Light and Weather

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.

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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.

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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.

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Autumn Light

First light on aspens, Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison NF, CO, USA

First light on aspens, Colorado. I waited for the sun to come up over a ridge and rake across this hillside, thinking that the first light catching the tops of the trees might be interesting. This turned out to be one of my favorite images from the trip. 297mm, 1/45th sec. at f/11, ISO 100.

After photographing fall color in northern Utah, and then having our course deflected toward Dinosaur National Monument, Claudia and I did finally make our way to the aspen groves in Colorado.

As we were quickly discovering on this trip, the pandemic has made outdoor recreation especially popular this fall, so well-known spots were busier than usual, and campsites hard to come by.

But there are lots of aspens in Colorado. Millions of them. If you’re in Colorado at elevations between 8,000 and 10,000 feet, there are bound to be aspens nearby. We didn’t have a particular timetable, so we looked at maps, picked out some likely spots, and just went.

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Comet Over an Alpine Lake

The Big Dipper and Comet NEOWISE over an alpine lake, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

The Big Dipper and Comet NEOWISE over an alpine lake, Yosemite. 9 frames blended with Starry Landscape Stacker to reduce noise, each at 15 seconds, f/1.8, ISO 6400. I also made a lighter exposure for the landscape at 2 minutes and f/1.8, ISO 6400, and blended that with the other frames in Photoshop. All that was done just to reduce noise. The camera was locked on a tripod throughout that process, and nothing was stretched, distorted, or added. In other words, the comet and stars really were there, in that exact position over the lake and peak, at 11:06 p.m. on July 18th.



Before my journey to Death Valley, Claudia and I made a couple of trips to the Yosemite high country to try to photograph Comet NEOWISE.

On our first attempt we hiked to a high, alpine lake where I thought we could get a good view of the comet. It was one of those summer days in the Sierra with lots of clouds building up and forming scattered thunderstorms. I knew the clouds might interfere with comet viewing, but with that weather pattern the clouds usually dissipate quickly after sunset, so it seemed worth a try. And maybe the clouds would give us an interesting sunset.

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Lightning Storm at Mono Lake

Lightning at sunset, Mono Lake, CA, USA

Lightning at sunset, Mono Lake, California

As most of you know, an unusually-strong series of thunderstorms reached California the weekend before last (August 15th and 16th), and dry lightning sparked numerous wildfires. Two of those fires (the LNU Complex and the SCU Complex) have become among the largest in state history. Our hearts go out to those who have lost homes and loved ones in the fires.

The lightning reached the San Francisco Bay Area in the early-morning hours on Sunday, August 16th. Claudia and I were in Lee Vining (near Mono Lake) that day, and things were quiet that morning, but thunderstorms moved into the area from the south that afternoon.

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