Posts Tagged ‘Yosemite Valley’

A Clearing Storm by Starlight

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Stars, mist, Three Brothers, and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Stars, mist, Three Brothers, and the Merced River, Yosemite, Sunday night



Every storm has to end eventually, of course. Even Noah got a reprieve after 40 days and 40 nights. I didn’t have to wait quite that long for this past weekend’s storm to clear, but at first it seemed like the timing was less than ideal.

There was a small chance that the storm might clear before sunset on Sunday, so Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley that afternoon. It was snowing when we got there, and kept snowing, and it soon became apparent that clearing wasn’t imminent. I photographed snow-covered trees until it got dark, then we joined our friend Charlotte Gibb for drinks and dinner at the Yosemite Lodge bar.

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Waiting for the Storm to Clear

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Misty sunset over Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Misty sunset over Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Two weather systems have brought over two inches of precipitation to Yosemite Valley since Friday night. It was very warm at the beginning, with snow levels at 9,000 feet, but now the temperature has dropped, and it’s snowing in Yosemite Valley. I can even see flakes falling outside my window in Mariposa, at 2,800 feet, but it’s a little too warm for the snow to stick.

It looks like the storm might clear this afternoon, but these things are always hard to predict. Radar images show the tail end of the precipitation approaching, but that can be deceiving, as showers often linger over the mountains longer than you would otherwise expect. I’ll be keeping a close eye on things this afternoon, especially since there’s no precipitation in the seven-day forecast, so this might be the last chance to photograph a clearing storm for awhile. We’ll see what happens!

In the meantime, here’s a photograph from a clearing storm back in January of 2012. Chances are low that this current storm will bring an opportunity like this, but you can always hope.

— Michael Frye

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Misty Morning

Sunday, January 17th, 2016
Half Dome and North Dome above Yosemite Valley, winter, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and North Dome above Yosemite Valley, Friday morning, 8:24 a.m.

I’m so grateful for all the rain and snow we’ve been getting. After four years of drought, it’s wonderful to have a normal, wet winter. We’ve had storm after storm, and although most of the recent ones have been small, they add up. Yosemite Valley has received 24.63 inches of rain since July 1st, which is well above average. Badger Pass, at 7,200 feet, has 60 inches of snow on the ground, and the deepening snowpack raises hopes of full waterfalls this spring.

All this weather has been great for photography. It seems like we’ve already had more snow and clearing storms this season than the last four winters combined.

The latest in the series of small storms came through on Thursday night. I didn’t pay much attention to it, because it was predicted to be a weak system, and a warm one. I happened to wake up at about 4:00 a.m. Friday morning, and checked the radar images on my phone. It was raining pretty hard at our house, but the radar showed that the precipitation might end soon, possibly right around sunrise.

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Morning Light, Gates of the Valley

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015
Morning light, Gates of the Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Morning light, Gates of the Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

After the big rainstorm last week I drove up to Yosemite Valley early Wednesday morning. I knew there wouldn’t be fresh snow, but I hoped for some mist and interesting light. It turned out that mist was scarce, probably due to below-freezing overnight temperatures, but there was a little bit here and there.

I stopped at a couple of places, and found myself at Gates of the Valley (aka Valley View) as the sun started to hit El Capitan and light up the clouds above. After making a few photographs with fast shutter speeds, I decided it would be more interesting to smooth out the water with a very slow shutter speed. My seven-stop neutral-density filter did the trick, allowing me to lengthen the exposure to 15 seconds. Thinking about the nighttime panorama I made from this spot recently, I decided to try that again, using my 24mm Rokinon lens in a vertical orientation, and making four exposures to capture the broad sweep of this scene. After a few minutes the light actually got more interesting, with a thin beam of sunlight raking across the face of El Cap.

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That Moonlit Night

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

Half Dome, North Dome, and the Merced River by moonlight, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome, North Dome, and the Merced River by moonlight, Yosemite. This photograph was made about 11:30 p.m. When I first arrived at this spot Half Dome was completely obscured by fog. But I waited, and soon Half Dome and North Dome started to appear through the mist. I made a series of images with similar compositions as the clouds and mist shifted, but I particularly liked the light in this one. Sony A7rII, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens, 20 seconds at f/4, 4000 ISO.



