The magic of a clearing winter storm in Yosemite by the light of the full moon is beyond words. Powerful storms had pounded the park for a week, causing historic flooding that closed the Valley to visitors. The final storm was colder, blanketing the area in a foot of powdery white, then clearing dramatically as the full moon rose. Ephemeral streams and waterfalls were everywhere; this image features one of them. California, 2017.
A snowstorm transforms Yosemite Valley into a winter wonderland. I had visited this location over a dozen times before, but it wasn't until I was shivering in realfeel -18F before sunrise, in the middle of a snowstorm, that I considered taking a photo of the snow falling over the valley.
This is the kind of view that stays with you forever. I made the hike up here three times, and on the third time, after hiking up in a whiteout, I was finally rewarded with a clearing snowstorm. Mt. Assiniboine is the tall majestic peak towards the left, and Sunburst Peak is in the center. We spent four days in this amazing area, and only for a few brief moments did Mt. Assiniboine show itself. But ahh, when it did! British Columbia, 2016.
A calm morning on the Queen's Fjord, Reinebringen, Norway (2017).
Yosemite Valley by night, as fog from a settling storm fills the valley, some clouds linger, a thunderous waterfall gushes, and the Milky Way shines brightly above.
Fanning the Flames
A fiery sunset over Broken Top, a volcano in the central Cascades. For a couple weeks every year, the barren hills come alive with colorful flowers. Oregon, 2016.
Ride the Lightning
A once-in-a-lifetime event captured from a trailless pass high in the Kings Canyon backcountry.
An Eastern Sierra winter creation. California, 2017.
Once in a while, Mother Nature stops me in my tracks with my jaw hanging open. This was one of those moments.
A friend and I were led here by an #escaype forecast for a burn above low fog, and got both.
A beautiful sunrise among some of the most impressive peaks of Kings Canyon National Park, with a field of fireweed in full bloom and a lake far below. I spent a glorious night under the stars here, at approximately 12,500 feet. California, 2016.
Gates of the Arctic
A strong winter storm breaks just in time for sunrise in Yosemite Valley.
Ode to the Piopio
The towering peaks of Milford Sound catch fiery sunrise light. In a typical year, this area sees over 300 days of rain, and is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand. When we saw just one single day of "mostly cloudy" in the forecast, we knew this was our only chance for our entire trip, so we rearranged the rest of the trip to enjoy Fiordland National Park for the day. This is how that day began.
The title is a nod to the South Island piopio, a native bird from which the fjord draws its Maori name, Piopiotahi. The piopio is now extinct, an unintended consequence of human activities.
New Zealand, 2016.
A Deep Breath
The majestic Canadian Rockies during the peak of fall, as seen from a difficult hiking route.
A dusting of snow covers Yosemite Valley during an early-season storm. Several familiar landmarks are visible, from different angles. This is a panorama encompassing approximately 180-degree field of view.
A fresh December snow fall blankets Yosemite Valley, as fog swirls and light begins to break through.
For the Faint of Heart
A hiker admires the view at Yosemite's Glacier Point during an #escaype-forecasted sunrise.
A break in a multi-day snowstorm briefly reveals a dramatic mountainscape. Banff National Park, Alberta.
Thou Shalt Not Pass
Intimidating peaks briefly bate in a strip of direct light during a stormy sunrise.
One of the most remote mountain ridges in the continental U.S. glows at dawn.
A Midwinter Night's Dream
Every element in the perfect Yosemite winter scene aligns for just a few moments.
Geothermal vents create atmospheric steam, heating up this creek as it slithers away from California's picturesque Eastern Sierra. Dramatic mountains catch sunrise glow in the background.
A beautiful winter sunset over Yosemite Valley, seen from high above in winter. This was the reward for a day's snowshoe adventure. The illuminated mountain in the middle is El Capitan.
A portrait of Olstinden, perhaps the most iconic peak in the Lofoten Islands.
Dusk falls upon the fishing village, mountains, and fjords of Reine, Norway.
