Well, I am back from Yosemite. It really is amazing how this place emerges from out of nowhere. We drove the 140 from Merced into the West end of the park, and the landscape leading up to the park ABSOLUTELY RESEMBLES NOTHING like what is in the valley floor. Blows my mind. A lot of the National Parks have a "seamless" transition in the landscape leading up to the Park (or whatever destination), but the only other place I can think of that comes close is Smith Rock State Park, here in Oregon.

If you came to this blog via a link on my Facebook page, you will remember that I have mixed feelings about this place. Let me explain why I typed that. Now remember, it is "winter" in Yosemite, so most of the good places are in-accessible by vehicle - such as Glacier Point, Tioga Pass, and all the great spots out there. Getting to Mono Lake and Mammoth take 6 times as long to reach - but I knew this going in.

Yosemite is unique in that most of the classic spots that Ansel Adams so famously shot, are super easy to get to. This is great as far as a National Park goes, because you don't need to be in super good shape witness this amazing place. It also means it is so super crowded - not so much when I was here, but the lodge just outside the park was booked up, and by the looks of it, the Ahwahnee was as well. I can only imagine what this place is like in summer.

Don't get me wrong, waking up at 3 or 4am and a 20 minute drive and a 2 minute walk to shoot a location is nice sometimes, but it kind of cheapens the total experience. I cannot tell you how many times i have left Portland at 10pm to get to a trailhead by 3:30am, and then hike 4 miles in to shoot a sunrise. Thins out the crowds for sure.

With this said, the photographers I ran into were actually pretty nice. After the Peter Lorber "Hasselblad" workshop in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks last March, I try to avoid shooting in crowded areas as much as possible. But here, people moved their tripods to allow others to shoot - and people were talkative. So that was a very nice plus.

Another thing that blew my mind was the lack of photographers at night! Once the sun went down, the park was empty. I saw cars driving around, but no photographers. I shot every night i was there, for some star trails (it was a full moon, so didn't turn out as well) and some long exposures with the full moon. I am no expert on Yosemite, but how often is there snow on the ground with a full moon and clear skies? Perhaps other photographers didn't realize that? I ran into no one on Friday night, a dude Saturday night and three on Sunday night. So basically I had free range of the whole park after 9pm. I am not complaining, however!

When I go back in summer, I most likely won't spend much time in the Valley Floor - but rather do a bit of backpacking to some of the high country lakes.


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