Yosemite: My Happy Home
It’s no secret I have an obsession with this place. Ever since I took that first drive into the valley a couple years back and was greeted by tall pine trees and imposing granite peaks, spires, and domes, I knew I was hooked. I found my little paradise.
It does feel a little unfair to be living in North California, and only 3 hours away from the park. We’ve returned to this park a total of four times now, across three seasons: summer, winter, spring. And with our last visit, we finally conquered Half Dome and most of the major hikes around the valley.
Instead of just a trip write-up, I want to share some of my favorite photo spots that I’ve come to know from my visits and maybe some lessons learned along the way.
Part 1: Valley, Sentinel Meadow, Valley View, Curry Meadow, Tunnel View
Part 2: Glacier Point, Misty Trail, Vernal Fall, Yosemite Fall
Part 3: Half Dome, Lake Tenaya, Tioga Pass
Part 4: Outside Yosemite / Mono Lake, Gear, Other Tips
Down in the valley (Sentinel Bridge / Meadow)
You can pretty much stop, pull over at any turnouts and get a great shot of the granite walls, meadows, and waterfalls in the valley. One of the best spots to take pictures is the Sentinel Bridge / Meadow. There’s a parking lot by the bridge where you have a clear shot of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.
And from the bridge, you get a clear shot of Half Dome and Merced River.
Another great location near this is on the meadow, just across from the Yosemite Falls bus stop. At sunset, the sun will sit on the other side of the valley and Half Dome lights up with a crimson red alpenglow.
Or come here at night, bring your tele / zoom lens to get star trails just above the dome.
You can do this with multiple exposures of 30+ sec and then stacking them together in photoshop, or do a single ultra long exposure shot. Note that you might want to turn-off your camera's Noise Reduction function or it'll take twice as long to run.
(Fuji X-E1 | 1000 sec | 67mm | f/5.3 | ISO400)
Or use the astromap app on your phone to find the North Star….
(16 minute single shot, Fuji X-E1, 31mm, f/5.0, ISO200)
This is a great spot for sunsets and long exposures. From here, you get a view of Merced River, El Capitan, Three Brothers, and Bridalveil Falls. It is also very convenient to reach to and tend to be less crowded than Tunnel View. You can find the turnout right before the el Portal / Wawona junction at the west end of the valley.
(Fuji X-E1 | 30 sec | 14mm | ISO200 | ND3)
Curry Village is one of the more popular lodging accommodation for casual travellers, the heated/unheated tent cabin is very cozy and the cafeteria/pizza corner/curry bar offers great refreshments. Just outside the village off the main valley loop is the meadow where you can get a clear shot of both Half Dome and North Dome.
Ahwaneechee legends tells the tale of Tissa’ack and her husband who bickered and fought with each other, until the Great Spirit turned them both into stone… Half Dome and North Dome.
One of the most popular spot in the valley, during holiday weekends it’s very difficult to find parking in the lot, recommend hitching a valley bus ride from the lodge. Beautiful view at any time, but the best time to go is sunrise on a damp morning or after a rainy day. You get to see a layer of mist lingering in the valley before the sun comes up and burn them away. Use a standard lens to take a sweeping view of the peaks, Bridalveil, and Halfdome in the distance…
(Fuji X-E1 | 18mm | f/18 | 1/20 sec)
Or a zoom/tele lens to get a view of the pinetrees in the mist...
(Fuji X-E1 | 67mm | f/20 | 0.5 sec)