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QT08198-08209-2x1bv  6600x4900 pixels  2 frame 2 column 1 row 12 image focus stack stitch blend  A6000 60mm
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2017 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

Hetch Hetchy Wednesday 5/17
Yosemite Valley Thursday 5/18
Yosemite Valley Friday 5/19
Hetch Hetchy Saturday 5/20

2017 Trip Chronicles:  Page 10

Hetch Hetchy roads

Late morning after the commute traffic on Wednesday May 17 drove out to the Sierra with vague plans to work Yosemite region areas. In the afternoon drove the Mather Road noting vegetation had progressed since my earlier visit but this spring show below average numbers of wildflowers. As forecast it was breezy so did not expect to work any areas while following days were forecasted to be a bit less so. Drove down to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir dam and shot a telephoto of distant Wapama Falls and spoke with the entrance station ranger about an intended backpack above those falls. Afterwards drove the Evergreen Road before vectoring off out on the Bear Mountain gravel dirt road to disperse camp overnight in that Rim Fire burn area. Despite the fire, modest numbers of trees had survived.

With the sky lightening on Thursday May 18, I got up and drove into Yosemite. Stopped at the Cascade Creek bridge to try some photos under shadowed skylight. A mist wind was blowing down the stream that later upon looking at on Photoshop as expected was impossible to do anything with. Continued into the park and worked a nice shadowed Pacific dogwood subject near Bridalveil however there was enough of a breeze that my focus stack was unusable. Also got walked around the Bridalveil area while the falls and Leaning Tower areas were still shadowed while the foreground black oak new leaves were glowing in backlit light but that also later showed to be a weak experiment. Next explored familiar areas of El Capitan Meadow where small pools remained in the grasslands from high stream flows during a heat wave a few weeks earlier. Douglas iris were blooming in parts of the meadow while western azaelia were only in bud. Later shot some Merced River rapids however such images rarely have strong value. Also recorded some 1080p HD videos that do. My morning work produced only modest images.

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QT07599  4000x6000 pixels  1 frame 1 image  A6000 SEL55210 @ 78mm
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In the afternoon framed 1612 foot tall Ribbon Fall from Bridalveil Meadow that had a good flow from snow melt on this warm May day. The famous fall has the longest single drop in North America though usually becomes dry in July. A single frame above left using ISO 100 F11 at 1/200 second.

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Arriving at Tunnel View a bit late to capture the lower mist zone Bridalveil Fall rainbow and instead produced an ordinary sunny blue sky day shot of Yosemite Valley above. In view from left are Half Dome, Sentinel Rock Sentinel Dome, Cathedral Rocks, Bridalveil Fall with rainbow along fall drop, and Leaning Tower.

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QT07713-07723-3x1vb  4800x5100 pixels  3 frame 3 column 1 row 11 image focus stack stitch blend  A6000 30mm
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It was late in the afternoon when I worked the above frame of Sentinel Rock and Sentinel Falls. The later long series of separate cascades include 6 major drops totalling 1920 feet with the longest 500 feet.

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From Stoneman Meadow worked the valley's most famous icon Half Dome just before sun rose above trees in the back of the meadow. I drove out of the park on SR140 along the Merced River all the way out and across Briceberg Bridge 30 miles to BLM campground areas along River where with the first campground at McCabe Flat full I drive on to the second riverside campground that still had a few open spaces.

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QT07757-63  4000x4000 pixels  1 frame 7 image focus stack blend  A6000 60mm, extension tube
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Friday May 20 was to be another sunny warm day with average breezes. One reason for driving out on SR140 instead of SR120 was to be able to work some late season road spring wildflowers during the drive in. The one species that was abundant and just a bit beyond peak was madia, madia elegans. The plant is the only species besides poppies that can cover the Merced Canyon slopes with large patches of color. Even during early morning considerable numbers of vehicles speed along the highway making any roadside work problematic because of the rush of wind as they pass. However since the Ferguson Ridge slide one lane detour, vehicles pass in groups and then there is a period of quiet while traffic goes the other direction. For the above shot took out my extension tube to get really close to the equidistant petals, filling the frame.

