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.
After waking at 4 AM and making the drive up to the tunnel, I was disappointed to find that clouds were shrouding the entire valley. You could see the new snow about a thousand feet higher on either side, but Bridal Veil and El Capitan were completely hidden. I gave up after a while and went in search of some color. The majority of the forest on the Yosemite valley floor is comprised of pines and cedar trees, but scattered along the road and along the Merced River are Aspens, Dogwoods, Maples, Black Oaks and Cottonwoods, all of which change color in late Fall. The drive around the valley loop is always better after a rain shower as the leaves will be more vibrant and the colors are reflected in the pavement.
While many of these trees line the roadway, the best color may be found along the Merced River:
By mid afternoon, the clouds had lifted to reveal most of the valley, but unfortunately, almost all of the snow had melted off the surrounding peaks. I made a couple of trips around the loop before heading up to the Tunnel View to wait for what I hoped would be a nice sunset.
When I arrived at the tunnel, I settled in with a small crowd of photographers for what I assumed would be the 40 minute wait for sunset. The view certainly looked promising:
But as nice as the view looked in front of me, I just couldn’t help looking over my shoulder. Some nicer clouds were setting up right behind me and suddenly I couldn’t help wondering what the view looked like from down in the valley looking West. My curiosity got the better of me as I left what was certain to be a decent sunset. I could feel the eyes of the other photographers on the back of my head and imagined their eyes rolling as I walked away just before prime time. As I drove back down into the valley, I began to think that I had probably just thrown away a great opportunity. But then I turned left on the El Cap cut off and suddenly I was very glad that I had tried something new. As I crossed the Merced River, I jumped out of the car and stared at the light glowing on El Capitan in front of me and at the clouds now beginning to shimmer in the West. I stopped briefly after running back across the bridge to grab a quick shot:
I quickly made my way back up the South side of the River and began to shoot in all directions at once. I continued to shoot both sides of the valley for a while, but eventually, I decided to use the Zenitar Fisheye to try to grab both sides of the valley and managed to only get a few shots before the light faded off of El Capitan:
The red glow that I was hoping for never quite materialized and there was time for one more shot before jumping in the car for the 6 hour drive back to Orange County:
Although I didn’t get the sunset colors I was hoping for, I was glad to enjoy an afternoon of magical light in the valley and for the amazing experience of being the last man standing at Glacier Point the day before. I made another 5 or 6 trips up to the park during the following months and had an incredible time each and every time I visited. I hope to share those stories with you in the very near future.