Light and Weather

Autumn Into Winter

Frosted aspens, Colorado, USA

Frosted aspens, Colorado

When posting my nominees for best photos of 2021, I realized that I hadn’t posted some of my favorites before. That’s especially true for images I made this fall. We traveled to Yellowstone, Colorado, Utah, and the Oregon Coast, with little break in between trips, and not much time to process everything and post the images.

For me, one of the special treats this autumn (among many!) was the opportunity to photograph autumn aspens with snow. I did write about our brief trip to the eastern Sierra in early October, where I got to photograph some colorful aspens coated with snow. And then we got to do that several more times in Colorado.

(more…)

Happy Solstice!

Pink light on El Capitan at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Pink light on El Capitan at sunset, Yosemite, last Tuesday evening. 50mm, 1/8 sec. at f/11, ISO 100.



We’ve reached the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, and this year it actually feels like winter here in the Sierra Nevada. In some recent years the weather has been warm and dry in December – and that’s the way this month began. But last week two separate storms brought over five inches of precipitation to Yosemite Valley.

The first storm was the biggest. It rained hard in the Valley on Monday, but by Tuesday morning rain had changed to snow, eventually piling up about eight inches of white stuff. Our workshop group had to wait out some of that rain on Monday, but then we photographed almost all day Tuesday, with some brief breaks to dry out and warm up.

(more…)

Yellowstone’s Dynamic Landscape

Steaming earth, Yellowstone NP, WY, USA

Steaming earth, Yellowstone National Park

Last spring I did a presentation for Out of Chicago Live called The Dynamic Landscape. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about for awhile, because I realized that I view the landscape not as something fixed and immutable, but as as a living, breathing, constantly changing organism.

And that view heavily influences my photography. I respond to the changes around me with my feet, my eyes, and my camera as I adapt to light, weather, and other conditions.

(more…)

Evenings at the Lake

Sun setting over Mono Lake, CA, USA

Sun setting over Mono Lake, California. Anticipating that sunbeams might appear to the west, I moved to line up the sun with some tufa formations, and captured this scene as the sun broke through a bank of clouds. Five frames, two stops apart, each at 50mm, f/11, and ISO 100, blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge.

If you’re used to lakes in other parts of the world, Mono Lake might seem like a strange place. The water is salty – two to three times saltier than the ocean. It’s surrounded by sagebrush desert, and instead of trees along the shore you find those otherworldly tufa formations.

You won’t see many people swimming in Mono Lake. You won’t find lifeguards and buoys, windsurfers, or kids splashing in the water playing Marco Polo. Although the very-salty water allows people to float easily, it also leaves a salty and somewhat-soapy alkaline residue on the skin, with no convenient beachside showers available to rinse off in.

(more…)

Summer in the High Country

Rainbow and sunset clouds, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Rainbow and sunset clouds, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite NP, California. 35mm, 1/2 sec. at f/16, ISO 100.

If I were to make a list of my favorite places on earth, the Yosemite high country would have to be near the top. There’s something about the thin, pine-scented air, intense light, vast expanses of polished granite, and lakes sparkling in the sun…

I’ve spent a lot of time in this area over the last 40 years. I feel like this land is part of me, and me part of it. Some spots are as familiar to me as Yosemite Valley, and yet I’m still finding new places to explore.

(more…)

Mono Lake

Clouds, tufa, and Negit Island at sunset, Mono Lake, CA, USA

Clouds, tufa, and Negit Island at sunset, Mono Lake, California. This rain cloud lingered for awhile in the same location, allowing me to capture variations of this scene as the sun lowered, and the wind altered the reflections. 70mm, 1/15 sec. at f/11, ISO 100.

Mono Lake is a unique and beautiful place. It’s known for its tufa formations, but there’s so much more to it. It’s a giant pool surrounded by desert sage, and bounded by the peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the west. In summer, monsoonal moisture often arrives from the southeast and runs into that mountain wall, where the moisture gets pushed upward, forming clouds, showers, and thunderstorms. The lake becomes a vector for those storms.

While staying in Lee Vining a couple of weeks ago, we saw clouds and showers each afternoon, and had several opportunities to photograph beautiful evening light at the lake (along with a colorful sunrise). Under those conditions the lake can reflect clouds in wonderful ways, creating swaths of color and light across the sky and water.

(more…)