Travels and Stories

The Mist Trail at Night

Vernal Fall and Liberty Cap at night with a lunar rainbow, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Vernal Fall and Liberty Cap at night with a lunar rainbow, Yosemite. 20 seconds at f/4, ISO 6400

Claudia and I made a nighttime trip up the Mist Trail recently. The ostensible purpose of this hike was to look for lunar rainbows, and we did find some, as you can see from the photos. But that was just a bonus. The real reward was being up there on a beautiful, moonlit night, with the roar of the falling water filling our ears, and having this normally-crowded trail completely to ourselves. It was so much fun.

The moon will be full on Thursday night, and with the good water flow this spring I expect that many photographers will be making their way to Yosemite to photograph lunar rainbows on Yosemite Falls. Don Olson has posted lunar rainbow predictions for Lower Yosemite Fall, but the spray will be soaking the bridge below the lower fall, making it hard to keep lenses dry during long exposures. Unfortunately Don hasn’t posted any predictions yet for Upper Yosemite Fall, and my trigonometry skills aren’t good enough to make those predictions myself. I think lunar rainbows will be visible on the upper fall from Cook’s Meadow at some point on Thursday evening, and the following couple of nights, but I can’t be positive!

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Wildflower Hunting

Poppies, lupines, and oak, Figueroa Mountain, Los Padres NF, CA, USA

Poppies, lupines, and oak, Figueroa Mountain

Claudia and I took a few days this past week to look for wildflowers. It doesn’t seem like a great year for flowers, at least compared to some past years, but we did find some nice patches.

Our first stop was Carrizo Plain National Monument. We had heard some promising reports from this area, and we found extensive patches of yellow hillside daisies along the south and east sides of Soda Lake. We also heard that there are large swaths of purple phacelia in the southern part of the monument, but we didn’t make it down that far. However the Temblor Range, on the eastern edge of the Monument, seemed very dry. There were patches of daisies in the Temblors, but none of the multi-colored hillsides you’ll see in the best years. If you’ve never been to the Carrizo Plain in the spring it’s definitely worth going, as you’ll find some large swaths of beautiful flowers on the valley floor, and a bit of searching will reveal mixes of different species that work well for more intimate scenes. But if you’ve been to the Carrizo in a great year you’ll probably be a little disappointed with the display this spring.

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A Different Point of View

Half Dome and North Dome at sunrise from the Four-Mile Trail, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and North Dome at sunrise from the Four-Mile Trail, 8:07 a.m. Tuesday morning

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.

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A Clearing Storm by Starlight

Stars, mist, Three Brothers, and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Stars, mist, Three Brothers, and the Merced River, Yosemite, Sunday night

Every storm has to end eventually, of course. Even Noah got a reprieve after 40 days and 40 nights. I didn’t have to wait quite that long for this past weekend’s storm to clear, but at first it seemed like the timing was less than ideal.

There was a small chance that the storm might clear before sunset on Sunday, so Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley that afternoon. It was snowing when we got there, and kept snowing, and it soon became apparent that clearing wasn’t imminent. I photographed snow-covered trees until it got dark, then we joined our friend Charlotte Gibb for drinks and dinner at the Yosemite Lodge bar.

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Misty Morning

Half Dome and North Dome above Yosemite Valley, winter, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and North Dome above Yosemite Valley, Friday morning, 8:24 a.m.

I’m so grateful for all the rain and snow we’ve been getting. After four years of drought, it’s wonderful to have a normal, wet winter. We’ve had storm after storm, and although most of the recent ones have been small, they add up. Yosemite Valley has received 24.63 inches of rain since July 1st, which is well above average. Badger Pass, at 7,200 feet, has 60 inches of snow on the ground, and the deepening snowpack raises hopes of full waterfalls this spring.

All this weather has been great for photography. It seems like we’ve already had more snow and clearing storms this season than the last four winters combined.

The latest in the series of small storms came through on Thursday night. I didn’t pay much attention to it, because it was predicted to be a weak system, and a warm one. I happened to wake up at about 4:00 a.m. Friday morning, and checked the radar images on my phone. It was raining pretty hard at our house, but the radar showed that the precipitation might end soon, possibly right around sunrise.

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More Colorado Aspens

Aspens and reflections, Uncompahgre NF, CO, USA

Aspens and reflections, Uncompahgre NF, Colorado. This small, remote pond had a beautiful stand of aspens growing next to it. The trunks remind me of a baleen whale’s teeth.

As I said in this recent post, I had many opportunities to photograph aspens as part of a larger landscape this fall. But of course I photographed more intimate scenes as well, and I’ve included a selection of smaller-scale aspen photographs from Colorado here. Some of these images actually encompass a large geographic area, but I made the somewhat arbitrary distinction of defining an intimate landscape as anything that didn’t include sky.

On our first autumn visit to Colorado last year we split our time between the Kebler Pass/McClure Pass area and the San Juan Mountains. This year we spent the whole time in the San Juans, which allowed us to get to know this area better. There’s always something to be said for that. As you become more familiar with a place, you discover some of the lesser-known locations. You also start to learn the weather patterns, and know where to go at sunrise or sunset when there might be interesting clouds.

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