December 3, 2014: A brief post to share my workshop group’s good fortune this morning
I’m in Yosemite this week for my Winter Moon photo workshop. Scheduling a December workshop in Yosemite is one of those high risk/reward propositions—I know full well we could get some serious weather that could make things quite uncomfortable for photography, but winter (okay, so technically it won’t be winter for another two-a-half weeks, but it’s December for heaven’s sake, so don’t quibble) is also the best time to get the kind of conditions that make Yosemite special. In the days leading up to the workshop I’d warned everyone about the impending weather, but I’d also promised them that they were in store for something special at some point during their visit. Then I crossed my fingers….
We started Monday afternoon to blue skies and dry waterfalls, but by Tuesday morning the first major storm of California’s (usually) wet season rolled in and everything changed (literally overnight). A warm system of tropical origin, what this storm lacked in snow, it more than made up for in rain, copious rain. Starting before sunrise, we got a little shooting in before the serious stuff started, but the rest of the day was wet, wet, wet. When weather settles in like this, the ceiling drops and Yosemite’s granite features disappear behind a dense, gray curtain. Nevertheless, we found some nice photography and everyone finished the day saturated but satisfied.
This morning (Wednesday) I got the group up to Tunnel View for sunrise, where were met with more of the same—opaque clouds and lots of rain, but little else. Since Tunnel View is usually the best place to wait out a Yosemite storm (thanks to the panoramic view, and the fact that the weather almost aways clears on Yosemite Valley’s west side first), I told everyone we’d just sit tight and see what happens. A few huddled in the cars, but most of the group donned our head-to-toe rain gear and stood out in the rain, waiting (hoping) for the show to begin.
As if on cue, at just about the advertised sunrise time (there was no actual sunrise to witness), the sky brightened and the curtain parted: El Capitan was first on stage, followed closely by a rejuvenated Bridalveil Fall, and soon thereafter the star of the show, Half Dome, appeared center-stage. Radiating from the valley floor, a thick fog rolled across the scene like a viscous liquid, changing the view by the minute—for nearly an hour everyone got to experience a classic Yosemite clearing storm.
As many times as I’ve witnessed a clearing storm from Tunnel View, the experience never fails to thrill me. Overlaying one of the most beautiful scenes on Earth, infinite combinations of cloud, sky, color, and light make each one unique. And as if that’s not enough, sometimes fresh snow, a rainbow, or rising moon are added to the mix. On this morning the clearing was only temporary, with no direct light or hint of blue sky, and the rain soon returned. Not that this was a problem—with more weather in store, this morning just turned out to be the opening act.
Check out my schedule of upcoming photo workshops
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