In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog


Confluence of Cascade and Tamarack creeks, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Confluence of two swollen creeks, Yosemite, last Thursday afternoon. 1/2 second at f/11, 50 ISO.

California got doused by another series of storms last week. From Sunday (February 5th) through Friday (February 10th) Yosemite Valley received over ten inches of rain, pushing water levels near flood stage again.

My brother Peter came down to visit us from Washington state, and early on Thursday morning we drove up to Yosemite Valley, hoping for the sun to break through. We never saw the sun, but we found innumerable small waterfalls, including many I don’t remember seeing before in over 30 years here. And the big waterfalls were ripping. The overcast light was actually the perfect complement to many of these scenes, and I didn’t know when I’d get another opportunity to photograph the waterfalls like this, so we ended up staying in the valley for most of the day photographing the surging cascades.


Horsetail Fall Season

Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 18th, 2016

Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 18th, 2016

It looks like there should be plenty of water in Horsetail Fall this month. Yosemite Valley has received almost ten inches of rain over the past week, and that abundant rainfall has boosted the flow in all of Yosemite’s waterfalls, including Horsetail. In fact the Merced River reached minor flood stage Wednesday night. While the rain runoff will diminish quickly, there’s a healthy snowpack at the higher elevations of Yosemite, which should keep Horsetail flowing for awhile. I expect above-average flow in Horsetail this year.

But water flow is just one element. You also need the sun to set at the right angle to backlight Horsetail and make it turn orange, yet have the cliff behind it in the shade, so that the glowing, backlit, orange water is set against a dark background. My best estimate is that this happens between February 16th and 23rd, and perhaps even a few days beyond. (I delve into more detail about all that here.)


The Big Snow

Late-afternoon light on Half Dome from Cook's Meadow, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Late-afternoon light on Half Dome from Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite

I haven’t had a chance to post here recently, but I wanted to write about the big snow in Yosemite nine days ago. California was hit by three storms in a row, and the last two brought snow to Yosemite Valley – a lot of snow. The final storm in the sequence moved through slowly on Sunday and Sunday night (January 22nd), but by early Monday morning it showed signs of clearing, so Claudia and I woke early and drove up to the valley. We found about 18 inches of snow in open areas, more than we’d seen in years.


A Wild Week in Yosemite

Frazil ice underneath alders along the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Frazil ice underneath alders along the Merced River, Yosemite, Friday morning. The shutter speed was 3 seconds.

As most of you probably heard, Yosemite got hit with some wild weather last week. The National Weather Service was predicting a major flood for the Merced River in Yosemite Valley on Sunday, January 8th. Their initial projection, issued on January 5th (I think) put the water level at Pohono Bridge at 23.7 feet, slightly higher than the 1997 flood, which closed the valley for two months. Then the next day the projection dropped to 15 feet, considered a moderate flood. On Saturday the projection climbed again to 16, 17, 18, then 19.7 feet – just below the “major flood” level of 20 feet. And then the projection dropped again to 15 feet, and then lower still.


My Top Photographs of 2016

The votes are all in and counted, and here are my top photographs of 2016!

We had an amazing response this year: a record-breaking 728 people looked through my initial selection of 47 images and voted for their favorites here on the blog, on Facebook, 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!

To express our gratitude to all the voters we’ve decided to give away two prints this year. We assigned each person who voted a number, and used a random number generator to pick the recipients. And the winners are… Fred Littooy and Geoffrey Robinson! Fred and Geoff will each receive a signed and numbered 16×20 print of their choice from among the 47 original selections. Congratulations Fred and Geoff!

This year I thought the top twelve vote-getters made a more well-rounded selection than the top ten, so I expanded the final selection to include a dozen images. Here’s the list of the twelve images that received the most picks, and the number of votes they each received:

Voting Deadline is Midnight Tonight

23. Sunbeams and an old road in a redwood forest, northern California coast, USA

23. Sunbeams and an old road in a redwood forest, northern California coast, USA

Just a reminder that if you want to vote for your favorite images of mine from 2016 the deadline is midnight tonight, Pacific time. Just follow this link to see the nominees and cast your vote. And to those of you who have already voted – thank you very much! We’ve had a great response so far, and I really appreciate the input from everyone.

— Michael Frye

My Best Images of 2016: 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 47 of my best photographs from 2016 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 3rd, at midnight Pacific time.


Happy New Year!

Moonlit winter night with Half Dome, Glacier Point, and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Moonlit winter night with Half Dome, Glacier Point, and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful year in 2017.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the nominees for my best photos of 2016, and you’ll get a chance to vote for your favorites and help me pick the top ten. Keep an eye out for the post! You can see last year’s nominees here, and the winners here.

I made this image around 4:20 a.m. last Saturday morning (Christmas Eve) after a few of inches of snow fell in Yosemite Valley. I actually drove up to the valley around 9:30 on Friday evening, since it looked like the storm was about to clear. But clouds and snow flurries persisted for awhile, and skies didn’t start to clear in ernest until after midnight.


Editing Your Work

Reflections along the Merced River, winter, Yosemite NP, CA, USAReflections along the Merced River, winter, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Reflections along the Merced River, winter, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

It’s become a tradition on this blog to ask my readers to help pick my best images of the year, so on January 1st I’ll be posting the nominees for 2016 and asking all of you to vote for your favorites. It’s always fun to see what people pick!

Last year readers voted this snow scene into the top ten. It actually got the fifth-most votes, which was a pleasant surprise for an intimate landscape like this. (You can see last year’s nominees here, and the top ten here.)


Merry Christmas!

Moon over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Moon over Yosemite Valley

Claudia and I wish you a very Merry Christmas! And happy first day of Hanukkah! We hope you have a wonderful holiday, full of peace, joy, and the love of family and friends.

I made this photograph on the same night as the moonrise from Gates of the Valley image in my last post. After leaving the Gates I headed up to Tunnel View. For some reason I thought the moon would be behind Cathedral Rocks from there, but instead the moon was plainly visible right over the valley. I would usually avoid photographing right into the moon, for the same reasons I would usually avoid photographing right into the sun: a high probability of lens flare, and extreme contrast. But on that night the backlit mist and clouds were beautiful, so I gave it a try.