Category

Yosemite

Yosemite Valley in Spring, May 2018

California, National Parks, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

I try to get into Yosemite Valley each Spring, usually in May since that is when Yosemite’s waterfalls are at their most impressive. This year I spent a couple days photographing and hiking in early May. The dogwood bloom was peaking and, while I am not a wildflower photographer, I took a few images of them for posterity seeing as they were so nice. But the true motivation for me was, as always, making several hikes under blue skies and puffy clouds. Enjoying Spring in Yosemite requires that one skillfully avoid traffic and crowds, but fortunately during a lifetime in California I’ve learned a few things about how to negotiate an increasingly crowded Yosemite Valley, and I managed to hike around to nearly all my favorite spots over two long days. Chief among them was a requisite quickie jaunt up the Mist Trail (best in May, bring your poncho). I came away with a handful of nice images. They are not the usual moody sunset/sunrise views that most landscape photographers are after; I prefer to depict Yosemite in midday since that’s when the hiking is best! Canvas and face-mounted acrylic prints are available, with each of the following photographs available up to 60″ in the long dimension. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Vernal Falls at peak flow in late spring, viewed from the Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park, California

Vernal Falls at peak flow in late spring, viewed from the Mist Trail
Image ID: 34539
Location: Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Bridalveil Falls at sunset, with clouds and blue sky in the background. Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite drops 620 feet (188 m) from a hanging valley to the floor of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

Bridalveil Falls at sunset, with clouds and blue sky in the background. Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite drops 620 feet (188 m) from a hanging valley to the floor of Yosemite Valley.
Image ID: 34540
Location: Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Half Dome and Clouds Rest, Sunset, Yosemite National Park

Half Dome and Clouds Rest, Sunset, Yosemite National Park
Image ID: 34541
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Yosemite Valley Tunnel View, Storm clouds at sunset, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley Tunnel View, Storm clouds at sunset, Yosemite National Park
Image ID: 34542
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Cathedral Rocks at sunrise, reflected in a spring meadow flooded by the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Rocks at sunrise, reflected in a spring meadow flooded by the Merced River.
Image ID: 34546
Location: Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Yosemite Falls rises above the Merced River, viewed from the Swinging Bridge. The 2425' falls is the tallest in North America, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Falls rises above the Merced River, viewed from the Swinging Bridge. The 2425′ falls is the tallest in North America
Image ID: 34547
Location: Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Upper Yosemite Falls near peak flow in spring. Yosemite Falls, at 2425 feet tall (730m) is the tallest waterfall in North America and fifth tallest in the world, Yosemite National Park, California

Upper Yosemite Falls near peak flow in spring. Yosemite Falls, at 2425 feet tall (730m) is the tallest waterfall in North America and fifth tallest in the world
Image ID: 34550
Location: Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Mountain dogwood, or Pacific dogwood, blooming in spring in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

Mountain dogwood, or Pacific dogwood, blooming in spring in Yosemite Valley
Image ID: 34551
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Black Oaks below El Capitan, Quercus kelloggii, El Capitan meadow, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

Black Oaks below El Capitan, Quercus kelloggii, El Capitan meadow, Yosemite Valley
Image ID: 34557
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Dusk on Vogelsang Peak, Yosemite National Park, California

Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

The last time I stayed at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, my dad and I took the Rafferty Canyon trail and arrived about 3pm. For some reason I still had some energy so I took off and tried for the summit of Vogelsang Peak, arriving just shortly before sunset. The view was spectacular, an unobstructed view of much of the high country around Yosemite National Park. I got back to camp well after dinner but my dad had saved a plate of food for me, which I scarfed up. I crashed hard that night after covering about 13 miles. It was a good day. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Vogelsang Peak (11516') at sunset, reflected in a small creek near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite's high country, Yosemite National Park, California

Vogelsang Peak (11516′) at sunset, reflected in a small creek near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite’s high country.
Image ID: 23202
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Panoramic view of the Cathedral Range from the summit of Vogelsang Peak (11500').  The shadow of Vogelsang Peak can be seen in the middle of the picture, Yosemite National Park, California

Panoramic view of the Cathedral Range from the summit of Vogelsang Peak (11500′). The shadow of Vogelsang Peak can be seen in the middle of the picture.
Image ID: 25751
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Townsley Lake and Cathedral Range at Sunrise, Yosemite National Park

Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

One of my favorite lakes in the Sierra Nevada is Townsley Lake, located a bit above and not far from the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park. Every time I stay at Vogelsang I make sure to spend at least one sunrise at Townsley, where I have always had quiet solitude and wonderful morning light. Vogelsang means “bird song” in German, and while I made this photograph that was indeed all I could hear: the chirping of small birds and nothing else. Two other beautiful, typical, granite-basin Sierra Nevada lakes are very close to Townsley; Hanging Basket Lake (you can actually see a bit of light bouncing around the hanging valley containing Hanging Basket at the far right of this image, below the sunlit Cathedral Range), and a lake I like to call “Nameless Lake” about 1/2 mile above and to the left of this image. All three can be easily bagged in a half-day hike from Vogelsang High Sierra camp. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Cathedral Range peaks reflected in the still waters of Townsley Lake at sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Range peaks reflected in the still waters of Townsley Lake at sunrise.
Image ID: 25756
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Lembert Dome Sunset, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park

Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Nice pastel light hits the clouds and lights up Lembert Dome rising above Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, California. An easy hike takes one to the top of Lembert Dome for expansive views of Tuolumne Meadows and the high Sierra Nevada around the eastern side of Yosemite National Park. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Lembert Dome and late afternoon clouds rise above Tuolumne Meadows in the High Sierra, catching the fading light of sunset, Yosemite National Park, California

Lembert Dome and late afternoon clouds rise above Tuolumne Meadows in the High Sierra, catching the fading light of sunset.
Image ID: 09938
Location: Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Perseid Meteor Shower, Milky Way, Half Dome and Yosemite National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Yosemite

Perseid Meteor Shower, Milky Way, Half Dome and Yosemite National Park

I spent two evenings at Glacier Point during the peak of the 2013 Perseid Meteor Shower, hoping to capture my first photographs of meteors. I have a few landscape astrophotography images that have chance meteors recorded in them, but this was to be my first attempt at photographing meteors as the principal subject. Conditions were nearly ideal. There were virtually no clouds on either night, little wind, and the air was dry and clear, perfect for astrophotography. This image is the result of those efforts, showing the Milky Way galaxy, about 16 meteors, Half Dome and Tenaya Valley and some of the Yosemite High Country in the distance, and the amphitheater at Glacier Point with a few people (and lights) enjoying the evening’s show.

Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleides Cluster, over Half Dome and Yosemite National Park, Glacier Point

Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleides Cluster, over Half Dome and Yosemite National Park
Image ID: 28746
Location: Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

As you might imagine, this image is a composite. The Milky Way was aligned above Half Dome in just this way during the mid-evening. Note that the Andromeda Galaxy can be seen as a oval blurry object just above and to the left of Half Dome and to the right of the Milky Way, and the Pleides star cluster is seen at the lower right of the sky, just above the horizon. The individual meteorites, however, came from separate images taken over the course of 12 hours of continuous photography. I selected the best exposed and brightest of the meteorites that I photographed, rotated them about Polaris (the North Star) as necessary to account for the fact that the night sky “rotates” above us all night long, and composited them with the baseline image of Half Dome and the Milky Way. A little green “air glow” is seen near the horizon, and some distant smog or haze is also seen as a brown horizontal layer just above the horizon in the distance.

The Perseid Meteor shower, which is considered to have the brightest meteors of all annual meteor showers, is named for the constellation Perseus from which they appear to emanate. Note that most of the meteors in this image appear to radiate from the lower portion of the Milky Way in this photograph — that’s where the constellation Perseus lies.

Zodiacal Light, Milky Way and Jupiter over Yosemite National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Yosemite

Photographing Zodiacal Light over Yosemite National Park

August 11-12 was near peak viewing for the 2013 Perseid meteor shower, and many people including myself were viewing the show from Yosemite’s Glacier Point all evening long. However, because the moon was nearly new and it was late summer, I knew there was an opportunity to see the faint, remarkable Zodiacal Light the following morning. My plan was to let my cameras run all night capturing Perseid meteors until about 90 minutes before sunrise, when I would reset them to photograph the (hoped for) Zodiacal Light. I managed to get a couple nice images of Zodiacal Light, better than my one previous attempt!

