Yosemite

Autumn Crown: The Autumn sunset lights up El Capitan vividly, but the fallen big leaf maple leaves strengthened the color theme. The unusually low water level from the drought made a still reflection that was wreathed with leaves. —Yosemite Valley, California

Offering: The high cliffs of granite in Yosemite provide a huge variety of interesting subjects as long as you are willing to look for them. A colorful sunset left a trace of alpenglow in the background of this water eroded cliff. The layers of rock appeared to be a pair of outstretched hands making an offering to the trees. —Yosemite National Park, California

The Gold Rush Takes a Turn: The number of creeks and streams in Yosemite are unfathomable. Exploring the different ways that they catch light, stream down the mountain, and change from season to season would take several lifetimes of observation. This one is a special in how it reflects gold at its edges. –Yosemite National Park, California

Alpine Lake Light Show: An alpine lake in a basin between mountains gives a view to the west of Cathedral Peak and Unicorn Peak. More importantly a layer of clouds thin enough to let light through, but thick enough to change the light spectrum gave a rare purple sunset. The lake reflected the higher purples. —Yosemite High Country, California

Autumn Black Oak: The black oaks that grow in El Capitan Meadow are surrounded by some of largest monoliths of granite in the world. This handsome oak fit in perfectly between Middle and Lower Cathedral Rocks. —Yosemite Valley, California

Clearing Thunderstorm Moves South: A trip to the North Rim of Yosemite Valley brought new perspectives. El Capitan juts out on the left past the weathered windswept trees. Previous to sunset, a thunderstorm rolled overhead brought on by high temperatures and large amounts of snow sublimating into clouds. Lightning strikes came within one mile of where we setup a makeshift camp. The swirling clouds above are all that remain after the storm after it moved southward. —Yosemite National Park, California

Brushed with Light and Mist: Early morning evaporation off of this alpine like stood out as I hiked up to it at dawn. The sunrise made it through the thin mist to light up the trees along the bank of the river for a dreamy look. —Yosemite High Country, California

Cathedral Crosshatch: The clouds, trees, and Cathedral Peak itself gave a strong shape repetition, and the light coming from behind gave a soft pastel coloring. —Yosemite High Country, California

6,000 Foot Perspective: These two pines sit at the valley floor at 4,000 feet above sea level backed by evening mist. Meanwhile, a snow covered Clouds Rest looms in the background at an elevation of 9,926 feet. —Yosemite Valley, California

Unicorn Falls: The Tuolumne River is part of the watershed that comes to the Bay Area, and is known for its high quality taste. It is beautiful to behold as it winds its way through meadows and cascades down waterfalls. Unicorn Peak is lit by the setting sun, and the clouds above mirror the motion of the falls. —Yosemite High Country, California

Clouds Resting on Clouds Rest: Clouds Rest receives the last red light from sunset year round, but this time the light made it through a small break in the clouds. Clouds rested above and below the snow covered granite in a nod to its name. —Yosemite Valley, California

Evaporation: Crepuscular rays or God rays are filtered light making it through moisture in the air. In this case, evaporation off of an alpine lake provided the conditions on this cool morning. –Yosemite High Country, California

First Light on Three Brothers: First light on Three Brothers varies greatly from season to season. At the equinoxes all three peaks are lit, but only the highest (Eagle Peak) is lit near the solstice. This was a series of many things coming together. A spring snow storm, snow evaporating to mist in the morning light, rippling clouds, and a calm Merced River for reflections make this the intersection of rare beauty in Yosemite. —Yosemite Valley, California

Dichroic Ice: Sometimes clouds don’t work out during the golden hours, but a search for details yields images like this. An impurity in this ice gave a look much like the rich turquoise and purples of dichroic glass. The reflected sunset light off El Capitan surrounded it in warmer colors. —Yosemite Valley, California

Fog Layers: Finding order in swirling mist requires patience and fast reactions. This diagonal line of trees came out of the mist providing a strong line to give this a coherent composition from Tunnel View. —Yosemite Valley, California

