Rushed Beauty: Yosemite in 24 Hours
Bohan has been in my ear constantly for the past few months with pleas of making a trip to Yosemite in the winter. “Evvvveryone gets the same shots all summer, I want awesome ones with snow!” he says. Last Wednesday having just returned to the office from a different snowy expedition, I told Bohan that we should try to get the trip in soon before our schedules filled up. After a brief period of concentrated thought, we decided to leave that very night at midnight. This would allow us to catch a sunrise, a sunset, a day, and (according to the forecast) some fresh snow. All in a little less than 24 hours!
We arrived at the park around 4:00am and immediately began shooting. One thing that really stood out to me was the lack of people. I have never in my life been in Yosemite for more than 20 minutes without seeing at least a few other people. Bohan and I didn’t see a soul until the park shuttle buses started running around sunrise.
Before the lack of humans had time to really sink in, we were off to our next location. We had decided that a shot from Tunnel View at sunrise was in order since it would be an excellent opportunity to get an uncommon shot from a relatively common location.
I knew Bohan would probably come out with a better sunrise shot than mine, so I took the opportunity to find something else interesting at the location. The tunnel immediately caught my eye, so I set up in the middle of the road to grab a few shots.
With the 25mph speed limit and beautiful surroundings, you would think people would be driving slow in Yosemite, but not at Tunnel View! One guy came up the road behind me so fast I literally had to grab the camera gear and jump out of the way. Bohan snapped this photo right before it happened.
As the sun began to rise, we started getting better and better photos. This view of Half Dome with the sun rising behind it and the snow all around is certainly unique.
Soon after, the sun started to show itself on the face of El Capitan and we started to get really excited for what nature was about to reveal to us, but the perfect shot wasn’t quite ready.
…so we waited.
…and waited. In fact, we waited so long that Bohan had time to learn how to levitate.
Thanks to a handy phone app, we determined that there simply wouldn’t be a perfect shot. It would be close to noon before the sun actually hit the valley, so we used this awesome miniature of the park to decide where to shoot the real sunrise from while we still had time.
We decided that Glacier Point would be the perfect spot if the road was open, so we headed farther up the road from Tunnel View. As we ascended, we could see to the west that the forecasted weather front was making its way towards the valley at a swift pace.
Very interesting to see the very tip of a storm front swooping into the valley and wrapping around the hills.
Alas, the road to Glacier Point was closed by five feet of snow, and we didn’t bring our cross-country skis! At this point we were starting to feel the effects of driving all night without sleep, so we headed back down to the valley to take a nap.
As soon as we got back in the car, Bohan’s eyes closed. I was tired too, but driving back down the road to the valley gave me the opportunity to explore some things that had caught my eye on the way up. Scenes like this are dime-a-dozen in Yo-se-Mighty, but I still find them shot-worthy.
Shooting million-ton hunks of rock can make you neglect the smaller things, but I think they’re just as beautiful and interesting.
When I look at the natural features in Yosemite, thoughts of “what caused this to be this way?” and “can you imagine the force it took to create this?” constantly pulse through my mind. I suspect if I was left alone here for a year with unlimited memory cards and batteries I still wouldn’t come close to running out of photos to shoot, or questions to answer.
It took 100 million years of natures force, Bohan’s Mom and Dad getting freaky in the late 1970s, and a huge team of Japanese Automotive Engineers to make this shot possible. And that’s without considering the modern camera equipment we were using! Not to mention that without Half Dome, Bohan wouldn’t even have that overpriced logo on his jacket! Impressive.
Here’s an example of something that really astonishes me about the size of the rock formations in Yosemite. You see how those rocks have places where giant chips have obviously fallen out? When I look at those I think “I can picture this on a small cliff on the beach. I touch the rock, and pieces dislodge and fall into the sand. No big deal.” But when that scenario is applied to something the size of the rock in this photo, it entails a force of biblical proportions, and the formation of lots of new smaller things…like boulders for us to climb on!
After making our way back to the valley floor found a cozy parking spot and took a three hour nap in the CRX. Sleeping in your car overnight isn’t allowed in Yosemite, so we got around that rule by doing it in the day! After we woke up we stopped by the general store and picked up some supplies then headed to the famous dirtbag climber hangout known as Camp 4.
I tried to make us a fire at Camp 4, but failed miserably so we ate our ashy sandwiches and moved on.
The clouds were starting to move into the valley even more, so we started looking for another place to shoot. We stopped to check out Valley View and while Bohan took a broader look at the valley…
…this crow and I stared into the glory of the Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Falls for a while.
Here’s a photo of the opposite side of Cathedral Rocks we shot from near the El Capitan bridge.
“Is it snowing yet?!?!”
I highly recommend going to Yosemite in the winter. The most people we saw at a time could be counted on one hand and were at Tunnel View and the General Store. Wait, on second thought don’t go to Yosemite in the winter. Stay home and let us enjoy it in peace.
By late afternoon the storm was working its way in nicely so we headed up to Tunnel View again for sunset.
As we headed back to the valley floor to catch the last moments of twilight, this grove of trees caught my eye and I stopped to take a photo. Right after I fired the shutter, the battery died and so ended my photographic journey through Yosemite. Now the best I could do was aid Bohan in getting his last shots before we headed home.
We decided that our final spot was going to be a place where we could see upper and lower Yosemite Falls, and then we would venture into the meadow after sunset to shoot Half Dome.
The video below is the result of me asking Bohan “I’m ready to go whenever you are… when is that going to be?” and him replying “To hell with it. I’m just going to shoot until the camera runs out of battery.” Needless to say, we were both blown away when we saw the result.
When the final shutter clicked off it was almost 10:00pm and snowing heavily. We drove out of the park with 2″ of fresh snow on the ground, and the CRX handled it without tire chains like a champion. Four hours later, we were back home in the Bay Area. Ready to get a good night’s sleep, and birth a Life Blasters article. What kind of great 24 hour adventures have you been on lately?
Photos by Bohan & Pitts