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Calm Before the Storm

Sunset over frozen Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park.


This Sierra Nevada winter has been off to a wildly slow start. This is the first time the Tioga Road, Hwy 120, has been open through the Yosemite high country in many decades. Radio stations all over California have been advising the masses to visit Yosemite before this weekend's storms roll in since viewing and photographing these conditions may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


So, what exactly are these unique conditions? It's winter, and all lakes above 5000 feet have long frozen over. But there's almost no snow on the neighboring peaks, forests, and other surroundings. When I drove up to Tenaya Lake, there must have been a hundred people scattered all over its surface: kids ice skating, full-grown adults gliding around on beach chairs... it was quite a sight!


Because of these unique conditions, lots of amazing photographers (Josh Cripps, Willie Huang/inter211, Aaron M/Leftquark, Jim Patterson, etc.) have flocked to the area, each producing jaw-dropping images of the frozen lake at sunset. Search flickr and you'll surely notice one thing, though: every image is so immensely different! The multitude of cracks, air bubbles, and icebergs really do present limitless photographic opportunities; I was running all over this area capturing verticals and horizontals, alpenglow and post-sunset purple, reflections and icebergs...that evening really was special.


As for the clouds -- there were awesome lenticulars ALL day that decided to burn off just an hour or two before sunset. Then some nice altocumulus began to roll in, looking quite promising, but they too burned off. This is all we had, but I think it was enough.


The light changed so much over the hour I spent shooting that my toughest decision was which shot to post first! This one's actually just before sunset; what you see is strong sunset light, not true alpenglow, on the domes. I chose this time because the sky was still blue and I really liked how it complimented the blue in the ice. I do have vertical comps as well, but by now you've probably seen a couple verticals, so here's a horizontal to show you both sides of the lake.


Heavy snow, which will finally close the road, is forecast for this weekend.


Have a good one!




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Taken on January 15, 2012