Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yosemite National Park

Half Dome by Wayne-K
Half Dome, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”

- Anonymous

I took a day off from work yesterday to hike Yosemite National Park. Over the last 20 years, I've avoided Yosemite because of the large crowds, including tourists, hikers, climbers, photographers, and school kids. While Yosemite is full of breathtaking and iconic views, the outdoor experience is often tarnished by the mass of humanity. I generally prefer the less traveled areas of the Sierra Nevada. The Sierra is full of wonderful locations, relatively anonymous compared to Yosemite, but nearly as beautiful and much more serene. Yesterday, however, was incredible. The foot traffic was low and the spring temperatures were high. The off-season is a superb time to visit the National Park!

After four short hours of sleep, I wearily arose at three o'clock, showered, jump-started my brain with a cup of coffee, and hit the road to Gilroy to meet up with the rest of the hiking gang – Faye, Li, and Deac. Under Faye's watchful eye, the group (somewhat) quickly gathered the gear, packed the truck, and we proceeded down Highway 152, east toward Yosemite.

Upon our arrival in the valley, we started our hike near Mirror Lake, early enough to catch the mountains lit with the early morning light and reflecting in the appropriately named lake. The view was picture perfect, but unfortunately, I didn't have my tripod or graduated neutral density filter. The ND grad filter is a key landscape photography tool, enabling the photographer to balance the exposure between the brightly lit mountains in the background with the shaded lake/reflections in the foreground. Using Kodak BW400CN film, I decided to shoot the reflections tightly framed, excluding the brightly lit background from the frame. I then shot the entire scene with my iPhone5, using the HDR mode to deal with the exposure differences...not my ideal tool, but the best one I had available at the time.

We continued our hike along the Snow Creek Trail, climbing steadily for almost 3000 feet. The brisk pace slowed gradually as the miles and elevation increased. Our effort was rewarded when Faye guided us to the site of our lunch break – a large slab of granite overlooking Half Dome and Clouds Rest. Dropping our packs, we spent a moment absorbing the breathtaking views, before consuming our lunches and resting our bodies. An hour and a half passed in a moment, and it was time to descend the mountain and return to the valley. We spent some time taking photos before departing Yosemite and then proceeded home. After a quick stop for the traditional post-hike pizza and beer, and a long drive home, we concluded a wonderful day.

This afternoon at work, a colleague asked, “How did you manage to take a day off from work?” I searched for my soap box, hopped on top of it, and explained that life is short and we need to seek the opportunities that take our breath away. There aren't enough weekends in a year, so we need to augment them with vacation days to chase these moments. With the ever-present heavy workload, there's never a good time to take off from work...but there's always a good time to have your breath taken away.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.

Beautiful Yosemite landscape, lit by the morning light, and reflecting in Mirror Lake.

View of Clouds Rest, framed by an interesting foreground tree.

Mirror Lake

Half Dome, taken from the valley floor.

Misc Photos taken with my Nikon FM2, with Kodak BW400CN film.

Here are a few photos taken with my iPhone5.

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