After several years of drought here in California, we are finally having a true rainy season this year. Over the past few weeks, a series of storms rolled through our state providing much needed water for our reservoirs and snow in our local mountains and the Sierras. All of this extra moisture has caused some problems for the park rangers in Yosemite who had to close the park twice in one month due to flooding concerns as well as rockslides due to the heavy rainfall. Having to deal with tire cables, road closures and delays on my two recent trips to Yosemite were definitely a pain, but the opportunities that were waiting for me when I arrived were just too good to pass up.
This is the third year that I’ve put together a video to look back over my shots from the entire year. Included in this video are any shots that I posted either here on my blog or on my other social media sites. This year, Instead of posting them in chronological order I posted them from Sunrise to Sunset in a “Day in the Life” format. Here’s a look back at 2016:
Last week, I took off on the first free weekend that I’ve had in a month. I had spent the previous few weeks up to my eyeballs in work between beginning a new school year and various home improvement projects. Somewhere in there I also found time to build a makeshift platform for a bed of sorts in my Prius and I was eager to try it out on a quick two night trip up to the Eastern Sierras in an attempt to grab some Autumn color before it was gone for the year.
Last September, my three compadres and I flew in to Calgary airport from literally all over the country for a quick trip through the Canadian Rockies. Todd flew in from North Carolina, Mark caught a flight in from Orlando and Tom shopped around for a better flight than mine and came in from LAX. The airport was a bit smaller than what we were expecting but we were through customs and on the road in our rented mini van faster than I would have expected. I think Todd was the last one in, and we wasted no time in setting off for for Banff.
Over two years ago, I mentioned to my hiking buddy Tom Bricker that I was interested in finding some alternate locations to shoot in Yosemite as we were beginning to shoot the same locations over and over on our frequent visits. By that point, we had already been up the Four Mile Trail, Olmsted Point and out to Cathedral Lakes, but we began to look for other locations that were a bit more off of the beaten path.
A few weeks later, Tom came upon a blog post which listed several lesser known trails, some of which didn’t really exist or were difficult to find. At the top of this list was a location known simply as the Diving Board. Ansel Adams had hiked to this location quite some time ago and it was from this spot that hie took one of his most popular black and white photos in Yosemite. Both of us were hooked at this point, but we had no idea of what to expect as there didn’t seem to be a clearly defined trail to this location.
It was only a few months ago that I finally made the dirve up to El Matador Beach which is arguably the most photogenic beach in Southern California. Located just a few miles North of the glamourous movie star-riddled enclave of Malibu, El Matador boasts several hundred yards of sea stacks, hidden coves and small caves. If you are thinking about heading out there to take advantage of this gorgeous stretch of coastline, here are a few things that you should keep in mind:
After shooting in Yosemite for several years, I began to look for locations that were more off of the beaten path. A couple of years ago, I finally ventured up the side of the valley and found an alternate location from which to shoot the Horsetail Falls in February. I also began going on longer hikes up the four mile trail, the Upper Falls trail and out to the Cathedral Lakes. After finding the alternate location from which to shoot the Horsetail Falls, I began to wonder what other opportunities I might be missing. Yosemite Falls was my next logical choice and I began to notice that most, if not all of the shots of the falls were either from the valley floor or from the Upper Falls Trail. After looking online, I finally found a couple of spectacular shots that were taken from the East, but I had no idea where they were taken from. I spent a few hours one afternoon looking for spots to shoot from in the residential area above Yosemite Village, but the angles were not what I had in mind.
Finally, my hiking buddy Tom sent me a link to an article which mentioned a location referred to as the Fern Ledge. In the article, they mentioned how John Muir had hiked out and had become enamored with this location. He spent long hours listening to the falls, and actually walking out behind them. After checking around a bit more, I found that Ansel Adams had also made the trip up and had taken photos from there. Why hadn’t I heard of this place before?
Tom and I set this as one of our goals and on our next trip, we were resolved to find the trail to Fern Ledge head on up. But we only had one article to go on, and the article stated that the trailhead was somewhere behind the Yosemite Stables. When we reached the stables, we got the distinct impression that we weren’t supposed to be in that area and we chickened out.
I spent the next year or so investigating this trail, and couldn’t find much. From what I read, the trail could be very dangerous. I could expect steep inclines, sections where the trail simply fell away over steep precipices, and rattle snakes. Others online were reluctant to give away too many details as they feared hordes of hikers would head up there and cause damage to the habitat surrounding the trail. Others were concerned that people simply didn’t understand how dangerous this route really was.
Undeterred, I made my first attempt a couple of weeks ago.
For the past two weekends in a row I’ve witnessed some of the most spectacular light I have ever seen in my life. How did I come to be standing on the bank of the Owens River when the sky erupted last Saturday?
2015 included trips to Oregon, Washington, Canada, and Europe as well as multiple trips to Tahoe, Yosemite, Death Valley, and the coast. Here’s a look back on 2015:
Part I of this post concluded as the first Winter storm of the season moved in over Glacier Point. I kept shooting as the sky grew dark and the first snowflakes of the season began to fall. It was time to head back to Mariposa.