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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Beyond The Usual Yosemite


Ansel Adams’ famous images of Yosemite helped make it a photographer’s mecca. Today, finding your own vision of one of our most well-known national parks requires getting off the beaten trail.

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Half Dome from just below Columbia Point on the Yosemite Falls Trail
Taft Point And Sentinel Dome
There are places all along Glacier Point Road that offer incredible opportunities. About a mile up on the left, right at the curve, there’s a spectacular view to the west where one can get a great sunset. Keep going, and you’ll find the Taft Point and Sentinel Dome parking lot. This trail takes you to Taft Point, a spot perched right on the precipice of the Yosemite Valley wall that will give you breathtaking views of El Capitan and most of the west end of the valley, along with an incredible view to the west for dramatic sunsets. The “fissures,” which are huge cracks in the granite that you can fall into if you’re not paying attention, are abundant. Plus, great shots can be had by lying on your belly and sliding up to the cliff over which is 3,000 feet of freefall to Yosemite Valley—not for the squeamish.

The trail also takes you on to Sentinel Dome, an outcropping of granite that lies at 8,000 feet. From here you have a spectacular, mind-numbing, 360-degree view of everything. There’s great night shooting of the stars, sunset, clouds, moon and sunrise from here. You can do it all from Sentinel Dome.


Close-up view of the lower part of Upper Yosemite Fall as seen from the Yosemite Falls Trail
Glacier Point And Beyond
Proceed to Glacier Point itself, and just in front of the gift shop is the beginning (or end) of the Panorama Trail, which covers eight miles of glorious vistas between Glacier Point and Happy Isle. Walk down the trail only about a half-mile, however, and you get ever-changing views of Half Dome and Nevada and Vernal Falls. The early part of the trail is easy—very level and offering variations in perspective of these iconic Yosemite wonders. Keep going across the river and up the John Muir Trail portion, and you’ll find a great east-to-west view of Yosemite Valley that includes Upper Yosemite Fall.

Several trails that originate from the valley floor offer stupendous views seldom photographed. About halfway up the Four-Mile trail, there’s a small rock outcropping just off the main trail that gives a 180-degree view of Yosemite Valley from the south rim. You can shoot the entire valley from Yosemite Falls to the Big Oak Flat road, the remnants of which are still visible from this special angle. Up further along the Four-Mile Trail are more great variations of views of Half Dome, again, seldom photographed.

Upper Yosemite Falls
From Camp 4, head up the Yosemite Falls Trail. After about a mile just as you enter the loose, sandy part of the trail, just below Columbia Point, a side trail goes off to the right through the heavy underbrush. Take this spur trail, and after about 100 feet, you’ll come on another outcropping of granite very wide and secluded from the main trail. Here, you can shoot afternoon sunsets of Half Dome, or storm clouds, among other things, and again you’ll have an elevated, sweeping view of Yosemite Valley that’s rarely photographed. Continue up the Yosemite Falls Trail, and you’ll come upon a view of Upper Yosemite Falls that’s tremendous, especially during early summer when the water is flowing very fast. Of course, if you go all the way to the top, there are endless spectacular photographic opportunities. Be aware, though, that the upper portion of the Yosemite Falls Trail above Columbia Point is mostly very steep and difficult, and in summer, very warm. Take lots of water, but if you make it, you’ll be richly rewarded.

Tioga Road To Tuolumne Meadow
On Tioga Road, on the way to Tuolumne Meadow in the high country, at an elevation of 8,500 feet, you’ll discover a whole new world of photography. The sky is a deeper blue, and the views are huge and sweeping. The weather is different than in Yosemite Valley. Thunderstorms are more frequent, giving the photographer a greater variation in clouds, late-afternoon light and endless photo opportunities.

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