Yosemite National Park is one of the United States most popular, and beautiful places. The peaks in the valley are iconic, and recognizable the world over. It’s not a shock that it brings in photographers from around the world to capture a slice of its beauty. Winter is one of the special times in the park. There’s just something about the granite and snow mixture that makes photography all the more amazing!
I met our group of photographers in El Portal at the Yosemite View Lodge for a Friday orientation to get to know each other, and go over a little bit more about what to expect from our weekend. Everyone was excited to get out in the morning so we kept it brief so everyone could get a good night's sleep and met Saturday morning pre sunrise to head into the park.
Our first stop was along the Merced River. The valley floor still had a good foot or more of snow on it from the huge storms the week prior. We had some fun sliding down the banks to get into position for our first shoot. The rivers’ edge often has amazing textures and ice patterns in winter which are perfect for framing and foreground interest for our shots of El Capitan which looms over us across the river. I helped the group find some nice foreground and they quickly went to work on their compositions. This scene is massive, so only the widest angle lenses will capture it all, and the shots they captured were really beautiful. The ice and snow really make for some aesthetically pleasing shots.
The large snowfall in the early part of the month allowed the waterfalls to start up again from their fall and early winter dry spell. We moved along to the swinging bridge area to photograph some reflections of upper yosemite falls. The whole waterfall is over 1400 feet tall, so it’s easily one of the tallest in the world, and man is it impressive! The photos were great, for sure, but just standing there looking at the massive drop is really impressive.
All the cold snow walking takes a toll, and everyone agreed we needed coffee and breakfast. These morning breakfasts are always fun for getting to know one another and talk more about photography. After breakfast we made a short stop to shoot some reflections in a pool of snowmelt before heading back to the hotel for lunch break.
That afternoon we made our return to the park, stopping first to photograph Bridal Veil Falls. This waterfall is really pretty and we found a nice little frame in the pine trees to give it a nice added element of depth. The real goal for the evening is sunset at Tunnel View, one of the most iconic vistas in the whole park. This place can fill up quickly, so we arrived early and got the best places along the wall. The overcast weather from the morning was burning off, leaving us with a wonderful light show for the entirety of the sunset. I encouraged the group to shoot a variety of different compositions from the close up, to vertical, to horizontal, and pano style images. It was a great way to finish up our first day.
The next morning we were back at it again. We stopped along the Merced River to get a different view of El Capitan, and the 3 Brothers. The light was beautiful, the overcast was gone, and pastel pinks and orange clouds really helped make a beautiful, subtle sunrise. We found a cool little nook in the river with snowy foregrounds and perfect reflections. Even the local duck knew not to mess with this reflection!
After our River stop it was time to visit Lower Yosemite Falls. This time of year there’s usually a nice flow in the falls, and not too much mist. so moving closer to find rapids for foreground interest is possible. There’s also some wonderful rainbow mist in the morning sunshine. The mist is hypnotic, casting a spell that will force you to take no less than 335 shots of it. It’s a favorite location for sure.
The early part of our afternoon we spent processing and looking over images. It’s fun to see what others have captured, and maybe learn a thing or two about processing. We all have different styles and methods, so it’s awesome to see and share with a group.
That evening we moved back into the park to shoot a unique view of Half-Dome. The light was amazing in the late afternoon, and this little bed in the river offers some nice reflections. For sunset we stopped at Valley View, another of the big iconic vistas in the park. This spot is always changing. Trees seem to get stuck here on their way down river in the spring, and every year there’s different foreground options and compositions possible. The ice here was pretty slippery, so most of the group found their spot and hung there until the sunset had ended. The light on the mountains was amazing. There’s no peak quite like El Capitan for holding an alpine glow late into the evening. Even when the light is subtle, it’s still awesome!
Time flew by this weekend. The group was awesome, and everyone came away with some really nice images. We spent some time over breakfast looking at Ansel Adams’ work, and while there’s no substitute for the original Yosemite Photography guru, I think we did a good job of making some really nice images for our own collection.
Until Next Time,
Brian and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team!
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