Three weeks since the workshop ended, yikes! I’m getting a little tardy with my write-ups! Even though to me the workshop seems like ages ago due to a few hectic weeks of travel I still can recall the experiences vividly. The sights, sounds, and smells of Yosemite linger long in the mind.
Our eager group met early afternoon on Wednesday, May 14th, the night of the full moon. We ate an early dinner together and then ventured into Yosemite to shoot sunset at a little known, but spectacularly beautiful, location on the banks of the Merced River looking out at Half Dome. Once the orange light faded from Half Dome’s face we migrated to Cooks Meadow. As darkness fell and the moon rose we anxiously awaited the appearance of one of Yosemite’s most fabled phenomena: the lunar rainbow (or moonbow for short). As the group continued to adjust their camera settings for the deepening light someone (I think it might’ve been me) shouted: the moonbow! And there it was, appearing faintly in the spray of the upper falls. Soon the moon was high enough that we knew the ‘bow would shortly be appearing on the lower falls so that’s where we headed. Of course the main viewing area was crowded with photographers and sightseers hoping to get a glimpse of the moonbow. But we know a secret spot with a killer view of the ‘bow, but no other photographers or people in the way. And our group created some really stunning shots from that point.
The next morning we took a bit easy due to the late night moonbow exploits, but by 10 am we were on location at Cascade Creek, which boasts an endless series of gorgeous cascades and falls perfect for creating intimate water scenes. From there it was a short trip up the hill toward Foresta, where the hillsides were literally covered in pristine lupine. I can’t even begin to describe the rich, sweet smell of their perfume in the air.
That evening we decided to have a little higher-altitude fun and went to Sentinel Dome for the sunset. From Sentinel you have splendid, 360-degree views of Yosemite, and all the major icons are visible from a completely novel perspective. It took some searching and some thought but soon the crew was busy photographing the erratic boulders, wind-bent trees, and textured granite slabs that make Sentinel such a great spot for shooting. The clouds even opened up a bit for us and let in a touch of color that splashed across the face of Half Dome.
After sunset we retreated from Sentinel and continued further down to Glacier Point, where we saw the rising moon cast its silvery light over the park. An hour of night photography later and we were ready to head back to the hotel.
We began our third day at a little-visited bend in the Merced River which gives a commanding view of El Capitan. For my money I’m not sure there’s a more idyllic spot in Yosemite Valley. Unless of course it’s the next location we visited, a pristine shore just upstream from Cathedral Beach which has the distinction of being surrounded by El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, and the Three Brothers. Towering granite in all directions.
A few hours later we found ourselves at a lovely grove of maple trees near Curry Village. I love shooting these maples on a clear afternoon because of the way the leaves catch the sunlight and seem to glow with their own energy. As sunset drew near we headed to the west end of the valley and hiked up toward Inspiration Point. From a few clearings on the side of the hill we had the spectacular view of Yosemite Valley laid out in front of us, but without all the crowds you find at Tunnel View. And as the clouds pinked up to the east we wrapped another great day of shooting in Yosemite.
The next morning we met bright and early in order to catch the sunrise. We made out way to a Valley viewpoint that’s fairly high up and saw a massive Sierra wave cloud sitting above the Sierra crest. As the sun came up this cloud turned all manner of colors and split and broke into awesome textures. When the color dissipated our group made the move to Valley View to cap off the morning, followed by a series of outstanding cascades on the Merced River west of the Valley. Many beautiful long exposure pixels were burned in that morning.
That was the official end of the workshop and we bid adieu to four of our great participants. The remaining four stuck with us for the “bonus” day, where we got to venture a little further afield. Our first stop was a glorious grove of dogwoods just at the tail end of their peak bloom. The white brachts contrasted beautifully with the orange bark of a few cedar trees in the grove and I saw some great photos created. From the dogwood grove we moseyed all the way up to Tuolumne Meadows and puffed up to the top of Pothole Dome. Pothole provides a stunning view of Tuolumne Meadows and the Yosemite high country to the east, and loads of rounded granite domes to the west. But no matter which way we pointed our cameras some sweet photos were popping up. Shortly thereafter we drove to Tenaya Lake to take in the sunset. And luckily we were treated to a lovely light show in the clouds above the lake.
After a long drive back to our hotel and a few precious hours of sleep we met for one last sunrise at Mirror Lake at the far east end of Yosemite Valley. Perfect reflections, aesthetic granite, and the towering bulk of Half Dome was our subject matter and it made for a great end to the workshop. After a quick breakfast it was back to the hotel to check out and head home after another wonderful workshop.
Of course, we couldn’t have the workshop without our awesome participants: David, Terri, Elisabeth, Jonathan, Ratnesh, Doug, Quinton, and Denyse. Thanks a million, you guys! Can’t wait to see you all on the next one. In the meantime you can check out everyone’s amazing shots from the workshop here: Yosemite Workshop Final Photos. And more of our shots of you all down below.
~Josh and Jim
If this sounds like fun to you, be sure to join us on our upcoming Yosemite Photography Workshop: Fall Color in October.
And these great portraits taken by Elisabeth Thalinger: