It seems that people stay away from Yosemite in autumn because that’s when the waterfalls are at their lowest. True story. But believe it or not, Yosemite isn’t all about waterfalls. El Capitan, Half Dome, Cathedral Rocks, Sentinel Rock (I could go on), are great subjects in their own right. Subtract the waterfalls but add the yellows, oranges, and reds of Yosemite Valley’s many deciduous trees and you have what I think is a pretty a fair trade. And when the water is low, the usually turbulent Merced River smooths to a reflecting ribbon of glass and suddenly, pretty much any scene can be doubled at your feet.
These reflections add layers of creative possibilities impossible the rest of the year. Sometimes I’ll split the scene in the middle for a 50/50 mirror effect; other times I’ll photograph only the reflection. In the image above I went with a more conventional composition, emphasizing El Capitan’s bulk against clouds that were spitting small, wet snowflakes.
In this image I split the frame 50/50, but dialed down the reflection with my polarizer. Even polarized, the bright sky’s glare washed out much of the river surface, painting the outline of El Capitan like a negative that uses the trees with a jigsaw of submerged river rocks.
* * * *
Here I used El Capitan’s reflection as a background for the Merced’s brilliant autumn veneer.Want to photograph this in person? My 2014 Yosemite fall workshop filled months ago, but there’s still room in the 2015 Yosemite Autumn Moon workshop.