Winter into Spring: Yosemite’s annual transformation explored

Spring is one of my favorite seasons to thoroughly experience Yosemite National Park. Each month brings new, unique conditions and photographic opportunities.

The following photographs were made over the course of three Spring visits to Yosemite Valley this year.

March

In March, the angle of the sun is still low, creating rainbows and other nice light on the waterfalls. Morning fog is not uncommon this time of year. Neither is the occasional snow shower. At lower elevations, California celebrates the return of green hills in March. However, Yosemite Valley, at 4,000 feet above sea level, is still locked in Winter. By the end of the month, temperatures begin to rise and the granite drys out. Rock climbers begin to crawl all over El Capitan.

“Climbers on El Cap,” March 30, 2019 — “The El Cap Lie Back.” Break out the picnic blanket, snacks and adult beverage. Kick back and watch the progress of those much braver than you or me.
Canon EOS R, Canon 100-400mm ƒ4.5-5.6L II lens with 1.4x III extender.
“Moonrise on the Dawn Wall,” March 31, 2019 — Just before dawn, a crescent moon rose in the East, casting a faint glow on the face of El Capitan. The light was barely visible to the naked eye, but the camera saw it clearly, as if it were sunlight. Gary and I went there that early morning looking for the climbers we had watched on the wall the evening before. Did they make it to the top? Did they come down in the dark? I guess we’ll never know.
Canon EOS R, Canon 16-35mm ƒ2.8L III lens
“Room 504,” March 31, 2019 — My husband and I often celebrate our anniversary in Yosemite. This was the view of Yosemite Falls from our hotel room using a very long lens — 560mm.
Canon EOS R, Canon 100-400mm ƒ4.5-5.6L II lens with 1.4x III extender.

April

By April, some of the trees start to push out new, bright green foliage. Redbud and California Poppies bloom along the Merced River just outside the park. The waterfalls swell and meadows are transformed into shallow lakes.

“The Awakening” — April 5, 2019. Dense morning fog finally thinned, then sunshine started to break through, revealing pastel Spring colors.
Canon 5DSR, Canon 24-105mm ƒ4L lens.
“Dying Giant,” April 5, 2019 — This composition would have been a chaotic mess of branches if not for thick fog, which softened the background and created separation between the elements.
Canon 5DSR, Canon 24-105mm ƒ4L lens.
“Yosemite Falls Spring Magic,” April 5, 2019 — Upper Yosemite Fall peaks through the clouds after a solid night of rain.
Canon EOS R, Canon 100-400mm ƒ4.5-5.6L II lens with 1.4x III extender.
“Cathedral Rock in Morning Mist,” April 5, 2019 — This particular view of Cathedral Rock is one of my favorite spots in the Spring. Many of the waterfalls in Yosemite are seasonal, drying up as the snowpack melts away. This pond with its beautiful reflections, will also disappear by the time Summer arrives.
Canon 5DSR, Canon 24-105mm ƒ4L lens.
“The Veil,” April 5, 2019 — Late afternoon sunshine through thin cloud cover formed a very faint rainbow on Bridalveil Fall. This particular angle of the fall gives a hint as to why it was named thus.
Canon EOS R, Canon 100-400mm ƒ4.5-5.6L II lens with 1.4x III extender.
“Half Dome Misty Sunset,” April 5, 2019 — An unusual, early evening fog settled in the Valley as rain continued off and on until the light faded.
Canon 5DSR, Canon 24-105mm ƒ4L lens.
“Bridalveil Fall Winter Into Spring,” April 6, 2019 — A low, fast-moving valley fog contributed to the mist already created by Bridalveil Fall.
Canon EOS R, Canon 100-400mm ƒ4.5-5.6L II lens with 1.4x III extender.

May

By May, the Dogwoods are in full swing, their cheery white flowers bouncing on lateral branches. The Merced River roars through the canyon with a sound like music.

“Merced River and Dogwood,” May 16, 2019 — Dogwoods grow all along the banks of the Merced River in this area of the park. The river this time of year is swift and dangerous, submerging giant boulders as it races down through the Valley.
Canon EOS R, Canon 24-105mm ƒ4L lens.
“Spring Reflections of Half Dome,” May 16, 2019 — Cook’s Meadow has some of the deepest seasonal ponds in the Valley. They also make for very nice reflective pools.
Canon EOS R, Canon 24-105mm ƒ4L lens.
“Water Garden,” May 16, 2019 — It is here in Cook’s Meadow where Yosemite’s native endangered Red-Legged Frog was recently reintroduced. Twenty egg batches had been spotted since March, including eight masses in Cook’s Meadow, which experts figure are the offspring of 125 frogs released a year ago.  Standing on this boardwalk, I watched polliwogs swimming around, up and down. I could have watched them for hours.
Canon EOS R, Canon 24-105mm ƒ4L lens.
“Yosemite Valley Spring,” May 16, 2019 — A boardwalk built across Cook’s Meadow allows visitors to take in this view from the flooded meadow without damaging the habitat beneath.
Canon EOS R, Canon 24-105mm ƒ4L lens.
“Dogwood Blossoms in the Rain,” May 16, 2019 — If I had waited for the rain to stop, I would have spent my entire visit inside. If properly equipped, stormy days provide ample opportunity for interesting photography. But, you have to be willing to risk getting wet and cold.
Canon 5DSR, Canon 100-400mm ƒ4.5-5.6L II lens.
“Ponderosa Pines and Dogwood,” May 16, 2019 — Rain brings out the beautiful colors in the bark of Ponderosa Pines.
Canon 5DSR, Canon 100-400mm ƒ4.5-5.6L II lens.
“Bridalveil Fall After The Rain,” May 17, 2019 — Time to head home, but not before Yosemite gave me one last beautiful scene.
Canon 5DSR, Canon 100-400mm ƒ4.5-5.6L II lens.

If you’d like to see more Yosemite photographs through the seasons, you can see several of my portfolios HERE. And, be sure to sign up for my NEWSLETTER to get photography tips, events news, and more.