Winter in Yosemite - treyamick
Tunnel View

Winter in Yosemite

“A photo is worth a thousand words”, so goes the idiom. They can recall memories so profound; the song on the radio, the light in the room, or the laughter that surrounded you. They can make you feel the joy that was in your heart all over again in an instant. If I close my eyes, I can transport to the very spot where I felt truly alive. I can recall the sound in the trees and the sun on my face. I can breathe the crisp air and still smell the bright snow. The smile spreads across my face the same as it did when I took a moment to look at the image I had just captured on my camera. I’m enthralled with my memories and photos as much as I was the day I was there. As I gazed down Tunnel View at Yosemite National Park, I truly found my paradise.


I have had the pleasure of experiencing Yosemite in the midst of each season. The most cherished season, for me, is right at the cusp of the winter thaw of late February and early March. This past year, as I observed alongside spectators like myself, we watched in awe of the Horsetail Falls during the annual Firefalls event, where if the weather is just right and the sun hits at just the perfect angle, water catches fire. It illuminates into a spectacular array yellow, orange, and red as if the sun were flowing down the mountain itself. There is no other place like it in the country.


While visiting, my wife and I decided to indulge in all that Yosemite has to offer. With a wide abundance of activities, we decided to enjoy skiing and snowshoe hiking in Badger Pass (information on Ranger guided tours can be found here). Photo tours are also available with the most prized, and personal favorite, being the tours and workshops offered by the Ansel Adams Gallery (more information here). Venturing out just before sunrise and continuing through dusk to view the stars, our guide took us to some the of the most treasured locations in Yosemite, as well as a few off-path locations for a more personalized experience. With a limited amount of time and so much to see, it was wonderful surprise from my wife that I’ll remember forever.

If you are considering a visit, and while there is certainly never a dull moment in Yosemite, I would definitely stress the importance of scheduling a trip according to the leisure you’re looking to enjoy. Summer in Yosemite (which is equally as stunning) is the busiest tourist season for the park. From personal experience, while passing though the valley on a cross country motorcycle trip, finding a parking space posed to be a very difficult task and I was unable to stop to enjoy the incredible scenery as I passed. I discovered during my winter trip that not only was I able to move from place to place more easily and freely, that there were moments (especially when photographing late at night) where I felt as if I had the entire park to myself, giving me the opportunity to witness the power of nature in such an exclusive way. If you are planning on traveling to the popular overlooks, a trip in late winter may be more enjoyable to those looking to avoid the influx of crowds and have a more personal experience with their surroundings.

If you are considering a visit, and while there is certainly never a dull moment in Yosemite, I would definitely stress the importance of scheduling a trip according to the leisure you’re looking to enjoy. Summer in Yosemite (which is equally as stunning) is the busiest tourist season for the park. From personal experience, while passing though the valley on a cross country motorcycle trip, finding a parking space posed to be a very difficult task and I was unable to stop to enjoy the incredible scenery as I passed. I discovered during my winter trip that not only was I able to move from place to place more easily and freely, that there were moments (especially when photographing late at night) where I felt as if I had the entire park to myself, giving me the opportunity to witness the power of nature in such an exclusive way. If you are planning on traveling to the popular overlooks, a trip in late winter may be more enjoyable to those looking to avoid the influx of crowds and have a more personal experience with their surroundings.

As a photographer, I am frequently asked what gear I would recommend when touring Yosemite. I personally travel as light as possible. I have found that the less gear I carry, the more I can enjoy my surroundings and capture photos that I’m truly satisfied with. Two years ago, I made the switch to the FujiFilm mirrorless system from my Nikon DSLR gear, and I have been completely satisfied with it. It also fits perfectly with my “pack light, travel often” theory. During my last trip, I brought along my trusted Fuji XT-1 mirrorless camera with a 10-24mm f4 wide angle lens, as wells as a 50-140mm 2.8 telephoto lens. I also packed a lightweight, compact, carbon fiber tripod for long exposures.

If you are planning on photographing Yosemite in all it’s glory, I would recommend a wide angle lens to capture the details in the vast spaces of the valleys. However, when photographing from a distance (which is the case of most of the overlooks), such as Horsetail Falls, I would recommend a telephoto lens to zoom in as close as possible. Ultimately, pack what you’re comfortable with. If you’re comfortable, your confidence will reflect in your photos.

With all Yosemite has to offer, stunning scenery to photograph and miles to travel, I hope you decide to visit at this incredible time of year. Remember to capture all of the beauty not only with your lens, but but with your mind. Indulge in the peace and the stillness of the snow; commit it to the soul. It may just be the best experience of your life. Are your bags ready yet?"It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter." ~ John MuirThis piece was also published by Not Indoor Magazine in February 2017.  Fill free to view it here.

With all Yosemite has to offer, stunning scenery to photograph and miles to travel, I hope you decide to visit at this incredible time of year. Remember to capture all of the beauty not only with your lens, but but with your mind. Indulge in the peace and the stillness of the snow; commit it to the soul. It may just be the best experience of your life. Are your bags ready yet?

"It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter." ~ John Muir


This piece was also published by Not Indoor Magazine in February 2017.  Fill free to view it here.

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