Location: Yosemite National Park

Sunset on Yosemite Valley from the spot made famous by, the one and only, Ansel Adams. Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park.
The last time I was able to see Yosemite, I wasn’t really able to see Yosemite. The combination of Memorial Day weekend traffic throughout the one-way loop of Yosemite Valley and low hanging clouds blocking my first views of El Capitan and Half Dome, made for an underwhelming experience. This time it was going to be different. Pre-planning and internet scouting several photo locations for different weather gave me the confidence that this time was going to be a success. Traffic was still apparent, but bearable, and there were hardly any clouds in the sky; perhaps a bit boring for photography, but at least the mountains were visible. I could have used a few more days inside the park, but for the time I had, it ended up being a perfect weekend trip.
Half Dome getting the last bit of light in the valley from Sentinel Bridge, Yosemite National Park.
El Capitan and the Merced River near El Capitan Bridge, Yosemite National Park.


Half Dome, Yosemite National Park.
Bridalveil Falls through the trees, Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite Valley and the Merced River near El Capitan Bridge, Yosemite National Park.
Tips for planning a photo trip to Yosemite National Park:
  • Camp inside the park and make a reservation, as they are necessary. I would suggest sites just outside the valley, but still within the park. They are much cheaper ($20 compared to $35) and much less crowded. I stayed at Crane Flat, just 17 miles from the valley.
  • Look at a map of the valley beforehand and study it. I, for one, love maps. Without one, I feel lost. Finding a photogenic scene in this park is not difficult, but it can be a breeze when you know of specific locations you want to shoot. Sunset is the magical hour in this park, but that’s not to say sunrise can’t bring some magic, too. For alpenglow on the soaring cliffs, sunset is the most promising. Some photo spots I would suggest:*
      • El Capitan Bridge: There is a pullout right before the El Capitan Bridge that looks right over the river and toward El Capitan and the rest of the valley.
      • Sentinel Bridge: Park in the parking lot just north of this bridge. Half Dome is reflected in the Merced River from the bridge and trees frame the Dome nicely.
      • Tunnel View: It may be over-shot, but this view can’t be missed. Weather and light at the right time can make this view really spectacular.
      • Glacier Point: Explore the area away from the concrete platform and come away with views of Half Dome and both Nevada and Vernal Falls all in the same shot.
  • Bring all your gear. Bring a wide lens, a zoom lens, all your filters, and a tripod. I used everything I had in my arsenal and you will find ways to do the same.
  • And last but not least, explore, be careful and don’t forget to have fun!
*There are several other locations that I didn’t get to shoot, so I can’t really say if they are better or not. However, after my extensive research of perfect photo locations, these were the highest on my list. 
Published: July 2, 2012

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