Fall Field Trip to Yosemite (with Addendum)

I confess I was surprised when the class voted to go to Yosemite Valley in the Fall but it was their choice.  However, for me it did not start out all that well.  The waiver of fees for the students somehow got lost in the mail and did not arrive at the PArk Offices in time.  Not that $20.00 is all that much money but for some of my students it actually is.  I was really disappointed in that but there was no help for it, after all, the Post office is run by the federal government, that paragon of management efficiency and competence…  but that was the least of my worries as it turned out.

On Thursday, I was up early, packed, fed, and then… and then… first I could not find my keys, the cat ran out and had to be corralled and, as you might be aware, herding cats is something the best cutting horse and sheepdog would struggle with accomplishing.  So I got out a bit late but little did I know the waste material was being readied for the fan and I was headed right into the line of fire…

Then it started…  north of L.A.  my debit card was declined at a fuel stop.  Then again… and again at the next one.  Fortunately I had brought enough cash to get me to the lodge where I had prepaid for the room… I thought…

But the fun continued when I drove into the valley to meet the students only to discover the buffet at Curry Village, our rendezvous point was closed early for the season.  Oh yeah, it was just getting better ‘n better.

The next morning I gave some shooting ideas and an afternoon rendezvous point to the students and headed back into the little town of Oakhurst where there was a brick and mortar bank with real people.  I arrived not long after they opened, explained my predicament, and an extremely apologetic and helpful “Associate” named Diane helped me and in relatively short order had lifted the block on my card.  Very cool!  But… Alas, not so fast young grasshopper…

I met a former student, Nikko, who lives in Oakhurst, for a late breakfast.  Things were definitely looking up.  But then I needed to fuel up and head back into the park to meet students.  And to my surprise and massive irritation, the card was declined! So back to the bank I went.  This time a most unhappy camper.

It took poor Diane all afternoon to sort out that there were actually TWO holds on my card: one because I had travelled out of my area and the card had been used so frequently to try to buy gas (Well, duh, that was because it was being declined…) and the other hold was because I used the card at one of the gas stops where it was determined that bad guys had rigged the pump I used with the device that captures card numbers and pins, etc. so there was a fraud alert placed on the card and it took until after 2 pm to get it all sorted out and me issued a new temporary card.

Of course I missed the rendezvous, in no small additional part because I got behind a tour bus that never … NEVER … Topped 30 miles per hour!

But finally I joined them at Glacier Point.  The light was unlike anything I’ve seen before and clouds were swirling around half dome as a hole in the clouds let a spotlight from the low sun settle on the iconic form.  Well that called for a shot.

THe clouds formed a giant "cookie" (a lighting term) letting a spot hit this iconic rock form.  It was so spectacular it screamed for a more traditional black and white treatment.

THe clouds formed a giant “cookie” (a lighting term) letting a spot hit this iconic rock form. It was so spectacular it screamed for a more traditional black and white treatment.

And on the way back down, just as it has a few trips before, the sun was just setting over the mountains to the west so there was another incredible view.  The brilliant red sun lit up the clouds in a most spectacular way.

THe sun coming through the clouds creates a streak of blood red across the scky to the west.  The haze in the vallleys give an eerie light to the scene.  I screeched to a stop as the sun was fading, grabbed a camera and lens and, out of breath, fired of a few quick shots, all a little shaky, and then it was gone.  Wow.

THe sun coming through the clouds creates a streak of blood red across the scky to the west. The haze in the vallleys give an eerie light to the scene. I screeched to a stop as the sun was fading, grabbed a camera and lens and, out of breath, fired of a few quick shots, all a little shaky, and then it was gone. Wow.

So, OK, the day was not a total loss.  But my mind was elsewhere.  The normal awesome grandeur of the valley was lost on me even though on Saturday an orbit of the valley produced a few shots, most were of quieter scenes; a 30 frame mosaic of reflections of the fall colors in a quiet pool, some macros of leaves at Fern Springs, some close ups of red leaves, etc.

First, here is the mosaic.  I made this so you can enlarge it quite a bit to get a sense of the detail.  but the low resolution of computer display can no more than hint at the reality of the shot.  Click on it to enlarge it.

This quiet reflecting pool on ther Merced is located where normally a torrent of water cascades over the rocks.  But this time I made the image from amosaic of over 20 frames from my Canon 5D Mk II so the full res version is nearly 900 meg with a native size of over 60 x 40 inches.  You can click on the image to zoom in (if he little magnifying glass shows a plus (+) sign you can zoom in further).

This quiet reflecting pool on ther Merced is located where normally a torrent of water cascades over the rocks. But this time I made the image from amosaic of over 20 frames from my Canon 5D Mk II so the full res version is nearly 900 meg with a native size of over 60 x 40 inches. You can click on the image to zoom in (if he little magnifying glass shows a plus (+) sign you can zoom in further).

