No matter how advanced digital photography gets in color capturing and printing technology, there will always be a special place for black and white photography in Yosemite.
John Muir was spot-on when he christened this natural gem the “Range of Light.” The rugged 2,000+ foot granite walls sheltering the narrow Yosemite Valley, with its northeast-southwest orientation, make for spectacular plays of reflected light and deep shadow all through the year. Anyone who photographs in Yosemite is aware of the challenges that such hard contrasts in light can bring to a full color image. But when viewed in black and white, these hard stops reveal texture, form, gravity, and emotion that aren’t immediately obvious in the full color scene. There is a sensitivity and richness that comes through when the color is stripped away and the landscape laid bare.
Ansel Adams was, of course, the king of black and white Yosemite photography. If he were alive today and had the option to record his vision in color, I wonder if he would see things differently? I’m secretly glad he didn’t have a palette of technicolor tools at his disposal. There’s a reason why, despite having access to advanced technology, millions of photographers continue to emulate his style. Adams’ images are so clear, so honest, so strong yet delicate in their handling of light and darkness. It’s like watching a ballet unfold frame by frame. Without the beautiful distraction of color, a whole new world opens up that invites a new kind of contemplation.
This January was my first winter camping trip to Yosemite. Although I did not approach every scene with the intent of capturing it in black and white, I found that I was often pulled that direction in my editing. White snow, black shadows, bare tree branches outstretched against a pale gray sky…all lent themselves perfectly to the black and white approach.
What do you notice first in each of these images? Would you see something different if they were in color?
Pssst…I’l let you in on a local’s secret: Yosemite National Park is horrible in the summer. When the waterfalls are raging and the days are long and warm, there is no place I’d rather NOT be than Yosemite. During this extremely popular time of the year, there are throngs of people and cars clogging every walkway and road, dirty air fed by forest fires and Central Valley smog, and a dry, sweltering heat that leaves me pining for air conditioning and a freezer full of Mint Oreo ice cream.
Pretty much every month outside of June, July, and September is better for visiting, although I think Fall is the best. There’s a cool crispness to the air…mmmm, that pristine mountain kind filled with the fresh, lung-scrubbing fragrance of damp pine needles and joyously littered with a colorful confetti of falling leaves.
There’s also that glowing, golden sunshine that bathes the Valley Floor during the day, a luscious light that only comes at this time of year. It’s warm and beautiful, especially as it illuminates the face of Half Dome in the mid-afternoon.
This past weekend Steve, Mila, and I went “glamping” (i.e. tent camping, but with enough kitchenware and bedding to stock a Macy’s Home Store) in the shadow of the world’s most famous monolith. What ensued were several days of peace and rejuvenation in this idyllic park. Although I said I’d go easy on the photography this trip (really, how many pictures of Yosemite Falls do I need??), I scrapped that idea once I immersed myself in the splendid beauty of Yosemite.
A recent rain storm had erased the memory of summer, wetting the soil and refilling the High Sierra watershed, bringing the famed waterfalls to life again. The fall colors were peaking, the light was amazing, and I just couldn’t help myself!! Scroll down to see more of my photos from our Yosemite Fall “Glamping” Trip.
Have you been to Yosemite? If so, when is your favorite time of year to visit? Litter my my blog with comments, I’d love to hear from you!
P.S. – One of these days I’ll post on the finer points of “glamping.” Mila still doesn’t understand it – like why would you take all the comforts of home to someplace that’s NOT home – but believe me, it’s kind of a thing these days!
There’s delicacy and beauty in the tiniest things in Yosemite.
Beetles carve curious mazes through fallen logs.
Dark and brooding…
Light and airy…
And slightly mysterious.
Wildflowers gone to seed in a meadow.
These cool cruiser bikes can be rented at Curry Village (aka Half Dome Village).
Darn. It’s taken. 😦
Saturday Night Plans: Wrap up in dad’s sweater like a burrito and watch Mom try to light the campfire.
Don’t go camping without ’em.
We may glamp, but that doesn’t mean we don’t go vintage!
A healthy buck makes his way across Ahwahnee Meadow.
Nature is groovy.
Don’t mind me.
Pointillistic reflections in a puddle on the Mirror Lake trail.
