Autumn Leaves (and winter arrives)

Leaves and Snow, Yosemite

I’ve been in Maui since Monday (scouting for a new workshop), and despite the fact that there’s more to photograph here than there is time to photograph (seriously), I still find time to check the Yosemite webcams every day. In fact, even surrounded by all this tropical splendor, I’ll admit to a few pangs of homesickness when today’s webcams showed fresh snow, with more falling, in Yosemite Valley.

(I’ll get to my Maui pictures when I’m home, but until then here’s one from November.) At only 4,000 feet above sea level, Yosemite Valley is warm compared to most of the Sierra. It’s often raining here when it’s snowing just a little up the road. When it does snow in Yosemite Valley, for an hour or two scenes like this are quite common. But as soon as the sun comes out, the snow starts disappearing.

To see Yosemite Valley covered in white requires being there while it’s snowing–if you wait to leave until you hear it snowed in Yosemite, you’re too late. Photographing Yosemite while the snow is falling can be difficult, but the payoff is huge. Often the ceiling drops to the valley floor, obscuring everything that’s recognizable as Yosemite, but with the disappearing icons also vanishes the swarms of visitors and suddenly you feel like you’re alone in the world. Is there any silence more pure than the silence of falling snow?

The best nature photography often highlights the drama of change: the passing from day to night and back, the collision of ocean and land, an approaching or retreating storm. And, because it happens so gradually and only once each year, the movement from one season to the next is a rare photographic opportunity.

So that November morning my attention turned to shocked autumn leaves, lulled by weeks of benign fall weather, forced to cling to their colorful glory against winter’s sudden assault. After nearly a month as the main event, these leaves were lone survivors along a quiet bend in the Merced River. Within a couple days they no doubt fell to the forest floor, or were swept into the river, as inevitable winter prevailed.

One Comment on “Autumn Leaves (and winter arrives)

  1. Great picture! We must have been in Yosemite the same time – the first week of November. I was so excited I was able to capture fall and winter in one weekend! I also look at the webcams almost every day and love to see the change in the weather. Amazing. Hope you’ve had a great time in Hawaii and found some great places for your workshop!

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