Sunset over an alpine lake, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Sunset over an alpine lake, Yosemite

After a long stretch of blue skies, subtropical moisture is moving into the Sierra Nevada this week. That means clouds, thunderstorms, maybe a rainbow or two, and possibly even a chance to photograph lightning – in other words, photography weather! Here are the forecasts for Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows.

This is a typical weather pattern for the Sierra in summer. We’ll get stretches of clear blue skies, then subtropical moisture will move in for a few days, a week, or sometimes even longer, triggering afternoon showers and thunderstorms. Although some clouds and showers are likely this week, it’s hard to predict exactly what will happen on any given day, as the individual storm cells are usually small and localized, and can form and dissipate quickly. It helps to watch which direction the clouds are moving, and, if you can get an internet connection, keep an eye on weather radar. Of course you need to stay away from lightning, and avoid high, exposed ridges when thunderstorms are around.

Since the clouds are usually confined to the mountains, it’s pretty common for the sun to crawl underneath the clouds late in the day, creating spectacular sunsets, like the one in the photograph above. And if sunlight hits rain clouds, look for rainbows. To see a rainbow you have to have the sun at your back, and the sun has to be hitting falling rain. Also, you’ll only find rainbows early and late in the day; if you put the sun behind you in the middle of the day, when the sun is high above, you’ll be looking at the ground, and you won’t find any rainbows there. 🙂

I hope some of you are able to get to the Sierra this week, or can photograph some interesting weather wherever you are. Good luck!

— Michael Frye

Rainbow and virga over Negit Island at sunset, Mono Lake, California, USA

Rainbow and virga over Negit Island at sunset, Mono Lake

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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael 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.