I must confess that we slept in the morning of Day Two, if you could call sleeping until 6:30am sleeping in. But I did miss the sunrise, so we decided to have a somewhat leisurely continental breakfast at the hotel before packing up and heading out to Yosemite Valley.
We had no idea where to go once we arrived back in Yosemite National Park so we turned onto Village Drive and drove in to the valley. I was incredibly fortunate with the light that morning; it was just gorgeous and so clear. I popped a circular polarizer on my lens to make the most of the dramatic clouds in the sky and didn't stop shooting the whole time. There were some wildflowers in the meadows, the falls were running strong, and El Cap, Half Dome and others were standing proudly in the early morning light. Once again Bill drove, as he would for the most of the rest of the trip, so that I could keep a watch for anything that caught my eye. Our first stop was Yosemite Falls. I regret now that I let the crowds keep me away from the base of the falls. I shot it from the meadow, but when I returned home to process my photos and do some research, I found photos that others had taken from closer in and I think it would have been worth fighting for space. That is the one downside of not planning; while I like to photograph a place with no preconceived notion of the "right" shots, it also means I can miss a lot of opportunities. But again I told myself that this was just a scouting trip, and now I know where I want to concentrate on my return trip.
One of my favorites images appeared as we were in the Village in search of some much-needed caffeine and protein. We both looked up at the same time and noticed the framing of El Cap and the dramatic cloud patterns. I started shooting right there in the middle of the walkway, and was soon joined by a group of people with their cameras.
The little coffee shop in the village makes a great latte, and the prepared sandwiches at the market next door were actually good. We sat at a table outside and enjoyed the vibe; cool shade under the trees, hikers and climbers loaded down with gear stopping by for provisions, incredible beauty everywhere one looked... I voiced the possibility of spending the rest of our trip right here. Bill promised a return trip so we could devote the time that Yosemite deserves, but had his heart set on the rest of our itinerary, which I couldn't argue. As much as I hated to leave Yosemite, I, too, was looking forward to visiting and photographing the other places on our agenda, especially Mono Lake and Bodie ghost town.
Sufficiently refueled we continued wandering the valley. I was still angry with myself for not leaving time for hiking, but there were plenty of things to photography in the valley itself. I spent a lot of time lying on a blanket in the middle of the meadow to get just the right angle, and Bill thought this was quite funny. He took several photos of me in strange contortions, I think to possibly use as blackmail sometime in the future.
Bridalveil Fall was blowing in the wind, a beautiful sight. You could see why the Native Americans named her "Pohono" - Spirit of the Blowing Wind. The sun was in the wrong position for good light, but I gave it my best attempt anyway because the falls were so beautiful. I tried bracketing exposures but haven't been successful in combining them because the wind was blowing the water all over. Once again I may have to resort to double-processing and keeping my fingers crossed.
At the base of El Capitan we spotted some climbers about 2/3 of the way up and hung out for a while to watch them. We met a man and his son who were travelling by motorcycle, and the four of us had a great time trying to spot climbers and their gear. Can you see them?
And of course I had to take some photos from the famous Wawona Tunnel View.
A little after noon we decided it was time start heading over Tioga Pass toward Mono Lake. It was only a 30 mile drive, but I had a feeling that it would take us hours with all of the stops I would want to take, and once again my goal was to make it to the next location in time for sunset.
Tioga Pass is a peaceful, breathtaking drive in the summer. I can image that it would be quite stressful with snow and ice on the ground. Olmsted Point offered an incredible (how many times can I use the words incredible and amazing?!) view of Cloud's Rest and Half Dome and showed the unique geology of jointed granodiorite. Cool stuff! It was very surreal and other-worldly. One had a good feeling for the elevation level from this viewpoint, and the images I took from Olmsted Point look very cold (temperature-wise), especially when compared the images taken from the valley floor just a few hours earlier. It's hard to believe that the two locations are just a few miles apart.
Toulumne Meadows is a beautiful area that I know requires some hiking to fully enjoy. Most of the imagery I've seen from this location has included water features, and with one exception they are not along "the side of the road." That one exception, Tenaya Lake, is the most unbelievable color of blue, especially against the white granite. When it first appears in your sight, it doesn't look real. It was sparkling like a jewel against the mountains for us.
After three hours, we had finally reached Lee Vining. Time to check into our hotel and find some food!
You can view my Yosemite photo gallery here.