Light and Weather

Exploring the Oregon Coast: Part Two

Creek flowing into the Pacific Ocean, Oregon coast, USA

Creek flowing into the Pacific Ocean, Oregon coast. 26mm, five bracketed exposures at f/16, ISO 100, blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge, then blended back with one of the original images in Photoshop to eliminate ghosting.

Summer is fog season along the west coast. Currents and upwelling bring cool water to the surface near the shore, and when warm, moist air blowing off the Pacific encounters that cold water the air temperature near the surface drops to meet the dew point, creating the right conditions for fog formation.

Usually that fog layer lifts above sea level, so along the shore it looks like a low overcast. That stratus deck might break up late in the morning, but often starts to re-form toward sunset, building back into a solid overcast by morning.

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Ice in July

ice fingers, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

ice fingers, Yosemite. 200mm, 1/4 second at f/16, ISO 100, focus-stacked and blended with Helicon Focus.

I always try to drive over Tioga Pass right after it opens in hopes of finding still-snowy peaks, and melting ice on some of the high-country lakes. This year’s big snowpack delayed the full opening of Tioga Road until July 1st, so I thought there would still be lots of snow up there. But when we drove over the pass on July 2nd we found less snow and ice than I expected. The peaks had some snow, but not as much as in 2017, and the lakes near the road were ice-free.

Later, while scouting for our high-country workshop, I did find some ice on higher lakes, away from the road. And our workshop group got to photograph a small patch of ice on one lake before it all melted. I think if we had arrived at that lake one day later the ice would have been gone.

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A Spring Sunrise

Clearing storm, spring, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Clearing storm, spring, Yosemite, 7:27 a.m. Friday. Five auto-bracketed frames, two stops apart, blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge.

We’re having some unusual weather for May. Higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada received over a foot of snow on Thursday. A second storm brought more rain and upper-elevation snow last night. A third storm is forecast to arrive on Tuesday, with another storm possibly coming on Friday.

This kind of weather pattern is fairly common during California’s winter rainy season. In May, as the summer dry season approaches, it’s not unusual to see a small system come through and deliver some light rain. But a series of strong, wet, cold storms like this is practically unheard of.

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Flowers in the Fog

Wildflowers and oaks in the fog, Table Mountain, CA, USA

Wildflowers and oaks in the fog, Table Mountain. I loved the s-curve created by the foreground flowers. But a strong leading line won’t work unless it draws your eye to something interesting in the background. In this case the two distant oaks provided that background focal point – a period at the end of the sentence. (And those oaks wouldn’t have stood out so clearly without the fog.) 50mm, 1/3 of a second at f/16, ISO 100, focus-stacked.



After our trip to Antelope Valley Claudia and I hoped to photograph wildflowers again, so I kept my eye on the forecasts, looking for calm winds, and – if we got lucky – some clouds.

There was one day that looked promising, with showers in the forecast for much of California. Clouds and rain could be a great complement to wildflowers. But it looked like those showers would be accompanied by wind in all of the southern California wildflower spots. So I thought about other locations that might have less wind, and decided to go to Table Mountain, in northern California.

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Misty Yosemite Valley

Sunrise from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Sunrise from Tunnel View, Yosemite. On this morning the satellite images showed lots of high clouds, but I hoped there might be a gap to the east, allowing the sun to shine through and light the underside of the clouds. And I hoped for mist on the valley floor. That was asking for a lot, but sometimes things work out. The color lasted about three minutes. 50mm, three bracketed exposures, two stops apart, blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge.

While early February brought lots of snow to Yosemite Valley, over the last three weeks we’ve seen a series of warmer storms, with rain rather than snow. I’d rather have snow, of course, but any weather is more interesting than blue skies. And rain on top of snow is a great mist producer.

Fog or clouds form when the temperature and dew point converge. That means either cooling the air to meet the dew point (like when air rises, and cools, and the water vapor in the air condenses into clouds), or raising the dew point to meet the air temperature (by increasing the amount of moisture in the air).

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Snow in Yosemite Valley: Part 2

Snow-covered oaks reflected in the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Snow-covered oaks reflected in the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA



On that snowy day I wrote about in my previous post the sun came out quickly, so our first stop was a spot near El Capitan that was still in the shade. I was looking for reflections, but then the sun hit the oaks across the river, while a cloud threw shade over El Cap, creating a beautiful contrast between the bright white trees and the dark cliff behind them.

The snowbank below the oaks, however, was really bright and distracting. All I need, I thought, is for a cloud to shade that snowbank while the sun was still hitting the trees. And a minute later it happened, setting up a dark-light-dark-light pattern. (That’s the image at the top of this post.)

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