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QT07849-07887-3x2v  9600x10500 pixels  6 frame 3 column 2 row 39 image focus stack stitch blend  A6000 30mm
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After driving into the park was unable to work some dogwood subjects due to slightly moving leaves in the breeze that was much like the one Thursday morning, so I drove around to The Elbow then walked out to the soggy meadow areas along the river bank where I worked the above reflection in a small tree shadowed meadow pool. I've photographed these dim dark lichen covered and forest features several times over the years and results have never been strong nor can I imagine a situation where that might change.

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Also along The Elbow banks at about 9:20am, shot the above left image with the Merced River in the foreground, of the Nose of El Capitan that is 20600 pixels tall. At full image size, one can see 13 climbers. The image above it has 5 each 67% crops of the full image showing 12 of those climbers. At The Nose, El Capitan's cliff face to the base of the cliff behind trees in this view, is a full 3090 feet tall. Downsizing of the full image otherwise totally eliminates that level of detail. By viewing the enlarged vertical slice view one may find the 13th climber a bit left of the pine and have a better appreciation of the full 3090 feet.

I drove over to El Capitan Meadow and shot a vertical frame meadow pool reflection of Lower Cathedral Rock per image at right. After working some more images at El Capitan Meadows, I drove south up SR41.

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QT08005-09  6000x4000 pixels  1 frame 5 image focus stack blend  A6000 SEL55210 @ 142mm
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Along SR41 in the burn area before Avalanche Creek, managed to capture the above telephoto of Pacific dogwood leaves up in the sky while endless cars buzzed by shaking the tree branches. Although there are many dogwood trees roadside, it is difficult to find any of this shade loving species up against the sky as most are down underneath taller trees or undergrowth of brush below dogwood is taller than one's tripod.

With several mid day hours to burn, I drove south on SR41 then left on the Glacier Point Road. The first snow showed at about 6.5k and quickly was a few to several feet deep at the Badger Pass Ski Area. Summit Meadow was partially melted out with 2 to 4 feet of snow in the surrounding shady forest. Ate lunch with crowds at Washburn Point, talking with some interesting foreigners. Then drove back west and parked at the summit west of Ostrander Rocks. Guided by the topo map on my Trimble Navigator cell phone application, I hiked out across firm deep snow wearing my hiking boots a half mile through tall forest to Illouette Ridge as I had seen from a mile west on the road that the south facing side was mostly snow free. An short backpack I might do some day with an expansive view. At 3:15pm, it was time to drive back to SR41 and Tunnel View well ahead of when the rainbow at Bridalveil Fall would rise.

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QT08065  4000x6000 pixels  1 frame 1 image  A6000 SEL55210 @ 171mm
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Of course upon arrival after passing through the tunnel, the two parking lots were already full and cars were blocking the passage way in the lots playing musical chairs with any cars that might be leaving. I have a never used spot down the highway a bit that was unoccupied because it straddles a dip so quickly stopped there. Shortly a car back out of a nearby standard pullout spots so I drove over and filled that. A few minutes later I was set up along the rock works walls with my SEL55210 zoom set at 171mm to include all the fall plus all the mist zone below. The below sequence of 6 image crops from full images per above, started at 4:26pm lasting 11 minutes till 4:32pm. During that sequence, a point on the edge of the rainbow at Bridalveil Fall was 41 degrees above a line from the sun through a line through my tripod position. At first shown in the 4:26pm image, it showed as red at the bottom of the fall mist and progressed up the mist towards the splash down location of the fall. After that it progressed up the fall, however the better rainbow is below earlier within the mist cloud. The crop below at 4:30pm is from the image above that I would consider the peak aesthetic. Although the more serious photographers knew the rainbow would occur, the majority of the considerable crowd enjoyed the phenomenon by happenstance. At different times of the year the rainbow occurs at different times or not at all. For instance in June this will be occurring earlier. It would be an interesting subject for a time lapse video.

