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.
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.
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.
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.
Above is a tunnel right by Tunnel View, and below is the other side of Swinging Bridge.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
Tools I used to create the photos this post: Canon EOS 6D, Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, Canon 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