When Galen Rowell took his now infamous shot of the Horsetail Fall effect in February of 1973 there may have been a few people around gazing at the falls, but it was primarily Galen and a single Ranger who were standing in just the right spot. Last year, literally thousands of people
UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2017 – Over the past two years, the recent tree die-off has opened up several new vistas around the park for taking shots of the Horsetail Fall in February. While the loss of a huge number of pines throughout the valley is a tragedy and will affect the appearance of the valley for decades to come, this die-off has definitely created new opportunities for photographers as there were just a couple of spots to shoot from previously due to the view being obstructed by trees. Galen Rowell’s spot was just East of the El Capitan Picnic area, but there are now several alternate views and some of these might even be superior to Galen’s vantage point given that Galen jumped out of a truck and ran to the first open spot he could find before the light faded off of the falls. If you arrive early on the day of your shoot, you might want to do some exploring instead of camping out with the other 200 photographers who will be trying to cram into that one area. There will be another 100 or so on the South side viewing area and these photographers would also do well to explore a bit as the trees have been dying at a horrific pace during the last two years. When these trees become a hazard, the National Park Service has been cutting them down. My shots of the mist billowing up were taken well East of the traditional spot at the Picnic area last year. I chose to go for the mist, but there were several other spots… further toward the East and South that would have created the same Galen Rowell red lava effect. If you choose to explore, keep in mind that some of those fallen trees are still very unstable and could shift or roll on you. If there is any kind of a strong wind coming through the valley, I would definitely be concerned about some of those trees coming down, so use caution, even at the picnic area. Several trees came down in the last storm!
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.
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.
The snowfall this Winter is already off to a much better start in Yosemite National Park. Last year, it barely snowed at all and when it did, only a couple of inches fell in the valley. This year, the fourth snowfall in the valley is due to arrive this afternoon giving the park it’s first White Christmas in several years.
If you plan on visiting the park this Winter to photograph the snow or simply to experience the park in Winter, here are some important things to keep in mind:
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.
Last year, I headed up to Yosemite on Halloween for several reasons. First, I knew that there would still be some color in the valley as many of the Oaks and Cottonwoods hold on to their leaves into November. Secondly, the first Winter storm of the year was due to roll in. Lastly, the road to Glacier Point was still open, but it was due to close for the season as soon as that storm blew in. With the promise of colorful leaves in the valley along with some shots of new snow on the surrounding peaks, I took off with high hopes.