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Yosemite (©2015 mlj)

I’ve always been in awe of Yosemite, which until I visited last year I only knew from Ansel Adams’ incredible photographs. It’s paradise, and I can only fathom how incredible it must have been before it was so popular.

So, when my friend Michele invited me to come up for a visit last year before tourist season makes it unbearable, I was happy to accept. It was chilly there when I arrived, and they predicted snow in the valley as well, which doesn’t happen too often. It was a stunning drive once I got off the main roads, and I loved every minute of it.

As night fell, it started to rain a bit, though we were able to get a camp fire started to keep us warm. After a spell, Michele retired to her Airstream and I to my tent. I woke up with six inches of snow on the tent in the morning, and quickly learned that my hiking shoes were not water proof, a fact I wished I had known sooner.

Shadow had his first real snow experience that day, and it was a blast to watch. He played for hours in the ice cold waters of the Merced River. After the morning walk, with my feet fairly soaked, I drove and walked around for hours taking pictures. My favorite was the dreamy Merced river which was a long exposure during the day with a neutral density filter to allow the long exposure. In order to get this right, it’s very helpful to have a tripod and a cable release, which I fortunately had with me.

That evening, we got another fire going despite all the wet wood, and for hours we both threw things for shadow to chase, or pretended to throw things which he chased with similar enthusiasm. He was tireless and soaked. When the fire was going down and we finally got tired of throwing things for him to retrieve he finally laid down by the waning fire, had a big sigh and went sound to sleep.

During the day, my tent had collapsed from the snow falling from the trees above and the rain which resumed as the temperature got over freezing, and my sleeping bag was soaked. Michele was kind enough to offer me her guest couch/futon in the Airstream. As appreciative as I was for the roof over my head, it turned out to be incredibly uncomfortable and in the wake of several cloudy days her solar power battery had drained so she had no heat. I finally gave up on trying to sleep at about four or five in the morning, when I realized Shadow was shivering at my feet and not sleeping either. So we got into my car, fired up the heat and seat heaters (which I cared about that day for the first time), and drove around Yosemite Valley until it started to get light. As the sun came peaked over the mountains to my right, I saw that the valley floor was covered in this mist from the difference in temperatures between the ground and the air. There was still snow on the ground from the previous night. And then I saw this tree with the sun starting to illuminate it and the granite walls as a backdrop. It was stunning. So, I pulled over, got out my camera and tripod and did my best to capture the moment. Here is the result.

Yosemite trees in morning light (©2015 mlj)

The interesting thing for me about this shot is that it wasn’t one of my favorites from that shoot, though it made my first cut. My father and Tom Irwin both told me that was the shot from that series, not that the other ones weren’t beautiful, but that this one was special. I truly didn’t feel that way at the time, but since then I’ve had more interest in this picture, even from strangers, than just about anything else I’ve done. I’m still trying to figure out the lesson in this, but regardless, I’m truly flattered at all the great feedback I’ve had on this photograph.

I went back to Tunnel View, where I’d been the day before, but in the morning light it was stunning, so I set up again and took a few more pictures, including the following.

Yosemite from Tunnel View (©2015 mlj)

There’s so much more to photograph in Yosemite, and the opportunities constantly change because of the light, clouds, time of day, season, etc… When I was there, there were throngs of photographers there with very fancy gear, and I don’t blame them. It’s a truly magical place. I can’t wait to get back there and explore remote parts of the park to shoot some more. One of these days.

So many things to photograph and so little time!


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