Today I am wrapping up my Yosemite posts by presenting some of the big, expansive vistas of the park.
There are some interesting stories behind some of these images.
Primera Lúz or First Light, was for me, a difficult shot. I wanted the image of the sun rising over El Capitan. I did my research to figure out when I might get that shot. That date was fortuitous because it coincided with the visit of my niece and nephew who had never visited Yosemite. I set up early and was treated to this magnificent view.
I was wandering Yosemite Valley in mid-morning when I caught the view of Bridal Veil Falls in the black and white image. There was a sense of familiarity in the scene, but I couldn’t place it. When I got home and looked at it, I realized I saw a scene that was reminiscent of images I saw in Look and Life magazines when I was a child. As an homage to what I remembered, I decided black and white would give me the retro presentation my memory asked for.
Upper Yosemite Falls at sunrise was taken on a trip to see the snow, but for which we were too late. As I researched for the trip, I realized that there should be some nice sunrise light on Yosemite Falls. But, I didn’t expect what I found. There had been some rain the night before and it was cold. As the sun rose. some holes opened in the clouds and bathed the chasm of Yosemite falls with beautiful golden light.
I love Yosemite very much. Its been a great blessing to be able to photograph it. Hopefully, I will be able to do more and do them better.
Note: Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.
On our trip to Yosemite last week, a pair of ravens were
foraging among the trees outside our hotel room. They were totally unfazed by me as I followed
It was an interesting day to shoot ravens. Everyone knows
ravens are black. But black just means that its feathers absorb all frequencies
of color and reflect none back. Like some other birds, the raven’s feathers can
refract or bend light, allowing their feathers to appear other colors. When the
birds were in bright light, they were their bright, familiar, black. But, when
they were in lower light, depending upon how they positioned themselves, their
wing and tail feathers appeared blue. In one other instance, the light hit the
raven’s ruff under his chin and made it look brown.
Is it a raven or is it a crow. If its big and bulky and it makes a croaking sound, its probably a raven. If its smaller and makes the familiar caw, its probably a crow. But, sometimes its not so simple. I am collecting images to put together a simple but more complete illustrated guide.
Please click on caption to image at a larger size.
Last week, we took a trip to Yosemite National Park. We were a bit late in the season. We were looking for snow, but almost all of the snow was gone from the valley floor. There was some clinging to the nooks on the cliff side. It was sunny when we arrived but, as the golden hour approached, the skies became cloud covered and we got rain. Just being in Yosemite when there are few people is a real treat, so walking around in the rain was enjoyable even though photography opportunities were few. Little did we know the treat that would await us in the morning.
We dutifully got up and out ½ hour before sunrise – about an
hour before the sun would start to light up the valley walls. While planning
the trip, I learned we would have clear skies in the morning and that the sun
would be in a good position to light Yosemite Falls. Yosemite falls is often
shaded during the golden hours for photography. We found the position from
which I wanted to shoot and set up. It was then we got our first surprise –
snow had fallen on the cliffsides on either side of the waterfall. There was
even a dead tree that was partially snow covered that I could get into the
I set up my composition and waited in the cold. After a
period of time that seemed interminable, golden sunlight began to penetrate the
valley. Watching the sun light the mountain tops and valley walls is one of my
favorite experiences; I never grow tired of it. We watched and enjoyed. I would
shoot from time to time. But, I really wanted more light on the water fall.
When the light broke, I got a treat I hadn’t expected. The sun began giving the
water and the mist a golden glow. I watched and I shot as the different
sections would glow. We stayed through the entire show.
I’ve included 2 of the images I got that morning. I hope you enjoy them.
Please click on caption to see these images at higher resolution.
We recently visited Yosemite National Park. On the day we visited, I decided to look for perspectives that aren’t commonly photographed. I love the iconic images but there are lots of nooks and crannies that provide wonderful landscapes. I hope you enjoy these images.
Note: Click on caption to see image at larger size.
A few weeks ago, we spent an evening and early morning at Yosemite. Water was running everywhere. The Merced River was a raging snake of whitewater. The granite cliffs of Yosemite are amazing anytime but, when they are covered with ribbons of water falling 3,000 feet, it is really amazing.
I hope you enjoy these images.
