Dogwood Bouquet

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.

5 Comments on “Dogwood Bouquet

  1. Hi Gary,

    It was nice bumping into you. I was there with Maryanne earlier this week. I tried to get some dogwoods myself but they weren’t even close to being as perfect as yours. I love how you photograph the dogwoods. I had some of your images in mind when I was attempting. Practice, practice, practice!!! It was definitely crowded there. It was my first trip to Yosemite and I was so overwhelmed by all the beauty. I didn’t know what to photograph first. I often found myself staring out at all the beauty that I forgot that I went there to photograph!! On my ride back home to Sacramento I went over in my mind different areas I would like to photograph when I come back.

    You are a magnificent photographer and I truly enjoy looking at your work.

    Take care,
    Laura Smith

    • Thanks, Laura, it was nice seeing you and Maryanne too. Don’t expect to photograph Yosemite perfectly on your first visit. Allow yourself a few trips to absorb the beauty and soon you’ll find the shots will start coming more easily. I pretty much grew up on Yosemite so I have no memory of my initial experience there, but my first Grand Canyon trip was much like you describe your Yosemite experience. Breathtaking but not terribly productive photographically; it’s taken a number of return visits, but I finally feel like I can capture images that satisfy me.

  2. That makes me feel encouraged Gary. I am so anxious to get back there and really take my time. I think I took 500 shots and when I looked at them I felt like they all looked the same. I did manage to lightly process and post five keepers!!! Thanks for the encouragement!!

  3. i Gary – This is just a wonderful image here with the blossoms running along the branch and the branch extending through the frame. The blossoms all at the same facing angle give the apearance of sending their thanks to the heavens….I love dogwoods too and we are blessed with white, pink (kind of a coral) and yellow (more like a cream) back here. I did get some cloudy day Dogwood shots about a month ago but they sure did not come cllose in quality to these…this is just a wonderful scene…and I remember last year when your car broke down….your story after it happened was kind of frightening and funny at the same time…like the guy who walks around with the cloud hanging over him…but you always make lemondade! Beautiful sir – all the best!

  4. I really enjoy hearing your whole process, all the obstacles and difficulties included, leading to some good photographs. Thank you.

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