Landscape, Yosemite

A New Way of Being: Sheltering in Place

We made it through the first two weeks of living under the “shelter in place” restrictions of the Coronavirus pandemic. Gary and I are healthy and fine, hunkered down in our San Francisco Bay Area home. We’re figuring out how to safely get groceries and other necessities as we settle into new routines. We sincerely hope this finds you well too.

As we slow way down, we are taking stock of what is important and what the pandemic has revealed about humanity. Gratitude is the enemy of fear. Laughter is the balm when news get tense. Beauty feeds the soul. So, we are counting our many blessings, sharing a lot of laughs, and looking for silver linings as the entire planet holds its collective breath.

Here’s my list of 10 silver linings.

  1. The air is noticeably cleaner.
  2. The pandemic has brought out the best in people. I’ve witnessed so much kindness and patience in my limited excursions outside the house.
  3. There’s been some truly great humor created in the face of darkness. Here’s an excellent example. 
  4. Facetime cocktail parties!
  5. Watching people step up to help. Our awesome neighbors have banded together to help one another get needed supplies, especially for our older neighbors.
  6. Talking with friends more frequently than ever, and taking time to have run-away conversations.
  7. Walking and hiking every single day.
  8. Completing various home projects that have been long put off.
  9. Diving into my photo archives to process hidden gems.
  10. Spending all day long, day after day, in my yoga pants with my favorite person on the planet!

Before we were grounded, Gary and I had various adventures planned, including celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary on March 30th in Yosemite National Park. With that trip obviously cancelled, I found solace in processing photos from my January and February visits to the park. Sadly, it will be quite a while before we get back to Yosemite again.

As we all settle into this new way of being, here are 16 photographs to brighten your day. If you want to enjoy one of these photographs in your home as you wait out the shelter in place order, you’re in luck! I’m home for the foreseeable future with plenty of time to make prints. Just let me know which one you want, or you can browse through all of my work on my gallery website.

We wish you and yours good health and safety as we move through this pandemic.

What’s on your silver linings list?

Now it’s your turn. What silver linings have you noticed? Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts!

“The Mists of Vernal Fall” — Vernal Fall presents uniquely throughout the four seasons. In the Winter months, the flow of water can be low, as it was this year of 2020. Normally, this time of year, this perspective of the waterfall is unattainable as the Mist Trail leading to this view is covered with snow and ice, thus the trail is closed to it. But not this year. With little precipitation, the trail remained open. The light combined with the scant water flow created an opportunity to show yet another interpretation of Vernal Fall.
“Winter Moonrise” — A nearly full moon rises over Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. I’ve stood on this spot many times to make a picture like this one. However, it was never as lovely as it was this evening.
“The Power of Water” — When I photograph Yosemite, as I have down thousands of times, I take a visual inventory of what defines the place at that moment. This February has been dry, so although the waterfalls are flowing, the runoff is light. The relationship between stone and water has always interested me as a subject. The lack of water reveals the character of the stone.
“Faces in the Stone” — Bridalveil Fall has been a subject of many of my photographs. Sometimes she is graceful, other times fierce. She’s a moody waterfall. This Winter day, the sun barely touched the surface of the face of the waterfall. We are not through with Winter, but Spring is coming.
“Another Dry Winter” — I love the way light moves through Yosemite Valley in the late afternoon. It changes so quickly that you can actually see it move through the trees.
“Sisters” — I lost a sister to cancer in October. I miss her terribly, especially when visiting the mountains, a place for which we both shared a deep passion. These two trees reminded me of us — alike but separate, bending to the same breeze, growing strong with roots in the same soil.
“Hardwood and Stone” — If I had to pick only two elements that define Yosemite, certainly “waterfall” would be right up there at the top, but next would be the iconic Black Oaks and the sheer granite cliffs.
“Winter Ice on the Merced” — Ice patterns in the river are art themselves, vanishing once the sun rises only to form again in the night, ready to delight anyone with a keen eye for such patterns.
“Chill” — One of the reasons photographing Winter light in Yosemite is so special is this — areas of the Valley that remain in shade most, if not all, of the day, reflecting golden light from the bright granite cliffs above. Warm and cool tones make for awesome compositional elements.
“Yosemite and Moonlight” — An almost-full-moon rises over Yosemite Valley as we shivered in the cold, smiling and enjoying the camaraderie that comes only from shared pain and joy.
“Curvy” — In the Winter months, you can see a rainbow in Upper Yosemite Fall when the sun first rises over the Valley’s cliff walls.
“The Trickster” — This handsome coyote is a regular visitor to Cook’s Meadow in Yosemite Valley. Wildlife tends to keep the same daily patterns of feeding. For example, I’d seen a coyote nearby around the same time the previous day, so it wasn’t surprising to see this animal again. Many Native American stories depict the coyote as The Trickster — a character not to be trusted.
“The Brothers” — Like my image, “The Sisters,” this one reminds me of my boys. Well, not boys. They are men now — thriving in their 20’s living life as they should. I’m so proud of them. They stand tall, on their own, but together, watching out for one another.
“Ghosts in the Water” — Bridalveil Fall receives very little sunlight near the Winter solstice. The fall remains in icy darkness until late February, when the arch of the sun is higher. When it looks like this, it has a spooky quality. It is understandable that the Native Americans who lived here believed the evil spirit of Pohono occupied the mist of the fall. It always causes me a little shudder when I get this close.
“Dimensional River” — I’m often drawn to these particular reflections in Yosemite Valley. In the Winter months, the combination of the bare cottonwoods and the shallow river make for interesting compositions as the mind tries to make sense of what the eye is seeing.
“The Valley Awaits” — I made this photo in mid-February as I was leaving Yosemite Valley. A rain shower moved through the area briefly, creating this beautiful atmosphere. I call this one “The Valley Awaits,” because even as I was leaving, I was longing to go back, as if Yosemite was calling me home with its beautiful light.

