We’ve had a great start to the winter here in the Sierra, with several early-December storms bringing rain and higher-elevation snow. Precipitation is above average for Yosemite Valley at this point, which is wonderful. Some other recent winters have also gotten off to a strong start only to fizzle in January and February, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that this winter will be different.
This winter’s early-season storms have been on the cold side, cold enough to bring snow to Yosemite Valley several times. The most recent storm (December 10th and 11th) followed a typical pattern, starting with rain in Yosemite Valley (at 4,000 feet), then changing to snow toward the end of the system as the cold front moved through. That tail end was pretty strong, dumping about eight to nine inches of new snow on the valley floor.
That storm ended just before we started our winter workshop, which was good timing. Better yet, temperatures stayed quite cold after the storm, with lows in the upper teens in the colder sections of the valley. That made us bundle up, and we used a lot of hand and foot warmers, but the snow stayed in the trees in the shady portions of the valley all week. And each afternoon mist formed in some parts of the valley, so we got to photograph snow-covered trees in mist a few times. What could be better?
In landscape photography we often look for interesting weather to accompany grand landscapes. But weather and conditions often play a big role in photographing more intimate scenes as well. Any kind of special conditions – snow, fog, frost, ice, high water, low water, fall color, blooming flowers, sunshine highlighting a certain spot – can create unique opportunities to make beautiful, moody, photographs on a smaller scale.
Here’s a selection of recent images from snowy Yosemite Valley. Most are smaller scenes, but I had to throw in one grand landscape as well. The valley was a winter wonderland, and a playground for photography.
— 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.