Posted by: kerryl29 | July 31, 2017

Yosemite National Park Day 5: Here Comes the Sun

While the first few full days at Yosemite were marked by a mix of cloudy skies and morning fog, that came to a crashing halt on Day 5.  Actually, the change began as Day 4 moved along and blue, nearly cloudless skies, became the norm.  There were almost literally no clouds at all to be seen at any point on Day 5.  This normally doesn’t make for particularly good photographic conditions, so I tried my best to work around these less than ideal circumstances.

I began the morning by driving to a spot along the Northside Drive of Yosemite Valley that I’d checked out on the first full day of the trip:  a location where the Cathedral Rocks formation, on the south side of the valley, is reflected in a marshy pool of water located just east of El Capitan Bridge.

Cathedral Rocks Reflections, Yosemite National Park, California

Getting into a position that allowed the full range of the rocky reflection required donning my rubber boots and wading into the water itself.  It was a muddy spot and I had to keep shifting my position to avoid sinking deep into that mud.

Cathedral Rocks Reflections, Yosemite National Park, California

I remained at this location until the sun’s rays kissed the tips of Cathedral Rocks.

Cathedral Rocks Reflections at Sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Rocks Reflections at Sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California

There were other shots to be had from this spot, images that were lacking in recognizable features but might do a better job of capturing the natural emotion of this particular place at this specific time.

Meadow Moonrise, Yosemite National Park, California

I briefly stopped at El Capitan Meadow, the site of the extended morning shoot of Day 4.  What a difference a day makes; the copious mist of the previous morning was entirely absent, replaced by clear, unobstructed blue skies.  Instead of the bevy of images I’d produced the previous day, I limited myself to just two this morning.

Cathedral Rocks Moonrise, Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Rocks Moonsrise, Yosemite National Park, California

From here I drove to the stables area beyond the Yosemite campgrounds at the eastern end of the valley, not far from Happy Isles, and made the trek to Mirror Lake.  Before I hit the trail, I made an image or two of the bridge spanning the creek adjacent to the stables parking area.

Stone Bridge, Tenaya Creek, Yosemite National Park, California

Stone Bridge Black & White, Tenaya Creek, Yosemite National Park, California

I was treated to a many interesting photo opportunities on the trail that ran along the south side of Tenaya Creek, which flows out of Mirror Lake.

Dogwood Blossoms, Mirror Lake Trail, Yosemite National Park, California

This was another area filled with dogwoods at the peak of their bloom, just as I’d experienced at Pohono Bridge and in the Tuolumne Grove.

Dogwood Blossoms, Tenaya Creek, Yosemite National Park, California

Despite the bright and sunny conditions, this area, nestled between high cliff walls on both sides, remained in open shade until late in the morning.  That allowed me an opportunity to photograph in even light along Tenaya Creek for several hours.  The sunny conditions also produced some interesting reflections in the creek itself.

Tenaya Creek Reflections, Yosemite National Park, California

Tenaya Creek Reflections, Yosemite National Park, California

Tenaya Creek Reflections, Yosemite National Park, California

I even found a composition I liked in black and white.

Tenaya Creek Black & White, Yosemite National Park, California

When I reached Mirror Lake itself, the light was becoming harsh as the sun was now penetrating this narrow area.  Still, I found a couple of scenes that I thought were worth setting up the tripod.

Mirror Lake Reflections, Yosemite National Park, California

Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park, California

At this point, the morning was nearing an end.  I hiked back to my car and then drove out of the now extremely crowded valley.  I decided to pay a visit to Glacier Point, in the Yosemite high country to the south of the valley.  Following the Wawona Road to the Glacier Point cutoff, it takes the better part of an hour to drive all the way to Glacier Point, which overlooks Yosemite Valley and the Sierra-Nevada Mountains to the west.

There was plenty of snow up in the high country but as I approached Glacier Point it declined to a manageable amount and was, in any event, completely cleared from the road.  I hit a traffic jam–I’m not kidding–about a half-mile short of the Point parking area and we crept at a pace that was reminiscent of the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago at rush hour.  The most maddening part of the entire experience was the realization that there was plenty of parking at the backside of the lot but people, evidently unaware of this, were crawling through the front part of the parking area in search of a spot.  In other words, the traffic jam was completely unnecessary.

I finally got into the lot, parked the car, and made my way to the overlook.  I didn’t even bother bringing my gear–the light was far too harsh.  This was entirely a scouting expedition, and it was a very useful one as I familiarized myself with the lay of the land.  I found a number of interesting vantage points and, after wandering around for about 45 minutes, decided to leave and return in about four hours, as sunset approached.  With that I returned to the valley.  It was not yet mid-afternoon.

At about 4:30 I began my return trip to the high country.  I stopped at Tunnel View in an attempt to photograph a rainbow that the sun had been producing at Bridalveil Falls all week at about this time.  The parking area at Tunnel View was a zoo, but I managed to nab a spot and quickly set up as the rainbow was already in evidence and wouldn’t last long as the angle of the sun declined.

Bridalveil Falls Rainbow, Yosemite National Park, California

Bridalveil Falls Rainbow, Yosemite National Park, California

From here, I drove straight to Glacier Point, arriving a bit after 6 P.M.  The crowds were long gone.  There were still people there, of course, but the volume was no more than 1/4 of what it had been a few hours earlier, and steadily declining.  There was no jam and I zipped straight into the lot.  I made my way to the overlook and waited a bit before beginning to photograph.

Half Dome from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Half Dome from Glacier Point Panorama, Yosemite National Park, California

The principal elements of interest in the valley from Glacier Point are Half Dome, of course, and both Vernal and Nevada Falls, the two huge Mist Trail waterfalls that I’d visited the previous day.

Half Dome from Glacier Point Black & White, Yosemite National Park, California

The light was decent when I arrived and did nothing but improve from this point on.  After playing around with a few spots along the lengthy north-south overlook, I settled into a location that I’d identified earlier that afternoon and simply waited for the light.  There were no clouds at all unfortunately, but I tried to make the best of some very nice light.

Half Dome at Sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Valley at Sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Valley at Sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Before–and after–the sun disappeared completely I pulled out the long lens and make a couple of near-portrait shots of Half Dome.

Half Dome at Sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Half Dome at Dusk from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

When earthshadow conditions were in place, I made a couple of final images before calling it a day.

Sierra-Nevada at Dusk from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Valley at Dusk from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

And with that, Day 5 came to an end.

I had one more full day budgeted for Yosemite National Park and I was determined to make the most of it, despite a forecast of clear blue skies on Day 6…

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Responses

  1. Brilliant series of photos; love the narration, planning pays off.

  2. Absolutely stunning!

    • Thanks very much!

  3. Yosemite has to be one of the most photographed National Parks, yet once again, You’ve shown us views that I’ve never seen before, and spectacular views they were!

    • Thanks, Jerry!

      As usual, you’ve hit the nail right on the head–given the familiarity that most us have with Yosemite, it can be a real challenge to do something other than rely on time-honored views. I plan to post a thematic piece in the relatively near future on this very subject.

  4. STUNNING captures of an amazing area. Well done, Kerry. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Frank!

  5. […] a comment appended to the post covering Day 5 of my time at Yosemite National Park, quietsolopursuits noted how heavily photographed Yosemite […]

  6. […] here I drove back to the stables parking area–the same spot where I parked on Day 5 as a jumping off point for a hike along the east side of Tenaya Creek on the way to Mirror Lake.  […]


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