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Fall Snow, Yosemite

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 1 December 2010 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

Boundaries between disparate elements create interest. Clashing personalities, day moving to night (and back), the coastline dividing land and sea, all generate tension that draw and hold us. It's this way in life, literature, cinema, and... photography.

The weekend before Thanksgiving I was fortunate to have been in Yosemite for the first significant snowfall of the season. This early winter overlapped a late autumn, providing a rare opportunity to photograph fall's transition to winter. Months prior I had scheduled a one-day class to coincide with the November full moon, but certainly with no expectations of snowfall. But snow is what we got, and despite dire predictions from the weatherman, we made the trip and spent Saturday photographing my favorite Yosemite locations, all frosted with white, an unexpected bonus for all. Our visit culminated with a dramatic rising full moon at sunset.

This experience reminded me that while I don't have a favorite season in Yosemite, I can say with a fair degree of authority that Yosemite is never more spectacular than when it's blanketed with fresh snow. Unfortunately, Yosemite Valley only gets a few snow storms each year, and the snow rarely remains on the trees for more than two or three hours--if you wait until you hear it snowed in Yosemite, you're too late. In other words, you really should be in Yosemite Valley during the storm. So it didn't take much thought to jettison my plan to drive home after the class ended Saturday evening--with the promise of more snow overnight and all day Sunday, my daughter, brother, nephew (who had all joined the Saturday trip), and I found a room just outside the valley and returned to the park Sunday morning. We weren't disappointed.

When Yosemite is like this it's pretty much impossible not to get beautiful images. But I'm afraid beautiful images of Yosemite are a dime a dozen, and as you may know by now, my goal is to find something unique. I don't always succeed, but that's the challenge I give myself. Circling (and circling and circling) Yosemite Valley that day, I looked for opportunities to emphasize winter's abrupt collision with autumn. As we wandered the north bank of the Merced River, the light snow that had been falling all morning intensified, obscuring all but the closest elements of the scene. When I came across this snow-fringed branch still decorated with the colorful vestiges of fall, I recognized a great opportunity to capture the rare autumn/winter transition in a single frame. Finding the right composition involved an intuitive tight/wide, left/right scan until something clicked in my brain. With the composition firmly locked on my tripod, I bracketed several apertures and shutter speeds for a variety of focal depth and snowfall motion to choose between when I got home. I selected this one because it provided the depth necessary for foreground sharpness while maintaining enough background blur to minimize distractions, and gave me just enough motion blur in the falling snow.

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

Babzy from Besançon, France

simply beautiful !

1 Dec 2010 6:59am

Elora from Genoa, Italy

Another beauty Gary - as is the full moon rising! Just splendid!!

1 Dec 2010 7:51am

Florence from Paris, France

Great compo Gary, utterly poetic.

1 Dec 2010 8:46am

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

Just beautiful!

1 Dec 2010 9:19am

The MaJor from TM HooD, Iran

wow..artistic mood of it

1 Dec 2010 10:49am

JCJ from Troyes, France

beautiful, i like snow on branches

1 Dec 2010 12:46pm

Daniel from Kenmare, United States


1 Dec 2010 1:14pm

Barbara Lee from Oakland, United States

Gary, love your write up about his very unusual photo. I reallly appreciate seeing the snow on the branches with the leaves - not so sure about the background. Guess I wish it were more soft. I took a photo of snow on the dogwood blossoms that fell on May 10, it is in my Aminus portfolio. I would love some feedback from you on that image. I had a very hard time working with the light, and I go back and forth as to whether or not it works. But it is certanly another example of showing "boundaries between disparate elements". Thanks in advance!

1 Dec 2010 2:54pm

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

So lovely! To me these types of images are your very best- unique and heartfelt. I love the overlapping seasons here and the intricate web of branches....Breathtaking! Happy Holidays to you and your family!

1 Dec 2010 3:00pm

Julie from Easton, United States

This is a beautiful image for sure! The focus is really outstanding, nice shot!

1 Dec 2010 3:14pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Hi Gary - To me, there are so many wonderful things about this beautiful and exciting image! I say exciting because the sight of the branches and leaves, so beautifully encased in their "snow jackets," is a rare sight indeed. And, for some reason, when I looked upon this beautiful photo, it made me think of how excited scientists might feel after pulling a shaft of ice, bored up from an ancient glacier, and finding treasures dwelling within...that's what these branches and leaves, in this view, remind me of: That thrill that comes when we look upon something truly unique - one that combines two environmental factors, as you have noted in your narrative. How beautiful this is! Gary, your images are always filled with these unique factors that only a detailed and intimate awareness can bring...I feel fortunate to be a viewer of these wonderful photos that you share with us. Thank you so very much!! Denny

1 Dec 2010 3:43pm

CLODO from PESSAC, France

Hi gary

Lovely approach of winter.

1 Dec 2010 4:30pm

RBL from Oxford, United States

Very pretty capture!

1 Dec 2010 9:26pm

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

i really like this photo, not only for the detail and wonderful white snow but also the for the background - the shutter speed at 1/30s captures just enough movement behind the branches and as you mention, there is not too much of it so that it does not distract from the main subject - superb work!

2 Dec 2010 2:18am

Longroute from Cagliari, Italy

This shows what I've quoted in my profile: "Nature is the sole artist..."
But the photographer merit is to see these expressions of art and being able to capture and to frame them in the proper way. You did it!
So simple, so lovely.
Well done,

2 Dec 2010 8:14pm

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

Very nice snow capture ! I like the bokeh and the beautiful colors. Have a fantastic day Gary :)

3 Dec 2010 9:22am

Sylvie49 capture image from Anjou - Maine et Loire, France

Very nice !

4 Dec 2010 3:16pm

Eric from United States

I could lose myself in this image for many hours. The leaves encased in the snow draw parallels in my mind to tumors encased in paraffin blocks (which is standard pathology practice). The difference being that the leaves are not nearly so menacing... although I doubt they are really any better understood. Just as a pathologist seeks to understand the tumor, I suspect we could all learn something from taking some time to try to understand the leaves. Your art is quite moving.

4 Dec 2010 6:34pm

@Eric: Thanks, Eric, nothing makes me happier than hearing someone say they could look at one of my images for hours. On my run this morning I listened to an NPR podcast of a Steve Martin interview. A former doctor called in and told him about his transition from medicine to painting, and how his medical background still informs his art. Martin struggling to make the connection, joked about paintings of intestines. But a little later a woman called in and said she owns a painting of a pancreas done by this artist. This just underscores something I try to tell my workshop students, that we each see the world differently, and the most successful artists are those who are best able to tap their unique vision. Conversely, whether it's conscious or accidental on the part of the artist, the art the most profoundly affects us is the art that resonates with our own equally unique view of the world.

Ansie from Paarl, South Africa

Icy perfection. You are a verbal artist as well as a visual one, I love reading your written word.

6 Dec 2010 3:34pm

¨‘°ºO Dutçh Oº°‘¨ from Neverwhere, United States

Looks like my back yard :D Snow can be very beautiful.. it's just colllldddd!

8 Dec 2010 5:51pm

@¨‘°ºO Dutçh Oº°‘¨: Snow's a great thing to visit. :)

Magda from Vancouver, Canada

How absolutely gorgeous! Love the slower shutter speed to capture the falling down snow....

16 Dec 2010 3:51pm