Out West - Yosemite to the California Coast

I just returned from a fabulous ten day trip to California to photograph Yosemite and the west coast. I packed my bags expecting a good amount of snow in Yosemite (it is, after all, winter time...) and to my surprise, I was greeted with warm temperatures and no moisture whatsoever. It was rather disappointing to be honest - I was excited to camp out in the back-country and capture some beautiful winter scenes but instead had to make do with the dry, rather barren looking landscape. Even the many waterfalls that peak their flows during the winter months had almost run dry. It was sheer luck that it had rained the week before I arrived, providing any water at all. Rumor was that every waterfall was bone dry the before it had rained.

 Knowing that there was at least some water flowing from the falls, I prepared myself for a spectacular phenomenon that only occurs a few days a year from about February 15th - February 21st: the Yosemite Firefall. It is during these six days that the angle of the sun is just right to light up Horsetail Falls with the last orange glow of daylight. Not only does the Firefall only happen a few days a year, but the conditions during February are almost never ideal for spotting this amazing sight because it happens to be one of the cloudiest months of the year and often people will stand around every single day waiting for the sun to peep out only to be thwarted away without ever having seen the firefall. I was very fortunate that the day I arrived, the skies were clear, because the rest of my trip there was cloudy and the firerfall never came out again! Unfortunately this is the third year of California's drought, so the falls were pretty weak, but it was still an amazing sight nonetheless!

The spectacular Yosemite Firefall, which only occurs for a brief window of a few days each year if conditions are right.

The spectacular Yosemite Firefall, which only occurs for a brief window of a few days each year if conditions are right.

After leaving Yosemite, I spent several days driving the coast and capturing some amazing sights along the way. I made it as far south as Big Sur (beautiful!) before heading back up to San Francisco for some final shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. Camping out along the way was fabulous - the stars we stunning along the coast and the weather was perfect. It's always a struggle to leave the coast, as it's one of my favorite places to shoot. I always fly away with a burning desire to stay longer... looks like I'll just have to plan another trip out West soon!

This was a pretty serendipitous shot... I had set up my camera before crawling into my sleeping bag for the night, and had it firing through the night for a time lapse. Unfortunately, the moisture in the air from the crashing waves condensed on the front lens element and caused a lot of foggy, blurry images. A few of the shots, however, were affected in a positive way. In this image, the fog on the lens actually created the streaking around the brightest stars. Orion is practically jumping out of the picture, its amazing! I'd never seen this before, I was actually pretty thrilled with the end result!

This was a pretty serendipitous shot... I had set up my camera before crawling into my sleeping bag for the night, and had it firing through the night for a time lapse. Unfortunately, the moisture in the air from the crashing waves condensed on the front lens element and caused a lot of foggy, blurry images. A few of the shots, however, were affected in a positive way. In this image, the fog on the lens actually created the streaking around the brightest stars. Orion is practically jumping out of the picture, its amazing! I'd never seen this before, I was actually pretty thrilled with the end result!

The last light of day shines through a hole in the rock as waves crash all around. This was a really fun location to shoot, I had a blast running around the beach trying to capture the light!

The last light of day shines through a hole in the rock as waves crash all around. This was a really fun location to shoot, I had a blast running around the beach trying to capture the light!

One of my final images from San Francisco, the city skyline as seen from Treasure Island. 

One of my final images from San Francisco, the city skyline as seen from Treasure Island. 

A great one from the coast, I had the idea for this image in my mind and set out at 4am to the bridge to try and capture it. I set up my gear, adjusted my exposure, and waited.... every time I saw cars on the horizon, I clicked the camera. It was really difficult getting the right exposure for this one, I had to make sure the shutter was open long enough to capture the car trails from the end of the mountain all the way to the bridge, without letting too much light in to over-expose the image. Not only that, but every minute that passed the sky was getting lighter and lighter (sunrise was fast approaching) so every time I was getting close to the right exposure, everything had to change again to adjust for the brightening sky! This was literally the only keeper from the bunch, but it was by far my favorite! I'm very happy with the result.

A great one from the coast, I had the idea for this image in my mind and set out at 4am to the bridge to try and capture it. I set up my gear, adjusted my exposure, and waited.... every time I saw cars on the horizon, I clicked the camera. It was really difficult getting the right exposure for this one, I had to make sure the shutter was open long enough to capture the car trails from the end of the mountain all the way to the bridge, without letting too much light in to over-expose the image. Not only that, but every minute that passed the sky was getting lighter and lighter (sunrise was fast approaching) so every time I was getting close to the right exposure, everything had to change again to adjust for the brightening sky! This was literally the only keeper from the bunch, but it was by far my favorite! I'm very happy with the result.

In my element - enjoying the crystal clear night under the stars on the California coast. 

In my element - enjoying the crystal clear night under the stars on the California coast. 

Preparation for the trip - as you can see, camera gear makes up the bulk of my bag. There's little room for the less necessary items like clothes...

Preparation for the trip - as you can see, camera gear makes up the bulk of my bag. There's little room for the less necessary items like clothes...