Yosemite Photo Conditions

High Water in December

Upper Yosemite, rainbow, and reflection in the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Rainbow and Upper Yosemite Fall from Swinging Bridge, Yosemite, Friday afternoon

On Thursday night a large rainstorm hit California. The National Weather Service predicted minor flooding in Yosemite Valley during the night, so the park service pre-emptively closed all the roads in Yosemite Valley at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday.

That was disappointing, since I wanted to drive up to the valley the next morning to see the high water. As it turned out, the Merced River didn’t reach flood stage, everything was fine, and they reopened the roads at 9:00 a.m. on Friday. By that time it was too late to drive up and catch the morning light, so I decided to head to the park in the afternoon.


Misty Night

Misty night, Gates of the Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Misty night, Gates of the Valley, Yosemite

After a long dry spell we finally got some rain. The first storm arrived Thursday, and then a second, wetter system reached us yesterday. Altogether Yosemite Valley received over three inches of rain since late Wednesday. It’s been warm, with the snow levels near 9,000 feet, so there was no new snow in Yosemite Valley, but that warm rain melted generous quantities of snow leftover from previous storms, so the waterfalls are roaring like spring.

Thursday’s storm cleared after sunset, so at about 9:00 o’clock I decided to drive up to the valley for some night photography. I arrived to find plenty of low-lying mist, with the two-thirds-full moon lighting the cliffs above. It was really beautiful, but the moon was high overhead, making the lighting challenging. Then as the moonset approached things got more interesting. Some higher clouds moved in, and those clouds started to catch some color from the setting moon. I couldn’t see that color, of course, but the camera’s LCD screen showed it clearly.


First Snow

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

Clearing snowstorm from Tunnel View, Yosemite, 8:53 a.m. Sunday

The first snow of the season fell in Yosemite Valley Saturday night, so of course Claudia and I had to go up and see the snow. Getting to the valley Sunday morning was a challenge; Highway 140 between the entrance station and the valley hadn’t been plowed, and it was a mess. Near the old dam (the junction of highways 140 and 120) there were about eight inches of snow on the ground, and a single track to follow through the snow. We had to wait about 15 minutes while an SUV put on chains in the middle of the road. But we made it through, and once we reached the valley the roads were plowed, and the driving easier.


A Beautiful Autumn Day in Yosemite

Big-leaf maple overhanging the Merced River in autumn, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Big-leaf maple overhanging the Merced River in autumn, Yosemite, Monday morning

It was a wet weekend in Yosemite. From Thursday night to Sunday night Yosemite Valley received almost three inches of rain, and higher elevations probably got more.

Skies cleared Sunday night, so Claudia and I drove up to the valley early Monday morning, hoping to see fog, mist, and fall color. But what we found most striking was the water levels. It looked like spring, but with autumn color. The Merced River was ripping along, and the flat rock just above the old dam (the 120/140 junction) was completely submerged. The waterfalls were roaring. We didn’t find much mist, but there was a little fog in El Cap and Leidig meadows, and the sun created evaporation mist as it hit various spots on the valley floor.


Autumn on the East Side

Autumn hillside, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Autumn hillside, Bishop Creek Canyon

We just finished our Eastern Sierra Fall Color workshop, and start another workshop tomorrow, so I just have time for a quick post. But we had a lot of fun last week with our group. Autumn arrived early on the east side, and then a storm came through just before the workshop, closing many Sierra passes and blowing leaves off the trees. But we still found some beautiful color; I’ve included a few photographs here made during and just before the workshop.


North Lake Sunset

Sunset clouds over North Lake, autumn, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Sunset clouds over North Lake, autumn, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Claudia and I are back home, but we had fun photographing on the east side last week. Every day we saw more color in Bishop Creek Canyon, and the high-elevation aspens were looking great when we left yesterday.

I made this photograph Friday evening. We had been photographing intimate scenes along the south fork of Bishop Creek for a couple of hours, but there were some clouds hugging the crest of the mountains, so I headed to North Lake where I could get a wider view if the clouds turned color at sunset.