Every summer we get periods of monsoonal moisture pushing up into California from the south, producing afternoon showers and thunderstorms. One of those periods coincided with our recent workshop in the Yosemite high country, and we got to photograph some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
On the second afternoon of our workshop we hiked over a ridge to an alpine lake basin. There were some thunderstorms in the area, but none were very close when we started our hike, so I thought we might stay dry – and we had rain gear just in case.
Naturally it started to rain when we got to the basin. It rained lightly for awhile, on and off, and we made some photographs of the brooding sky over the mountains. Then it started coming down harder, so we huddled under a clump of trees and waited. And waited. At first the lightning was pretty far off, but then a couple of strikes reached within a mile or two of us, which meant it was no longer safe to stand right underneath the trees. Luckily the rain had let up a little by then, so with our rain gear we could stay reasonably dry. (Lightning tends to strike high points, so the theory is that you want to be close a tree so that the lightning will hit that taller object rather than you. But you don’t want to stand right next to the trunk, because if lightning strikes the tree it will travel down the trunk and hit you too.)
I knew that thunderstorms often dissipated late in the day as temperatures cooled, plus the skies remained clear to the west the whole time, which meant the sun could sink underneath the clouds and light everything up at sunset.
Which is exactly what happened. The rain and thunder stopped about 45 minutes before sunset. Soon thereafter a slice of rainbow appeared to the southwest, though unfortunately it wasn’t next to anything interesting. We made our way back to the lake, where we found beautiful clouds, colors, and reflections, which you can see in the photo at the top of this post. Sometimes you have to risk getting wet to catch a good sunset.
Luckily we didn’t have to dodge any other rainstorms during the workshop, but we caught several more sunrises and sunsets with interesting clouds. You’ll find a few of those images below. I always love the summer monsoon season.
— Michael Frye
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.