Free Flowing Winter Falls: A rare look at a very strong flow from Yosemite Falls in winter. The sun was playing in and out of the clouds, and this was a brief moment of freedom as the golden light touched on the granite face. —Yosemite Valley, California

Fresh Blanket for Half Dome: Alpenglow persisted on Half Dome after one of the last clearing winter storms for nearly four years in January 2012. The snow blanketed Half Dome after three days of consistent snow fall. As a bonus, Orion can be seen rising above the right shoulder of Half Dome. The next major winter storm we witnessed didn’t hit Yosemite until December 2015. —Yosemite Valley, California

Golden Shroud: Bad weather can make the most compelling photographs. Two days of snow fall covered the ground in nearly a foot of snow. As it cleared, the afternoon sun melted the snow on the face of El Capitan, and made a huge shroud that shifted shape for 15 minutes before completely covering the monolith. —Yosemite Valley, California

Golden Swirl: During the daylight hours, light tends to be flat and uninteresting. In a small spring stream, a ray of light made it to the water to produce a swirl punctuated by this polished stone. —Yosemite Valley, California

Up the Valley: Bark beetles took advantage of the California drought and killed countless trees all throughout the Sierra. A pine tree’s natural defense from the beetles is sap, but without rain the trees are vulnerable, and the beetles wreck havoc. In the early stages of the drought, this leading line of dead trees led back to the iconic view of Half Dome and Clouds Rest with the magenta of Earth’s shadow behind it. Today the number of dead brown pines are much greater in number. —Yosemite Valley, California

Above the Rapids: The dogwoods native to the Sierra typically start blooming somewhere between April and May bringing a sharp bright white contrast to the fresh green leaves. This dogwood catches our attention every time we see it in bloom, but the conditions for photographing it haven’t been quite right. This time everything lined up. The air was completely still, the water flow behind the branches was interesting, the dogwood was near peak bloom, and fitting the branches into the darker areas of the Merced River was possible with the angle of view. —Yosemite National Park, California

The Sermon of Three Brothers: The Three Brothers only come together as three in a few locations in the Valley due to perspective changes. This is on the exact opposite side showing the Brothers facing towards Cathedral Rocks as the sunrise painted the sky in pastels. —Yosemite National Park, California

Granite Shore: The puzzle pieces of the polished granite shore, and the reflected granite fit together to end a serene evening. It’s always strange to us how people leave as the sun sets, and miss the best part of the show. —Yosemite High Country, California

Half Dome Tea Kettle: The hardiness of plant life in the high Sierra is astounding. These flowers grow out of a small crack in the granite and lead to the backside of Half Dome. Meanwhile in the sky, Sagittarius is known as the archer, but its bright stars also make the shape of a convincing tea pot. In this case, Half Dome stands in as the tea pot with the rising steam of the Milky Way. —Yosemite High Country, California

Just the Horn: The back and forth of the light and dark is highlighted by the sun’s first light touching the horn of Unicorn  Peak. The evaporating lake adds to the mood of a brisk morning in the alpine air. —Yosemite High Country, California

Hydra: The glacial polish left behind on the granite leaves interesting patterns for those who look down. –Yosemite National Park, California

Pine Breakfast on the Cliffs: The way trees manage to cling to the granite cliffs of Yosemite is awe inspiring. The first light of the sunrise lights up the trees with the energy they need to survive, while the iconic granite of Clouds Rest, Half Dome, and Mount Starr King stand on the horizon. —Yosemite National Park, California

Merced River Ice II: River ice can be found near the shores of the Merced,and the patterns produced are intricate and one of a kind. Reflecting morning light on granite cliffs contrasts smoothly with the cool ice color. —Yosemite Valley, California

Lembert Dome: Lembert Dome stands at the east end of Tuolumne Meadows. A mimicking rock shape on the shore of the Tuolumne River touches the tip of Lembert’s reflection. —Yosemite High Country, California

