Something rare happened last Tuesday: it rained. We’ve received very little rain here in the central Sierra since January 1st, but on Tuesday Yosemite Valley got .43 inches – not exactly a deluge, but something.
Claudia and I went up to Yosemite Valley on Tuesday afternoon, hoping to find some interesting light. We did see a faint rainbow at one point, but then clouds closed in, and it rained steadily until after sunset. We drove home in a downpour (and actually our town of Mariposa got more rain than Yosemite).
The next morning I rose early and drove out to the Merced River Canyon, hoping to find fog enveloping some of the late-blooming redbuds. But the fog and mist in the canyon hovered at least a couple hundred feet above the canyon floor – above redbud level – so I kept driving up to Yosemite Valley.
At first I found only a bit of mist in the west end of the valley, with none to the east. That made sense, since more rain had fallen to the west the previous evening. It also meant that the west end of the valley would probably yield more interesting opportunities for photographs. I noticed high clouds overhead, so I decided to drive up to Tunnel View to see if those clouds might light up at sunrise.
Which they did… a little. And then the rather thick band of clouds to the east blocked the light for awhile. But finally, about an hour after sunrise, the sun started to break through the clouds.
In the meantime the mist had increased, and began morphing into unusual shapes. That’s the thing about Yosemite Valley during a clearing storm; the mist swirls around in unpredictable, unrepeatable ways, creating views you’ve never seen before – even if you’ve been there many times.
So for the next hour or so I photographed that swirling mist, frequently changing lenses and compositions to adapt to each new moment that presented itself. It was tons of fun. Here are a few of my favorite images from that morning.
Is that the last of the rain this season? I hope not! There are signs in the long-term forecasts that we could get more rain or snow early next week. You could go broke betting on long-range forecasts, but let’s hope they’re right this time.
— 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.