Enchanted Forest

Backlit oak trees in spring, Yosemite National Park

Taken in Yosemite Valley on May 18th, 2012

I love fresh maple leaves in the Spring. They have a vibrancy of color that has always appealed to me. And when these young leaves are backlit, they glow with their own magic light. This shot was two years in the making. In 2010 I snapped a shot of this grove of maples and pines just casually as I was walking past. Only later did I realize the potential for a great photo. And it took me two years to have an opportunity to get back to the same grove at the right season and the right time of day in order to create this image.

Day After Day

Pothole Dome at sunset in winter, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park

The Sierra high country is timeless. These granite mountains, these meadows, and even this tree sentinel have been here longer than I’ve been alive and will be here much longer after I am gone. They stand day after day, month after month, year after year. Not waiting for anything, not expecting anything. No deadlines, no schedules, no Mondays, Wednesdays, or Saturdays.

If you spend enough time in the mountains, you begin to tap into that endless cycle. The feeling of “having to do something” slips away, along with pressures, schedules, and responsibilities. I don’t know anything quite so pacifying and relieving as connecting with the stillness of the mountains.

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El Capitan reflected in the Merced River in winter, Yosemite National Park

Taken in Yosemite Valley on December 29th, 2011

At the very end of 2011 I found myself camped in Yosemite Valley. One morning I forced myself out of my warm sleeping bag only to see a lovely pink glow already filling the sky. The color quickly faded, but the sky remained full of wispy clouds. Making my way to the Merced, I found a bend in the river where a near-perfect reflection of El Capitan filled the icy waters. Stamping my feet and flexing my fingers to ward off the cold, I waited for the sunlight to make its way down El Cap’s bulk, and then I snapped this shot.

Global Warming

Frozen Tenaya Lake sunset, Yosemite National Park

Taken on Tenaya Lake in Yosemite on December 27th, 2011

It all started before Christmas when I saw a video of people ice skating on a frozen Tenaya Lake in Yosemite’s high country. Wow, that’s cool, that doesn’t happen very often, I thought. Then, about halfway through the video, the filmer unwittingly showed something that had my eyes bugging out of my head: thick and crunchy pressure ridges and cracks running through the vast ice sheet covering Tenaya’s surface. And that sealed the deal: since Tioga Pass is open this late into the year maybe once in a generation, I knew I needed to take advantage of this unique photographic opportunity.

The week after Christmas I set out for three days of camping, hiking, exploring, and shooting the high country near Tuolumne Meadows. My timing was just right and I had three days of incredible shooting conditions and more natural beauty than you can shake a stick at. This shot is from the sunset on the first night: a rip-roaring pink and purple glow which set the icy reflections and cracks aflame on frozen Tenaya Lake.

Tuolumne Tundra

Tuolumne River and Tuolumne Meadows in winter, Yosemite National Park

Taken in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park on November 27th, 2011

Just when I thought Tioga Pass was closed for the season, a magical thing happened: some late season warm weather melted the ice from the road and highway 120 reopened. How fortunate then that I was visiting my family a mere 1.5 hours from Yosemite when this occurred. I was already planning on going into Yosemite Valley to camp, but with the fortuitous reopening of Tioga Pass, I decided to spend the day instead exploring Tuolumne Meadows under a blanket of snow. My mom came along as well and we spent the day freezing our toes off, exploring the icy Yosemite high country.


Yosemite Thunder

Thunderstorm at sunset at Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park
Taken at Olmsted Point in Yosemite National Park on September 12, 2011

I was in Yosemite to help my mom celebrate her 61st birthday by hiking to the top of Half Dome. Because of the new permit system, the date of your hike is not changeable. So we started to worry a bit when the weather forecast called for massive thunderstorms the entire week of the hike. But secretly I was overjoyed at the prospect of shooting a thunderstorm in the park. The night before the hike I drove up to the Yosemite high country to shoot Tuolumne Meadows. But when it became clear the best light was happening out over the Valley, I flew back to Olmsted Point to witness this awesome display.

Split Rock at Sunrise

Tioga Lake and Mt. Dana at sunrise, Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park

Taken at Tioga Lake, Yosemite National Park, on October 29th, 2010

I generally try to take a zen-like approach to my photography where I calmly survey the scene before me, take my time to find a composition, and then wait for the good light to hit. That was absolutely not the case on this cold October morning. After a 2 am departure and a 4.5 hour manic drive to Yosemite, my friends and I arrived at Tioga pass as the new day was dawning. Leaping out of the warm car into the 15°F chill of daybreak at 10,000 feet, we sprinted down to Tioga Lake, scrambling to find compositions as night turned to day. I was lucky enough to spy this beautiful crack in a rock out in the lake. Gingerly placing a few stepping stones before me, I made my way out to the split rock as the sky filled up with pink and purple light.

Lovely Light = Lovin’ Life

Half Dome and Sentinel Rocks from Columbia Rock, Yosemite National Park

Taken from Columbia Rock in Yosemite National Park on May 14th, 2010

I once heard that 85% of visitors to Yosemite never get more then a quarter-mile from their vehicles. Incredible, I know, but it means that even with just a little bit of extra effort you can get to places that not that many people see, which makes for some rewarding photography. On this afternoon I sped up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail and stopped for awhile at Columbia Rock, which provides a fantastic, lesser-seen viewpoint of Yosemite Valley. Luckily for me, the light was beautiful, and it put me in a great mood for the rest of my hike.

Room with a View

Room with a View

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken from above the Upper Yosemite Falls trail in Yosemite, on May 14th, 2010

Finding a unique viewpoint in Yosemite Valley to photograph is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Nevertheless, that’s what I set out to do this evening in May. I had a vague idea for a shot which included two valley icons, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome, so I set out along the upper falls trail, unsure of what I would find. After about three miles of hiking, I turned to find an incredible vista of Half Dome and the roaring Falls. Unfortunately, the base of the upper falls was blocked from sight by vegetation. I solved that problem by (perhaps foolishly) climbing about 60 feet up the granite cliffs behind me and shimmying out onto a small ledge, which while slightly terrifying, gave me the clear view I needed to capture this image.

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In the Presence of Giants

Tenaya Lake, Pywiack dome, Medlicott Dome, Yosemite National Park

Taken near Olmstead Point, Yosemite National Park on August 31st, 2009

Slightly less visited, but no less dramatic than Yosemite Valley, Tenaya Lake is a classic high Sierra lake: tranquil blue waters surrounded my massive granite monoliths. After a short backpacking trip to Cathedral Lakes, I was headed home along highway 120 when the smoky, partly cloudy sky at Olmstead Point caught my eye. After shooting there for a while, I turned around to see the clouds sending undulations of light across the lake and its surrounding peaks and domes, and knew I had to capture this scene as well.


Cathedral Peak

Cathedral Peak

The Story Behind This Photograph:

Taken at Upper Cathedral Lake, Yosemite National Park on August 30th, 2009

Living and working at sea level makes life tricky in the high country. Even though this was my second day of backpacking at the Cathedral Lakes, and should have been somewhat acclimated to the altitude, my unaccustomed lungs were still sucking wind as I clambered around the bluffs above Upper Cathedral Lake shooting the incredible alpenglow that glazed Cathedral Peak. Of course, part of the reason for my dizzy spells and headache could have been the thick smoke wafting through the Yosemite high country thanks to the Wildcat Fire burning near Foresta, some 30 miles to the west. And even though the smoke made my lungs burn and found me dizzily shooting from the tops of 100-foot bluffs, I couldn’t complain too much as the setting sun shined through the haze to cast a vivid red light on the top of Cathedral Peak.

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