I just recently returned from a snowy, misty day in Yosemite valley, and it really taught me a thing or two about opening my eyes to the intimate, and less iconic, scenes of Yosemite.
I’m fortunate to live so close to Yosemite National Park and I try to get there much as I can. I have a day job, so weekends are my only option. After a 4+ hour drive from Sacramento, I always feel a little obligated to get those iconic “wow” shots of Tunnel View, Gates of the Valley, Half Dome and El Capitan in the limited amount of time I have in the park. Those are what photographers call “trophy shots” and for good reason – they’re gorgeous and people love them! But photographing those scenes time after time in the hope that you will somehow get something compelling and different can get a little exhausting! So, it was actually a relief to arrive in the valley to find all the iconic peaks completely socked in with fog.
I had been feeling a little low recently due to a death in the family, and not out shooting as much. It was my photographer friend, Charlotte Gibb, who must’ve read my mind, and messaged me about a weekend in Yosemite. Her timing couldn’t have been better, no plans for the weekend, and I was finally ready to get out and make photos again. We met in a photography workshop run by Michael Frye, and she has a photographic style that I would describe as spiritual, intimate and displays reverence to nature, and she has a humble and generous disposition to boot. I was looking forward to learning a little from her unique vision, while refining my own. And, I admit, it was nice to have someone else choose the locations for a change!
The first day, we photographed along the Merced River adjacent to El Capitan Meadow. El Capitan, although draped in mist, casted beautiful reflections in the mirror like water.
Later that evening, as darkness fell, we photographed Yosemite Falls from one of the many vantage points along the Valley’s loop road. It was getting dark, and had my boyfriend, Chris, and I been on our own like we usually are, we most likely would have packed it in and left already. But Charlotte kept shooting, and I was following her lead, and managed to get one of my favorites from the brief trip of a misty falls and wintery trees.
The next morning, we ventured out to Cook’s Meadow, where I was drawn to an S-curve of a creek in the freshly fallen snow. While I was there, a coyote wandered into my scene. I had my 24-105mm wide angle zoom lens on with a bulky rain cover to protect my camera from the very wet snowfall. As he wandered ever closer to me, I debated changing to a zoom lens, but it was snowing heavily and wetly and I didn’t want to risk my camera or spooking him, so I settled on using the lens I had and photographing him in his element, while he was intent on finding himself some breakfast.
Certainly, the lack of visibility and dense fog wasn’t a hindrance to coming home with photos I really like. It was because I couldn’t fall back on my safe “go to” photography spots, that Charlotte, and the weather conditions, helped me see beautiful scenes previously overlooked.