We stopped at Fern Springs and I took this close up of some of the leaves on the ground…

Close up of leaves on the ground near Fern Springs.

Close up of leaves on the ground near Fern Springs.

I must have dozens of shots of El Capitan, and though we stopped so students could shoot I really did not expect to even unlimber a camera.  But as I was strolling around, killing time, I wandered into a grove of oak trees and saw this shot.  So it was back to the car, grab camea and lens, go back to the grove, and try to find the spot again.

On a crispp fall morning I saw El Capitan framed by oaks about to lose their leaves and go to sleep for the winter.

On a crispp fall morning I saw El Capitan framed by oaks about to lose their leaves and go to sleep for the winter.

Here is a shot of a flame red bush, also by the side of the Merced.

Though the fall colors were predominantly yellow here, there were also some bright red leaves vying for attention.

Though the fall colors were predominantly yellow here, there were also some bright red leaves vying for attention.

Then we went up the Tioga pass road to Lake Tenaya.  On the ledge road below Crane Flats a car was coming downhill fast and was nearly a quarter into my lane and still coming over.  I had no where to go but swerved as much as I could.  I do not know how he missed me.  He and I were essentially face to face so there was that much overlap.  The student in the car behind me said he was sure the driver would hit me and even assumed he must have scraped me as he went by since he barely missed the student’s car and the car even behind him!

When I saw him coming I just knew he had me and there was nothing I could do; as he went by hardly a coat of paint separated us and I was actually surprised first not to have had him lodged in my engine compartment and then not hearing metal scraping along my side.  But none of us got a scratch.

When we stopped at the gas pumps the students behind came up to see the damage they just knew he had to have done to my car.  No one could believe there was none, most of all… Me.

We stopped at Siesta Lake.  I love this little lake, pond really, with its reed filled shoreline.  I shot up here the first time I came to Yosemite and it was good to come back to this soothing place.  After the drive up I needed a place to quiet my spirit down a bit.

This composition seemed very quiet and peaceful as it contrasted the specular highlights on the floating leaves with the waiving reeds along the top.

This composition seemed very quiet and peaceful as it contrasted the specular highlights on the floating leaves with the waiving reeds along the top.

I could not pass by the simplicity and elegance of the single shoot.  What looks like clouds int he sky are actually dead leaves floating on the nearly black water.  This seemed to demand a black and white treatment.

I could not pass by the simplicity and elegance of the single shoot. What looks like clouds int he sky are actually dead leaves floating on the nearly black water. This seemed to demand a black and white treatment.

We drove as far as Lake Tenaya.  The smooth rockslides of the surrounding mountains suggested being shaved by glaciers but that would mean the glaciers would have had to be taller than the mountains! And the boulders strewn on the smooth surfaces had to come from somewhere even higher.  But from where?  I love those “mysteries” nature sometimes throws in front of us novices.

The "skin" on the mountains is smooth and looks like dried lava.  But it also looks like white granite that has been polished by ide which also deposited the boulders all over it.

The “skin” on the mountains is smooth and looks like dried lava. But it also looks like white granite that has been polished by ide which also deposited the boulders all over it.

Some of my students could not resist walking all over this bizarre rock configuration.  The long shadows show that it is time to be saddling up and heading back toward the Valley.

Some of my students could not resist walking all over this bizarre rock configuration. The long shadows show that it is time to be saddling up and heading back toward the Valley.

From Olmsted Overlook you are looking at the back side of Half Dome.  The haze in the valleys created a somewhat surreal light as the iconic rock feature of the valley subtly looms out of the distant mist.

In the center of the image, through the haze and clouds you can see the backside of Yosemite's icon "Half Dome."

In the center of the image, through the haze and clouds you can see the backside of Yosemite’s icon “Half Dome.”

By then the sun was already going down fast.  The problem with Fall shooting is the much shorter days.  But to be honest I was ready to have some dinner, get some sleep, and head back to town.  That. of course creates a conflict: on one hand I would be happy to stay here forever… on the other I was a bit rattled still from the close call and wanted to get home.  I guess we are never satisfied…

As the cosmos took one last shot in my direction, as I checked out I was informed that Priceline/Booking.com had only prepaid for one night and I still owed for two.  I don’t think that is correct but the clerks were clueless.  Fighting with them would be like B’rer Rabbit and the Tar Baby; you just get sucked into a meaningless battle with folks uncapable of creating a solution anyway.  I’ll have to handle it in another venue.

I’m actually very glad to be home…

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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2 Responses to Fall Field Trip to Yosemite (with Addendum)

  1. Carole Massey says:

    Thanks again David for sharing. I love the way your use your words and images to share your adventures. Especially liked the image of Glacier Point and the Mosaic. Just excellent.

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