2011 Yosemite Fall Safari

As usual we all met in Oakhurst and came into the park from the south entrance.  We shot the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias first before moving on to Alder Creek.  So many small to medium waterfalls!  When I had photographed this creek on the Yosemite Waterfalls safari back in May the river was running so high that the delicate small waterfalls were submerged.

Alder Creek

After a good water year Alder Creek was running higher than normal, though perfect for photographing waterfalls.  Both just off the road (at the bottom of the creek) and farther up the trail to the higher waterfalls (about 100 yards) yielded many to choose from.  Using a polarizer was essential to capturing the waterfalls without glare from the reflective surfaces, such as the creek and wet rocks.  Many of my exposures were over a second long, so a tripod was essential as well.  Low ISO settings, use of the self-timer, and bracketing images for each set-up guaranteed me a good image.  I have always found the smooth curves, eddies, and small trickle waterfalls of these types of scenes to be very photogenic.

In processing these images I noticed that blue/cyan starts to creep in to the darker areas of the image, so I used the Hue/Saturation dialog box (Ctrl + U) to reduce them.  In images where complete sharpness is required, not only do you want to use the Hyperfocal distance in your focusing location to insure the greatest amount of depth-of-field (dof), but applying some additional contrast through sharpening helps as well.  This can be done by going to Smart Sharpen and use setting like: 30% Amount, 10 Radius, and 0 Threshold.

Alder Creek

After Alder Creek we traveled into Yosemite Valley to photograph the Merced River and the color along its banks.  With most of the valley still in the morning shade, the river had nice even lighting without any direct sun hotspots.  Today was really a day for waterfalls, autumn colors, rivers, and leaves.  I don’t think I shot a single “big” landscape image.  I was totally captivated by the water and colors.

Color along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley

This image is similar to an image I shot last year at this same set of waterfalls.  The main autumn colors here are yellow, with only a little red and some orange leaves in the valley.  Everywhere we went the ground cover color was also very strong.

Our day had clear skies and bright sun, warming up to about 70 degrees on the valley floor.  A week later the valley received its first coat of snow.  Every trip to Yosemite is different:  some years its all about the big images, or shooting in the Tioga Pass area and Tenaya Lake, or the big waterfalls in spring, but this fall was all about the small landscapes, nearly macro-type images that showed nature’s designs.

Autumn Maple leaves in Yosemite Valley.

Our last destination was Fern Springs.  This very small spring, maybe 10-12 feet in circumference, is surrounded by moss covered rocks and vegetation.  Overhanging trees drop leaves into the spring which accumulate along the edges, or flow over a small series of waterfalls that drain it.  Every angle provides amazing images, and we shot with a number of other photographers, taking turns at each spot.

Fern Springs

Wow.  That’s all I can say.  Everyone on the safari shot similar images, and had opportunities to shoot their own specific compositions.  It’s dark under all the trees and long exposures create (due to polarizing filters as well) gorgeous frothy streams of water as they cross over the foot tall waterfalls.

We finished the safari shooting the Wawona covered bridge.  We began the day in pre-dawn light and ended the day in post-sunset light, and I think we were all pretty tired, at least I was.  But the images speak volumes of the beauty of Yosemite.  This safari turned out to be a macro landscape shoot, the big landscapes will have to wait for another day.  That day is Monday, January 9th, 2012 for the winter Yosemite safari.  I hope to see you then.

About brentrpaull

Professional Photographer
This entry was posted in Photo Safaris. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s