I recently returned from teaching at the Out of Yosemite conference through the great group Out of Chicago. This was the very first time I have had the opportunity to photography in Yosemite National Park and it was a really great experience. It was also a good test for my ability to teach photography to a diverse group of photographers ranging from beginning to advanced.
Having never been to Yosemite as a photographer before, I was pretty excited to see if my approach to landscape photography would be successful. In the last few years, my approach has been to show up to new places without doing a ton of research or looking at other people's images so that I am not influenced one way or another and so that my expectations are kept quite low. Given the weather while I was in Yosemite was blue skies and no clouds for the entire trip, I was happy for my approach. I was also taken surprise by my desire to edit some of my photographs in black and white as this is something I don't do often; however, the stark granite walls and lack of color in many scenes in the winter begged for this approach. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite images from my trip to Yosemite.
First up are a set of images I made while on a hike to Mariposa Grove with my friend Michael Rung, who was a student at the conference and is a supporter of my podcast.
Michael and I found a really awesome stream that was still in the grips of winter. We spent some time there photographing various scenes that we thought were pleasing.
On the following day, I needed to scout one of my locations that I would be teaching at for the conference - the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. I decided to haul my whole camera kit up the steep trail and really enjoyed some of the views afforded by this hike, which is quite steep.
While I'm not usually a huge fan of smoke, I was happy to have the lingering effects of the prescribed burn in the valley below.
Later the next day, I met up with my friend and co-teacher, Michael Shainblum. We decided to do some scouting of our own and we found a nice view of the rising moon on our way back to the conference headquarters after scouting El Capitan Meadow.
While teaching in the meadow, I wanted to show students that there were things to photograph right at our feet and that we shouldn't always rely on the epic and iconic scenes before us, especially when the weather does not deliver what we would normally expect for landscape photography. As such, I found these wonderful decaying ferns on the forest floor that really captivated me.
Perhaps my favorite photograph from the trip, I led a group of students into the meadow to get a better view of some of the changing light on the face of El Capitan and used my telephoto lens to obtain a really tight view on the face of granite as the sun's last light crept across it beautifully.
Can you see the section above in the below image?
The following day, I was lucky enough to be paired with my good friend and perhaps who I consider the best landscape photographer in the USA right now, Alex Noriega. We had the honor of teaching students in another meadow with tons of opportunities to photograph trees in changing light. It was quite a blast to show people how to find more intimate scenes.
We also had a nice view of Half Dome from our location and enjoyed photographing it as well. What an impressive face of granite!
After teaching at the conference, I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend David Hunter to go make some photographs in a local nature preserve that was filled with a variety of migrating birds. It was a powerful experience and one that I will never forget. I was taken by the power of the huge number of birds silhouetted by the light of the setting sun.
I hope you enjoyed some of my images from Yosemite. If you are interested in joining me on any upcoming photography conferences, there are three opportunities coming up in 2020. I will be at the Nightscaper Conference May 20-22, 2020. You can use the code "PAYNE100" for $100 off. I will also be teaching at Out of Moab and Out of Acadia.
Which images from my trip to Yosemite do you like the most? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.