On our way back from Colorado last month, Claudia and I spent a couple of nights in southern Utah. We had dinner with one of Utah’s most talented and thoughtful photographers, Guy Tal, along with his wife Sarah. (If you’re not familiar with Guy’s photography and writing you should be!) And we enjoyed the change in scenery, going from the forested, snowy mountains of Colorado to the red-rock canyons.
Travels and Stories
One afternoon about ten days ago Claudia and I headed up Highway 120, west of Yosemite Valley, to check on the fall color. We found some colorful dogwoods between the Valley and Crane Flat, but west of Crane Flat most of the dogwoods were brown, scorched by the Ferguson Fire last summer. Or, to be more accurate, they had been scorched by firing operations (back burns) performed by firefighters along the road.
We decided to hike down to the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias. While the Ferguson Fire didn’t reach the Tuolumne Grove, the Rim Fire did in 2013. The media latched onto this story, with headlines about the fire threatening these ancient trees.
Claudia and I made our annual pilgrimage to Colorado to see the aspens, with a short detour into some Utah canyons. We’ve actually been traveling for three weeks, and just got home. During our trip we got up before sunrise almost every morning, and stayed out until after sunset nearly every evening. I kept thinking that I should post some photos, but there always seemed to be some interesting weather, and photos to be made, and barely enough time to eat, sleep, and then get up at 5:30 and do it all over again.
Last winter was a strange one in the Yosemite area, with most of the precipitation coming in March, followed by a big, warm rainstorm in early April that created flooding in Yosemite Valley. That rainstorm melted much of the snowpack below 9,000 feet, so spring came early in those low- and mid-elevation areas. We found some nice flower displays at those elevations, but nothing exceptional.
Above 9,000 feet, however, the snowpack remained intact, even after the early-April flood. And that lingering snow led to an exceptional bloom in the highest elevations. Back in July, before the fires, Claudia and I photographed the flowers as much as we could, and we also led our Range of Light workshop group to a couple of our favorite flower spots.
Two weeks ago our good friend Robert Eckhardt conducted another iPhone photography workshop for us. This time we were based in Lee Vining, and the workshop included two trips to Bodie, with special access to the interiors. It was so much fun.
I hadn’t photographed Bodie interiors in two years. Bodie endured two earthquakes in December of 2016, causing structural damage to some of the buildings, and knocking over bottles, shelves, and other objects. So no photography workshops were allowed into the interiors in 2017 while the park assessed the damage.
Claudia and I have made several trips to the Yosemite high country recently to photograph flowers. We’ve mostly seen early bloomers like shooting stars, along with a few other species.
One afternoon we made a short hike to one of the high-country meadows looking for flowers. Whenever I’m near meadows in Yosemite between, say, 6,000 and 8,000 feet, I keep my eyes and ears peeled for great gray owls. These are the largest owls in North America, and typically live in boreal forests in Canada and Alaska. But some live in the Cascades and northern Sierra, all the way down to Yosemite, which hosts the southern-most population of these birds.