Oldmsted Wildflowers: One of the view points of Half Dome gives a good show of last light on Clouds Rest as well. Wildflowers growing out of cracks in the granite contrast with the weathered look of Junipers and pine trees that must endure the harsh winters. —Yosemite High Country, California

Perfect Fit: As the sun rose to bathe the pale granite in morning light, a bright low cloud moved into place to match the shape of the mountain. Ripples in the water give a hint as to which version may be walked on. —Yosemite High Country, California

Out of the Mist: A cold gray sunrise is usually a drab and disheartening experience, but when you have a chance to see the tallest waterfall in North America shrouded in mist. The late night snow clinging to the branches of trees complements the mood. —Yosemite Valley, California

Roaring Water, Whispering Spring: Fern Spring is typically very quiet in the winter time. Warm storms drenched the Valley with several inches of rain in January 2017. The Merced River spilled its banks, and Fern Spring came back to life. Even though the water was rushing, Fern Springs only gave off the higher pitched sound of a whisper. —Yosemite Valley,  California

Red Wave: The Sierra Wave is a massive form of clouds that have been treated to high winds, and can be overwhelmingly large. This one stood mostly still for the majority of the afternoon and conveniently waited for the sunset to paint it with color. —Yosemite High Country, California

Reflecting on Dana: The red metamorphic rock of Mount Dana truly comes to life in the last light of sunset. Finding a reflecting pool for it can be tricky though, so the welcome  increase in rains refilled the tarns in this basin and encouraged flower blooms. —Yosemite High Country, California

Snowy Meadow, Descending Clouds: The rocks in Cook’s meadow are a delightful subject in winter time for their snow top. The elm tree and Half Dome also hooded by snow are capped off with the dark storm clouds that helped set the stage. —Yosemite Valley, California

Watercolor Sunset: The dichotomy between the monochrome of winter against the rich red reflection of the last light on El Capitan is presented on a canvas of rushing water. The rapid movement of the Merced River makes the foreground more dynamic and was only possible at this time of year because it was only two weeks after the river crested over its banks. —Yosemite Valley, California

Springtime Wedding Bouquet: Manzanitas don’t typically grow in the valley, so a hike up the walls of the granite affords grand spring time views. Bridalveil Fall  cascades off of lower Cathedral Rock and makes this image recognizably Yosemite. —Yosemite Valley, California

Sunset Tarn: The return of tarns in the Yosemite high country after a long drought is a relief. The frogs were in full chorus as the sun descended. The tiny pools stay nearly still, and the landscape as a nearly perfect mirror. —Yosemite National Park, California

Pothole Grand View: A look to the east from Pothole Dome shows the Tuolumne River moves through its namesake meadow and a variety of high peaks. The sunset was particularly strong this evening and its reflection can be seen in the river snaking around the meadow. —Yosemite National Park, California

Stacking Triangles: July doesn’t usually evoke thoughts of snow storms, but the land above 10,000 feet is a different world entirely. Triangles are thematic here from the mountain peak, the shoreline (both grassy and snowy), and the flow of lit up clouds. —Yosemite High Country, California

Stained Glass of the Cathedral: Altocumulus clouds drifted from the north over Cathedral Rocks just in time for sunset over fresh snow. As the sun approached the horizon the clouds lit up with the look of John Muir’s church. —Yosemite Valley, California

Staring Down El Capitan: El Capitan is the throughline in sunrises of Yosemite Valley. It receives first light at any time of year, and this makes it a great candidate year round. The season in this case becomes quite apparent with the golden leaves of the black oaks. —Yosemite Valley, California

Striated Grasses and Clouds: A light snow in the meadows at the start of winter keep the grasses visible. In this case, the striped clouds seemed to mimic the grass movement across the image. —Yosemite Valley, California

All Paths Lead to Half Dome: Half Dome is one of the most photographed rocks in Yosemite and the world. While on a four day backpacking trip, I came across this granite outcropping that afforded a view that seemed to truly show the reason for its name. Conditions weren’t quite right on the backpacking trip, so I returned when the clouds seem to have something to say. —Yosemite National Park, California

