Light and Weather

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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).

(more…)

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.)

(more…)

Snow in Yosemite Valley

Weather Yosemite Valley: Stormy skies over the valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Stormy skies over the valley, Yosemite, Sunday evening

We’ve had one storm after another here in the Sierra Nevada. Two more storms came through this past weekend, back to back. They were cold systems, so it snowed in Yosemite Valley, with about five inches on Friday night, and another eight or nine inches on Saturday night and Sunday morning – all on top of at least 18 inches left over from the previous series of storms. The valley was quite a snowy place.

I kept checking the weather last weekend to see whether there might be a break between the first and second storms. All signs pointed to a partial break late on Saturday morning, but there seemed to be a slight chance that the storm might clear closer to sunrise on Saturday, so I drove up early – only to wait as a shower rolled in and dumped heavy snow for an hour.

(more…)

A Monster Storm

Ice-coated oaks at sunset, Mariposa County, CA, USA

Ice-coated oaks at sunset, Mariposa County, CA, USA

California got hit by a big storm. It was actually a series of storms that started last Friday and ended late Tuesday, but it felt like one long storm because there was little break between the systems. We didn’t see the sun in Mariposa from Friday until Tuesday.

Yosemite Valley received 8 1/2 inches of precipitation (rain and snow equivalent) since Friday. That’s the largest amount I remember seeing over such a short period. (There was probably more rain during the ’97 flood, but I didn’t pay attention to the rain totals then).

(more…)