Poppies, lupine, and oaks, late afternoon, Sierra Nevada foothills near El Portal, CA, USA

Poppies, lupine, and oaks, late yesterday afternoon

I made the photograph above yesterday, and I’m sure many of you will notice the similarity between this image and one I posted two weeks ago. These are the very same trees, and again I’ve used the radiating pattern of the shadows. When I went back to this spot yesterday there were more poppies mixed with the lupine, and the trees had new leaves. So I worked on the same idea, but with different conditions.

I’m not afraid to repeat myself if I think I might be able to improve on a previous photograph. Sometimes I just don’t execute the photograph perfectly on the first try. Other times the conditions are better the second or third time around. What are the odds that you’ll visit a place for the first time and find perfect conditions? Pretty slim, I’d say. And the more times you visit a location, the more you’ll see, and the better you’ll understand how the light changes and affects the area at different times of day.

Is this new version of the oaks, flowers, and shadows, better than the previous one? That’s hard to say. I’ll have to let them sit for awhile until I can look at them with fresh eyes. But I wouldn’t have that choice unless I tried again.

As you can see from these photographs, there are still flowers in the Merced River Canyon west of Yosemite. About half the redbuds are still in good condition, but they’re leafing out rapidly, and won’t last long. As for poppies, the spots where they bloomed earliest, like the beginning of the Hite’s Cove Trail, have faded, but there are still a few good patches around, mainly at the eastern end of the canyon near El Portal. It’s likely that these will also fade within a week or so.

California poppy, Sierra Nevada foothills near El Portal, CA, USA

California poppy, Sierra Nevada foothills near El Portal, CA, USA

Other flowers will continue to bloom in the canyon for at least another month, but these late-season blossoms usually don’t form dense patches, and are better suited to closeups than to broader landscape images. I got into closeup mode for awhile yesterday, as you can see from this poppy photograph. It’s not often that I get into this mode, but flowers can offer a lot of creative opportunities, especially if you concentrate on the forms, shapes, and colors. This often means photographing a part of a flower, rather than trying to include the whole thing.

The next major bloom to look forward to is the dogwoods in Yosemite Valley. They typically start blooming around the end of April, but if we have warm and dry weather they could begin earlier than that. The deep-rooted dogwoods shouldn’t be affected by our dry winter, so let’s hope it’s a good year for them.

— Michael Frye

Related Post: Surprising Wildflowers

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.