Earlier this week I had the good fortune to be in Yosemite for the peak of the annual dogwood bloom. Photographing dogwood is one of my favorite things, yet in recent years it seems I’ve been thwarted in my attempts to capture the event at its peak. Yosemite’s average peak bloom is around May 1, but that can vary by a couple of weeks; since I generally schedule my workshops a year in advance, and always time them to coincide with a full or crescent moon, all I can do is hope everything aligns. Of course that doesn’t stop me from driving up for the dogwood on my own, a last-minute luxury that should (in theory) enable me to photograph the peak with watchmaker’s precision. You’d think. Last year I nailed the dogwood peak on a quick overnight trip, only to have my car break down and end up spending two days in Fresno instead. Yippee.
On to 2011. By the end of my April 28-May 1 workshop, the dogwood blossoms had barely started to emerge from their pods and I guessed two weeks would be about right for the peak. So last week I got the car serviced and booked Sunday and Monday nights in Yosemite. The dogwood were indeed at full strength. But so, I’m afraid, was the sun and with it the tourists. Parking lots were jammed, getting a meal at any of the park’s cafeteria’s or food counters was an exercise in patience, and it seemed that every roadside deer or squirrel incited a rubber necker’s convention. But when the rain arrived Monday afternoon, I couldn’t help the eerie feeling that the Rapture had arrived and photographers had somehow been overlooked (go figure). For the rest of my stay the roads were empty and it seemed the only people I saw were wielding tripods.
I love photographing dogwood in shadowless, overcast light. And in addition to their crowd dispersing qualities, raindrops give the flowers an opalescent quality. Shortly before heading home Tuesday evening, I found this young tree in full bloom beside the Merced River, across from Bridalveil Fall. As often happens, the more I worked the scene, the more compositions I found. A wind that ranged from light to nonexistent allowed me to experiment with various depths of field at ISO 400; it wasn’t until I saw the images on my computer that I chose this frame with a wide-open aperture that blurred the background river and blooms, emphasizing the graceful, glistening foreground display.