In early June 2017, I took a day trip to Yosemite Valley hoping to capture some images of Half Dome and other Valley landmarks reflected in pools of remnant floodwater on the Valley floor. The experience was a good reminder of the need to remain open to other image opportunities rather than staying wedded to preconceived ideas of how to spend time in the field.
But before getting to that, here's an image (Flooded Meadow and El Capitan) of El Capitan reflected in the flooded fringes of a meadow along the Merced River. I was quite happy with this capture and it is essentially what I had in mind traveling out to Yosemite that morning. Finding this perspective on El Capitan took a bit of hiking and willingness to get wet. But it's a nice feeling to explore the Valley floor without anyone else around, as was the case on this morning. Minor flooding on some of the trails helped keep traffic to a minimum, and over the course of four hours (including time spent capturing the low clouds along the Cathedral Spires, below) I only saw 2-3 other people.
Hiking away from the flooded meadow, I walked for only a few minutes before noticing a low mass of clouds moving rapidly along the edges of the Cathedral Spires across the Valley floor from El Capitan. I tried some long lens (Canon 100-400mm) shots of the clouds mingling with the Spires, eventually moving the camera over to the tripod for stability. Over the course of a couple of hours, this produced some of my favorite shots of the morning.
Crowned by Clouds, shown first here, is one of the initial shots I took of the clouds flowing down and across the distant cliffs. I tried many other variations of the same scene, zooming in and out and capturing different cloud patterns, but I eventually settled on this one with a black and white conversion to really enhance the impact of the clouds.
The cloud patterns constantly changed and I tried a lot of different compositions to accentuate their movement against the cliffs. The following image, Touch the Sky, is one of the rare times I've felt the anticipation of a scene developing in front of me. In the space of just seconds the clouds unfolded in a dramatic, wave-like pattern that crested over the top of one of the Spires. I have only one shot of the small tree shown in this image not blocked by clouds. I think it adds greatly to the overall scene.
This image was taken near 12:00 and, along with Crowned by Clouds, is far from what I expected to capture that June morning in Yosemite. The flooded meadows I had hoped to find were few and far between, and as the day went on the Valley filled with visitors and the clouds drifted away. I ended up not even sticking around for the sunset--a rare thing for me to miss when I get to spend a day in the field--but I felt certain I'd had a productive morning and more than justified the trip out to Yosemite.