Charlotte Gibb is a contemporary fine art photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area specializing in landscapes of the Western United States. Her images are often taken in familiar places for the well-versed landscape photographer, but she prides herself on her keen eye toward the subtle and sometimes overlooked beauty of the natural world. Growing up among the beautiful mountains of Northern California, she considers herself a student of life, learning about people, nature, music, and photography along the way. But always, her life-long passion for the wilderness shines through it all. Charlotte earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and has exhibited her work in several solo shows throughout California. Her darkroom, long gone now, has been replaced with digital darkroom tools, and her style has evolved from a somewhat journalistic approach, to one that pays tribute to the natural world. 

38 Comments

  • Gwenn McGill

    Thank you for sharing your 10 silver linings and reminding us that during times of uncertainty there are blessing all around us. We just have to look for them. Thank you also for sharing your stunning photographs of Yosemite. I hope that you and your husband will soon be able to get back to Yosemite to celebrate your anniversary. Happy 30th!

  • Joseph Merrell III

    Thank you for sharing reflections on how the best of humanity can come to the fore during hard times. One can readily observe compassion, courage, selflessness, and kindness in action.
    Your images provided a respite from the stress of these hard times and expressed a reminder that we can, and will, see this through.
    There are many photographs of Yosemite’s Vernal Falls on the web. Your image is uniquely exquisite. Thank you.

  • Gina

    Thank you for your report from the front lines of this novel era. You spread the live and beauty we need so much when we are so isolated. Keep sending those centering and calming melding of art and nature. Much appreciated! Stay well, stay safe, stay in touch!!

  • Ron May

    Charlotte, thank you for sharing – I will share this with friends and family. It is greatly appreciated. In times of tremendous trouble, we often lose sight of the things that are important. Stay well and be safe. My silver lining – after being married for almost 60 years, my wife and I still have our health and happiness, despite the trials and tribulations in today’s world. This too will pass.

  • Andrea

    Thanks for the uplifting words and beautiful images! I’m hoping that your editing will uncover more gems that you can care share with us soon. You seem to have such a positive attitude that I’m sure you and Gary will still find a fun way to celebrate your anniversary.

    • charlottegibb

      Thanks, Andrea. Gary and I are like two peas in a pod here at home. As an introvert, this shelter in place order has been no big deal. Gary is more of an extravert, but he’s handling things really well. We spent our anniversary recognizing our good fortune in having each other as we move through this crisis.

