First, to my subscribers, thanks for your understanding about the email glitches yesterday. I really appreciate all the supportive emails so many people sent. Your kind words turned a frustrating day into a great one.
I haven’t posted anything new on the blog for awhile because I was teaching a workshop, and then working on our new website. The new site is still a bit of a work in progress, so if you find any broken links or other issues please let me know. But the new site better integrates the blog with the other content, makes it easier to add and update portfolios, and will work much better with phones and tablets, so I hope it will be a better experience for everyone.
Meanwhile we had a great workshop, with flowing waterfalls, fresh spring greenery, dogwoods, and some interesting weather and clouds. And the cool, showery spring weather has continued, which I love. I’m not ready for the summer heat, and always happy to have clouds and mist to photograph.
Since Yosemite is so beautiful Claudia and I spent last weekend in the park, staying at a friend’s house. Friday and Saturday were mostly overcast, with occasional showers, and periods where mist wrapped itself around the valley cliffs. Sunday morning dawned clear – too clear it seemed at first. I was hoping for both low-lying mist and high clouds, but didn’t see either when I left our friend’s house. However, as I made my way around the valley I found some mist in the meadows. I decided to stop at Gates of the Valley (Valley View) because there was a little fog across the river in Bridalveil Meadow. And then, soon after I set up my tripod, some beautiful high clouds started passing overhead, lit by the rising sun. Nice. But the best part was later, when the sun appeared in the gap between El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks, and lit the mist rising off the meadow. Those images turned out to be my favorites of the morning, especially the one at the top of this post.
The contrast in that scene was extreme, so I bracketed exposures. I also wanted a really wide view, which required stitching four frames together into a panorama. So I actually used both Lightroom’s HDR Merge and Panorama Merge to assemble the final image. First I ran the HDR Merge on each of the four separate bracketed sequences. Then I took those four merged HDR DNG files and ran them through the Panorama Merge. This was the first time I had tried both the HDR Merge and Panorama Merge with the same photo, and it worked really well. The only issue – a common one with panoramas – is that there were some visible seams in the water where the waves from one image didn’t quite match up with the waves from the adjacent image, requiring some cleanup work with the Spot Removal tool.
Speaking of the waves, I also used a four-stop neutral-density filter to slow the shutter speed and smooth out the water. The shutter speeds for the bracketed images were 1/10, 1/3, and 1.5 seconds (all at f/16, ISO 100). The HDR Merge used the 1.5-second exposures for darker areas, including the river, which gave the water that smooth texture. With turbulent water like this a fast shutter speed would have made the water look choppy. The slow shutter speed created a softer look and feeling which seemed to fit the mood of this scene better, and also helped to simplify the image by eliminating a lot of the water’s texture, which would have made the whole bottom part of the photograph rather busy.
Soon after I made that image the mist began to dissipate, so I moved to the eastern end of the Valley, looking for more fog and mist. You’ll find two more photographs from Sunday morning below, along with some other images made Friday and Saturday. There were a lot of people in Yosemite over the weekend, but we didn’t mind, and really enjoyed our little weekend getaway. It’s been such a beautiful spring.
— Michael Frye
P.S. The dogwoods in the Valley were past peak, and their blossoms appeared rather tattered up close, but most of them still looked good from a distance. They won’t last much longer however. Higher-elevation dogwoods along highways 120 and 41 were a mixture, with some past peak, some in good condition, and others just emerging. There aren’t any big wildflower displays in and around Yosemite right now besides the dogwoods, but there are a variety of flowers still blooming in the foothills, some irises in the Valley meadows, bush lupines in brushy areas above and below the valley, and penstemons blooming among rock outcrops along the roads above the Valley.
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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: 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.