Rivers of Light
For about two weeks every year, the thin ribbon of Horsetail Fall glows orange in the setting sun. Despite years of chasing the light in Yosemite, I could never have been bothered to photograph this "Firefall". It just felt like a tourist magnet, a cliche scene with hundreds of photographers pointlessly jostling for the "best" spot with the same lens pointed at the same subject with the same framing, a scene where creativity was not possible.
This year, I stumbled upon an image from Daniel Stas (shooting alongside Zhu Hua) and immediately knew I was wrong. Several possible visions of this area began to form in my head, and I knew I had to do some exploring. With Escaype forecasting an excellent sunset that week, Tung and I decided it was time we saw the firefall for the first time. We spent several hours wandering around the cliffs, but eventually found ourselves drawn to the sound of the same waterfall Daniel had discovered...
...only to find a dozen photographers with the same idea. One photographer was holding an iPad with Daniel's image on the screen, carefully aligning his tripod, taking another look at the image, and re-aligning the tripod. The atmosphere reeked of copying to claim discovery credit, zero creativity, and frankly it was uninspiring. I nearly left.
Daniel's and Zhu's images had gone nearly unnoticed on social media; it quickly became clear that photographers were deliberately burying them so they could later claim the discovery of the location. Unfortunately, most of those photographers have already claimed their social media fame without any nod to the originals. Of course, such an approach is toxic and superficial, and fails to bring deep personal satisfaction, which is the purpose of the art -- but perhaps the cheap attention is all that was sought.
Anyway, while standing around debating if I should stick around for sunset, I spotted some cave-like formations underneath a large rock, and that's when this vision started to come together. It was clearly going to require several exposures with varying angles, focus points, focal lengths, and a little magic in post. But once the sun went down that night, the vision in my head had become very clear. It looked quite similar to this.
And, of course, thanks, Daniel, for inspiring me to get away from my desk and explore an area that was new to me.
The Milky Way shines brightly over a majestic alpine scene deep into the Sierra backcountry. Many exposures were blended from different angles, times, and focal lengths, and the sky is a panorama grid, in order to produce a night image with maximum detail to fulfill an artistic vision I have had for several years.
A blazing red sky at dawn over the village of Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway.
Friends in High Places
A panoramic view of the majestic cliffs of Yosemite Valley, blanketed in several inches of fresh snow, with a large waterfall, Half Dome, and some lingering fog in the background.
An extremely rare meteorological scene over the Kings Canyon backcountry, photographed from a trailless pass.
Land of Legends
A spectacular winter sunrise scene in Yosemite Valley (2017).
Mt. Rundle bathes itself in glorious morning light. Banff National Park, Alberta.
Living with Giants
The island in the middle was my home for three weeks while I explored and chased light like this. Lofoten Islands, Norway.
Life in the Clouds
High above a sea of fog at 13,200 feet in Kings Canyon National Park. This summit is about a 25-mile hike into the backcountry.
Mystical evening light breaks through clouds and fog to light up a carpet of snow-covered pine and yellow larch trees. A bit of cloud iridescence is visible as a small rainbow in the sky. British Columbia, 2016.
A gnarled stump leads the way to majestic Thousand Island Lake, reflecting the colors of a vibrant sunset. Several major peaks of the Ritter Range, most prominently Banner Peak, are visible. Ansel Adams Wilderness, California, 2014.
While exploring near one of Yosemite Valley's most popular vantage points, I stumbled across this little clump of red paintbrush that seemed to complete the legend of the valley.
Half Dome bathes in the evening's last light. From a rarely-before seen vantage point right next to the mountain's face.
An amazing sunset over towering peaks of the High Sierra's Evolution Region. Mt. Mendel (13,716') is the dramatic mountain on the left. Kings Canyon National Park, 2016.
Stars emerge from twilight as a night begins in the Canadian Rockies. The bright yellow trees are larches.
The Chosen One
A mountain looms over a ridge carpeted in yellow larch trees during fall. Banff National Park, Alberta.
A winter snowstorm in Banff briefly weakens just enough to reveal massive cliffs and jagged peaks.
A rising moon briefly emerges between two gigantic mountains and a cloud at twilight. Canadian Rockies, British Columbia.