  • Patty

    Stunning work, Charlotte, but of course that’s no surprise to me. You are amazing!

    So much to be thankful for:
    1) I’m in good health
    2) Our children are doing well (although our daughter and son-in-law are rather sure they had the beastly virus: they are now much better).
    3) I’m so grateful for the ability to not only hear the voices of family and friends, but SEE them as well, despite how far away we all are from each other.
    4) With our technology I’m able to teach my students from afar.
    5) We are not lacking in any supplies.
    6) I have a husband who simply NEVER complains. Ever.
    7) I have a husband who is the best cook I can imagine!
    8) People: the kindness of others is just amazing and wonderful.
    9) YouTube: blessing me with music.
    10) Most importantly, the absolutely wonderful health care workers who risk their lives to save others. I’m humbled.

    I feel like I could go on and on ….

      • Matthew

        Very inspiring! Especially the Yosemite falls rainbow which I was able to catch when I was there in February after seeing your image. Stay safe!

  • Patty

    Oh … duh … you were asking for SILVER LININGS … not just a grateful list.

    Let me just say this: the grout in the shower is finally getting cleaned! 😉

  • leo lynch

    Charlotte,
    What drew me to your work in the first place was you sense of composition and it has kept me as a fan. It only deepens with the metaphoric references.
    These images are truly spectacular. It’s had to describe the pleasure the convey.

  • Mary

    You do beautiful work. Thank you for sharing. Glad to hear you and Gary (and the family) are doing well with hunkering down and finding inventive ways to safely enjoy your time together. Blessings, always.

  • Ann Collins

    Wonderful images, Charlotte! I love being transported back to Yosemite. I was on your Saturday afternoon ramble around Cook’s Meadow when the wind made river reflections a no-go during Out of Yosemite. It was great meeting you in person. I’m very pleased with the images I shot that afternoon. No reflections needed. 🙂

  • Randy Pollard

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts of Sheltering in Place. My wife and I are hunkering down as well. Looking at your amazing images keeps us positive, and be careful and stay safe!

  • Cathy Gage

    I can’t remember when I came across your incredible images (probably through “Mr. Yosemite” — Michael Frye). I’m always amazed at how unique each of you are when you’re moving inside the same Yosemite. I often find myself exclaiming “Whoa” when I come into the space you provide with your images. I just know you “inhabit” the spirit of this amazing place. I’m so grateful that any day is made better when I sit with what you offer…grateful beyond words!
    Cathy

  • Donna Kaiser

    Happy 30th Anniversary dear Charlotte and Gary. Thank you for sharing your spiritually inspiring, calming and beautiful thoughts. I am so happy that you, Gary and the boys are safe and healthy. Your amazing photographs never cease to amaze and delight me. Thank you. I am well, as is my entire family, and I give thanks for that. My blessings abound and I am eternally grateful. When we are able to put this CV behind us, I see a much more awakened world to what is really sacred and needed to keep our beautiful planet safe and flourishing. Collectively I pray we as humans are kinder and more accepting of one another. Again, Happy Anniversary you two. Lots of love and champagne toasts. Donna

  • Richard ONeill

    Charlotte and Gary Happy Anniversary! Thank you for sharing your wonderful photographs and silver linings. Below are a few of my silver linings.
    1. Everyday I grow more in love with my lovely wife. We married 39 years ago in the Yosemite chapel.
    2. My son and his wife shopped for us yesterday. We are so grateful for the food and love they brought.
    3. My friends from around the world and I are now enjoying each others company virtually. LOL
    4. I am finally building a photographic website. Like you I love finding and polishing old gems.

  • Ann Varley

    As I listen to calm radio sounds of the forests, your work literally comes alive for me. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and positivity. Your images always inspire, but today I’m also feeling hopeful to return to the outdoors behind my own camera and lens soon.

  • Bernard Lim

    Hi Charlotte,
    it was my sister who introduced me to your website, “check this out, she is so good “ and I told her I know Charlotte well and I love her!
    We were in the Eastern Sierra with M.Frye last year.
    Anyway great to join your mailing list and be informed, thank you for sharing your expertise.
    Regards .
    Bernard from Toronto.

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