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It’s been a while since I’ve posted something from Yosemite. The truth is, while I lose track of the number of times I visit Yosemite each year, Yosemite’s crowds and blue skies for the most part keep me away in summer. Not only that, by summer’s end (and sometimes much sooner), Yosemite’s waterfalls, which just a few months earlier appeared to explode from solid granite, have vanished. Even booming Yosemite Falls, the valley’s spring centerpiece and continuous soundtrack, by September has vanished, its demise reduced to a dark outline on the light granite, like the negative of a crime scene chalkline.
Enter October. The vacation crowds have returned to work and school, and California’s weather has started its trend toward winter, brushing Northern California with clouds that inject a little character into our skies. By the end of the month, the oak, cottonwood, maple, and dogwood trees have fired up, warming Yosemite Valley with shades of yellow and red. But my favorite part of autumn in Yosemite is the now relaxed Merced River, its once churning surface subdued to a meandering ribbon of glass.
Yosemite is never as spectacular as it is with a fresh coat of winter snow, or more dramatic than when it echoes with the roar of spring runoff, but for just plain creative photography, I don’t think I’m ever happier in Yosemite than I am in autumn.
About this image
I have many go-to autumn reflection locations in Yosemite Valley. A particular favorite is this bend in the Merced River near Yosemite Village, just east of Sentinel Bridge. I arrived this evening to find cottonwood upstream had already shed most of their leaves, their white skeletons reflecting in the slow water. In shadowless light only possible when the sun is several minutes below the horizon, I juxtaposed Half Dome’s reflection against the trees’ reflection. Concerned that patches of drifting white foam drifting would distract from the scene, I chose small aperture and low ISO settings that would require a multi-second shutter speed. The resulting thirty-second exposure revealed more detail in the low light than my eyes could register, and reduced the foam to faint white streaks on the river’s surface.