The Sun Peeks Through: Tioga Peak remains stubbornly in shadow while the early morning sun sweeps through this meadow and forest edge. This was a fast moving morning where the light was turning on and off by the whim of the clouds above. —Yosemite High Country, California

The Sun Sets on Autumn: Sentinel Bridge gives a clear view of Half Dome in the Merced, and remains a classical view of Yosemite. The deciduous trees surrounding it can provide an extra spot of color during Autumn beyond the sunset lit clouds. —Yosemite Valley, California

Trees Obscured: It is difficult to make a meaningful composition of a descending storm in the granite cliffs. This miniature valley had quite a group of trees that were slowly being erased from view as the clouds spilled over into the main valley. —Yosemite Valley, California

Speaking to Moses: This lodgepole pine (subspecies Tamarack Pine) struggling in the small of soil it managed to find is a strong example of why this tree dominates the area around this dome. The vivid red light that hit it was courtesy of a thin layer of water vapor at the horizon, and the color made it difficult to think of the tree as ever being green. —Yosemite National Park, California

Tunnel View Moonrise: The moon can very famously rise over Tunnel View, but showing the rise without losing all detail in the granite requires strict timing. A light dusting of snow on Clouds Rest shows conditions of the drought. —Yosemite Valley, California

Window: Sometimes timing lines up perfectly. A winter storm blanketed Yosemite Valley for the entire day. We were hoping for the moon to rise over Tunnel View, but clouds blocked it out. A tried and true spot with view of Half Dome gave us a small break in the clouds. It was enough to expose the crest of Half Dome, and open a window to the rising full moon. —Yosemite Valley, California

Waiting for Spring: The taller grasses of Leidig meadow stand out above a thick layer of snow while the majority are stuck below. Tis-sa’-ack (Half Dome) and To-ko’-ya (North Dome) face each other as wife and husband according to the Ah-wah-nee’-chee legend, and bathe in the golden last light before sunset. —Yosemite Valley, California

Tunnel View Mammatus Clouds: A classic scene from Tunnel View is given a twist with a rare group of mammatus clouds. This is the remains of a summer thunderstorm lit up perfectly by the setting sun. —Yosemite Valley, California

Dichotomous Seasons: A thick layer of ice persisted in this alpine lake through the majority of July in the middle of what is usually a ferry’s pathway. Meanwhile, as the snow melted above this basin, liquid water poured down the slope and brought the corn lilies, wild onions, and other plants out of their winter slumber. It made the counterpoint typical of such high places to have spring and winter dramatically contrasting within the same space. —Inyo National Forest, California

Smoke and Ice: The Detwiler Fire near Mariposa flooded the skies with smoke, and the particulate matter in the air was hit with the yellow glow of susnet. The final remains of ice floated near the shore mixing with Foxtail pollen and debris caught in the snow from the winter. This gave the lake a solid looking facade and the appearance of a salt flat. —Yosemite National Park, California

Winter North Dome: A sweep of light across North Dome gives the tenacious trees clinging to the side the last bit. Washington Column below the dome is split into light and dark halves by the side light coming from the west. —Yosemite Valley, California

Silver Rivers in Meadow and Sky: The name for the Milky Way has an odd root in Greek mythology, but it has a name from every culture. Silver River is among my favorites, though the places with the limited light pollution needed to see it are becoming rarer. The complete arch from the south over Unicorn Peak to the north over Pothole Dome is mirrored by the Tuolumne River making its way through its meadow. This was right as the waning moon was about to crest over the mountains and wash out the sky. —Yosemite National Park, California

Frozen Tioga with Dana: Frozen lakes thaw quickly after the passes open up, so I was fortunate to be on the east side of the Sierra when the road was open until Yosemite, but not to through traffic. A frozen Tioga Lake and some persistent clouds made for a lovely sunrise. –Yosemite National Park, California

Gravity and Water: Looking for patterns in the rock and water flow is difficult. The downward curve of the near rock is mirrored above it, as the seemingly never-ending flow of water cascades over both formations.–Yosemite National Park, California