Although I don’t recommend doing it, there's just so much to see and do, it is still possible to endure a grueling drive from Los Angeles and enjoying a shorter winter day in Yosemite.
My departure time was around midnight, which got me to Tunnel View just in time for sunrise. On my way in I noticed that Glacier Road was still open, so I made a mental note to make it up to Glacier Point for sunset. Side note: The road is scheduled to close around mid-October but it’s not unusual to find it open, or even reopened, if weather conditions are favorable. It mostly means no snow.
It turned out to be a cloudy day in the park, which made me hope for a colorful sunrise and when it didn't happen I crossed my fingers, wishing for a prettier sunset. Don't get me wrong, the view at Tunnel View is always spectacular, it just wasn’t any different from the majority of my previous experiences. You still take the pictures though! Seeing the park completely covered by clouds I got in my car with some new ideas for the day.
I stopped by Bridalveil Fall, took the easy hike in from its parking lot, only to find out that the water wasn’t flowing as strong as I had imagined from a distance. Bummer, because just minutes before I decided to photograph all the waterfalls in overcast. That was going to be my entire day. Anyhow, I revised my idea of hiking up to the falls to staying in the valley, walking around, shooting whatever catches my eye and just enjoying the scenery.
First, I pulled over at to my favorite little path that drops you right down to the Merced River. The water was so quiet and still that I had to shoot the Three Brothers in their beautiful glory. For me, usually the peaks are either blown out by the sun, or covered in fog and clouds. I was excited to see this scene in a perfect reflection... it even felt a bit surreal.
Next, I ditched my car at the Chapel and decided to walk around to find a new perspective. This plan kind of backfired on me, because as I walked onto the grass to photograph some dry plants` I got viciously attacked by wasps and had to flee the area. I was stung repeatedly and I had a real hard time getting away from them. My assumption is that I must have stepped on, or walked into, their nest when I headed towards that interesting looking plant. My head was throbbing, my neck and hands were stinging but I kept photographing and walked quite a bit before returning to my car.
There were road closures in the park and the new traffic flow prompted me to go in different directions from the usual. That’s how I ended up at Stoneman Bridge and couldn't get over how still the Merced River looked. The reflection of the bridge looked like it was off a sheet of glass and when I saw Half Dome in the distance I knew immediately that I had to incorporate it into my shot. I tried to frame it from both sides of the river, making my way in by hopping on rocks, until it became clear to me that I could only have what I wanted if I stood in the middle of the river. Found a fallen tree where I set down my gear, took my shoes and socks off, rolled up my pants and I walked in. The water was freezing cold and walking on the river pebbles was difficult but I finally got what I wanted, along with some weird looks from the shore. I couldn’t feel my feet for a while, but pulling my socks on my wet feet and putting my boots back on felt really good. This whole exercise also diverted my attention from my pulsating wasp stings, so I guess it wasn't a bad thing.
On my way up to Glacier Point I came across a controlled burn site which is always heartbreaking to see (they are burning bark beetle infested trees that had to be chopped down) but the smoke created some interesting photo opportunities.
Prior to leaving the valley, I also had to take a quick peek at Valley View, which is another one of those visual treats where no matter how many times I see it it’s always an amazing experience.
Now if you ever plan on driving up to Glacier Point, then you must know that nobody should ever skip the 2 mile hike out to Taft Point, so I did just that. Luckily, it wasn't crowded with tourists and I really loved that late afternoon diffused light that was waiting for me up there (it is usually very strong and literally blasts through the mountain peaks). It also revealed more details in the entire scene and made photography a bit less challenging.
The hike itself isn’t a spectacular one but I did find a few beautiful spots along the trail.
Sunset at Glacier Point not only made up for the 'uneventful' sunrise but was an absolute treat! The clouds added so much drama to an already fantastic view of Half Dome and on top of that the sun decided to go down with a bang… I still have no words for that sunset, so just please enjoy the image below.
I kept shooting as the sun was setting when I suddenly found myself alone in the dark. I packed up my gear and decided to boil some water for some soup and tea before heading home. As I looked up I saw the clouds moving rather quickly, revealing more and more stars, so I got my camera and tripod back out of the car. By the time my food was ready the sky was crystal clear and I was able to capture the stars while I finished my dinner. Shortly after that, I counted me blessings and headed home... It ended up being a one of those days that I won’t forget any time soon.