Wednesday, August 20, 2014

California Trip Part V: Yosemite National Park, Continued

In previous posts, I've shared my photos from Truckee and Lake Tahoe, Bodie Ghost Town, the Mammoth Lakes area, and most recently the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.  In today's post, I will share photos from the rest of Yosemite.

The first area of Yosemite that we visited was Tuolumne Meadows.  While it doesn't have the stunning vistas that many areas in the valley offer, it does have some neat geological features, such as the soda springs, which reminded me of Yellowstone National Park.

Soda Springs Cabin in Yosemite National Park

This wooden enclosure was built by Jean-Baptiste Lembert to protect the Soda Springs from grazing animals.

I rented the new Tamron 150-600mm lens to bring with me on the off chance that I might see a bear.  I knew that I wouldn't see any grizzly bears like I had in Yellowstone last year, and I also knew that bears are much less plentiful in Yosemite than they are in Yellowstone, but I would hate to have seen one and been unprepared.  Well, I did not see one, but lucky me, I saw marmots, deer, birds, and chipmunks.  Oh well, at least I got a good work out carrying around the lens.

Tenaya Lake Through the Trees

We stopped at Tenaya Lake just long enough to snap a few photos (including the neutral density long exposure below), but most of our time was spent in the valley.

I highly recommend the moonlit Valley Floor Tour to anyone visiting Yosemite. As a photographer, I was worried I wouldn't have enough time to set up my tripod and take photos, but the tram stopped in several locations. At some of them, you can't get off the tram, but if you work quickly, you can set your tripod up on the seat and take a photo from there (space allowing), and you can actually get off the tram for a few minutes at Swinging Bridge and Tunnel View. Aside from the opportunities for photos, the experience is way more fun than driving around at night in a car because you get to experience the open air while a park ranger tells you a little bit about your surroundings.

Above is El Capitán, with the trees in the foreground illuminated by the lights on the tram.  This was taken from the tram, with my tripod set up on the seat.  This is one of the places where the tram stopped, but we weren't allowed off.  Below is Tunnel View.  Here, we got off for about ten minutes so I had plenty of time to set up and take a few shots.

Tunnel View by Night

The View from Swinging Bridge

Above is the view from Swinging Bridge, another location where we got off the tram.  Below are two trees illuminated by the lights on the tram.  I took this from the tram just before we got going again after stopping at Swinging Bridge.

Trees Under a Yosemite Moon

Above is a tunnel right by Tunnel View, and below is the other side of Swinging Bridge.

Yosemite's Gates of the Valley at DuskI decided I really wanted to go to Valley View for sunset.  I was not prepared for how hard it is to find. It's about a 30 second drive from the Ahwahnee, but it's not marked, so unless you know where it is, you will keep driving by it.  Finally, after going by it about 3 times, I was able to locate it.

Yosemite Church at Dusk

This church was another item on my bucket list.  Dusk and a wide angle lens offered the perfect conditions under which to capture it.

The Mariposa Grove is about an hour from the Ahwahnee, but definitely one of the main attractions at Yosemite.  Here you can see some impressively large Sequoia trees.

The Grizzly Giant is one of the more popular trees.

The Mariposa Grove is really close to the Wawona Hotel, so we headed there for lunch and then to visit the adjacent Pioneer Village, which features old buildings that have been moved to one central location to educate park guests on the history of Yosemite.

Hodgdon Homestead Cabin

The View from Glacier Point

Glacier Point offers arguably an even more incredible view of the valley than Tunnel View.  I especially enjoyed being able to view the Ahwahnee from above.

Clouds Over Tunnel View

When we passed by Tunnel View on our way back from Glacier Point, the clouds were gorgeous, so I had to step out for a long exposure photo.

I chose Sentinel Bridge for a classic sunset.  The light rapidly changing over Half Dome was quite a site!  I was surprised it wasn't more crowded than it was.  There were plenty of photographers there, but I was still able to find a spot to set up.

Sunset from Sentinel Bridge

It was really hard to leave Yosemite, but up next was Napa Valley!  Stay tuned for my final post on this California Trip!

