setting over Tenaya Lake, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Moon setting over Tenaya Lake, Saturday morning, 5:42 a.m.

“I have always been mindful of Edward Weston’s remark, ‘If I wait for something here I may lose something better over there.’ I have found that keeping on the move is generally more rewarding.”

— Ansel Adams

Sooner or later, every landscape photographer has to decide whether to stay put and hope that the light gets better, or move somewhere else.

Last Saturday morning, on the last day of my Hidden Yosemite workshop with The Ansel Adams Gallery, we rose early and drove to Tenaya Lake to capture the moon setting over the water. On our way there we noticed low-lying mist in Tuolumne Meadows. We photographed a beautiful moonset over the lake, but as soon as the moon dropped below the ridge we drove back to Tuolumne.

The mist was still there. First we ran out to a small pond to catch the sun lighting some small clouds above the high peaks to the east. Then we spotted a herd of deer off to the left in the mist, so we quickly changed lenses and photographed them until they moved away.

By then the sun was hitting Unicorn Peak, so we walked about a hundred feet north to get a reflection of the peak in the pond, and waited until the sun grazed across the foreground.

Then light started hitting the mist and trees behind us, so we moved again to get closer, and put the sun behind trees where we could see sunbeams and starbursts.

And then the sun rose higher, the mist disappeared, and the show was over. The whole sequence lasted about 40 minutes.

In this case, the light and fog were changing quickly, so we had to switch lenses and move our feet if we wanted to catch those fleeting moments. But three years ago, during the same workshop, a similar situation required waiting patiently for the light to change.

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Photo Critique Series: A Spectacular Cloud Formation in the Yosemite High Country

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Lenticular Clouds, Tioga Pass, Yosemite, by David Silva

Lenticular Clouds, Tioga Pass, Yosemite, by David Silva

It’s been awhile, but I thought it was time to post another photo critique. This time I’ll look at an image by David Silva from Yosemite’s high country.

Light and Weather

David found some amazing lenticular clouds flowing over Yosemite’s high peaks just before sunset. (Where was I that day?) David told me that he and his wife were driving over Tioga Pass to the eastern Sierra when he noticed some interesting clouds forming. He considered stopping earlier, but decided to push on to Olmsted Point, and was able to make it there in time to catch the light on the clouds and peaks before the sun set.

This was perfect timing. There’s a nice orange glow on the highest peaks, creating a warm-cool color contrast. The last light highlights Mt. Conness in the distance, creating a small-but-important focal point. The clouds fit into the gap between the peaks is perfectly. There’s a beautiful, dramatic, late-day mood to the scene.

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150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Storm clouds over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Storm clouds over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Within National Parks is room – glorious room – room in which to find ourselves, in which to think and hope, to dream and plan, to rest and resolve.
— Enos A. Mills

Exactly 150 years ago, on June 30th, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, giving Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to the state of California to be preserved. This is the first instance of park land being set aside specifically for preservation and public use by action of the U.S. federal government, and set a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the first national park. (Yosemite National Park was created in 1890 to protect the lands surrounding Yosemite Valley, and in 1906 the valley and Mariposa Grove were returned to the federal government and incorporated into the national park.)

Photography played a vital role in the creation and passing of the Yosemite Grant legislation. The public thought that the early stories about Yosemite Valley were exaggerated, and drawings and paintings could be manipulated, so people only began to appreciate the magnificence of the valley when they saw proof in the form of photographs by Charles Weed and Carleton Watkins. Watkins’ photographs of Yosemite were displayed in the halls of Congress, and may also have been shown to president Lincoln by Senator John Conness. (You can see an exhibit of Watkins’ photographs at Stanford University in the San Francisco Bay Area through August 17th.)

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Déjà Vu in the High Country

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Setting sun, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Setting sun, Tuolumne Meadows, 7:39 p.m. Thursday (as the sun sank behind the ridge)

Last week some unseasonal showers reached Yosemite. The showers didn’t bring heavy amounts of precipitation, but enough snow fell at higher elevations to temporarily close Tioga Pass and the Glacier Point Road.

On Thursday the Tioga Road reopened. Since Claudia and I are heading up to the northern coast of California soon for my redwoods workshop, we thought this might be our last chance to go up to the Yosemite high country for awhile, so we decided to drive up to Tuolumne Meadows for the afternoon. There were still some clouds and showers in the area, so the prospect of some interesting weather made the idea even more enticing.

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Spring in Yosemite

Sunday, April 27th, 2014
Three Brothers after a spring snowstorm, Saturday morning

Three Brothers after a spring snowstorm, Saturday morning


We had great conditions during my Yosemite workshop for The Ansel Adams Gallery this past week. The dogwoods were blooming, there were lots of fresh, green leaves everywhere, and we had some interesting weather. It rained all day Friday, but Saturday morning we found clearing skies and an inch of new snow. This photograph of Three Brothers was made as the sun hit the rock faces and generated copious quantities of mist; you’ll find a couple of other images from the week below.

The dogwoods are still in good shape, and should be photogenic for at least another week or so. And the dogwoods at higher elevations (along highways 41 and 120, and in the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias) are just getting started, and should last for two to three weeks.

I’m off to North and South Carolina tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to photographing eastern dogwoods, waterfalls, and whatever else we find!

— Michael Frye

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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

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