Friday’s storm got cold enough to drop a couple of inches of snow on Yosemite Valley. The storm cleared during the night, but showers lingered until the wee hours Saturday morning. It seemed possible that we might find some mist at sunrise, so Claudia and I drove up early to Yosemite Valley.
Indeed there was some mist, and broken clouds overhead. That seemed like a perfect combination for Tunnel View; if the clouds lit up it would be a gorgeous sunrise from there. But soon after I arrived at Tunnel View the clouds dissipated. There was still some mist down in the valley below, but it would take awhile for the sun to get high enough to light that mist, and without clouds to block it the sun would be right in my face, making it difficult to avoid lens flare.
Time to practice what I preached in my last post, and be flexible. In other words, time to move. We drove down into the valley with no particular plan in mind. El Capitan looked beautiful as we drove past it, softened by the mist. It’s unusual to see this monolithic rock look soft, so I decided to stop, and ended up spending over an hour there. The mist came and went, but I liked the moments when it was thicker, revealing only the outlines of El Cap and the oak trees across the river (there are two examples below).
Eventually the mist thinned even more, so I decided to go across the river to El Capitan Meadow where there was still some mist, and where the sun would soon reach the oak trees. That turned out to be beautiful, with the sun backlighting the foggy oaks and creating tree shadows on the snow, as in the photograph at the top of this post.
Once the mist dissipated in El Cap Meadow we headed to Swinging Bridge, further up the valley along the Merced River. The sun was just about to reach this spot, and there was still a little bit of mist in Leidig Meadow across the river. We found some beautiful reflections in the still-shaded river, and the high water hid most of the sandbars that are usually visible in that area, creating opportunities to photograph reflections of cottonwood trees, as in the last photo below.
I’m sure there were great opportunities that morning from many places in the valley, including Tunnel View. But it felt good to let experience and instincts take over, not overanalyze things, and just follow the light and the mist.
— Michael Frye