As I said in my last post, we had remarkably clear skies during our recent Starry Skies Adventure workshop, despite the proximity of the Walker Fire. But 24 hours before the workshop started the situation was uncertain and changing quickly. We didn’t know what would happen with the fire, and whether we’d see any stars through the smoke. Some workshop participants decided to take a rain check (smoke check?), which was completely understandable under the circumstances. But most people chose to come anyway and take their chances. In the end we had a great time. There were moments, while standing under the stars in the clear, cool, night air, when the fire seemed like a vague, distant memory.
Nothing is ever certain in landscape photography. We always have to adapt to the weather and conditions, and do the best we can with what we’re given. If you can stay flexible, things often work out, because there’s beauty everywhere, and unusual situations can create unusual opportunities. I really appreciated the intrepid sprit of our group, which helped to make the workshop feel like a fun, shared adventure.
On our first night at Olmsted Point we actually encountered a little smoke from more distant fires near Clear Lake, but that smoke settled out after dark, leaving only a little murkiness near the western horizon. On our second night we went to South Tufa at Mono Lake, and again had very clear skies. A breeze kicked up after sunset, and continued for a couple of hours, ruffling the water while we worked on star-trail sequences. But around 11 o’clock the wind died and the water smoothed out, giving us great conditions for photographing stars and the Milky Way over the lake.
We went to Bodie on our third night, which is always a treat. It had been warm at Mono Lake, but it was quite cold at Bodie that night, despite the hot temperatures during the preceding afternoon. But even though it was cold, I didn’t want to leave when our permit expired at 1:00 a.m., as there’s so much to photograph there. I’m glad I’ll get the chance to go back in early September. But in the meantime, here are a few images from Bodie, Olmsted Point, and that serene night at Mono Lake.
— Michael Frye
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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 Yosemite, Yosemite 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.