Yosemite NP

February 2005

The winter of 2005 produced a ton of snow in the Sierras. After experiencing some of the intense snow over New Years', I decided to get some more. I had never been to Yosemite in the winter and with one of my hiking buddies decided to head on off snowshoeing.

When we got there, it was snowing up at Badger Pass and only an hour before dark. We strapped on our heavy packs, got the snowshoes on, and tramped on up the snow-covered Glacier Point Road. With the snow not letting up, we stopped after about a mile and a half and set up camp. We fell asleep with the soft patter of snow against the fly. Waking up in the morninng to a crisp 30 degree air, I poked the side of the tent only to hear built-up snow sliding off. Over seven inches had fallen through the night making the top of the tent seem like a rooftop of a Swiss chalet. With the fresh snow on top of the seven feet of accumulation, we continued tromping through the beautiful Sierra winter.

With more snow expected on the way and some very wet gear, we made it on out by dark and splurged, staying at the Wawona Hotel. After a night of cards, chess, scotch, and good times, the next day was spent going down into the valley itself. The waterfalls were going as strong as I've ever seen. Small cascades had formed in places I'd only ever seen the stained walls before. With the lack of people during the winter as well as road closures, the valley was eerily silent save for the roar of the falling water. The day was a mix of sun and rain and the clouds were moving across the walls of the valley. Snow clung tenuously to any outcropping on the sheer vertical faces it could find. Yosemite is always awe-inspring, but the clouds and snow made it all seem that much more majestic. Winter is truly a glorious time to experience this marvelous land.

The Photographs

This was my first serious snow photography outing, and I definitely was not prepared for the amazing challenges winter makes! I was playing with different metering techniques; the snow definitely confuses my old Minolta meter. The cold was even more of a challenge. Condensation sidelined the majority of my lenses so I was relegated to my trusty 58/1.2 for most of the time. The metal body of my old camera definitely sucked the heat out of my fingers. The backscatter of the falling snow was unexpected. All said and done, I got some shots though that might be able to convey the beauty of the Sierras in the winter.

The first three rolls of film were some magnificent Kodachrome PKL 200. It's really nifty to see how the film's grain almost complements the roughness of the snow; even when slightly overexposed to get a nice shimmering white the snow still has the nice snowy texture. I'm just saddened that this wonderous film may be finally meeting its demise. Following those first three is a roll of Scala shot as I as desdescending into the valley floor. As I was shooting the Scala in the fog, the sun started to poke through, so it seemed a great time to shift to my roll of Kodachrome PKR 64 that I had brought along to hopefully finally shoot the valley in glorious Kodachrome. Alas, the fates were not with me; as soon as I got that PKR in the clouds shrouded the valley again in gray. It wasn't until I had finished and gone onto a final roll of Ilford FP4+ that the sun came back out. I must learn to bring along a second body for when I want to switch films!

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