Light and Weather
I recently wrote about photographing a clearing storm from the Four-Mile Trail, but that was actually my second journey up that trail last month. The first time was a week earlier, on March 14th, as another rainstorm cleared early in the morning. At that time I hadn’t been up the Four-Mile Trail in several years, but I remembered that you could see some great views of Yosemite Falls from the trail, and the unusually high early-spring water levels in falls made it seem worth trying.
I had a vague memory of finding some good views of the falls that weren’t very far up the trail, but apparently my memory was faulty, as all the lower views were partially obscured by trees. I found a decent view about 600 feet above the valley floor, but kept going up and up the switchbacks until I reached some better spots. On the way I also saw misty scenes looking west toward Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan, which I had to photograph, giving me a convenient excuse to stop and rest:
A small storm rolled through Monday night. The showers tapered off during the wee hours Tuesday morning, and I rose early, hoping to once again photograph a clearing storm in Yosemite Valley.
The moon was nearly full, and I actually got to the valley early enough to capture some images of the clearing storm by the light of the setting moon. Then some clouds moved in. I looked at the radar images on my phone, and saw a band of showers approaching. It looked like the showers would reach me around sunrise, and pass through pretty quickly. Hmm. I might have just enough time to hike up the Four-Mile Trail to a spot with a view of Half Dome that I’d been wanting to try.
It would be a gamble. Staying near the roads on the valley floor would give me more flexibility; I could wait to see what happened with the weather, and within five or ten minutes be at one of my favorite, familiar locations. But on this morning I wanted to try something different, so I decided to take a chance and go for it.
Friday’s storm got cold enough to drop a couple of inches of snow on Yosemite Valley. The storm cleared during the night, but showers lingered until the wee hours Saturday morning. It seemed possible that we might find some mist at sunrise, so Claudia and I drove up early to Yosemite Valley.
Indeed there was some mist, and broken clouds overhead. That seemed like a perfect combination for Tunnel View; if the clouds lit up it would be a gorgeous sunrise from there. But soon after I arrived at Tunnel View the clouds dissipated. There was still some mist down in the valley below, but it would take awhile for the sun to get high enough to light that mist, and without clouds to block it the sun would be right in my face, making it difficult to avoid lens flare.
I rose early yesterday morning to go up to Yosemite Valley, thinking the storm might clear just after sunrise. But showers persisted, and the sun didn’t break through until almost ten o’clock. By the time I finished photographing it was almost noon, so I decided to stay in the valley until sunset.
In the afternoon typical after-storm condensation clouds formed around the rim of the valley. Thinking those clouds might add something to a photograph of Horsetail Fall, and allow me to capture something a little different from my other images of this waterfall, I headed for a spot with a good overall view of El Cap and Horsetail.
Two weather systems have brought over two inches of precipitation to Yosemite Valley since Friday night. It was very warm at the beginning, with snow levels at 9,000 feet, but now the temperature has dropped, and it’s.
I can even see flakes falling outside my window in Mariposa, at 2,800 feet, but it’s a little too warm for the snow to stick.
It looks like the storm might clear this afternoon, but these things are always hard to predict. Radar images show the tail end of the precipitation approaching, but that can be deceiving, as showers often linger over the mountains longer than you would otherwise expect. I’ll be keeping a close eye on things this afternoon, especially since there’s no precipitation in the seven-day forecast, so this might be the last chance to photograph a clearing storm for awhile. We’ll see what happens!
In the meantime, here’s a photograph from a clearing storm back in January of 2012. Chances are low that this current storm will bring an opportunity like this, but you can always hope.
— Michael Frye