Zodiacal Light and planet Jupiter in the northeastern horizon, above Half Dome and the Yosemite high country, Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Zodiacal Light and planet Jupiter in the northeastern horizon, above Half Dome and the Yosemite high country.
Image ID: 28745
Location: Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Zodiacal Light arises from sunlight that reflects off a disk of space dust that orbits our inner solar system. Zodiacal Light is purely a solar system phenomenon (relatively local to our planet) and is not associated with stars that are observed alongside (behind) it. The aforementioned “space dust” is thought to arise primarily from asteroid and meteor collisions (Nesvorny and Jenniskens, 2010), and resides on the plane of the ecliptic. (The plane of the ecliptic is the plane in which planets orbit around our Sun.) While aligned with the plane of the ecliptic, this dust cloud is not thin. Because it extends outward from the sun to the vicinity of Jupiter (with its strong gravitational field), the dust cloud is disturbed in such a way to give it a thickness, explaining the width of the Zodiacal Light that we observe. The Poynting-Robertson effect causes this space dust to slowly spiral inward toward the sun (where it is consumed), so a constant supply of new dust from colliding comets and asteroids is required to maintain the dust cloud. Sunlight reflecting off this dust can be seen in our night sky when there is little or no competing moonlight and/or light pollution from nearby cities. Zodiacal Light appears as a faint pyramid or triangle glowing on the horizon, with the apex of the pyramid tilted in line with the path of the Sun and the plane of the ecliptic. In these photos, planet Jupiter (which lies in the same plane of the ecliptic as our Eath and follows the Sun’s path through the sky) is clearly seen as the brightest object within the triangle of Zodiacal Light. This view is roughly northeast, looking past Half Dome from Glacier Point with the Yosemite High Country in the distance and Little Yosemite Valley at bottom middle.

The faint northern arm of the Milky Way is also discerned in these photos, crossing from upper left to lower right.

Unicorn Peak and Cockscomb Peak, Yosemite National Park

California, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Some years ago I stood with my young daughter in the far northwest end of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, watching a group of mule deer graze and enjoying the grassy expanse, when we turned around and realized we had this great view of Unicorn Peak (10,880′ left) and Cockscomb Peak (11,065′ right). I find these to be two of the more distinctive granite rock formations in the Yosemite High Sierra. Both peaks are on my bucket list, not having bagged either yet.

Unicorn Peak at sunset, seen from Tuolumne Meadows.  Cockscomb Peak rises in the distance, Yosemite National Park, California

Unicorn Peak at sunset, seen from Tuolumne Meadows. Cockscomb Peak rises in the distance.
Image ID: 09945
Location: Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Stars Over Half Dome and Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Stars Over Half Dome and Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park

If you want to be alone at Glacier Point, the popular overlook in Yosemite National Park, there are two ways to have the place to yourself: visit in the depths of winter, or visit in the wee hours of the night. Earlier this year I chose the latter, and enjoyed a warm, still evening alone on Glacier Point making a night panorama of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome underneath a spread of stars and a brilliant moon. If you like this image, please see my website devoted to my full collection of Landscape Astrophotography images.

Be sure to see more nightscapes, star trails and milky way photos.

Yosemite Falls and Merced River in Spring, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite

Yosemite Falls and the Merced River

I’m hooked on water in the Sierra Nevada and constantly try to find ways to include water in my images whenever possible. The Merced River, one of the major waterways flowing through the watershed of the western Sierra Nevada, usually flows quite high in May and June and it is for this reason that I prefer to visit Yosemite Valley during those months. The Swinging Bridge offers the great view of Upper Yosemite Falls shown below, but the lower section of the falls is generally obscured by trees at this location (you will have to move east into the meadow to see the lower cascade peek through the trees a bit). From this area of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls is generally best photographed in the morning hours. However, I have found that early morning is NOT optimal for one simple reason: due to orientation of the walls surrounding the upper falls, the sun does not light the water directly until mid-morning. Because of this, I wait until the sun has just reached the upper falls and lit them fully, yet the side-lighting at this time is still extreme enough that super detail is seen in the rock walls. I’ve made many images of Yosemite Falls and also have a gallery of photographs of Yosemite National Park as well.

Yosemite Falls rises above the Merced River, viewed from the Swinging Bridge. The 2425' falls is the tallest in North America, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Falls rises above the Merced River, viewed from the Swinging Bridge. The 2425′ falls is the tallest in North America.
Image ID: 27741
Location: Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Sunrise over Half Dome from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite

Half Dome Sunrise, from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park

I was alone on Glacier Point on the morning I made this photograph. Temperatures were cool but not as chilly as I expected it to be given the altitude, season and exposure of this dramatic viewpoint. The air was clear and still with the only sound to be heard the occasional call of a hawk that was periodically passing overhead. I watched as the swift dawn first lit the distant peaks above Tuolumne Meadows, then filled in shadowed Yosemite Valley far below, before the first sliver of sunlight peeked around the shoulder of the great granite monolith to warm my face.

If you like this, please see more of my Yosemite National Park photos. Thanks for looking!

Half Dome at sunrise, viewed from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Half Dome at sunrise, viewed from Glacier Point.
Image ID: 27737
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA