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Dreamin’ of a White Autumn

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (12/15/21) Philip Reedy
Davis color spotter Philip Reedy was dreamin’ of a white autumn, just like the ones he’d hoped to see. Where the treetops glisten and anglers listen to hear casting in the snow.
 
So he and a fishing buddy headed to Yosemite then asked, “Is white a color or not?  This seems to be a bit of a gray area (pun forgiven). If white is a color and it’s still autumn for a few more days, then I had an awesome fall color trip to Yosemite.”
Fly Fishing, Merced River, Yosemite Valley (12/15/21) Philip Reedy
Phil had been watching weather reports and the Half Dome webcam when he saw that the Valley was solid white from rim to floor.
 
He left Davis Wednesday morning at 4:30 with the intent of taking fly fishing photos, but when Reedy got there, “the  snow-covered trees could not be ignored.  And beneath that layer of snow remained a lot of nice, orange, oak leaves.”
 
Not only were the oak orange, but Reedy wore an orange shirt that contrasted with the immaculate scene.
 
Now, Phil’s got me dreamin’ of a white autumn with every fall color post I write.
Fly fishing, Half Dome, Merced River, Yosemite Valley (12/15/21) Philip Reedy
  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Clearing Autumn Storm

Clearing Autumn Storm, Yosemite Valley (11/9/21) Elliot McGucken

Clearing Autumn Storm, Yosemite Valley (11/9/21) Elliot McGucken

Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park (1937) Ansel Adams © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

In Ansel Adams’ classic 1937 photograph, Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite Valley was dusted with snow. The photograph was taken in early December.

In Elliot McGucken’s tome to Adams’ photograph (seen above), Yosemite Valley is flecked with autumn color. The photograph was taken in early November.

The days that Adams and McGucken photographed from similar locations (Adams reputedly from Inspiration Point and McGucken from Tunnel View – near each other, but not the same locations) were near matches in cloud formations, though Adams’ scene was snowy and McGucken’s “autumny.”

These comparisons of McGucken’s images present near-duplicative color juxtaposed with black and white versions. Adams’ original was a gelatin silver print made from an 8 x 10″ negative, shot at 1/5-second at f16. McGucken shot with a Fujifilm GFX 100 medium format mirrorless digital camera, using a GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR lens at focal length 42.5 mm, equivalent to 32 mm on full frame, at f10, 1/160 and ISO 200.

McGucken exclaimed, “What a year it was! I am leaving Yosemite today after almost three weeks here. The fall colors were the best that I remember.” He continued that Peak is almost past, “but there is still a lot of glory to be found throughout the Park if one ‘Goes Now!'”

Clearing Autumn Storm (2021) Elliot McGucken

Clearing Autumn Storm (2021) Elliot McGucken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearing Autumn Storm (2021) Elliot McGucken

Clearing Autumn Storm (2021) Elliot McGucken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McGucken had a video camera running in time lapse while he was taking these pictures. Here is that footage. It demonstrates how clouds move and what’s needed to capture a moment of perfection. Patience is required. All good things come to those who wait.

Photographer’s Bridge, Merced River, Yosemite Valley (11/10/21) Elliot McGucken

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

 

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PAN

Panorama of Yosemite Valley including Merced River, El Capitan, Three Brothers, Royal Arches and Sentinel Rock (11/8/21) Elliot McGucken

Pan was the Greek god of the wild, of fields, groves, wooded glens, the nature of mountain wilds and of … sex. Well, true to the Greek god, Elliot McGucken’s “PANoramic” photograph of Yosemite Valley is just plain sexy.

To make the panorama involved 13 shots with a wide angle 17mm lens on the Fuji GFX100 (17mm on medium format = 14mm on full frame field of view).Elliot was able to break out several individual images from the panorma, one of which follows. (click to enlarge)

Elliot said “Great light and high (yet, still) water made the glorious autumn reflections possible today.” That, of course, and a great photographer.

Elliot, you did Pan proud.

Merced River, The Three Brothers, Yosemite Valley (11/8/21) Elliot McGucken

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
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The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour, Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley (11/6/21) Elliot McGucken

Elliot McGucken gives new meaning to The Golden Hour with these fresh images from Yosemite Valley. The golden hour is the hour following sunrise and preceding sunset, each day. It is when light is warmest.

The Golden Hour, Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley (11/6/21) Elliot McGucken

He and John Chen were in Yosemite Valley at closing time, as John said, to down these “last call” shots.

Merced River, Upper Yosemite Fall reflection, Yosemite Valley (11/6/21) Elliot McGucken

Yosemite Valley’s black oak will continue to hold autumn color for another week or so, though much of the luster seen in these shots diminishes each day. (click to enlarge)

El Capitan, Yosemite Valley (11/5/21) John Chen

Gates of the Valley, Yosemite Valley (11/5/21) John Chen

Upper Yosemite Fall, Yosemite Valley (11/5/21) John Chen

Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Valley (11/5/21) John Chen

Merced River, Sentinel Rock, Yosemite Valley (11/5/21) John Chen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southside Drive, Yosemite Valley (11/6/21) Elliot McGucken

Upper Yosemite Fall reflection, Yosemite Valley (11/6/21) Elliot McGucken

El Capitan, Yosemite Valley (11/6/21) Elliot McGucken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Three Brothers, Upper Yosemite Fall reflection, Yosemite Valley (11/6/21) Elliot McGucken

El Capitan, Upper Yosemite Fall reflection, Yosemite Valley (11/6/21) Elliot McGucken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Hour, Tunnel View (11/6/21) Elliot McGucken

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

Yosemite Falls

Black oak leaves fall, Cooks Meadow, Yosemite Valley (11/4/21) Philip Reedy

“Yosemite Falls” has a different meaning in Philip Reedy’s photographs taken this past week. They show leaves falling and trees that were lustrous a week ago, now dulled or bare.

Phil noted that it is definitely at the end of peak, though still beautiful (Yosemite is always beautiful). So, when it comes to autumn color, Yosemite now falls a bit.

Fly fishing, Merced River, Yosemite Valley (11/4/21) Philip Reedy

Merced River, Yosemite Valley (11/4/21) Philip Reedy

Merced River, Upper Yosemite Fall, Yosemite Valley (11/4/21) Philip Reedy

Cook’s Meadow, Upper Yosemite Fall, Yosemite Valley (11/4/21) Philip Reedy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

 

 

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The Range of Light

Merced River, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Adarsh Dattani

Ansel Adams believed the Sierra Nevada (snowy range) to be misnamed. He contended that a better description would have been The Range of Light.

Yosemite Chapel, Yosemite Valley (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Adarsh Dattani and Elliot McGucken visited Yosemite Valley this past weekend and nothing they photographed dispels Adams’ contention.

Half Dome, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Adarsh Dattani

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Adarsh Dattani

Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Adarsh Dattani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upper Yosemite Fall, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Elliot McGucken

Sentinel Meadow, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Elliot McGucken

El Capitan, Merced River, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Elliot McGucken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Capitan, Merced River (10/30/21) Adarsh Dattani

Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Adarsh Dattani

El Capitan (10/30/21) Adarsh Dattani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alpenglow, Merced River, Half Dome (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Alpenglow, Half Dome, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Adarsh Dattani

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America The Beautiful

Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite Valley (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Yosemite locals are often asked, “Do you ever get tired of the beauty?” I would answer when living in the Valley for nearly a decade, “When you stop looking up, you’ve been here too long.”

I never tired of looking up.

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Yosemite Valley is the most beautiful 2.12 square miles on Earth. Everything about it is perfection.

Elliot McGucken and Steve Arita visited this weekend and each said three words, “Peak, GO NOW!”

Their words may remain good for another day or two, but not much longer. Beyond that, you’ll miss the “at peak” visceral context expressed within America the Beautiful.

Steve noted that the bomb cyclone has “definitely brought back to life the famous waterfalls at Yosemite…the water was just thundering across the valley floor…and not obviously just the waterfalls, but the Merced river and all areas throughout the valley there was water, that combined with the gorgeous fall colors at peak…just made for a beautiful place to be.”

He recommends these locations for the best fall color:

Upper Yosemite Fall (10/30/21) Steve Arita

1. The parking area near Yosemite Falls “was simply gorgeous, very bright and intense, more than I’ve seen in past years, so definitely a place folks may want to take time to see.” A forest of black oak extends from the base of Yosemite Falls, east to the Yosemite School and can frame the falls beautifully with orange and black.

2. Autumn color throughout the valley is beautiful and at peak.
3. Steve anticipated the Merced River approaching Happy Isles would be perfect, but this was one area that most trees were still green. Above Happy Isles, the river runs fast in the spring, as was the case yesterday. This area will be beautiful and perfect for picture taking in a week or two. Everything else is pretty much at peak.

Black oak, Upper Yosemite Fall (10/30/21) Steve Arita

 

 

 

4. The trail to Mirror Lake along the river is at peak all the way to the lake, with the river running fast and high.  The lake (more correctly called a lagoon) was high. One of the few disappointments park visitors have in visiting Mirror Lake is that the mirror, which used to reflect Half Dome, is no longer seen. It was manmade. The marsh would be dredged by park settlers to create the mirror reflection, and since this was not a natural process, the National Park Service stopped the practice and the lake has succeeded to meadow. Steve got to experience “Mirror Meadow” as a lake, and one whose trail is now peppered with bright fall color.

Gates of the Valley (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Dogwood, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

What is remarkable about Steve and Elliot’s images is that Pacific dogwood, bigleaf maple, Frémont cottonwood, willow and black oak – Yosemite Valley’s best autumn color – are at peak concurrently. Often, dogwood and bigleaf maple have peaked by now, leaving November to the cottonwood, willow and oak.
The black oak will continue at peak in Yosemite Valley just about to Thanksgiving day. However, all we can say at this point is … GO NOW!

Bigleaf maple, Southside Drive, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Cook’s Meadow (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Sentinel Meadow (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Three Brothers, Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

El Capitan, Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Happy Isles, Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Mist Trail (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Meadow Loop Trail (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Dogwood, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Gates of the Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Gates of the Valley (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

El Capitan, Merced River (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Black oak, Cook’s Meadow (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Cook’s Meadow (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

 

Cook’s Meadow (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!

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Eastern vs. Pacific

Eastern dogwood, The Ahwahnee, Yosemite NP (10/8/21) Julie Kirby

When it comes to dogwood (Cornus), all the native trees in California have white bracts (flowers) while those in the east are pink. So, if you see a pink dogwood anywhere in California, it is a transplant from the eastern U.S.

Eastern dogwood, The Ahwahnee, Yosemite NP (10/8/21) Julie Kirby

In Yosemite Valley, a few pink-flowering dogwood (cornus florida) were planted by residents and have been allowed to remain growing in the park. One at The Ahwahnee is often confusing to park visitors because of the pink color tinting its stems and showy red fruit.

In springtime, eastern dogwood have profuse displays of pink bracts. They look like flowers, but they’re not. Bracts are leaves which have evolved to appear to be flower petals. They help in attracting pollinators. The dogwood’s actual flowers reside at the center of the bracts and have their own modest petals.

Pacific dogwood (cornus nuttallii) are beautiful in their own right and the banks of the Merced River are lined with these flowering white trees in May.

So, if you happen to see a pink dogwood in Yosemite National Park, it doesn’t belong there. And, if you think otherwise, then you’re just barking up the wrong tree.

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Yosemite Sugar Maple Peaks

Sugar Maple, Yosemite Chapel, Yosemite Valley (10/3/21) Steve Arita

It’s time. The Vermont sugar maple (Acer Saccharum) planted by Yosemite residents in 1903 is Near Peak. This tree has a very short peak, so haste is required to see it at its best. If you’ve ever wanted to see/photograph it, GO NOW!

Julie Kirby visited the Valley on Oct. 7 and was taken by the “torch red maple” but missed stopping in time on South Side Drive, so had to make a loop to come back to it. She photographed it each day she was there, once in the afternoon and again in morning light.

If you plan to scout for fall color while viewing the sugar maple, you’ll be disappointed. As, Steve Arita reports everything else remains green in Yosemite Valley. Plus, smoky haze clouds the view.

  • Sugar Maple, Yosemite Chapel, Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%) Go Now!
  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Just Starting (0 – 10%)
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Fascinating Frozen Facts

Swinging Bridge, Yosemite Valley (2/6/21) Steve Arita

In winter, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports, when other trees are dormant, quaking aspen are energy producers. That’s because they “continue to photosynthesize in their greenish-tinged bark, even after their leaves have dropped.”

It is this living bark layer, which contains chlorophyll and can carry out photosynthesis, that makes the aspen so remarkable a winter survivor.

The USFWS continues in its Kenai NWR “Refuge Notebook,” that quaking aspen are well-adapted to the cold. They survive at higher altitudes by staying small. It’s a response to their tolerance for cold and a lack of moisture at higher elevations. Because of this, aspen are often stunted near tree line, but fully grown several hundred feet lower.

Even their root structure is designed for survival, as the aspen’s fibrous sprouts and suckers are “a handy adaptation in marginal climates,” the USFWS explains. The propagation of aspen clones from one massive root network is why aspen tend to all change color at the same time in fall or leaf out together in spring.

Additionally, in summer, it is the shape and thinness of the aspen leaf that allows it to quake (flutter) in the slightest breeze. Its flexible stem prevents wind damage or stripping and may also “improve the photosynthetic rate,” USFWS vegetation ecologist Elizabeth Bella writes.

Who knew that the quaking aspen would be as fascinating when frozen, as it is lovely during autumn?