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First Time Photographing Yosemite NP Trip Report



This January I got the opportunity to visit one of the most iconic and heavily visited National Parks in the United States, Yosemite. Anyone who is interested in the outdoors knows about Yosemite and has heard about it’s magnificent vistas and scenic meadows and waterfalls. I never had the opportunity to make it here until recently, and I am glad I finally did. Yosemite quickly became one my favorite places I’ve ever photographed. Its one of those places that draws you in as soon as you get there, impressing you with magnificent scenery around each and every turn. After spending a few days there photographing the park and learning about how nature sculpted it into it’s current form, there is no question why it tops lists of the most iconic places on earth. An added benefit of visiting the park in the wintertime is that it is less crowded, making access to iconic photo locations less crowded.


Researching A Photo Trip To Yosemite

Yosemite is an expansive area and it could take a lifetime to explore all of it’s backcountry areas and less photographed views. For my first trip I decided to focus on some of the most easily accessible and photographed areas. While many locations in Yosemite are found easily from the side of the road it is a good idea to do your homework on the park before you get there. Not all of the iconic locations are clearly marked on park maps so it is good to have a general idea of the direction you are headed when you first arrive at the park. You don’t want to miss photo opportunities because you cannot find the area you are looking for when you first arrive at Yosemite. While the park is easy to navigate, there are oneway sections of highway  that will cause you to loop back in a circle if you miss the turn or pullout for the place you are trying to photograph. This could be problematic if you are trying to make it to a destination for the “golden hour” during sunrise or sunset.

Before I made my trip I researched other photographers that frequent the park. Micheal Frye, probably one of the leading modern landscape photographers in the area has ample galleries, ebooks, and blog posts all about different locations in the park, along with strategies and techniques for shooting them. I purchased his Iphone app before visiting which was a huge help for finding photo locations.

Colby Brown has a great free article online where he shares info on lodging, food, photo locations, and trips to surrounding areas like Mariposa, CA. I used this article quite a bit for photo concepts and to find locations in the park.


Some Iconic Photo Locations

The classic “Valley View” of “El Capitan” and “Three Brothers” from near the west entrance of the park.


“Three Brothers” viewed from the Cathedral Beach access point.


Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls viewed from the Yosemite Falls trailhead near Yosemite village.


“Tunnel View” from the east entrance to Yosemite.


Dressing For Photography In the Winter

I would recomend a cloth layering system for making hikes to photography locations in the wintertime. Many of the photo locations require a hike out to get into the best position, while others you can simply drive up to and park nearby. If you layer you can shed some clothing during the hike and when you get into position for your shots you can add layers back on as you will be standing still for most of your photo opportunities. Even in the winter the valley can get quite warm during the middle of the day especially if you are on a hike. A good system is three layers for your upper body and two for your lower body. A light breathable long sleeve base layer covered by a vest with a thicker insulated jacket on top is my favorite torso setup. Depending on the temperature you can where a base layer covered by a shell style pant or just an insulated pant for your lower body. A comfortable pair of hiking boots or tennis shoes is always important as well.


Hiking the Mirror Lake trail.


Mirror Lake is actually a slow moving pool of the Tenaya River

Yosemite is a must for any avid adventurer or outdoorsmen. I hope you can find the time to experience its wonders for your self one day.

Josh Reppel