In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

Lunar Eclipse over Death Valley

Lunar eclipse sequence over the Mesquite Flat Dunes, January 31st, 2018, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Lunar eclipse sequence over the Mesquite Flat Dunes, January 31st, 2018, Death Valley NP, CA, USA



As I thought about locations to photograph last Wednesday’s lunar eclipse, I kept coming back to the idea of putting sand dunes in the foreground. Dunes seemed appropriately lunar.

I initially planned to go to the Mesquite Flat Dunes in Death Valley, but as the eclipse approached the forecast called for high clouds moving through much of the western U.S., so I kept a close eye on the forecasts. Two days before the eclipse it looked like the further south we went, the fewer clouds there would be, so Claudia and I headed for the Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve.

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Park Service Announces Permit System for Horsetail Fall

Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite. I had this view to myself When I made this image near Northside Drive back in 1995. How things have changed!



Yesterday the National Park Service issues a press release announcing a new permit system for viewing Horsetail Fall. Here are the essentials:

– From February 12th through 26th there will be a special “event zone” between Yosemite Valley Lodge and the El Capitan crossover.

– During that time Southside Drive will be open to two-way traffic, with no parking allowed between the El Cap crossover and Sentinel Bridge.

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Horsetail Fall Conditions

Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 19th, 2009, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 19th, 2009, Yosemite NP, CA, USA



Horsetail Fall season will be here soon. The best light occurs from around February 16th through February 23rd. During that time, if conditions are right, the waterfall is backlit by the setting sun, while the cliff behind it is in the shade, creating dramatic color and contrast.

Before February 16th, Horsetail can get beautiful sunset color, but the cliff behind it is still in the sun. After February 23rd, the sunlight gets cut off before it reaches its deepest color. Of course the angle of the sun doesn’t change dramatically between the 15th and the 16th, or between the 23rd and the 24th, so it’s possible to capture good images of Horsetail Fall a few days before or after that window. But that period between the 16th and 23rd is, as far as I can determine, the optimal time. (See this post for an in-depth discussion about the timing of this event.)

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The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite for Android!

The Photographer's Guide to Yosemite app

I’m happy to announce that The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite app is now available for Android!

The Android version has all the same features as the iOS app, including in-depth descriptions of 40 locations, the locations filter to help you quickly find the best photo spots for any month and time of day, detailed maps and directions, photography tips, and much more. And it’s all fully functional without an internet connection.

Click here to view the app in the Google Play Store.

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The January 31st Lunar Eclipse

Lunar eclipse sequence, April 14th and 15th, Trona Pinnacles, CA, USA

Lunar eclipse sequence, April 14th and 15th, 2014, Trona Pinnacles, CA, USA

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a total lunar eclipse coming up on January 31st. The total eclipse will be visible in central and western North America, Australia, and much of Asia. It will also be a “blue moon,” (the second full moon of the month), and a “supermoon,” (with the moon closer to the earth than normal, so it will look slightly larger). This page shows where the eclipse will be visible, as well as the timing of the event.

In North America the eclipse will occur as the moon is setting in the west just before sunrise. The further west you go, the higher the moon will be during totality, and the longer the eclipse sequence you can see. People in the mountain states should be able to see the entire one hour and sixteen minutes of totality, while those of you in the northwest could see (with clear skies) all of totality plus all of the partial eclipse phase afterwards. Unfortunately, the total eclipse will not be visible on the east coast of the U.S. and Canada.

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Misty Moonrise

Misty moonrise, Half Dome and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Misty moonrise, Half Dome and the Merced River, Yosemite. 15 seconds at f/4, ISO 1600.

We haven’t had much rain or snow this winter, but on Monday and Tuesday we finally got a decent storm. Though the storm wasn’t as big as initially predicted, Yosemite Valley got a good soaking, with an inch and a half of rain. No snow though, as it was very warm. (This same storm dumped much more rain on southern California, creating devastating mudslides. This state has endured a lot lately.)

On the few occasions when we’ve had precipitation this winter, I always seemed to have some commitment that prevented me from getting out to photograph. But this time I didn’t have any pressing deadlines, so I kept a close eye on the weather, hoping to get up to the valley to photograph the storm clearing.

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My Top Photographs of 2017

The votes are all in and counted, and here are my top photographs of 2017!

We had a great response this year: 370 people looked through my initial selection of 35 images and voted for their favorites here on the blog, Facebook, Google+, and through email. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to look through these photographs and voice your opinions! I also really appreciate all the kind words expressed along with the votes. I wish I could respond to every comment and email, but please know that I’ve read them all and am very grateful for all your support. And also, many thanks to my wonderful assistant Claudia who tallied all those votes!

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My Best Images of 2017: the Nominees

(I’ve closed comments on this post, since the voting deadline has passed. You can see the final selections here. Thanks to all of you who voted!)

Happy New Year!

Like champagne, Auld Land Syne, and the Tournament of Roses Parade, it’s become a New Year’s tradition on this blog to pick my best images from the past year, and once again I’m inviting you to help me make these difficult choices. I’ve posted 35 of my best photographs from 2017 below, in chronological order. After you look through these, please post a comment listing your ten favorites.

You don’t have to list your ten favorites in any order, or even name them – just numbers will do. (The numbers are in the captions underneath the photographs. Also, you can click on the images to see them larger.) Once the votes are in I’ll post the top ten on this blog, and submit the final group to Jim Goldstein’s blog project, where he’ll be showcasing the best images of the year from over 300 photographers. The voting deadline is this Tuesday, January 2nd, at midnight Pacific time.

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Merry Christmas!

Clearing storm by moonlight from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Clearing storm by moonlight from Tunnel View, Yosemite

This photograph was made on a magical winter night two years ago, as the moon rose over Yosemite Valley while a snowstorm was clearing. As I wrote back then, I was glad to be a landscape photographer, because what other pursuit involves deliberately seeking out our planet’s most beautiful events?

But the most special moments in our lives are usually the ones we spend with the people we love. I hope your Christmas is filled with beautiful moments in the company of family and friends. To all who celebrate it, Claudia and I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

— Michael Frye

Color is not Enough

Sunset at Tenaya Lake, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Sunset at Tenaya Lake, Yosemite. I had to work quickly to find a foreground design to go with this colorful sunset.

I’ve always been attracted to color. Color can be eye-catching, but more importantly to me, it’s a powerful tool for conveying a mood.

My attention is easily caught by colorful subjects like flowers, fall leaves, sunrise or sunset clouds, reflections, and so on. The colors don’t have to be bold; a subtle color palette can be just as compelling.

But while interesting colors always catch my eye, I know that color is not enough by itself. You can’t just point your camera toward something colorful and expect to make a great photograph. A frame filled with a random mishmash of autumn leaves won’t be compelling – it’ll just be a colorful mess. You need to find a design to go with that color. So I’m always looking for focal points and patterns that could help give structure to the color.

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