Half Dome and El Capitan during a clearing storm, Yosemite
We’ve seen a pretty active weather pattern here in California since late November. There haven’t been any big storms, but rather a series of smaller systems. Each dose of precipitation brings a chance to photograph a clearing storm – if the timing is right. And the timing has been perfect a few times.
My last post featured a sunrise clearing storm on Christmas Eve. The photographs in this post were actually made about a week before that, when another small weather system cleared just before sunrise.
Oak and frost-tipped ponderosa pine, Yosemite. We walked to a spot along the Merced River, then decided to check out a nearby meadow, where we found some mist, and even better, beautifully-frosted trees. This juxtaposition of a frost-tipped pine and oak caught my eye. 163mm, 1/3 sec. at f/16, ISO 100.
It’s easy to view landscapes as permanent and unchanging, since the major components, like mountains rivers, lakes, etc., change slowly, at a pace measured in thousands of years – too slowly for us short-lived animals to perceive directly. The geologic evidence tells us that the land has changed – dramatically – and will continue to change, but I think for most people that’s an intellectual understanding, and doesn’t really affect the way we perceive and experience the world around us.
Half Dome, winter sunset, Yosemite. Incoming clouds prompted me to head to this spot to photograph Half Dome; luckily the sun broke through a gap in the clouds at the right moment. 50mm, 1/45th sec. at f/11, ISO 100.
Our exceptionally dry autumn gave way to a series of storms recently, with lots of interesting photography weather.
During our recent workshop every day seemed to bring a new opportunity. The first day it was a clearing storm. The next day it was ice patterns with gold reflections. We photographed the moon rising next to Half Dome – twice – plus misty meadows, backlit oaks, and frosted pines. It was a lot of fun.
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.