Clearing at Half Dome--Yosemite National Park
Death Valley, Yosemite & Mono Lake in One Vacation is possible! The images in this blog was from a trip we made in April
several years ago. Please see the link at the bottom of
this blog as to why I suggest you go in February.
Seeing these three beautiful places in California in our 2-week vacation was our goal. But what time of the year seemed to be most favorable to us? We settled on the first 2 weeks in April. Here are some of the things we considered during our planning:
If we went later than April, Death Valley will be very hot. So we made this our 1st destination and even with that the temperature peaked at 97° in Badwater. So going in February the weather would be awesome. But another thing to consider for going in early April is that the spring flowers can be spectacular with some luck and the right weather conditions being on your side. So many decisions to be made!
Zabriske Sunset-Death Valley National Park
To include Mono Lake into this trip we drove up Hwy 395 from Death Valley to Lee Vining which is the nearest town to Mono Lake. We had one snowstorm overnight but by mid-morning it had melted. Again in February you'll probably see more snow. By the way, the tufas at Mono Lake are way cool covered in snow. One more down side to February is missing a visit to the great ghost town of Bodie as the road will not be passable yet.
Mono After The Storm--Mono Lake, California
The road over Tioga Pass into Yosemite Valley from Lee Vining is only 77 miles does not open until mid May. This causes a detour to a pass that is open, meaning about a 6 hour drive. This was our route:
- Drive North on Hwy 395 to Minden Nevada.
- Take Carson Pass (Hwy 88) to Jackson California
- Then take Hwy 49 South to Big Oak Flat
- Hwy 120 which will then take you into Yosemite.
If we went earlier than April, Yosemite would still be quite frozen. Even in mid April we had two overnight lows of 15° and 19° and one snowstorm overnight which melted by early morning. This time of the year also means we escaped the summertime crowds and saw the waterfalls flowing throughout the valley. So Yosemite in February means you need to be ready for possibly a lot of snow and very cold temperatures.
But here is my MAIN
reason to suggest a visit in February. You see there is this crazy, beautiful photographic event at Horsetail Falls that happens only around mid to late February. Conditions have to be just right, enough snow melt for water to be coming over the cliff, and enough of a break in the clouds at just the right time around sunset for the light to hit the falls to see what looks like lava flowing where Horsetail Falls should be. I've never seen it but it's on my bucket list of things to photograph. And as I've not seen it myself I have no images I can share. But here is a link from Yosemite Park to visit and see why it's a must see! http://www.yosemitepark.com/horsetail-fall.aspx
We had a fabulous trip in April but I would bet you would have a 'WOW' trip if you go in February. I know the next time we go I'll be aiming for a February trek!
Manual Settings This is quickly becoming my favorite shooting mode as long as the lighting is even and not constantly changing. I try for an aperture of F8 to as wide open as possible depending on how close the subject is. And the shutter no slower than 750th of a second, the faster the shutter the better. Unless you are going for motion blur and panning then a 30th or 60th of a second can give some fun results. I try to keep the ISO as low as possible like 200 or maybe 400.
The secret to using manual is to keep an eye on the needle on your Canon camera viewfinder. If it is in the middle your exposure should be 'right on'. Changing either the aperture, shutter or ISO will move the needle either to the right of middle which will lighten your image or to the left of middle to darken your image.
Aperture Priority (AV) I still like this mode a bit more than using a manual setting. Sadly I must admit I very often forget to look at the needle in my viewfinder when in manual. Then especially with wildlife you'll miss a great shot because you haven't changed your settings when you've gone into a forest after being in a wide open meadow.
So with that being said I like shooting in AV priority mode with an aperture wide open like at 4 or 5.6 as long as I have plenty of light. I again try to keep the ISO as low as possible like 200 or 400 to get fast shutter speeds. With those wide open apertures you get that great background blurring and sharp subjects that you have locked your focus on.
Shutter Priority (TV) I will use TV when the light has gotten very dim and I can't trust AV to stop the action enough to keep the blurring under control. Try to steady the camera if you aren't using a tripod or monopod by leaning against something. Depending on how fast your subject moves a 500th should work if the subject isn't a real fast mover. If you are trying to shot a bird or galloping horse a 1,000th is really needed to get a sharp image if you are steady. What you will find in TV is you might be getting shots but they will be very dark. To avoid this you can either set your ISO higher or even try the automatic ISO setting. I never used this automatic ISO setting as I didn't want my camera to be shooting at one of those astronomical ISO settings. But since I've upgraded my Canon 7D with the new firmware that I blogged about earlier I was able to set the maximum ISO to an acceptable level. I still like to set my own ISO but that is always subject to change, I never thought I would like to shoot in manual mode either. So I never say never.
And always, always check your LCD often no matter what mode you shoot in to see if you are getting the results you want.
AND ONE LAST TIP: I never ever believed all those photographers who said 'Turn off the image stabilization when shooting fast moving action in the burst mode'. I really thought they were crazy. I fought this for a long time until I tried it.....the results were many more images in focus than ever before.
Remember, I'm by no means an expert at this but I keep on working at it. Some of it might be helpful in finding your photographic
If you have visited our website or the website Fine Art America where we sell our images you will know I love to shoot horses. They are majestic and beautiful animals which I enjoy trying to capture. So if you enjoy horses click on the link below that says simply 'horses photos' and see some great photographer's wonderful shots along with mine: