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Fiery Evening Sky, Tuolumne Meadows

Fiery Evening Sky, Tuolumne Meadows. Yosemite National Park, California. July 10, 2009. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell - all rights reserved.




Fiery sunset colors illuminate lenticular clouds above the Tuolumne River, Tuolumne Meadows, Lembert Dome, and Mounts Dana and Gibbs on the Sierra crest, Yosemite National Park, California.


This is the sky I wrote about in the text accompanying the previous two photographs made on this July evening in Tuolumne Meadows. I'll just have to include the quote from Ansel Adams one more time for anyone who didn't see it in the first post:


“Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter.” - Ansel Adams


I don't think it is quite that simple - to put it another way, We're all very fortunate that it was Ansel who happened to be in those places doing the shutter clicking on those occasions! But you do indeed have to be there, and you do need to be ready to take advantage of the scene that presents itself to you. Unlike painters, we cannot just conjure up scenes like this.


I count myself as extremely lucky in that I get to spend a lot of time in the Sierra and have for many years. (I'm also very lucky to be married to an artist who understands how important it is to me to traipse off to the Sierra to make photographs - Thanks, Patty!) I've seen a lot of Sierra sunsets and photographed (or tried to photograph!) a good number of them. FWIW, while the good fortune of being there at the right time plays a huge part in getting any photograph, it is rarely enough.


As I wrote in yesterday's post, I've learned to recognize a certain set of Sierra Nevada conditions that can (but are not guaranteed to) create a brief moment of utterly astonishing color just as the sun slips below the horizon. Once you have seen this happen and recognize the pattern, if you are like me you will drop everything to be there. Nine times out of ten the potential will be unrealized and you'll just have "another stunning Sierra sunset" - or perhaps just a gray cloudy sunset. But on that tenth time!


So, yes, I dropped everything to be in Tuolumne Meadow two hours before sunset, and I was in position with a composition scoped out and everything set up a full hour beforehand. I was more than willing to put up with the swarms of mosquitos - and when this light show started I didn't even notice them.


What has happened here is that the mass of stacked lenticular clouds above Mounts Dana and Gibbs on the Sierra crest and to the east are being illuminated by the very last light reflected off of high clouds to the west just as the sun drops below the horizon. Silently, and almost before you realize what is happening, the color of the landscape is completely transformed for what could be no longer than a few short minutes.


(The two previous photos in this series are found here and here. One that follows this photograph is posted here.)


This photograph is not in the public domain. It may not be used on websites, blogs, or in any other media without explicit advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.


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Taken on July 12, 2009