Saturday, November 10, 2012

Moon Rise Over Half Dome in Yosemite

Moon Rise over Hall Dome, Yosemite National Park

I've been pursuing moon rises behind Half Dome for many years. The weather doesn't always cooperate, but I've caught it from several different vantage points now, and I have a few more angles to catch it from on return trips.

This time there had been a couple of light snowfalls already in the Fall, so there was a nice dusting of snow and the beginnings of ice on the lakes as I crossed Tioga Pass.  Here's Ellery Lake with Ice and patches of open water.

The light wasn't great as I passed tuolumne Meadows, but upon reaching Tenaya Lake, I found a mirror surface reflecting trees on the far side.  You could get great pictures if you moved away from the families throwing rocks into the lake, and timed your shots to avoid the worst of the ripples they created.

Next I pulled into the Olmstead Point parking lot.  I was shocked at the quantity of people crowding the area so late in October.  I didn't stop.

Then I checked a few stands of dogwood trees tucked into groves of redwood trees, and found the dogwoods brightly colored and beautifully back-lit.

Proceeding for a lap around Yosemite Valley, Upper Yosemite Fall was completely dry, missing even the modest wetness you'll often see on the rock.  Most of the deciduous trees seemed a couple of weeks behind schedule turning color, like the aspen had been in the Eastern Sierra this season.  The oaks were lightening somewhat, but not far enough along to warrant a stop by Cook's Meadow.  I did spot some trees nicely back-lit against Cathedral Rock, so I pulled over.

A large van full of photo workshop customers passed by; I figured I'd catch up with them in a few minutes, either in the turnout opposite Bridalveil Fall at Valley View, or a short while later catching the moon rise. 

Unfortunately in this dry year even spring-fed Bridalveil Fall is nearly non-existent, breaking up into a thin mist partway to the ground.  Noticing the angle of the sun, I stopped to see whether there was enough water in Bridalveil to create a rainbow in its mist.  Sure enough, the rainbow was there, and the low water of the Merced River made a perfect reflecting pool to offer creative compositions including colorful Fall foliage.  Odd that the photo workshop passed it up (perhaps they caught it the day before).

By then it was time to go set up for moon rise.  Curiously, the photography workshop was still nowhere to be found.  Had they really left the park only minutes before one of the events of the year in Yosemite? 

Last year the only other person who had anticipated the moon rise in the position I had chosen was a guy from Seattle shooting on film.  Of course once the moon rose, two or three dozen people joined us!  This year, from another location, I first met someone from Cincinnati.  As it turned out, someone had gotten the word out online, so roughly 2 dozen people more people eventually showed up (and there were apparently a few more at the vantage point I had used the prior year).  

A started one camera at 105mm focal length to capture a time-lapse video of the entire moon rise, and I used a second camera to capture the initial emergence at 400mm then the rest of the event at 200mm.  It'll take me a while to get each sequence processed, but so far it's looking good!  There are even a couple of climbers you can see move slightly in the video, on El Capitan directly opposite the moon in this image.  

I've been pretty busy this year wrapping up my guide book to California landscape photography, but I'll offer Yosemite landscape photography workshops as time permits:

Update August 20, 2014: Thanks to the +Royal Observatory Greenwich  for including my image in their video about the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2104 competition! 

I'm always honored to have my work recognized by the Royal Observatory in London, home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Prime Meridian... the place that every longitude, every GPS coordinate on the planet, is defined relative to!
  See and share the video on YouTube.