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The red section of the rainbow just rising at lower left at 4:21pm. Most visitors standing about at the crowded Tunnel View vista might wonder what some of the photographers are suddenly talking about as their shutters sound?

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By now 5 minutes later at 4:24pm the unfamiliar visitors have caught on hearing "rainbow" spoken are seeing color in the 1.8 mile distant mist but what they see doesn't look like a rainbow? A few looking through binoculars are more impressed.

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As the yellow and green rise it does not add much as the main interest is still the red and orange that has advanced to the fall base now at 4:26pm.

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But now a minute later at 4:27pm something more spectacular begins to show with blue showing through the tall pines against the dark boulders and bedrock wall behind mist.

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Above crop is less downsized from full image of QT08065 above. With the wonderful purple now rising at 4:30pm below the blue, visitors now can revel in natures wonderful rainbow show.

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At 4:32pm, 11 minutes after red first appeared, the peak mist rainbow. Red, orange, and yellow have already begun climbing up the fall itself. How wonderful we live in a universe where matter and energy are of such a coincidental or not fine tuned nature that we evolved organic intelligent creatures can experience such.

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QT08164  5900x3500 pixels  1 frame 1 image   A6000 60mm
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I continued around the valley loop road through the El Capitan short cut, stopping at the Bridalveil river view point. Instead of shooting the fall that I have done many times over decades that I can not improve on without special atmospherics, chose to work a small Pacific dogwood tree that I had earlier noticed presented branches thick with its big white flowers down low above the Merced River water. There was still enough of a minor breeze that a focus stack was not possible thus would need to simply stop the aperture down more. As that water was reflecting warm light off the Cathedral Rock through Leaning tower area, took the above modest single frame shot using ISO 200 F16 1/10 second.

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QT08188-08197-1x2h  5800x7200 pixels  2 frame 1 column 2 row 10 image focus stack stitch blend  A6000 60mm
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I had decided to do some work along the Hetch Hetchy Road on Saturday morning so drove out west on SR120. Along the way at 8:00pm with sunset on the landscape already past, stopped at a dense area of dogwoods within a shady forest to work a couple dusk sky illuminated subjects that would provide nice even lighting. The target area is maybe ten feet below the highway that provides a better opportunity for shooting through the forest at trunk level versus if I had been at ground level needing to aim obliquely upward. With its considerable detail of much 3D tree branch, leaves, flowers, using a view camera would be limited because movements would not add any advantage while here useing digital camera system focus stacking very much was able to increase detail as can be seen with the enlarged vertical slice view.

My second subject, a most leafy view, displays at page top, QT08198-08209-2x1bv. I drove out to Mather Road and out a short distance on an obscure dirt road to disperse camp overnight inside my Forester.

Saturday May 20 I took my time rising as the gated Hetch Hetchy Road in Yosemite National Park would not open till about 7:15am. When it did I let about a dozen vehicles line up ahead of me so had to wait as they were all given placards to enter this controlled zone that is sensitive because it is the City of San Francisco water supply.

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QT08212-18  6000x4000 pixels  1 frame7 image focus stack blend  A6000 60mm
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Before going through the gate, I stopped along Mather Road about one of my favorite wildflower spots and worked this close-up above of Hartweg iris, iris hartwegii, and miniature lupine, lupinus bicolor.

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QT08283-08296-2x1h  9100x4000 pixels  1 frame 2 column 1 row 14 image focus stack stitch blend  A6000 60mm
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Along the road, stopped at a favorite spot with glacial granitoid gruss flats where there were many usual wildflowers, madia, miniature lupine, tomcat clover, and slender tarweed. In best years flowers are considerably more impressive but it is a place I love simply being out there looking, hearing, feeling, so enjoyed a couple hours working a few landscapes before heading back home.

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2017 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com

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