Upper Yosemite Fall through the mist, last Thursday afternoon

Upper Yosemite Fall through the mist, last Thursday afternoon

The moon will be full this weekend—on May 5th, at 8:36 p.m. to be precise. So that means I’ve been getting lots of questions about photographing lunar rainbows. First, the best way to find out where and when to photograph Yosemite’s lunar rainbows is astronomer Don Olson’s web site. Don and his team have figured out precise viewing times for lunar rainbows from the Lower Yosemite Fall bridge, and from Cook’s Meadow for Upper Yosemite Fall.

Temperatures are forecast to be relatively cool this weekend, which means that snow won’t be melting at a high rate, and water flow and spray will probably be below average for early May. The moonbow should be visible on the upper fall from Cook’s Meadow, but it won’t spread as wide as it did last year, nor will it be visible as long. For the lower fall, less spray is good (up to a point), because it’s easier to keep water drops off the lens from this often-damp location. I’m sure there will still be spray at the bridge below the lower fall, but it might be manageable. Whether you go to Cook’s Meadow or the Lower Yosemite Fall bridge you’ll have to share the spot with many other photographers—but there’s less room at the bridge.

Once you’ve figured out the right time and place, then what? How do you focus? What equipment do you need, what aperture should you use, and how long should you keep the shutter open? Here’s a link to a previous post with answers to all these questions.

As for the dogwoods, they all seemed to bloom at once last week. Last Friday perhaps 30 percent of the valley dogwoods were still in that stage where the blossoms are green, but I’d bet even those specimens are all white by now. You should still be able to see dogwoods in bloom for another couple of weeks, but they are rapidly leafing out, and the window when they’re at their most photogenic will close soon—at least in Yosemite Valley. But the dogwoods at higher elevations bloom later. If you find that the dogwoods in the valley are too leafy, or the blossoms look old and tattered, try hiking to the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias, or looking for patches of dogwoods along highways 41 and 120.

But right now Yosemite Valley is just gorgeous. The deciduous trees have those new, bright green leaves, the waterfalls are booming, and the dogwoods are blooming. For our workshop last week we also had mist, interesting clouds, and a clearing rainstorm on Thursday afternoon. We had a great time photographing all this stuff; I’ve included one photograph of Upper Yosemite Fall from last Thursday afternoon.

—Michael Frye

Related Posts: Floods, Moonbows, and the Opening of Tioga PassTips for Photographing Lunar Rainbows

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 eBooks Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, and Exposure for Outdoor Photography. 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.