Summer: Temperatures start to rise, the days get a little longer and the visitors swell to capacity. The number of people almost overwhelms the beauty of the park. When heat hits 80 or 90 degrees, it's best to take a long hot hike to a waterfall or dangle your feet in the ice-cold river. Wildflowers continue to bloom, the grasses in Cook's Meadow start to grow tall, and trees with broad leaves are bright green. The roads leading to Glacier Point and Tioga Pass are now open, and visitors can explore the high country that had been closed most of the year.
Fall: Finally, the crowds start to dwindle, the days get shorter and the leaves begin to turn. Some trees turn quickly and die while others make a slow transition. By mid-October, the giant maple tree across from the chapel on Southside Drive is glowing bright red. A light rain is coating the perfectly shaped leaves with a clear glaze that accentuates the colors. Stand underneath the tree and look outward, and the light shines through the leaves, creating a beautiful show of color. A short walk away, almost within view of the maple tree, a giant elm tree in Cook's Meadow is turning shades of yellow and orange. Around the park, leaves begin to blanket the ground and cover the grasses that had grown so tall during spring and summer.
Winter: Winter is the extreme quiet time, with few visitors and fabulous discounts at the lodges in the valley. On Super Bowl Sunday, I was standing in the meadow near Swinging Bridge, and the only noises I could hear were the wails of a distant coyote and the wind blowing through the trees. There was only one other human about. I could hear the crunching of his boots through the snow before I saw him. The scene was completely colorless, stark, leafless trees contrasting with the snow showed only shades of black and white.
A lifelong fascination
I will never lose my enthusiasm for Yosemite. It is a place where I can practice my photography and refine my skills on the ever-changing landscape and dazzling range of light that's both a challenge and a gift. With photography comes the ability to preserve the beauty and to share the view with others.
Any walk treads the same paths and passes under the same trees that Native Americans did centuries before trappers and explorers discovered them. This valley of granite with its waterfalls, rivers and spires carved by glaciers is nothing short of a giant cathedral and a holy place where evidence of an amazing creator is all around.
I do not consider myself an expert on Yosemite. Many photographers out there have mastered the light and conquered the terrain. Luckily, the light and colors will continue forever. The park and all its glory will live on in photos. As a student of this magnificent park, I feel as though I have a lifetime to perfect my craft and to master my visions. I am proud to be able to share some of my pictures and to pursue a lifelong dream that started in a hot car nearly 50 years ago with my family.