Dumpster Diving

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Tioga Lake pano

Well, not really dumpster diving… more like combing through the archives. It’s always fun to take a walk down memory lane, and when you carry a camera around with you, well… there are lots of memories created to return to later. Just recently, as I was wandering through an old hard drive where RAW images from a trip to Yosemite in 2010 are stored, I came across a series of photographs that I hadn’t yet processed. Every now and then I’ll encounter a broad and grand vista, one that is hard to capture in one shot, even with a wide angle lens. In this type of situation, I’ll sometimes turn the camera on its side to portrait orientation, and then pan across the landscape making several tighter shots, with the intention of merging the images together into one panoramic photograph later when back at the computer.

Yosemite National Park is one of the most spectacular, majestic and remarkable places I have ever seen. Truly breathtaking landscapes are around every corner, and on this particular morning Sam and I were in the high country, making our way up, over, and through the Tioga Pass from Lee Vining to Tuolumne Meadow. The reflection of the Eastern Sierra in Tioga Lake was a jaw-dropping scene, one that not only reminds me of what was a great trip with Sam, but also of some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever experienced. The pano above is made up of about 10 separate images, and is actually quite large… I could probably print it 50 inches wide if I wanted to (and if I had a wall to hang it on), and the wider, single-image view below shows you how challenging it is to include everything you want to from a scene like this in one shot.

Tioga Lake

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Revisiting Tuolumne Meadow

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Now that I am back home in Maine, I have some time to revisit the glorious first evening of our trip to Yosemite when we were fortunate to witness some amazing colors and clouds over the higher mountains in the backdrop. Afternoon thunderstorms have been known to unexpectedly pop up in this area, and on this occasion we were in the right place at the right time. The storm had begun to clear right before sunset, and as the twilight gained a hold on the scene, we enjoyed some deep and rich pastel colors. We fought off mosquitoes as big as small birds, but it was well worth the effort to experience such an incredible sunset. The four days Sam and I spent up along the Tioga Road and near Tuolumne Meadow wasn’t nearly enough time to truly see the landscape, so maybe someday we will return and spend some extended time exploring what was for us a unique and breathtaking area.

Cathedral and Unicorn Peaks, Yosemite

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The image above was from a wonderful evening spent last night on the Tuolumne Meadow. We had some amazing weather conditions all come together to provide a stunning sunset complete with rainbows, and what better location to enjoy it from than the higher country within Yosemite National Park. In this image, I was looking across Tuolumne Meadow toward the impressive granite mountains known as Unicorn Peak (10,823 ft) on the left, and Cathedral Peak (10,911 ft) on the right.

I learned today that hiking uphill at 9,000 feet is hard on the lungs. Very hard. Sam and I made the 7 mile round trip hike to the beautiful Cathedral Lake, located on the other side of the ragged granite peak shown on the right hand side of the image above. A steady – and for me at least – tough beginning to the trail initially had me laboring, but I was able to make it all the way there and back alive, and am recovering very nicely right now. I will post some photographs from the hike later… that’s if I make it back from the daunting hike to Cloud’s Rest tomorrow.

We are off to the world famous Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining for dinner. We are getting some thunder and lightning as I write this, so plans for another short hike this evening have been abandoned. Instead, after dinner we will make the short trip down to the shore of Mono Lake, and who knows, maybe the weather will break and we will be rewarded with some nice light over what is a surreal landscape. Keeping our fingers crossed…

Tuolumne Meadow Sunset

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Long day. We were up before 4am to get to JFK for our flight to San Francisco, and as I write this I am still on east coast time where it is 2am. Traveling couldn’t have gone smoother, and by about 1pm local time we were on the road driving toward Yosemite.

As we made our way across the central California valley, even from one hundred miles away we could see some serious thunderheads on the horizon getting us excited about what we might see at our chosen first destination… Tuolumne Meadow. We passed up the opportunity to stop at many beautiful places along the Tioga Road so that we might get to Tuolumne before dark, and hopefully in time for some nice light playing with the storm clouds.

Sam and I both caught our breath when we first glimpsed the meadow, and we excitedly jumped out and started to explore. There was some stormy weather over Lembert Dome and beyond into the high country where Mount Gibbs and Mount Dana towered over the landscape, and with the sun behind us we were treated to a spectacular rainbow and some amazing late evening light.

In the brief but productive time we had here, there must have been fifteen or more deer happily grazing in the meadow, and the mosquitoes rivaled anything we have back home in Maine. As you can see though, nothing could spoil the remarkable sight before our eyes. Cannot wait to explore more tomorrow.