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Yosemite Fall and Autumn Elm, Yosemite

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 22 October 2009 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

Cook's Meadow is a particular Yosemite Valley treat, offering views of Half Dome or Yosemite Falls with this majestic elm in the foreground. The tree is best in fall, when its vivid gold leaves add even more drama to an already breathtaking scene. Unfortunately, this beautiful color comes when Yosemite Falls is bone dry, robbing tourists and photographers of an opportunity to see both--it's almost always one or the other. But last week an early storm descended on the park, depositing over five inches of rain in 24 hours. Literally overnight all of Yosemite's waterways transformed from their usual fall lethargy into full spring flood mode.

On the eighth and final day of my most recent trip I was guiding a group in a one day private workshop. I like to get people to Cook's Meadow an hour or so after sunrise, just as the first rays of sunlight reach the valley floor. But on this morning another storm threatened and I wasn't sure I'd get any light at all. When I arrived the sky was mostly a heavy gray, but occasional breaks in the thickening clouds delivered occasional fast moving shafts of light to random parts of the valley. Hopeful for light on the tree, I metered an ephemeral patch of light on a slab of granite and waited. Minutes later I held my breath as a beam of light streaked across the valley floor, for just a few seconds illuminating the elm and surrounding grass. I had time for one frame before the hole closed and the light disappeared.

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Stu from Kyoto, Japan

Another super shot Gary. I've had a good hunt through your blog and have found your work to be highly inspirational - a real pleasure to view. I also find your insights most enlightening. Thanks for your posts and great information.

22 Oct 2009 5:16am

@Stu: Thanks, Stu. I spend a lot of time on my posts and it's nice to know that people take the time to read what I say.

Dulcie from Danville, CA, United States

Absolute perfection. Couldn't have been better timed to catch the yellow leaves at the toe of the falls.

22 Oct 2009 5:43am

dobbino from Cape Town, South Africa

Absolutely brilliant - the patience and the resultant photo!

22 Oct 2009 6:27am

eva from Rouen, France

Gorgeous !

22 Oct 2009 6:56am

Anina from Auckland, New Zealand


22 Oct 2009 8:54am

Piia from Helsinki, Finland


22 Oct 2009 11:36am

Elora from Genoa, Italy

Amazing. I just love the cloud clinging to the cliff. To me that's the most magical part of the image (maybe it's just because I like clouds!)

22 Oct 2009 1:40pm

Doug from United States

It's always "the next day." lol

22 Oct 2009 2:18pm

Onlymehdi from Wayne, United States


22 Oct 2009 2:34pm

Marina Pešić from Braunschweig, Germany

Wow, again another amazing scene! I like your work, some of the photos are really breathtaking!

22 Oct 2009 5:20pm

Curly from South Shields, United Kingdom

Top class image, absolutely brilliant!

22 Oct 2009 7:30pm

Janice from United States

Having just been there three weeks ago with Phyllis and knowing how bone dry everything was, I can't believe how quickly the falls form! Wow! Great shot. Janice

22 Oct 2009 7:39pm

Thea from Leeuwarden, Netherlands

Wow! what a impressive picture.The landscape is really breathtaking!

22 Oct 2009 10:21pm

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Fabulous light. Timing in so many ways makes all of the difference in the world.

23 Oct 2009 1:15am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

superb composition of this amazing scenery! lovely light too - the transition from grey tones at the top to rich and warm yellows below is fantastic as the eyes follow the waterfall all the way down...

23 Oct 2009 2:04am

Don Smith from California, United States

This is one of those incredible moments that one can spend a lifetime and never see again. The elm tree looks to be at peak fall color, and with the waterfalls booming at spring speed, it makes for a surreal image. And oh yeah, just when you think it can't get much better, you get some nice storm clouds hanging around the top of upper Yosemite falls. Great work Gary!

23 Oct 2009 2:05pm

Vitor Martins from Lisboa, Portugal

Stuning photo and momment. The light and colors are fabolous

23 Oct 2009 3:15pm

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

Another beautiful image, amazing scene with great colors!

24 Oct 2009 8:37pm

pernilla from Andonno, Italy

One beam of light and one frame is just enough! Superb capture of this beautiful scene. The composition is stunning. Excellent work.

24 Oct 2009 10:33pm

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

What a treat! There is sure no substitute for being prepared!

25 Oct 2009 1:01am

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

FANTASTIC, Gary ... words elude me.

25 Oct 2009 11:26pm

Cedric Sims from Elk Grove, United States

Beautiful shot Gary!

26 Oct 2009 6:45pm

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Great shot

28 Oct 2009 5:39am

Marie from France

wouaw, superbe contraste entre le gris des pierres, et les couleurs des arbres.

29 Oct 2009 6:57pm