Yosemite Photo Conditions

Glacier Point Sunset

Half Dome and clouds at sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and clouds at sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite (7:44 p.m.)

The Glacier Point Road opened early this year – on Saturday, April 28th. Then it closed again two days later due to a chance of snow. When Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley on Tuesday to check on the dogwoods the Glacier Point Road was still closed.

On Wednesday afternoon I finished writing a post about the dogwoods, and then decided to look at the Yosemite webcams. The forecast called for a chance of showers and thunderstorms over the high country, and sure enough, the webcams showed some cloud buildup. I called the Yosemite road and weather number (209-372-0200), and lo and behold, the Glacier Point Road was open! At this point it was already 4:30 in the afternoon, but the sun wouldn’t set until 7:50, so there might still be enough time to get up to Glacier Point. I told Claudia the Glacier Point Road was open, and she didn’t hesitate: “Let’s go!”

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Yosemite Dogwoods

Dogwood, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Dogwood, Yosemite (yesterday afternoon)

Claudia and I went up to Yosemite Valley yesterday to check on the dogwoods. We had heard they were a bit late this year, but were starting to come out. And indeed they seem to be coming out quickly, and are close to their photographic peak now. Some are still greenish, a few looked a bit bedraggled already, and many seem to be leafing out quickly, but overall they were quite pretty. Some trees weren’t as full as I’ve seen them in the past, but others had more blossoms than usual.

Dogwoods bloom for two to three weeks, but I think they’re most photogenic when the blossoms are fresh (like now), and before the leaves get too big (which tends to hide the flowers a bit).

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Visual Echoes

Winter morning, El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Winter morning, El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA



The big storm finally ended last night. Yosemite Valley received about four-and-a-half inches of liquid precipitation since Thursday. It started as snow, then changed to rain for awhile, and then changed back to snow, with about a foot of snow accumulating on the valley floor. Precipitation for this water year is still well below average, but this storm was a big help.

The forecast called for snow showers to continue all day Saturday and linger into the evening. But you never know, so I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m. on Saturday morning in case the storm started to break earlier than expected. After getting rudely awakened by the alarm I checked the radar and satellite images, which showed clear skies approaching from the west. But it didn’t look like they would reach Yosemite Valley until at least a couple of hours after sunrise. And besides, showers often linger in the mountains, and all the forecast predictions showed showers continuing in Yosemite all day. I went back to bed.

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A Rare Storm

Clearing storm from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Clearing storm from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Storms have been rare in Yosemite during this dry winter. But on Monday evening a small, cold weather system moved down the coast and brushed the area.

I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m. Tuesday morning to check on the weather and see if it might be worth driving up to Yosemite Valley. We had about three inches of fresh snow at our house in Mariposa, but Yosemite hadn’t received much precipitation – less than a tenth of an inch. Most of the rain and snow with this system fell further west.

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Park Service Announces Permit System for Horsetail Fall

Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite. I had this view to myself When I made this image near Northside Drive back in 1995. How things have changed!



Yesterday the National Park Service issues a press release announcing a new permit system for viewing Horsetail Fall. Here are the essentials:

– From February 12th through 26th there will be a special “event zone” between Yosemite Valley Lodge and the El Capitan crossover.

– During that time Southside Drive will be open to two-way traffic, with no parking allowed between the El Cap crossover and Sentinel Bridge.

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Horsetail Fall Conditions

Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 19th, 2009, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 19th, 2009, Yosemite NP, CA, USA



Horsetail Fall season will be here soon. The best light occurs from around February 16th through February 23rd. During that time, if conditions are right, the waterfall is backlit by the setting sun, while the cliff behind it is in the shade, creating dramatic color and contrast.

Before February 16th, Horsetail can get beautiful sunset color, but the cliff behind it is still in the sun. After February 23rd, the sunlight gets cut off before it reaches its deepest color. Of course the angle of the sun doesn’t change dramatically between the 15th and the 16th, or between the 23rd and the 24th, so it’s possible to capture good images of Horsetail Fall a few days before or after that window. But that period between the 16th and 23rd is, as far as I can determine, the optimal time. (See this post for an in-depth discussion about the timing of this event.)

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