Interrupted a Hawk’s Breakfast

Yesterday morning, I woke up and, like usual, needed some caffeine, but was out of coffee in the house. So, I went to a local Starbuck’s for some Cold Brew and a panini, and headed home. The whole trip took maybe 10-15 minutes.

However, as I walked from my car to my apartment door lost in thought, I heard a flapping of wings, and saw a bird take off from the ground. Left behind was the carcass of a dead pigeon, and as I looked up startled, I saw a Cooper’s Hawk sitting on the eaves of the building next door. So, I ran inside, put down my coffee and panini, and grabbed my camera. As I came back outside, I realized that I had interrupted the breakfast of two hawks. One was keeping watch on from the building’s eaves, and the other was perched at about head height on a tree nearby.

It reminded me that a good picture can happen at almost any second, and to have that camera ready wherever I go.

I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Yosemite: Half Dome from Mirror Lake

Standing at Mirror Lake and looking up at Half Dome.

Yosemite: El Capitan and Half Dome

Yosemite: Sunlight through the Cathedral Gunsight

In the Yosemite Valley on the opposite side from El Capitan, there is a set of large rock formations called the Cathedral Rocks and Spires. In between two of them, there is a sharp cut named, for some reason I do not know, Gunsight.

Saturday, while I was slowly making my way out of Yosemite, the sun was getting lower in the sky and the light in Yosemite began to change. I was passing between the Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan when I glanced to my left. I pulled over and park immediately so I could take some pictures of the sun coming through the slit of the Gunsight and illuminating the tops of some trees with a gorgeous god ray.

I hope you enjoy the photos!

More Yosemite Frost

I wrote in the previous post about the effects the frost in Yosemite had on the terrain and on myself. Here, I wanted to share a few more pictures of the frost that morning.

Hope you enjoy!

Yosemite Morning Frost

Early morning frost in Yosemite Valley.

This past Sunday, as I exited my car in Yosemite Valley, I felt the cold chill of winter in the air.

As I glanced around and saw a white, crystalline twinkle on the grasses, tree logs, and fence posts, I realized that the night before had reached below freezing temperatures. (Later, safe and warm in the cabin I was renting, I did a little searching and found out it had dropped to the mid-20s F). I knew better than to think that it was a dusting of snow–but I hoped it was anyways!–and found that some of the shadier parts of Yosemite had frosted during the night.

It was transformed.

This was the second day in a row that I was in the park to hike and take pictures. The day before, I saw snow on the distant mountain peaks behind Half Dome. I knew that the daily lows neared freezing temperatures on a nightly basis. I obsessively watched the weather forecasts switch from rain to snow and back again in the days that led up to my trip. I knew that the weather would be unpredictable and I packed for all weather types.

And yet, in spite of all of that knowledge, I was caught off guard by the beauty and stillness of a partial frost. Sunday, in the mid-morning when this photo was taken, was cold. It was busier than the day before had been, although not as packed as during my previous visit to Yosemite.

And yet, there was a tranquility in the air, a tranquility accompanied by cold air, warm flannel and beanies, steaming breath, and the mountains. I suddenly felt more in tune with men the likes of John Muir and Ansel Adams. I saw the harsh and unpredictable beauty (a different kind of harsh beauty than the granite rock faces) of Yosemite, and once again felt the call of the mountains tug at my soul.

In both of my visits to Yosemite, I have felt so infinitesimally tiny. The granite faces of El Capitan and Half Dome, the winding Merced River, and the huge trees have all reminded me of my size–so small–in the grand scheme of things. So humble in the face of Nature that endures the goings on of such tiny, fleeting humans.

And yet…

With the frost and the accompanying cold transforming parts of Yosemite, I too was transformed. In all the climates and places of Nature, never have I felt so at home, so at peace, so like I belonged to something bigger than myself. In some ways, I’ve had to be reminded of how small and seemingly insignificant I am and of how unpredictable and beautiful life is (so easy to forget during the 9-5 work week), so that I could again feel like I was a part of something larger.

I hope you enjoy the post! There will be more pictures of Yosemite to come!

Bridalveil Falls

Below Bridalveil Falls

Blurred water racing over the rocks on the way to the Bridalveil Falls Vista.

I took this picture on the short hike from the meadows of Yosemite Valley (below El Capitan) to Bridalveil Falls. There were a few small stone bridges that crossed over the water coming from the falls a little ways higher up.

I am still learning the topography and names of the Yosemite Valley, there are a lot of them, but this might be Bridalveil Creek. I know that maps tend to be static, while current weather conditions can change the moment-to-moment scenery in the Yosemite Valley. Anyways, it was a short and pleasant wake to and from the falls, and a pleasant way to start the day in Yosemite.

I hope you enjoy the photo!

There will be many more to come as I process the hundreds (742 to be exact) photos that I took this year.

Yosemite Climbers

The cliffs above the Visitor Center and Post Office in Yosemite Valley.

As I have said in previous posts, I have a tremendous amount of respect for REI and its #OptOutside practices for the last few years. For those people that don’t know, REI–an outdoor equipment store–closes all of its stores on Black Friday, gives all of its employees the day off, and encourages everyone to spend the day outdoors in nature, rather than celebrating the worst of humanity and capitalism.

I never find traveling somewhere on Black Friday to be practical or affordable. This year I returned to Yosemite, where I first ventured last year (posts here and here).

Yesterday afternoon, as I was walking from the Ansel Adams Gallery in the Yosemite Valley to one of the transit buses, I noticed some adults and children using binoculars to gaze up at the side of the mountain above us. At first, all I saw was what was in the first image.

It was later in the afternoon, I was exhausted from hiking to Mirror Lake earlier in the day, and if it wasn’t for the people gazing up at the sky, I would completely have missed seeing something unforgettable and I would have missed the chance to take some pictures of iconic Yosemite activity.

I switched the 24-85 mm lens that I had been using for most of the day for the 70-300 mm lens that I had stowed in my bag, so that I could get a better picture of what was happening.

The longer zoom lens is a lens that I rarely use. It is unwieldy, hard to use handheld (I rarely use my tripod, when I remember to bring it), and it is rather heavy due to its size.

I keep it along with a 50 mm fixed lens in my camera bag, which I admittedly use more often, because of the irrational fear that I would need it the one time that I ended up leaving the bag in my car or at home.

Yesterday, I was glad to that I had it with me because it allowed me to take both pictures in this post, with a clarity that allowed me to see the four people up on that rock spire.

Rock climbers on the mountains of Yosemite.

As you can see from the second picture, there is someone on the peak of the spire, someone suspended from ropes to the right, a person climbing on the left-top of the spire, and some down at the base of this cropped picture.

While I know that rock climbers have flocked to Yosemite for decades, challenging the granite peaks and the weather, I have never seen them in person while they have been climbing.

In some ways, it is like seeing a legend in real life. I don’t know what they were doing up there, how long they had been at it, or what their ultimate goal was; yet, I do feel lucky to have taken some pictures of them from the valley floor.

This was something I hadn’t seen in Yosemite yet, and it made the exhaustion and the cold worth it.

Apocalyptic Afternoon

An intense, local brush fire backed by high winds has caused an eerie looking afternoon, as the smoke clouds are back lit by the setting sun. 

It looks like something from a Mad Max movie or from the slopes of Mount Doom, if Mount Doom also had a gas station.