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The Inspiration of Yosemite


Classic view of Yosemite Valley from tunnel view. First photos were under dull, cloudy conditions. One advantage of being in Yosemite for several days is the ability to stop back when conditions have improved.

Waking up every second day to fresh snow reminded us that winter was still clutching on. Theoretically we were in the middle of spring, but reality seemed to reflect winter.

13-01-Kai Yosemite 2Snow was no excuse for staying indoors. We were greeted with this view three out of six mornings.

Spending time with professional photographer James Corwin Johnson was an adventure. Johnson actually lived and worked in Yosemite for 12 years, and now leads one or more photography trips there every year. What is most striking about Yosemite Valley is how different each rock formation and waterfall looks. Over several days we had the bonus experience of seeing plenty of deer, a coyote hunting in the meadow and a bear crossing the road right in front of us.

17-05-Kai Yosemite 3Giant sequoias, some almost two thousand years old, looked great in the snow. Keeping our camera gear dry was the biggest challenge.

Johnson stretched our photography skills and our willingness to work with the weather. One morning with heavy snowfall did not keep us indoors. Instead we trekked to the Mariposa Grove and took some great pictures of giant sequoias, red in color against the white snow. Note: these pictures are all from my iPhone; have not begun post work on RAW images taken with my Nikon.

18-06-Kai Yosemite 4El Capitan in the morning light. Light, clouds and weather can create totally different looks.

Ansel Adams, the famous black and white photographer, known for his western landscapes, loved Yosemite. He built a home here, which his family still owns. One of the things that Adams loved was how different each well-known landmark looked in different lighting and cloud formations. El Capitan can look striking and imposing in clear lighting conditions, and later look mysterious when clouds obscure the top.

Side note: If you have not seen the Academy award winning documentary Free Solo, highly recommend seeing it. It is incredibly well done.

14-02-Kai Yosemite 5Bridal Veil Falls greets visitors from tunnel view, and looks quite different up close.

One of the best known icons is Yosemite Falls. Snow, colder temperatures and rain help create the spectacular waterfalls at Yosemite, particularly in late May. One longtime park resident indicated the peak flow will likely be in mid-June this year because of the continued colder weather and snowfalls. The falls are the highest in Yosemite dropping a total of 2,425 feet from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall.

15-03-Kai Yosemite 6Many waterfalls, such as Staircase Falls, are dependent on snowmelt and rainfall. May and June usually provide the best months for viewing them.

Most visitors to Yosemite follow the road around the valley and step out to briefly look at rock formations and waterfalls. Walk and explore a little farther and you will be rewarded with some incredible scenery.

19-07-Kai Yosemite 7Yosemite Falls looked particularly great one morning with ice and snow edging the waterfalls.

Mirror Lake is one such destination. A very short walk will lead you to beautiful reflective views. No water; no reflections. Dependent on water, your best opportunities for reflections will be in the spring.

16-04-Kai Yosemite 8

More water also means more opportunities for photographs with reflective views, such as this one at Mirror Lake.

After reading about Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, I decided to do this 5 to 6 hour hike; no one else from our photo tour group joined me. The distance was short, but the rise in elevation was brutal. The trail rises over 2,000 feet over a few miles. I did ask myself, “Who was the idiot that thought this was a good idea?”

08-Kai Yosemite 9The base of Vernal Falls from the Misty Trail. There are over 600 steps, wet steps and you will get soaked while climbing this trail. There is a drier, longer, more gently sloped alternative trail to reach the falls.

If you see pictures of people smiling by the waterfalls, they must fake. Everyone I saw, regardless of age of physical conditioning was huffing and puffing. Only babies were smiling because they were smart enough to get someone to carry them to the top.

23-11-Kai Yosemite 10A grand view of Vernal Falls. Note: This perspective is from the John Muir trail, the longer but easier way to reach the falls.

Even higher in elevation is Nevada Falls. These are even more impressive than Vernal Falls. If you’ve taken the Mistry Trail and made it to the top, you’re relatively close to the base of Nevada Falls. On my return journey, people asked me, “How much farther to Nevada Falls? How steep is the trail?” I laughed and shared, “I was asking the same question just a little while ago.”

21-09-Kai Yosemite 11Rapid, cascading water over dramatic rock formations is the norm in Yosemite. Spring runoff makes strenuous hiking worthwhile.

The views were spectacular and worth the trek. If you’d like to do this, recommend training for it and carrying plenty of water and energy bars.

22-10-Kai Yosemite 12Even higher in elevation is Nevada Falls. Most people quit after Vernal, but to reach the base of Nevada Falls is relatively close.




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