Snowy night along the Merced River, Yosemite. 20mm, 20 seconds at f/2.5, ISO 6400.
I’m not sure who decided that the winter solstice should be the first official day of winter, but I think that official designation is rather absurd. Winter has definitely arrived in many parts of the country, whether it’s official or not, including here in the Sierra. This past week Yosemite got its first precipitation in months, in the form of a cold storm that dropped over a foot of snow on the valley floor.
The snow began on Tuesday, and I kept my eye on the weather, of course, hoping to photograph the storm clearing, and looking for potential rifts in the clouds. Judging by satellite images, some stars might have appeared during the wee hours of Wednesday morning, but that was just a brief break before the clouds closed in again. Late Friday morning the sun finally started to poke through the clouds, so Claudia and I headed up to the valley.
Big-leaf maple in a burned forest, Yosemite
I’m always striving to make photographs that convey a mood. I want to do more than show what a place looks like; I want to capture what it feels like to be there at that particular moment.
It seems easier to convey a mood when photographing big landscape scenes during interesting weather. Just describing any kind of weather suggests a mood: sunny, cloudy, gray, overcast, rainy, foggy, misty, snowy, windy, calm – and so on. Combining weather with a compelling landscape almost automatically creates a mood.
Lenticular cloud at sunset, Mono Lake, California. 20 seconds at f/14, ISO 100, 7-stop ND filter.
We just finished our workshop in the eastern Sierra, and had a great time. We had to look a little harder for colorful aspens this year, but in the end we found plenty.
The workshop ended on Friday. Yesterday Claudia and I slept in a bit, then did an interview, packed up our classroom space from the workshop, and had an early dinner at the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining.
Autumn kaleidoscope, northern Utah. The upper-right portion of this photograph didn’t go into the shade until dusk, so I concentrated on photographing other things for awhile (like the next two images below). But I thought this was worth coming back to, as I loved the mix of colors and patterns. 180mm, 8 seconds at f/11, ISO 100.
As you can probably tell from my last post, Claudia and I had a great time photographing the maples in northern Utah. We even found some spots where the maples were mixed with aspens! Although 99% of the aspens in the area were still green at that time, I loved the juxtaposition of those greens against the reds and oranges of the maples – along with the white aspen trunks.
It’s great to get clouds, as we did for a couple of the photographs in that previous post from Utah. But we don’t have any control over the weather, so we have to adapt to the conditions. It’s hard to make big, sweeping landscape scenes work without clouds to add interest to the sky, so on sunny days I usually narrow my focus and concentrate on smaller scenes. And there were plenty of those in northern Utah, with the maples, aspens, and cottonwoods creating wonderful patterns, textures, and colors.
Half Dome and Nevada Fall at sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite
While summer is the dry season in California, monsoonal moisture often pushes up from Mexico during this season, triggering afternoon thunderstorms in the mountains. But there hasn’t been much of that this year. It’s been one sunny day after another. While the typical late-summer monsoons made their way to Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado, they never reached this far west.
Last week, however, some of that monsoonal moisture finally arrived in the Sierra, and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, clouds and thunderstorms developed over the high country.
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.