Pink light on El Capitan at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Pink light on El Capitan at sunset, Yosemite, last Tuesday evening. 50mm, 1/8 sec. at f/11, ISO 100.

We’ve reached the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, and this year it actually feels like winter here in the Sierra Nevada. In some recent years the weather has been warm and dry in December – and that’s the way this month began. But last week two separate storms brought over five inches of precipitation to Yosemite Valley.

The first storm was the biggest. It rained hard in the Valley on Monday, but by Tuesday morning rain had changed to snow, eventually piling up about eight inches of white stuff. Our workshop group had to wait out some of that rain on Monday, but then we photographed almost all day Tuesday, with some brief breaks to dry out and warm up.

It looked like the storm would probably clear after dark that day, but there was a chance it might clear in time for sunset. In the end it didn’t fully clear until about 7:00 p.m., but just before sunset (about 4:40 p.m.) the sun partially broke through, bathing El Capitan in beautiful, soft, pink light (the photograph at the top of this post).

Then snow showers returned, so we grabbed some food, and headed out again to photograph the storm clearing by moonlight:

Half Dome and the Merced River by moonlight, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and the Merced River by moonlight, Yosemite, last Tuesday night about 7:00 p.m. 16mm, 20 seconds at f/4, ISO 1600.

It was a long day, but very fun. It felt like winter had really arrived. Thursday brought more wet snow, and lots of mist. And now forecasts are calling for a series of storms to bring more rain and snow to the Sierra starting tonight or tomorrow. That’s nice to see after a couple of very dry winters.

— Michael Frye

Snowy oak, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Snowy oak, Yosemite, last Tuesday morning. 126mm, 1/125 sec. at/f/11, ISO 3200.

Oak tree in a snowstorm, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Oak tree in a snowstorm, Yosemite, last Tuesday afternoon. 156mm, 1/125 sec. at f/11, ISO 320.

Related Posts: Trees in Snow; Drawing With Light

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.