Light and Weather

Misty Morning in Yosemite Valley

Misty sunrise, Half Dome and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Misty sunrise, Half Dome and the Merced River, Yosemite. This was a very contrasty scene, so I bracketed five exposures, each two stops apart, and blended them with Lightroom’s HDR Merge. The settings, for what they’re worth: 16mm, various shutter speeds at f/11, ISO 100.

I don’t like getting up early. I’m really more of a night owl, and it’s always an unpleasant shock when the alarm jars me out of a deep sleep at oh-dark-thirty. But I force myself to rise early any time there’s a chance for an interesting sunrise, because if I don’t I might miss something special, and then I would kick myself.

After a very dry autumn we finally got two storms last week. The second storm moved through on Friday and Friday night. All signs indicated that it would clear sometime around sunrise yesterday (Saturday), which could be great timing. So I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m., pried myself out of bed, made some breakfast, and drove to Yosemite Valley.

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Autumn into Winter: Part Two

Sunbeams and aspens, Dallas Divide, CO, USA

Sunbeams and aspens, Dallas Divide, Colorado. Claudia and I were headed to a more distant aspen grove, hoping to find snow on the trees, but saw some great sunbeams breaking through the clouds and decided to stop at Dallas Divide. We ended up staying for half an hour, with sunbeams moving across the landscape the whole time. For this image I bracketed five shots, two stops apart, and blended them with Lightroom’s HDR Merge.



In my last post I mentioned how much I love the transition from autumn to winter, with splashes of yellow amidst beautiful white aspen trunks, snow etching the trees, and the feeling of the long, cold winter settling in. Here are a few more attempts to capture that mood from the mountains of Colorado.

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Autumn into Winter: Part One

Winter is coming to hillside with aspens and conifers, Uncompahgre NF, CO, USA

Hillside with aspens and conifers, Uncompahgre NF, CO, USA

We were in Colorado for two-and-a-half weeks, and during that time we watched the upper-elevation aspens lose most of their leaves. The lower-elevation aspens followed, going from green, to yellow and orange, and then, in some cases, bare. Rain and snow set in, and we saw the snow level drop from 11,000 feet down to 10,000 feet, then 9,000 feet, and even briefly down to 8,000 feet. It felt like winter was approaching rapidly.

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Autumn Weather

Autumn hillside in the fog, Uncompahgre NF, CO, USA

Interesting weather: Autumn hillside in the fog, Uncompahgre NF, CO, USA

As I mentioned in my last post, we got some interesting weather while we were in Colorado – rain, mist, and even some snow. We stayed in the area longer than we originally planned to try to photograph some of this weather, hanging out with our friend Charlotte Gibb during some of that time, and enduring rain in hopes of photographing aspens in the fog or snow.

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Monsoon Sunsets

Cathedral Range and reflections at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Cathedral Range and reflections at sunset, Yosemite. We huddled under trees for about an hour, waiting out a rainstorm, and were rewarded with this beautiful sunset.

Every summer we get periods of monsoonal moisture pushing up into California from the south, producing afternoon showers and thunderstorms. One of those periods coincided with our recent workshop in the Yosemite high country, and we got to photograph some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

On the second afternoon of our workshop we hiked over a ridge to an alpine lake basin. There were some thunderstorms in the area, but none were very close when we started our hike, so I thought we might stay dry – and we had rain gear just in case.

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Smoky Landscapes

Osprey bringing a fish back to its nest at sunrise, Mono Lake, CA, USA

Osprey bringing a fish back to its nest at sunrise, Mono Lake. A thin band of smoke hung on the horizon to the east, turning the sun into a nice orange ball as it crested the horizon. We had watched an osprey bring a fish back to its nest on the tufa towers on a previous morning, so this time I was anticipating it. As the sun rose I heard the adult at the nest calling, so I got ready, setting my shutter speed to 1/350th of a second to freeze motion (at f/8 and ISO 100). The other adult flew in low and fast from the right, then rose up to the nest as I held down the shutter button. The bird is just a small accent at this size, but would be clearly visible in a big print.

Unusual conditions can provide interesting opportunities for photographs. Any unusual conditions – even things we don’t normally think of as photogenic. Photographers typically avoid smoke, for example, but smoke can create some wonderful atmospheric effects.

The Ferguson Fire started on the second day of our recent workshop in the Yosemite high country, but we didn’t see any smoke at first. Then on our fourth afternoon (Sunday the 15th) smoke started pouring over the mountains from the west. Instead of bemoaning our luck, we just went with it, sought out subjects that might work with the conditions, and ended up finding some interesting stuff, especially around sunrise and sunset.

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