I’ve been to America’s infamous Yosemite National Park a couple times before, but never with my trusty Canon 7D in tow, ready to shoot at any time of day or night. I recently headed to the park on Veteran’s Day weekend with a group of 18 or so photographers, mostly amateurs although we had a few pros on the trip as well. With us was renowned landscape photographer Seraphina Landgrebe, who studied with Ansel Adams. Below is one of my favorite shots I took from the three days although there were so many…..
Yosemite Valley is world famous for its impressive waterfalls, cliffs and unusual rock formations. It is open year round and may be reached via Highway 41 from Fresno California, Highway 140 from Merced, Highway 120 west from Manteca and via the Tioga Road (Highway 120 East) from Lee Vining.
The Valley is known for massive cliff faces like El Capitan and Half Dome, its plunging waterfalls, including the tallest in North America, and its stunning meadows. El Capitan is a massive granite monolith that stands 3,593 feet from base to summit. Scroll down for a series of shots, where you’ll see one stunning shot after another – the park is truly breathtaking this time of year.
We stayed at one of the more convenient lodges in Yosemite, the classic Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal, CA, which is only a few miles outside the park. See my extensive write-up/review on Yosemite View Lodge.
We kicked things off with a session on how to photograph waterfalls and stars at night. While we didn’t get snow, and as such, we didn’t need chains on our tires, it was very cold, especially for early morning and late evening shoots. Shooting required hats, gloves and extra layers.
We did a sunset shot of Half Dome (think water reflections which were more than half of my shots at Yosemite), Cooks Meadow (night photography) and tons of shots along the Merced River. We spent hours at the Bridal Veil Fall and the cascading river, Cathedral Beach, what’s referred to as the “Swinging Bridge,” and the deliciously stunning Pohono Bridge and Fern Falls, where we captured colorful maples, dogwood and what would have been over-the-top waterfalls if Yosemite had had more rain.
We also took in Sentinel Bridge and later, Yosemite Cooks Meadow for night photography. We returned to various spots along Merced River several times to shoot the river, fall colors, reflections where we could capture them and Yosemite Church. Let’s also not forget the beauty at Valley View (Gates of the Valley) dogwoods and the beautiful open meadows not far from the park’s entrance.
Below is a shot I took of two mountains as a reflection in the river (originally they were the ‘reflection in the river and upside down) but I swapped it to create the effect of a normal upright photo when in fact it wasn’t. I gave the sky only just a little “drama”.
Notice how low the water is and where the purple hues come into play in the not so distant mountains. Fall colors as you will see throughout were in abundance despite the fact that it was mid-November.
Having any oooh and aaah moments yet? If not, then you clearly do not get outside and explore enough….the American west has so much to offer nature lovers. The below shot wasn’t even touched up.
I was setting up a self-timer shot here and while it didn’t go quite as planned, the result was fun!
The purple hues really came out in the late afternoon.
The yellows were also truly remarkable!
As were the shadows….
As you will see, over the few days, late afternoon light set a more dramatic tone.
While the sky may still have been as blue, the sky’s undertones and mysterious light played tricks on me, more than once.
We didn’t really get into the mountains. Need I say more? Photos always speak for themselves.
One fellow photographer remarked how the trees waved and bent like a Japanese dream in many ways. Among my own shots taken on that almost perfectly exquisite day, this photo represents that image to me.
As do these. If these don’t take your breath away then…..
Later in the day, as the people dissipated, and the sun grew brighter as it was beginning to set, Pohono Bridge changed personalities on me.
The next day, the blue skies were even bluer and it appeared, the autumn colors even more yellow.
The reflections were almost always perfect.
This in all honesty is one of my favorite shots. I loved the lonely leaf which was merely there to sunbathe on a late November afternoon day.
When the sun shone, it shone bright, the clouds were fluffy, the greens were vibrant and the yellows popped. I didn’t quite figure out how to shoot a perfect river reflection but I was starting to get close.
Visuals like this reminds me what it was like to “be” alive.
While Glacier Point is typically closed this time of year, we were one of the lucky few who managed to make it up there in mid-November without snow and without chains. Sure, it was chilly in the evening as the sun began to set and while I didn’t have any filters and struggled with my settings and my tripod on more than one occasion, I shot these less than stellar shots regardless. While not miraculous, they still bring a smile. The below shot btw, was taken slightly later than the shot below it.
Glacier Point is roughly an hour drive from Yosemite Valley depending on the weather and traffic. There’s a trail (weather permitting) that takes you to an exhilarating (some might say unnerving) view of 3,214 feet down to the Valley.
Other Things To Do In Yosemite Of Note Include:
1. Yosemite Museum: You will learn about Yosemite Indians by exploring a museum collection that includes a remarkable collection of woven baskets and traditional dress. There’s an outdoor Indian village as well. It’s located in Yosemite Village at shuttle stops #5 and #9.
2. Stroll With A Ranger: You can learn about park wonders on a ranger-guided tour. Programs are offered daily.
3. Take a Twilight Stroll With a Naturalist: You can take a leisurely walk with a naturalist through the meadows and forests surrounding The Ahwahnee Hotel.
4. Take a Photography Class: my photography class/weekend started in San Francisco btw, so wasn’t part of Yosemite offerings. Yosemite does offer classes with photography experts from The Ansel Adams Gallery. Some have fees and some are actually free.
5. Hike To Mirror Meadow: Situated at the base of Half Dome, the site of Mirror Lake frames reflections of Yosemite’s most iconic cliff. The quiet trail is gentle and follows Tenaya Creek as it winds its way through the eastern Valley. The trail starts at shuttle stop #17 if not driving.
6. Yosemite Theatre: Yosemite Theatre Live! presents compelling live performances in the theatre behind the Valley Visitor Center. Legendary climber Ron Kauk presents award-winning film Return to Balance: A Climber’s Journey, every Friday and Sturday. The last performance of the season takes place on October 26.
7. Yosemite Art Center: They have exhibits which change daily. When I was there, the November exhibit in play was called “Our Point Of View,” an exhibit with contributions from local area employees and residents.
8. Bike Riding & Ice Skating: The Curry Village Ice Rink opens for the season on November 22, weather conditions permitting.
9. Ansel Adams Gallery: The gallery is located in Yosemite Village next to the visitor center. Hours are 9 am to 5 pm.
Easy Walks & Sights:
The Base of Lower Yosemite Falls is an easy walk from Shuttle Stop #6, a hike which features educational exhibits and a picnic area. Bridalveil Fall is a year-round waterfall that you can visit by car along your way. Winds swirling about the cliff lift and blow the falling water in a delicate free-fall.
Happy Isles is a place to see dramatic natural processes at work. It is easily accessible through Shuttle Stop #16. Cross the footbridge onto the Isles or wander through outdoor exhibits detailing Yosemite’s geologic story.
Tunnel View is along the Wawona Road (highway 41), where you can see a classic view of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, and Bridalveil Fall. It is particularly spectacular at sunset or after the clearing of a storm.