Welcome to this weeks blog post and welcome to my all my new subscribers!
Happy Thursday! Hope you're having a great week. This weeks blog entry is all about photographing the incredible landscape of Yosemite National Park, CA
Yosemite has always been on my bucket list of places to visit and whilst on my Honeymoon road tripping California last month my wife and I got the chance to experience the parks endless beauty and take a few pictures over period of 24hrs.
We arrived to the park with a few hours to spare before sunset after a long drive east from San Fransisco. We where staying about 30 mins outside of the parks entrance in a small village called El Portal. After checking into our hotel Cedar Lodge we jumped back in the car and headed for sunset at one of Yosemite's most iconic view points Tunnel View. In one view you have El Capitan, Half Dome & Bridalveil Fall. I've learnt over the past few years not to be put off photographing something that has been shot a million times. This view is probably the most photographed landscape in Yosemite as you can drive and park right there! No hiking required. It's even been the official Apple screensaver for a few years now. This should never put you off getting your camera out and shooting! I couldn't wait to add to the endless catalog of great pictures from this location.
Just as the sun was clipping the mountain tops I shot the above panorama. This shot was created by 4 images stitched together in Lightroom, with the addition of a circular polarizing filter and a 2 Stop soft edge graduated ND filter. Using a polariser for panoramics can cause problems in matching up the sky in some cases so I made sure it wasn't being used at it's fullest. There wasn't any clouds in the sky which was a shame but I'm pretty happy with how the final edit came together.
Waiting for the sun to set I found this nice composition with the leading line from the tree formation escorting the eye up to the moon...
What a difference 5 minutes can make! As soon as the sun dipped behind Half Dome the sky turned this pastel pink you can see in the image below and colours from the trees blanketing the valley floor started to pop. I wasn't shooting panoramic here as the light was disappearing so fast, so threw on the 24-70mm and shot wides.
That was it for my only night within the park, super tiered so headed back to the hotel for some rest....
The next morning began with a stop at Swinging Bridge Picnic Area just outside the entrance to the park. As we didn't have a second night within the park there wasn't much time to hike one of Yosemite's more strenuous paths which can take up to 8 hours so we decided to stay on the ground for the morning and try see as much of the parks main features as we could.
The plan for the rest of the day was to choose one of the parks intermediate hikes and head for higher ground before setting off to drive the Tioga Pass Road east through the park to our next stop in Mammoth Lakes. We picked the Mist Trail which would take us up to Nevada Falls which looked like a great opportunity for some waterfall shots.... but we found out quite quickly that shooting this waterfall was nearly impossible as it throws out so much mist into the air that you can't shoot without getting everything soaked in seconds. As we didn't have the time to hike the full trail up above the waterfall I had to keep to camera in my bag and just enjoy the view.
This part of the trail wasn't all love lost as on the decline the trail offered up some amazing views which made for some great shots
Shooting in mid-day sun obviously isn't ideal but when only having a day to explore Yosemite I could't be at every composition at sunrise/sunset. These situations always make me think B&W, look for contrast and simplicity within the landscape. The image of Upper Yosemite falls was taken slap bang in the middle of the day! It worked out really nice by attaching my circular polarizer and darkening the sky to a deep blue, then when converting to B&W the sky nearly turns black giving the image a nice moody atmosphere.
We had about a 2 1/2 hour drive to our next hotel in Mammoth Lakes but the road that would take us there was one of the main reasons I have always wanted to visit Yosemite NP. The Tioga Pass Road is closed for the Winter months of the year as it exists mostly under heavy snowfall being around 8,000ft above sea level. We had a bit of a scare as this year the snowfall was record breaking so the road only opened 3 days before we was scheduled to drive it on the 5th July. In previous years the Tioga Pass would normally open in late May - early June. You can check the progress on clearing the road here if you are thinking of taking the drive. Yosemite Valley and the park are still very accessible if the Tioga Pass is closed, it just would mean a bit of a detour if you where thinking of heading east after Yosemite.
First stop on the Tioga Pass was Tuolumne Grove Trailhead view point you see below. I think I can honestly say this was the hardest landscape I've ever tried to photograph! This view is mind blowing but a photo just doesn't do it's vastness justice. You can see for around 25 miles all the way back to Bridalveil Fall I shot on the first night from Tunnel View with the Merced River leading the way through the middle of the valley. You can see the Tioga Pass Road cut out from the mountain on the left, it only took about 20 mins to get to this view point from the entrance to the park, so even if you're not thinking of driving the whole way through to the east side of the park I would recommend heading up to this view point and try photographing it.
Oh yeah and there's Bears kicking around up here so keep an eye out when driving....
Just over an hour down the road we reached the MUST stop view at Olmsted Point. Here you have views of Half Dome to the south and Polly Dome, Cathedral Peak and Tresidder Peak to the east with with Tenaya Lake at the foot of this incredible mountain range.
The panoramic below is 6 images shot with my Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro L lens and stitched together with Lightroom. I had my circular polarizing filter turned full and a 2 Stop soft edge graduated ND filter to hold the detail in the cloud formations in the sky.
Finally I found an excuse to get the BIG STOPPER out down at Tenaya Lake. Long exposures and trees don't go together very well as you probably know already, but in this composition it was super easy to combine two exposures in post to not have an issue with the trees moving in the 13 second exposure. Looking back now at this image I could of done with a longer exposure for the lake to get the reflections of the mountains clearer but I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn't a photography trip, it's our honeymoon so this will do!
We still had quite a long drive ahead of us to reach Mammoth Lakes where we would be staying that night but this road offers up so many opportunities to stop we where starting to think we'd never get there! Tioga Lake is about 30 mins further down the 120 where we hit the highest point of the road at just over 8,000ft above sea level. Considering it was 40°C (104°F) it's crazy seeing so much ice still floating around in the lake. This was another quick stop and I only took 2 pictures here but what a view!
It was getting late in the day now and the sun was finally starting to set and give me some good light. I think this is my favourite image from the day, the contrast of light hitting this mountain in the Lee Vining Canon is just lovely. I would have loved to of stayed at this composition for the remainder of the evening and shot sunset. Next stop, Mammoth Lakes.....
Fuck!!! kind of messed sunset up but did find this abandoned shack which looked pretty cool. No time for tripod (Hence the glare) just jumped out of the car and shot a few handheld. Sods law we spent all day up in the mountains but when the sun set we find ourselves out of the park and not too far from our hotel The Village Lodge.
Well thats your lot for this blog post, hope you enjoyed my day in Yosemite NP. If you would like to follow my travels please SUBSCRIBE to my blog to receive weekly posts (something to read on the tube). NEXT WEEK I'll take you to Death Valley, CA where I try taking pictures in the hottest place on Earth!!