Workshop participant Jim photographing a colorful maple

Workshop participant photographing a colorful maple

My five-day Digital Landscape: Autumn in Yosemite workshop ended Sunday, and I taught another private workshop in the park on Tuesday, so I’ve been able to monitor the fall colorin Yosemite Valley closely. The yellow big-leaf maples are past peak in a couple of early-changing spots, and just getting there in other places (like around Fern Spring), but overall they look great. The dogwoods are becoming more colorful every day. Most are still partially green, but you can find beautiful specimens around Valley View and between the old dam (Highway 120/140 junction) and Pohono Bridge. The higher-elevation dogwoods along Highways 41 and 120, and in the Tuolumne Grove, should be prime, though I haven’t checked them out personally.

Golden reflections in the Merced River

Golden reflections in the Merced River

As mentioned in previous posts, most of the cottonwoods leaves just turned brown and dropped off, and the same thing happened to some of the black oaks. But the oaks around Cook’s Meadow seem to have avoided this problem, and are still in good shape, though they’ve only just started to change color. The elm in the middle of Cook’s Meadow looked great two days ago, but will probably lose most of its leaves soon.

A weak but cold storm is forecast to arrive tonight, and that could change everything. The snow level might drop as low as 3,500 feet tomorrow. Since Yosemite Valley is at 4,000 feet that means a dusting of snow could coat the trees and those yellow leaves—a highly photogenic combination if it happens. But the wind, precipitation, and sudden dip in temperature might also cause many trees to drop their leaves abruptly, or make partially-green trees, like the oaks, turn brown. It’s impossible to predict how these things will play out, but autumn could end abruptly in Yosemite Valley. On the other hand, snow-covered trees and clearing storms can look great also!

The accompanying photos were made during and just after the five-day workshop. We had a really fun time with a great group of people, and I hope to post some of the student’s photographs soon. The top image shows one of the participants, Jim, photographing one of the abundant yellow maples. The second image is from a new spot for me. With all the time I’ve spent in Yosemite Valley you’d think there’d be nothing new to discover, but I’m still finding juxtapositions of light and subject that I’ve never noticed before. This is a small rapid that gets wonderful reflections from the late-afternoon sun hitting El Cap.

The bottom photograph shows grasses and reflections in a pond near the Merced River. I’ve looked at this pond many times before, but this is my first photograph from this spot that I’m happy with. I seem to be in abstract mode lately!

Here’s hoping for some interesting weather and light in the next few days!

—Michael Frye

Related posts: Eastside Abstracts, and Yosemite Valley ColorYosemite Valley Fall Color

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author and photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters, plus the eBook Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom. He has 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.

Grasses and willow reflections

Grasses and reflections of willow leaves