Note: Click on caption to see image at larger size.
A highlight of our visit was the Elephant Plains Game Lodge tour guided by Tusk Photo. Elephant Plains is a private game lodge and is the “go to” place for leopards. It sets on the edge of Kruger National Park and it shares its wildlife with the park. So, aside from the leopards we saw a lot of other wildlife on that part of our adventure.
We did an early morning and a late/afternoon game drive each day. We traversed the bush in open 4-wheel drive vehicles on rutted dirt roads. We had a tracker who sat on a jump seat attached to the front bumper who, along with our driver, looked for tracks and other signs of animal life. When leopard tracks were spotted or another tour group reported a sighting, we went off road with the vehicle to find them. It was fun and exciting.
It’s hard to describe the awe of our first wild leopard sighting and the wonder of seeing 14 month old Tiyani walk to within 5 feet of our car while her mother looked on. The wildlife is acclimated to humans and their tour groups. They went about their business as if we weren’t there. But, if the guides sensed that the animal was disturbed, we’d back off and leave them in peace.
It was an amazing adventure. I’d go back in a heartbeat. I hope you enjoy these images.
My wife, brother, sister-in-law and I took a trip to the Eastern Sierra and the desert of the Great Basin. I remember a trip to Yosemite and down Rte. 395 seeing the snow capped Sierra for the first time. It was an incredible experience. In the intervening years we have experienced drought. The snow left the mountains early causing the rivers to slow early. The beauty is always there but, it’s not as spectacular as when we get lots of snow and rain. This year we got a respite from the drought so the drive down 395 regained much of its splendor. We were treated to scenes from romantic westerns; large mountain valleys, ringed with high snowcapped peaks, cattle grazing on lush green grass. I felt like I should be on a horse with Hoss and Little Joe. The rivers were running hard, churning white water that glistened in the sun. At Yosemite, the waterfalls thundered.
As we travel south on Rte. 395 we reach a point where the terrain transitions from mountain valleys to the valleys of the high desert. The grass goes away and is replaced by gnarled shrub. Even the vegetation along the rivers is stunted. With this year’s rain and snow, the area took on a different look. The wildflower blooms in Bodie were near their end but, stalks retained their spring green, creating a strong contrast against the brown buildings and deep blue sky.
Mono Lake had a hue of emerald green instead of aqua. The lake color, along with the spring greens of its vegetation gave the tufa a softer, cooler gray color and gave a green cast to the air. The winds were very strong that day. They created white caps along with waves that crashed against the tufa and broke along the shore.
The strong winds followed us to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest where we had planned an early morning hike along the Methuselah Trail. We had to cancel the hike because the wind chill was really bad. We hiked the shorter Discovery Trail instead. The trail was clear but snow patches dotted the adjacent hillsides. The sun peeked through openings in the overcast sky highlighting the sculptural bristlecones and the mountains in the distance.
From the bristlecones, we made our way to Death Valley. Spring was in the desert air also. Wildflowers of yellow and white were in bloom along the road. The Joshua Trees were budding but not quite ready to open. Even the cholla cactus was putting on its spring display.
My brother and sister-in-law were taken aback by Death Valley. Like me, they were raised in the eastern US. We saw deserts only in movies. They were areas where sand dunes stretched from horizon to horizon; a place where people rode camels and hung out at an oasis with palm trees. Instead, Death Valley is a typical valley in the basin and range ecosystem. It is long and narrow and ringed with high mountains. It’s hard, gray-brown soil is dotted with gnarled vegetation and rocks that washed down from the mountainsides during storms. But even it was showing signs of spring. Some of the normally dry playas contained water. Tiny wildflowers, mostly yellow, were in bloom. We hiked back Golden Canyon and we watched a sunrise at Zabriske Point. The strongly eroded mountainsides, painted by mineral deposits are always a treat to see especially under the golden sunlight of a sunrise from Zabriske.
We continued our journey to Lone Pine, CA. Along the way, we chuckled at 2 coyotes working the tourists at a pull-off in Panamint Valley – Will pose of food.
