Our workshop began and ended with fantastic weather- cool mornings, clear skies with a few clouds and day temperatures in the 70's! This particular Yosemite workshop was our "Waterfall Spectacular"! It is the most strenuous workshop I offer in contrast to another Yosemite workshop held the week before which I call, "Yosemite Light": by comparison, the Light workshop is one of my physically easier workshops with little walking| parking lot to falls view, turnouts and overlooks design for people with health and physical limitations all within a short walk. Whereas, the Waterfalls Spectacular seeks out some of the best waterfalls in the park within a day hike and timed for when the falls are at their best water flow of summer!
Our first day began in late afternoon after we settled in and unpacked. Soon we made our first images of lower Yosemite Valley as we seek out its prime flowered meadow locations below El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls and Yosemite's granite cliffs. The Merced River's flaccid pools served us reflections of both El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls. We capped off our day at Tunnel View overlook made famous by Ansel Adams!
The hike to Upper Yosemite Falls on day two is must for Waterfalls Photographic Enthusiasts! We began early while the cool canyon air still flowed from the heights. Yosemite Falls ranks among the highest falls on earth and it is its upper fall's 1,430-foot (440 m)drop that is the largest of the two primary (upper and lower) falls. We get the best view of it right from the trail with Half Dome within view too! Above and past the falls, we could make out the railing of the precipice Yosemite Point with it's heavenly valley vistas. The trip to Yosemite Point depends on whether or not a group has the fitness and willingness to continue of which our group enthusiastically qualified. We soon pass over the footbridge of Yosemite Creek before it made it final distance to the brink in beautiful blueish-green coniferous pine forests of Ponderrosa Pines and Spruce. Wind sculptured Cedars stood sentinels to the granite dome we climb. A cedar weathered aged by hundreds of windy winter years greeted us along with one of the Yosemite Valley's best overlook! Half Dome's northface dominates the western valley framed by North Dome and Glacier Point.
Day three is recovery day of drive by shoots and short flat hikes. We begin by visiting Yosemite's largest Sequoia grove and tree, the Washington Tree within the Mariposa Grove. Our hike took us to the second largest tree in the grove and the 25th largest tree in the world the Grizzly Giant tree. Photographing this tree is a practice in perspective photography working with wide to telephoto lens. After a late lunch, we move to Yosemite Valley's most popular overlook, Glacier Point. This is our last stop and the best sunset location within the park. Our major subject here is the west side of Half Dome with the High Sierra range as the backdrop. The changing light here makes for dramatic images as the shadows move from valley floor to mountain tops and today's sunset is one of the most intense. At the end, we are treated to beautiful purple/magenta twilight.
We start the day shooting El Capitan western profile and photograph wildlife, including a grove and meadow known for it varied habitat and birds including California Quail and chicks, Blue Jays, Grosbeaks and Tanagers. As the valley begins to heat up, around nine o'clock, we break for breakfast to power so we can visit two of Yosemite's finest falls- the free falling Vernal and the impressive 500ft Nevada below Half Dome. Today's waterfalls hike on day four are one of our longest and most rewarding. As we enter the gorge of the Merced River, the air cools in the pine and spruce forests filled with the sound of cascading water. Our first fall is Vernal Falls. A rainbow at it's base tells us we have timed our visit at the right time! Surrounding the falls is a paradise of verdant green grasses and sedges. The Merced river's flows strong. We hike up to the brink and take sweeping vista images of water jetting out into space. Vernal Pool is a green blue gem photographic subject with a boulder filled outlet and the longest waterslide at its inlet. Next up is the impressively high Nevada Falls as high at Niagara Falls but a winding twisting ribbon of white foam. At the apex of the hike, we look out across Nevada Fall's massive headwall and bowl contrasting with Liberty Dome towering above. In the distance we see the south side of Half Dome and the upper Yosemite Valley! We take out time retracing our route back shooting scenes with a sun in a different location and lighting. We break for well earned showers and an early dinner tonight sharing stories of a well enjoyed trip.
On Day five, we shoot early scenes along the mountain top valleys such as Tuolumne Meadows with it's granite domes and lush flowered streams. After a brief stop at Tanaya Lake set in a glacial bottom our class parted ways and I was off to my next workshop on the Eastern Sierras!
If you love Yosemite, its falls and all it natural beauty you are welcome to join me on one of my workshops next year! Read More About Yosemite Workshops With Salvatore Here!
After waiting desperately for several months for deep snows of winter to finally arrive and cover Yellowstone and its roads, the heavy snows began to fall about three weeks prior to the start of our workshop. Up until that time, a few other workshops were canceled due to dry snowless roads and student cancellations. Our workshop in West Yellowstone was greeted a day before its start with a good old Rocky Mountain four day 30+ inch snowstorm! This is why, we hold our workshop in February which is later then most other workshops and almost guaranteed deep snow. On arrival day, we grouped together after everyone checked into their rooms for a great Montana country dinner before we returned to hold our first digital class on introductory image processing workflows.
Early the next morning, Sagebrush, tall herbs and plants rising above the snowpack were excellent subjects to work on our Macro subjects and Depth of Field compositions. Afterwards, the Gallatin River with its ice formations presented interesting compositions as they curved back and forth pushed by the river’s flow. On our last photographic stop of the day a herd of Big Horn Sheep foraging right along the roadside fitted perfectly with our tired bodies.
On day two, I awoke to find my car buried in a spindrift of several feet of snow as we scrambled into our snowcoach headed to the Madison River Canyon. Our first animal subject of the day turned out to be a rare Trumpeter Swan accompanied by an assortment of waterfowl. A short distance further we encountered a few solitary Bison Bulls which quickly increased to a few more before they exploded into herds. Elk too made their first appearance along the Madison River Canyon with it Yosemite Valley-like cliffs. We traveled to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone via the Gibbon River Gorge and it namesake falls in the heated comfort of our snowcoach. Once we made it to Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon and the Yellowstone River both the Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls were enveloped in ice. The Lower Yellowstone had one of the most impressive ice mounds formed from the fall’s spray that it looked several hundred feet high. So large was it that it almost completely blocked the falls from our view at Artist’s Point! We ended the day with a short hike into the mists of Porcelain Basin in Norris Geyser Basin to capture geysers, fumaroles and their colorful algae formations!
Fountain Paint Pot with its colorful pastels of pink, red, grey and white clays mixed with splashes of yellows, greens and purples burst with bubbles of mud and water on day three. Noisy fumaroles hiss and spit while angry-like aptly named Red Spouter entertains us all.
The geysers of Fountain Flats never seem to fail us with the perpetual eruption of Clepsydra and it colorful algae coated pool. The class was shocked-and-awed by Fountain Geyser surprised eruption- Fountain is one of Yellowstone’s largest geysers.
Later that day, after we checked into our rooms at the Snow Lodge in Upper Geyser Basin’s Old Faithful area, the group enjoyed exploring the boardwalks and trails to discover the almost unlimited geothermal subjects surrounding Old Faithful Geyser. As the light began to fade, we headed back to the Snow Lodge for libations and their wonderful cuisines to retire early for the next day’s early rise to capture hopefully an Old Faithful Geyser classic image!
Day four we rose well before the sun to a picture perfect morning! Yellow-red clouds contrasted to soft-white snow and ice covered trees.
Old Faithful erupted, no, it burst violently into steam as its superheated water made contact with the -10°F air! So spectacular, we shot two eruptions! Our snowcoach ride back to West Yellowstone was no less then shooting a diving Eagle hunting ducks while driving through Bison herds! On arrival into West Yellowstone, we packed up our vehicles and headed to Gardiner, Montana, for our night’s lodging before heading into the parks northwest entrance.
As we walk up the boardwalk at Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces on day five, a hungry fox explored under and over the boardwalk for a meal piece. He was coming right to us with morning sun in his eyes while we quickly mounted our telephoto lens. The top of Mammoth Terraces complement the roundness of the Absaroka Mountains that surround them provided photo fodder for use. We found impressively large wolf tracks along the side of elk tracks they presumably hunted- see image above next to the X-Ski track as a comparison to the enormous size of the wolf track!
As we drove to the bottom of the terraces a short time later, we find the snow covered faces of bison as they grazing below its steaming impressive travertine heights. Lamar Valley if famous for it wildlife so we head there to find Bighorn Sheep on a snow free slope as worthy subjects and the Lamar River next to us Mergansers and River Otters fed. We broke for lunch in Cooke City Montana to rustic burgers before we headed back into the park for Barronette Peak, Soda Butte and two lone coyotes before ending our day shooting Prong Horn Antelope in last light concluding our Yellowstone Winter Photography Workshop for 2012!
Join me on my 2013 Yellowstone Winter Workshop this coming February 18th-22th 2013 Read More About Yellowstone Winter Photography Workshop Here!