Light and Weather

Misty Ridges

Misty ridges, Sierra Nevada foothills, CA, USA

Misty ridges, Sierra Nevada foothills, California. 400mm, 1/200 sec. at f/11, ISO 100.

A few days ago I checked to see if fog might be pushing up into the Sierra foothills again. It’s often hard to get a good picture of what’s happening with the weather in the predawn darkness, but things looked promising enough to make me grab my gear and drive out to one of the local viewpoints.

When I arrived it was light enough to see that there wasn’t a distinct band of fog below. Instead, I found diffused layers of mist. That wasn’t what I was looking for, so for a second I considered turning around and heading home. But I was already up, and out, and then I spotted Venus and the crescent moon poking through some clouds, so I decided to photograph that. And then… I might as well hang around for sunrise.


Waves of Fog

Cascading fog, Sierra Nevada foothills, CA, USA

Cascading fog, Sierra Nevada foothills, California. 111mm, 15 seconds at f/11, ISO 200, 4-stop ND filter.

We’re in the midst of another dry spell here. After some modest rain in December and early January, the storm track has shifted north, with no precipitation in sight for at least the next two weeks.

But we got enough rain to add some moisture to the ground and the lower atmosphere, which triggered the typical winter fog pattern in California’s Central Valley. Fog down there has been a daily occurrence, and that pattern is expected to continue for awhile.


Breaking Through

Oak and grasslands at sunset, Sierra Nevada foothills, CA, USA

Oak and grasslands at sunset, Sierra Nevada foothills, California. 31mm, five frames blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge, each frame at f/11, ISO 100.

While looking through my photographs from last year, I realized there were many images that I hadn’t had a chance to post before.

One of those was this photograph of a lone oak at sunset in the Sierra foothills. I made this on April 6th, during the first lockdown. Yosemite was closed, and we couldn’t travel outside our county, but Claudia and I felt lucky to live in the Sierra foothills, where we could easily drive to some beautiful spots without encountering any other people. We explored and photographed places we hadn’t been to before, and it was fun discovering these new locations in our backyard.


Clearing Storm

El Capitan and the Merced River at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

El Capitan and the Merced River at sunset, Yosemite. One of my last photos of the day, as the sun broke through clouds and lit El Capitan. 26mm, three bracketed exposures blended with Lightroom’s HDR Merge, each at f/11, ISO 100.

It’s been a strange year, to say the least. Yesterday, Claudia and I went up to Yosemite Valley, and we had to think about the last time we’d been there. It was probably in early June, just after the park reopened. Over the rest of the summer we went to Glacier Point a few times, and up to the Yosemite high country on several occasions to photograph thunderstorms and Comet NEOWISE, but not to Yosemite Valley. In September and early October we traveled to Utah and Colorado. We spent most of November in Oregon and Washington. In between we stayed home while I finished launching my new Lightroom course.

During the spring the whole state was in lockdown, and the park was closed. And even in January and February there wasn’t a lot of weather, and therefore not much enticement to drive up to the valley to photograph a clearing storm. So I had hardly photographed Yosemite Valley the entire year.


Big Waves

Crashing wave, Oregon Coast, USA

Crashing wave, Oregon Coast. To get a sense of scale, click on the image to view it larger and see if you can spot the person in the frame. He’s just to the left of the wave between some trees. It looks like the wave would have soaked this photographer, but it probably didn’t; the wave is actually between that person and the camera, and the spot he was standing on usually stays dry. This wasn’t the tallest splash we saw that day, but the light at that moment, along with the shape of the wave, made this image the clear winner in my mind. 50mm, 1/500th of a second at f/11, ISO 160.

After spending some time along the Oregon Coast, Claudia and I headed up to Bellingham, Washington, to visit family.

But I kept my eye on the weather forecasts for Oregon. One day stood out in particular, when waves were predicted to reach heights of 20 feet or more. We planned to work our way back to Oregon in time to see those waves.


Same Scene, Different View

Sunset, Oregon Coast, USA

Sunset, Oregon Coast

Claudia and I have been on the road again. We made our way up the Oregon Coast, then to Bellingham, Washington, to visit family, then back to Oregon again.

We’ve been enjoying some wild weather along the coast. While California has been mostly dry, we’ve encountered clouds, rain, fog, wind, and big waves – all fun stuff for a landscape photographer, despite sometimes having to dodge sheets of rain blowing sideways.