Tools I used to create the photos this post:  Canon EOS 6D, Canon EOS 60DCanon EF 17-40mm f/4L USMCanon EF 50mm f/1.4 USMCanon 24-105mm f/4L F/4.0L IS EF USM AF Lens, Manfrotto 190XDB Tripod, Manfrotto 496RC2 Ball Head, B+W 77mm 3.0 ND 110 Filter, B+W 77mm Circular Polarizer Filter, Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, Adobe Photoshop CS6

Saturday, August 16, 2014

California Trip Part IV: The Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park

In previous posts, I've shared my photos from Truckee and Lake Tahoe, Bodie Ghost Town, and most recently the Mammoth Lakes area. Today's post will feature photos I took at the Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park. This hotel is so spectacular that it gets its own post! A subsequent post will feature other photos I took around Yosemite.

The Ahwahnee was built in 1927 to fit the need for a luxury hotel in Yosemite.  The Ahwahnee was a great way to keep money flowing into the park to support it, and it kept guests who preferred top-notch accommodations happy, so it was, and is, a win-win.  The historic hotel has seen many a famous guest from Judy Garland to JFK to Queen Elizabeth, and during World War II was converted into a Navy Hosptial.  Although originally only guests were allowed on the grounds, today anyone can come and enjoy the splendor of this gorgeous piece of architecture.

Peering into the Ahwahnee Great Lounge

If the Ahwahnee looks familiar to you, you've probably seen The Shining. Stanley Kubrick drew much inspiration for the Overlook Hotel from the Ahwahnee.  As you can see peering into the Great Lounge above, the hotel draws heavily on Native American motifs.

Tea Time at the Ahwahnee

One of the first things we did when we got to the Ahwahnee was tea time.  Guests at the hotel can enjoy a complimentary cup of tea and a cookie while listening to pianist Ted Long tickle the ivories.

Solarium in the Ahwahnee Hotel

The Solarium is my favorite room in the Ahwahnee. It's aptly named, since its floor to ceiling windows allow sunlight to come pouring in during the day, and it also allows for great views of the landscape.

Room with a View

I was greeted with this lovely view out the window of our room as the sun set over the mountains.  I'll take it!

Time for Dinner at the Ahwahnee Dining Hall

I ate three meals at the Dining Hall. What a gorgeous place to eat!

Looking down the hallway to our room, I am again reminded of a scene from The Shining...

The lounge by the elevator has a gorgeous Native American-inspired mural above the fireplace.

The public areas of the hotel are nearly deserted at night.  The Solarium doesn't get as much sun at this hour. 

The mural room is named for, well, the mural on display which incorporates much of the Yosemite wildlife.

Pictured above and below is the Great Lounge at night.
Lots of weary travelers like to take a seat in the Great Lounge in the afternoon and enjoy the sights and sounds (and I saw more than a few plop right down for a nap!).

Guests enter the hotel through this portico.

The winter sports room is aptly named, with many photos of guests in the early to mid 20th century skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing, among other activities.

The Ahwahnee's exterior is just as beautiful as its interior, with its signature green trim.  I took a lot of photos in the meadow area in back of the hotel.

One morning after breakfast, I had just my 50mm lens with me, so I took a panorama of the hotel (above).  Another evening, after returning from a moonlight tram tour of the valley, I captured the view below.  With four different shots to account for the different exposures, several of them processed two or three times to account for the different white balances, this shot was much more complex than I had anticipated it would be.  Shots like this don't fare well with automated HDR algorithms, so I was left to do a lot of layer masking to get all the exposures and colors right.The Ahwahnee at Night
The Ahwahnee at Dusk

The above shot was taken with a fisheye lens, then defished using PTLens.  I love the ultra wide look the fisheye gives when defished.  No rectilinear wide angle lens can give you this wide of a field of view!

Although I wouldn't consider myself an aerial photographer, the view from Glacier Point did allow me to capture this view of the hotel from above.

Good-bye Ahwahnee, I miss you already!  In my next post, I'll take you outside the Ahwahnee to explore the rest of Yosemite National Park!

Tools I used to create the photos this post:  Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, Zenitar MC 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, Adobe Photoshop CS6