Dogwoods, mist, and Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Dogwoods, mist, and Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite NP, California

Before I left for my raft trip down the Grand Canyon, Claudia and I had a chance to go up to Yosemite Valley to see dogwoods. We picked a rainy, showery day, because interesting weather often generates interesting photo opportunities.

We made a circuit around the valley to check on conditions, and found lots of dogwoods blooming. Some were still in that stage where the blossoms (actually bracts) are green, but most were fully out, and beautiful, with white blossoms, but not yet leafing out, so the leaves didn’t compete with the flowers.

We spent some time photographing dogwoods near the Merced River, then headed up to Tunnel View. With alternating showers and sunshine, it seemed like a good afternoon to see a rainbow. I did see a faint rainbow, briefly, but it didn’t amount to much, so I photographed moments when spots of light broke through the clouds. (I’ve included a couple of those images below.)

After awhile, as the light moved away from Bridalveil Fall, I decided to head back to the valley floor and the dogwoods. I was hoping to see gold reflections in the river behind some dogwood blossoms, but the clouds thickened and blocked the light.

Okay, time to switch gears and look for scenes that worked with the soft light. I found a composition I liked with Bridalveil Fall peeking through an array of dogwood blossoms, and a patch of mist above the waterfall. As I waited for the breeze to settle so I could capture a focus-stacking sequence, more mist appeared near the base of the fall, and kept growing. Still a breeze kept the blossoms dancing.

Finally the wind died enough to make a focus-stacking sequence. I kept capturing sequences during lulls in the wind until the mist dissipated.

There was still slight movement in the dogwoods during even the calmest moments, so when I blended the sequence from my favorite misty moment in Helicon Focus, I found some ghosting. But I used Helicon’s retouching tool to clean that up. In places with ghosting, this retouching function allows you to brush in part of just one frame, which eliminates the ghosting. (You try to pick the frame where the leaves or flowers are in sharpest focus for that spot.) It’s tricky, and extremely tedious, but I felt this image was worth the trouble.

Looking back through my Lightroom catalog, I’m struck by the contrast between this photo and the ones I made just afterward in the Grand Canyon. The canyon is a dramatic landscape, with lots of rock. You can also find many softer, quieter scenes, especially in the side canyons – but nothing as soft, misty, and delicate as this dogwood photograph.

I love it all. Deserts, mountains, forests, meadows, rocks, flowers – it’s all part of our planet’s incredible beauty. I love photographing that diversity, and the different moods nature presents.

Next up, the redwoods, followed by the Tetons. More diversity – which is just how I like it.

— Michael Frye

Yosemite Valley on a stormy afternoon, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Yosemite Valley on a stormy afternoon, Yosemite NP, California

Bridalveil Fall and Sentinel Rock, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Bridalveil Fall and Sentinel Rock, Yosemite NP, California

Related Posts: Canyon Moods; Meanwhile, Back in Yosemite…

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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He lives near Yosemite National Park in California, but travels extensively to photograph natural landscapes in the American West and throughout the world.

Michael uses light, weather, and design to make photographs that capture the mood of the landscape, and convey the beauty, power, and mystery of nature. His work has received numerous awards, and appeared in publications around the world. He’s the author and/or principal photographer of several books, including Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters, and The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite.

Michael loves to share his knowledge of photography through articles, books, workshops, online courses, and his blog. He’s taught over 200 workshops focused on landscape photography, night photography, digital image processing, and printing.