The Alabama Hills are located near Lone Pine. They are oddly eroded, twisted rocks, at the base of Mt Whitney. They were used as the set for many Hollywood productions of western and other adventure movies. Those of us who were fans of Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, Hopalong Cassidy and the other cowboy protagonists of our childhood would find those hills familiar. Lone Pine also houses the Lone Pine Film History Museum. It holds memorabilia from movies produced in that area. It was fun to see the fancy saddles and guns, stagecoaches and even some monsters and space aliens. It was fun to reminisce also.
The final part of this journey took us to Yosemite. Our plans were to go across Tioga Pass but a snowfall the night before closed it. We had to detour. The detour took us on Rte. 88 from Sorenson’s to Jackson; a stretch we’ve never driven. It was a beautiful drive over granite balds, along steep sided canyons and past mountain lakes. We found a new place to explore for photo opportunities.
Yosemite is at its most beautiful in the spring. Waterfalls thundered, the Merced River churned white water, ephemeral waterfalls were still flowing. We were only able to visit the valley. Even Glacier Point was closed due to “impending storm”. But wondering through the valley is a joy. The immense scale, with waterfalls crashing over sheer granite cliffs towering 3,000 feet and more above your head, drive home the power and awesomeness of nature’s forces and God’s creativity. I am always awe-struck by its beauty. It never gets tiring.
I hope my images and words give you a sense of spring in Northern California. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our adventure.
We are fortunate this year that El Niño gave us a respite from the drought; a good snow pack in the Sierra! I moved to northern California 4 ½ years ago. My wife told me many times that the ephemeral waterfalls, those that dry up and go away quickly, make Yosemite especially beautiful in early spring. But years of drought gave us little snow, leaving those falls dormant or very short lived. I never had a chance to experience them.
Last weekend, we took an overnight visit to Yosemite. My wife was right, everywhere I looked there was a waterfall that I had never seen before. Even Horsetail falls, the one that lights up like fire at sunset in February, was still running. The Merced River was running strongly. We hiked along the Merced River on the trail to the bridge at Vernal Falls.
At the juncture of Illouette Creek and the Merced River, the waters roiled over the cascades making whitewater that looked like a giant head of cauliflower and sounded like thunder. It was amazing.
Yet, as I traveled through Yosemite, another thought struck me. As humans, ephemeral describes things that come and go quickly; in the span of short periods within our lifetime. But, solid rock in places like Yosemite last for time frames impossible for humans to comprehend but do eventually wash away. To the earth is really ephemeral?
This past week, it rained and snowed in the Sierra. Not nearly enough to have any real impact on our drought. But, as evening comes and the storm breaks up, golden sunlight streams through the breaks in the clouds, dappling the mountainsides with gold hued color. I took advantage of the weather conditions this week and visited Yosemite for a quick overnight trip. My goal was to do some exploring and to study how light can add depth to an image. I did some research and learned that sun would be setting in a line that would illuminate half dome, clouds rest and the canyons below. A perfect setting for what I wanted to do. To satisfy the explorer in my blood, I went off the beaten path to get different perspectives with Half Dome as my anchor.
I hiked the trail toward Inspiration Point looking for a different perspective from the traditional view of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View. The trail is 2.6 miles, round trip, with a 1,000 foot elevation gain. Aside from being steep, it is full of rocks, many of which are loose, and many tree roots. It’s not for the casual walker. But, for those that are willing to endure, the view of the valley, especially Bridalveil Falls, is spectacular.
I also hiked a small section of the Panorama Trail; the portion from Glacier Point to the top of Illilouette Falls and back. This piece is 4 miles round trip with a 1,470 foot elevation change. Fortunately, most of trail is very well groomed.
This portion of the Panorama trail provides a perspective of Half Dome from the back leading down to Little Yosemite Valley and Vernal and Nevada Falls. Illilouette falls is a 370’ waterfall that is quite beautiful as seen from the Mist Trail. But, you really cannot see the fall itself from the portion of the trail that I hiked; perhaps crossing the bridge may lead you to a spot where the falls are visible. There is one spot where you can see the top of falls through the trees and another spot where it may be more visible if you stand right on the cliff edge. Though you cannot see the fall itself, there is a beautiful cascade where the trail bridge crosses the river. That, in and of itself, is worth the effort to go there.
Nice weather, nice light, spectacular scenery. It was a great time. I hope you enjoy the images.