I promised to post more moonlit images from last Saturday night and Sunday morning, so here they are. In case you missed them, I posted a photograph from that night made at Gates of the Valley here, and another image from Tunnel View here. But it was such a beautiful night, with fresh snow, and mist that stayed around for a long time, so I photographed for almost four hours, and was able to try many different viewpoints and ideas. I’ve included extended captions to give a little more information about each photograph here.

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Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24th, 2015
Yosemite Valley lit by the setting moon,  with Jupiter above, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Yosemite Valley lit by the setting moon, with Jupiter above, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

To all of you who celebrate the day, Claudia and I wish you a very Merry Christmas! We hope you have a wonderful holiday, full of peace, joy, and the love of family and friends.

This is another moonlit photo from Saturday night (actually early Sunday morning). After making the image Gates of the Valley that I posted on Sunday, I headed up to Tunnel View. When I arrived the valley was hidden by a thick bank of fog, but eventually the mist parted, revealing stars, Jupiter, and cliffs lit by the setting moon. Claudia thought this had a Christmas feeling to it, and I had to agree, so it seemed like an appropriate photograph to post today.

We hope you have a great holiday season!

— Michael Frye

Biggest Storm in Years

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Over the last couple of days Yosemite received a big dose of rain and higher-elevation snow. It was one of those “atmospheric river” events, with subtropical moisture streaming into the northern part of California. Usually when this happens satellite photos will show a direct, straight line of clouds extending from somewhere near Hawaii toward California. But this time the river took a detour, starting north of Hawaii, then bending up toward the Gulf of Alaska and back down to Northern California. This screen shot from the Upweather app at 2:00 p.m. yesterday shows that path:

The "atmospheric river" aimed at northern California at 2:00 p.m. yesterday

The atmospheric river aimed at northern California at 2:00 p.m. yesterday

Since Sunday afternoon Yosemite Valley has received over 5.5 inches of rain. We got over 3.5 inches at our house in Mariposa. That’s easily the biggest storm in this area since 2011, before the drought.

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Gates of the Valley by Moonlight

Sunday, December 20th, 2015
Gates of the Valley by moonlight, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Gates of the Valley by moonlight, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

A small storm arrived yesterday morning. It looked like it might clear before sunset, but by early afternoon it became obvious that showers would linger throughout the day. There was, however, another window of opportunity, as the two-thirds-full moon was due to set at 1:45 a.m. When the clouds started to break up around 9:00 p.m. I drove up to Yosemite Valley.

This storm was a little warmer than the previous ones, bringing mostly rain instead snow to Yosemite Valley, but in typical fashion the temperature dropped at the tail end of the storm, and I found a light dusting of snow. I arrived just before ten o’clock, almost four hours before the moon was due to set, so this was the lunar equivalent of an early-afternoon clearing, with the moon still high overhead. But there was abundant mist, and moonlight breaking through clouds, so it was quite beautiful. And the mist lingered for hours, so I stayed and kept photographing until after the moon set.

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A Snowy Morning

Thursday, December 17th, 2015
Reflections along the Merced River, winter, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Reflections along the Merced River, winter, Yosemite. I tried several different versions of this photograph. I initially wanted to include a wider view, with more trees on the sides, but a distracting log just out of the frame on the right bothered me. In the end I liked this tighter, simpler, distraction-free version better.

Yosemite Valley received two doses of snow this past weekend, first on Friday night, and then again on Sunday night. I wasn’t able to make it up there on Saturday, but Claudia and I drove up early Monday morning after the second snowfall.

The storm had cleared around midnight, and temperatures then dropped down to 25 degrees. Below-freezing temperatures inhibit the development of fog and mist, so the skies were clear when we arrived in the valley. But we found three to four inches of fresh, fluffy snow coating all the trees.

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A Clearing Storm by Moonlight

Sunday, November 29th, 2015
Yosemite Valley illuminated by the rising moon, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Clearing storm by moonlight, Yosemite, Wednesday evening.

Last week another storm brought rain and snow to Yosemite. We didn’t get a lot of precipitation, but after the cold front passed through, snow levels dropped down to near 3,000 feet, and Yosemite Valley got about two inches of snow.

Checking the satellite images online Wednesday afternoon it looked like the skies might clear before sunset, so I headed up to Yosemite Valley. It didn’t quite happen; I saw some breaks in the clouds, and faint sunlight hitting Sentinel Rock, but that was all. However, I knew that the nearly-full moon was due to rise about 20 minutes after sunset, so I headed up to Tunnel View to see if the skies might clear in time for the moonrise.

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