Moonlit winter night with Half Dome, Glacier Point, and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Moonlit winter night with Half Dome, Glacier Point, and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful year in 2017.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the nominees for my best photos of 2016, and you’ll get a chance to vote for your favorites and help me pick the top ten. Keep an eye out for the post! You can see last year’s nominees here, and the winners here.

I made this image around 4:20 a.m. last Saturday morning (Christmas Eve) after a few of inches of snow fell in Yosemite Valley. I actually drove up to the valley around 9:30 on Friday evening, since it looked like the storm was about to clear. But clouds and snow flurries persisted for awhile, and skies didn’t start to clear in ernest until after midnight.

The moon wasn’t due to rise until 2:55 a.m., but as I found out last winter, it’s possible to photograph a clearing storm just by starlight, especially with snow to help lighten the foreground.

But the light got even more interesting after the moon came up. The moon was only 20% full, so when it first rose it was hard to see any effect. But as the moon climbed higher its light became stronger. I ended up in the eastern end of the valley photographing Half Dome and the Merced River, with clouds and mist backlit by the rising moon. Lights from Curry Village cast a warm glow onto some of the cliffs, and because the moonlight was so dim I could still see plenty of stars in the sky. It was a beautiful combination of moonlight, starlight, and manmade light.

Once again I stitched several images together to get a very wide-angle view (probably equivalent to about 14mm). I used Lightroom’s Panorama Merge to blend four frames together, then cropped a little bit. The camera was a Sony A7r II (that’s the only camera I use these days) with a Rokinon 20mm f/1.8 lens. The exposures were 20 seconds at f/2.8, 3200 ISO.

Have a wonderful – and safe – New Year’s Eve, and check back here tomorrow to see the best-of-2016 nominees!

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: A Clearing Storm by Starlight; Picking My Best Images of 2015; My Top Photographs of 2015

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.