When we explore, we like to take the road less traveled.
Playing in the leaves.
Like I said…best of friends. Mila goes everywhere with us!
A couple of weeks ago Steve and I embarked on yet another camping adventure – but with a twist! We dusted off Steve’s classic Ski Nautique, dumped all our gear into water-proof totes, and hit the road for a boat camping weekend on Lake Tahoe.
A few things to know about boat camping:
All the stuff that used to fit in the back of your truck now needs to fit in your boat.
All the stuff in your boat needs to stay dry (easier said than done).
Your boat still needs to FLOAT once loaded down with all your stuff.
People who aren’t used to seeing tiny boats loaded 4′ high with ice chests and fire pits are going to stare at you. Wave and smile, wave and smile…
Once you get to your campground, you need to unload your stuff and get it to your campsite. Enter wheelbarrows and very bumpy dirt trails.
After you unload your stuff, you have to moor your boat.
After you moor your boat, you need to get back to shore. Oops, this is where an inflatable kayak would have come in handy…
When condensed like that, boat camping can sound like a drag! But it really is a lot of fun. Especially at Emerald Bay, which is hands down one of the prettiest places in all of Lake Tahoe.
Camping at Emerald Bay gave me a good excuse to get up at dawn for sunrise photography. Actually, I had zero excuse NOT to get up, as the bay was right at my feet every morning, beautiful and serene, beckoning me with bright colors or placid waters. I had so much fun documenting its many different looks and moods in the few short days that I was there.
Sunsets, by the way, weren’t too shabby either! Although the sun sets behind the mountains that encircle Emerald Bay, afternoon storm clouds sometimes reflect the colors of a glorious sunset, giving us a window into something that we cannot see.
Boat camping at Emerald Bay is quite remote, as there are no markets or restaurants within walking distance. You can’t just casually jump in your car to head to the store to pick up some ice, or go for a tour around town. What you CAN do is jump in your boat and head to the nearest marina for food, supplies, and good ol’ lakefront entertainment.
The Beacon is known for its tropical cocktail, the Rum Runner. Perhaps señor had a few too many?
While we sipped libations in the Sand Pit and listened to live music from local bands, a rumble of thunder echoed in the distance. I checked the weather forecast on my phone and saw a storm warning for the lake for the next hour or two. A quick pitstop quickly turned into a dinner break as we waited out the weather.
I ordered the fish and chips. Yum yum yum. And waited. Midway through my third filet, I looked outside and saw light breaking on the water. My heart skipped a beat as I registered what sunlight combined with retreating storm clouds means. Steve’s heart skipped a beat too. Except what he was looking at was our boat, which had broken free of its mooring. We both ran out to the shore and got to work.
While heading out on the boat to explore the lake is fun, it’s also nice to explore Lake Tahoe from land. Good thing there are plenty of opportunities for that right from our campground. One day we hiked the Rubicon Trail, another day we walked around the south end of the bay, and one afternoon we toured the famed Vikingsholm Castle. Sometimes we just chilled on the beach and read a book while the waves lapped at our feet.
We even got treated to a 30 minute show by one of the resident osprey of the Emerald Bay. These birds build their nests in the tops of the tallest trees, close to the shore, so that they can scan the water for fish with their insanely sharp eyes. Then they swoop down and it’s like, sayonara fishie. Such is the harsh reality of life in the wild.
Those who camp with us know that, well, we don’t really “camp”, it’s kind of more like “glamp.” As in, dehydrated veggies and meals-in-a-pouch don’t even come close to our meal kit. Here’s an especially tasty 2014 Tolosa Central Coast Viognier that we paired with, I am not ashamed to say, bacon mac ‘n cheese. Chowzah!
Would I boat camp again? Absolutely. Would I do it immediately? Probably not. It’s definitely a more expensive way to travel, if you don’t already have a boat docked on the water, and you certainly aren’t as mobile as you are on land or foot. Some of the peace and quiet of the outdoors is, understandably, shattered when you combine outboard motors with alcohol-fueled party boats. But on the positive side it gets you out on the water to enjoy a new perspective, and isn’t collecting new perspectives the main reason why we travel?
Until next time…here are a few more images of water fun to whet your appetite for a lake adventure.