Posts Tagged ‘Yosemite Valley’

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:


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.


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.


Misty Morning

Sunday, May 24th, 2015
Pines, sunbeams, and mist, Cook's Meadow, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Pines, sunbeams, and mist, Cook’s Meadow, 6:13 a.m.

Yosemite got some rain yesterday. In fact we’ve had a lot of unsettled weather this month, with frequent showers in the afternoon, especially in the high country. Tioga Pass opened May 4th, but has since closed and reopened several times due to snow. The total precipitation hasn’t amounted to much, but every bit helps, and we’ve even had enough rain here in the foothills to keep the grass from turning brown – at least in some places.

I haven’t had much time to get up to the park and photograph the weather, but after the rain yesterday it seemed likely that there would be mist in the meadows this morning, so Claudia and I rose early and drove up to Yosemite Valley. When I say early, I mean really early. Sunrise is at 5:40 a.m. these days, which meant leaving home at 4:30!



Thursday, April 9th, 2015
Clouds and mist from Tunnel View, sunrise, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Clouds and mist from Tunnel View, sunrise, 7:02 a.m. yesterday

Some strange white stuff fell in Yosemite Valley Tuesday night.

Skies started to clear late Tuesday evening, and it looked like there was a decent chance of seeing an interesting sunrise Wednesday morning, so I set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. (it hurts to even write that number), and made the drive up from Mariposa to the valley.

Before leaving home I checked the Yosemite road-and-weather phone line. It said that Highway 140 and Yosemite Valley were R2 – chains or four-wheel drive required. That usually means a substantial snowfall, so I brought my high-top snow boots in case I had to wade through six inches or more. But when I got to the valley I found only and inch or two of snow on the ground. I’m not complaining though, because that’s more than we’ve had all winter, and that’s the perfect amount to add a delicate coating to the tree branches.

But the trees would have to wait. There was mist on the valley floor, and clouds above, so the sunrise held some promise. I went to a spot near Tunnel View to wait, and shortly after sunrise the clouds started to light up. It turned into a beautiful sunrise, with, at times, three layers of fluff: high, broken clouds, ground-hugging fog, and mid-level mist wrapped around the cliffs.


Early Dogwoods

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
Dogwood along the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Dogwood along the Merced River, Yosemite, yesterday afternoon

I’ve been helping my mom recover from eye surgery and move into assisted living, so life has been hectic, and I haven’t had much time for photography. But yesterday a rare and much-needed storm came through, and there were signs of clearing in the afternoon, so I took the time to go up to Yosemite Valley.

It didn’t clear after all. In fact it rained most of the time I was there, with the rain turning to snow in heavier showers. But rumors of dogwoods blooming turned out to be true. I found one particularly full dogwood along the Merced River, and was able to photograph it during a break between rain squalls (above).


March Light

Thursday, March 5th, 2015
Late afternoon view of Yosemite Valley from near Old Inspiratoin Point, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Late afternoon view of Yosemite Valley from near Old Inspiratoin Point, Monday afternoon

It’s the time of year when both El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall get late-afternoon sunlight when seen from the west end of Yosemite Valley. In winter, El Cap get that late-day light, while Bridalveil stays in the shade. In summer it’s the opposite, with the cliffs to the right of Bridalveil Fall (like the Leaning Tower) receiving the last glow in the evening, while El Cap goes into shade earlier. But in early March (and around the end of September) the light balances well on both sides of the valley, making it a great time of year for photographs from Tunnel View and Gates of the Valley (aka Valley View).

Knowing this, I watched the weather closely on Monday. Some showers moved through, and it seemed like the last chance of seeing interesting clouds for awhile, so I decided to hike up above Tunnel View to a spot near Old Inspiration Point (I’ve described previous journeys up this trail here and here). I got there in time to catch one moment with beautiful cloud shadows. I especially like the shadow near the bottom of El Capitan (in the photo above).


Rocks and Clouds

Sunday, March 1st, 2015
Half Dome and clouds from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and clouds from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

“Time, geologic time, looks out at us from the rocks as from no other objects in the landscape… Even if we do not know our geology, there is something in the face of a cliff and in the look of a granite boulder that gives us pause.” — John Burroughs

Photography has a great ability to showcase contrasting textures, which is perhaps why hard rocks and soft clouds fit together so well. In Yosemite the rocks are a given; they’re always there. It’s the clouds that are more elusive, especially during these dry years.


Yosemite Falls by Moonlight

Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Upper Yosemite Fall illuminated by the rising moon, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Upper Yosemite Fall illuminated by the rising moon, Monday night

After photographing Horsetail Fall on Monday evening I was thinking about heading home, but it occurred to me that this might be the perfect night to make a photograph I had been thinking of, with Upper Yosemite Fall backlit by the rising moon. The moon was due to rise about 11:00 p.m. Consulting PhotoPills, it seemed like the angle and phase of the moon were about right. And with the waterfalls so full, plus cloud-free skies, it seemed unlikely that I’d ever find better conditions.

So I decided to go for it. I had dinner at the Food Court at Yosemite Lodge, then connected to the Lodge wi-fi and answered emails for awhile. About 8:30 I headed up the trail.

Hiking the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail in the dark was a strange, surreal experience. I’d been up this trail at night before, but under a full moon. Prior to the moonrise Monday night it was very dark, with the only light coming from the stars. I had to use my headlamp to negotiate the rocky trail, and the bright light ruined my night vision. When I came around the bend where you typically get your first view of the upper fall, I could hear it, and feel the spray, but couldn’t see it at all. I had to turn off my headlamp and let my eyes adjust for a minute, and then I could just make out a tall, skinny triangle of less-than-pure-blackness ahead of me – the waterfall.

I didn’t get as wet as expected going past the base of the fall; I’ve been soaked at this spot before, but the water level apparently wasn’t as high this time. But the waterfall was loud. I arrived at my spot early, and had time to try out different compositions before the moon rose.