My Journey To Yosemite – Part 2 Of Journey Through Eastern Sierras

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Valley View At Night

So after finishing some good sunrises in the Alabama Hills me all met back at a small breakfast place right in Lone Pine called Mt. Whitney restaurant. While at breakfast everyone pulled out their personal laptops, cell phones, and GPS’s to navigate the next stop. After deciding the next stop would be north to Bishop we decided to have an easy morning and rest at the motel until lunch. After feeling a little recuperated and ready to hit the road we gathered together in multiple cars to Bishop. After an hour of driving we get a call from Jesse Estes who had gone to Yosemite National Park in the beginning of the trip and told us to get down to Yosemite as fast as possible as it was snowing good and the weather later was calling for sun. So we immediately pulled off the road and had a huddle along the side of Highway 395.


Spectacular Falls At Night From Parking Lot at ISO 3200

We decided we needed to go big or go home so we all agreed to turn around back south and make the six hour drive to Yosemite for sunset. We figured it was a risk if the weather did not cooperate and we ended up spending the week in a snowstorm but heck at least we would have shots of Yosemite in snow. Right?  So I pulled out the GPS and figured some directions and allotted time to reach the park. The problem with Yosemite in winter is that many of the roads are closed into the park and higher elevation passes.


Map Of Our Journey From Lone Pine To Yosemite -Trip Highlighted In Red

Looking at the map this meant we had to travel all the way south to Bakersfield then back all the way up north to Fresno and east into the park.  Well I underestimated the time and we would make it to the park just as sunset was just finishing. So I made a group decision to tell everyone drive like mad men and make it there for sunset. The race began and the closer we got the more it looked like we were going to get there in time. I was so determined to get there I wouldnt let anybody eat but they ignored me and went through a drive-in anyways.  South of Oakhurst,  along Highway 41 , we went through an amazing field of oak trees lit by the warm afternoon light and black storm clouds all playing off each other. The area is between Coarsegold and Oakhurst and I am not sure of the exact name of the area but it was illuminating to see fields of bright green so early in the season.  Now what do we do… do we stop and shot this or try to catch our one opportunity to shoot a sunset in Yosemite during a winter wonderland. Have any of you come across this dilemma of having your heart set on someplace you have always wanted to shoot only to come across something amazing along the way. Well as we continued to drive and curse as what to do about the decision we weighted the options. After several minutes of what if’s we decided to not stop. Bad decision we would come to regret for the whole trip. As we entered Oakhurst a big flashing neon sign read, “Chains required to continue along this route”.


The Group Of Us Going Through The Snow Storm

We now had lost both opportunities and we had to come to the realization that sometimes when you get tunnel vision you stop looking at the things along the journey. I know I have to learn to enjoy the journey more then the destination and that sometimes that a picture is not always at the end of a rainbow. So we made the long detour into the park through Mariposa and decided to find a place in the sleep for the night.


Yosemite Church Late At Night Over A Full Moon

After finding a very cheap rates at the Yosemite Lodge during winter we decided to head for food. This was an excellent place to stay and I recommend for any photographers looking to shoot winter in Yosemite to stay here. The problem when you go for food in a National Park is you give up your retirement savings to eat something decent. This was no exception and food was going not going to be cheap here. If I am being honest, at this point, the group was tense, angry, and agitated. Our hopes were bleak and our future opportunities for shooting did not look good. It looked like we had missed our window and the forecast called for rain for the rest of the week. After some arguing we decided to look at getting home on a plane ASAP. So we decided to eat and finish this discussion back at the lodge. While eating I looked out the window to see a full moon and a landscape full of snow so I suggested to the guys about shooting at night since this might be our last chance to shoot anything. Half-heartedly we headed back to the lodge to gather our camera equipment and give it a shot. Once we bundled ourselves in warm clothing and realized that this was kind of fun, we decided to shoot almost all night under the full moon. We hit up all the hot spots like Valley View, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Yosemite Church.


Merced River At Night Illuminated By A Full Moon

At least we could say that we got to do something while we were here. I can not believe how much fun we had doing this and when I look back, I think this might be one of the best times shooting I have ever had. So we returned back to the lodge and set the alarms to go off in a couple of hours for a sunrise that was slowing starting to look like it might happen. Check back tomorrow for what happens next on this journey.


Another shoot of Yosemite Church Through The Forest At Night

~ by kevinmcneal on February 24, 2009.

9 Responses to “My Journey To Yosemite – Part 2 Of Journey Through Eastern Sierras”

  1. your photo of the falls is one of the most beautiful i have ever seen!

  2. Fantastic shots of Yosemite under moonlight Kevin. That is one thing I haven’t done yet. Going to Yosemite in winter is quite a special treat. It is transformed in a major way compared to the summer and everybody who has gone there in the winter remarked on how different it was. I had the opportunity to go last weekend just to capture the horsetail falls (for which the sun didn’t cooperate), but I had some amazing morning lighting.

    Yosemite has never disappointed me in the winter.

    Eastern Sierras look fabulous too. Though I don’t think I will get a chance to go before the winter ends.

  3. I can empathize with the racing for a shot with the sunset as the clock. Great tales and I am glad you guys stuck it out. The vertical church shot is wonderful.. and Im sure the night moon shots were enough of a challenge to keep the cold at bay.

  4. hurry up, i want to know what happens next!!! lol

  5. These images are beautiful, I can hardly believe that they were shot at night. Well worth all the trouble if you ask me. But I know exactly what you were talking about. When you’re on the road, you constantly have to make such decisions, and half the time the end up being wrong. But great decision to shoot at night, I would never have thought of it.

  6. I am awe struck by this beautiful new twist “night landscape”! AWESOME! I’ve been eyeballing the 5D MK2, have heard about the low noise/high ISO. These pics prove it’s not just cheap talk. Again, WOW great pics. I’ll be looking for new installments of “Kevin’s adventures”.

  7. Kevin, I really liked the moonlit photos you got! All this might not have happened if you were there to get the sunset shots only. All these things happen for a reason, and your night photos are fantatic! I really loved the Chapel shots. Both of them. They give a feeling of warmth and serenity. Love these tales of your experiences and what you all go through to get these wonderful pictures! Keep it up, Keven! Best regards, Katherine

  8. Incredible mooon light pictures shot at night! I love in particular the fall shot and Chapel shot. How can I learn a bit of all your ability? You are great!
    Daniela, your fan from the Alps

  9. absolutely love the first 2 images here. the nice low perspective in the first showing so much detail in the little snow boulders.

    and then the waterfall is just magical!

    great to see you’re doing a blog, so informative.
    love your work! 🙂

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