Photograph of the week: Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, USA


Yosemite National Park is many things to many people. For climbers, it is revered as the birthplace of rock climbing as a sport, and home to the holy grail of that sport: the Dawn Wall, El Capitan. For photo enthusiasts, it is well-known as muse to famed black-and-white photographer Ansel Adams. For snow-seekers it is home to California’s oldest ski resort, Badger Pass. And for outdoorsmen and conservationists, it is known as the home of America’s very first park guardian, Galen Clark, who is believed to have been the very first person to count and record the giant sequoia trees found in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove.

Photograph of the Week: Yosemite, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

More important than the man who counted them, though, are the trees themselves. Within the 1125 square miles (2914 square kilometres) of Yosemite National Park, you will find 35 species of tree, with conifers (cone-bearing trees or evergreens), like the aforementioned sequoias, being most prevalent. Along with these massive (and massively impressive) redwoods, you can also spot California black oak, several species of willow, California nutmeg, fragrant incense cedar, giant sugar pine, white fir, the flowering dogwood, the dwarf maple and the quaking aspen, and the graceful mountain hemlock to name just a few.

In short, Yosemite is a veritable tree-sure trove of trees.

One of the most famous being a giant sequoia named the Wawona Tunnel Tree which, until 1969, you could actually drive your car through. Located in Galen Clark’s beloved Mariposa Grove, the Wawona tunnel was carved in 1881 to provide a photo opportunity for tourists. It stood for 88 years, until a snow storm knocked the tree down in 1969. You can still visit the tree today, although it has, rather prosaically we might add, been renamed Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree.

Not a tree-person? Along with the trees, so very many trees, Yosemite is also home to one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. At 2425 feet (739 metres), Yosemite Falls is actually made up of three separate falls cascading into one, which can be seen from numerous places around Yosemite Valley. It is also home to more than 400 species of wildlife, including the rare Sierra Nevada red fox, which was spotted for the first time in nearly a century on a wildlife cam, roaming the high elevations of California’s Sierra Nevada back in December 2014 and January 2015. Don’t expect to see one when you visit though – it would be almost amazing as spotting Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

Regardless, a trip to Yosemite is guaranteed to be filled with wonder and magic, awe-inspiring sights, and more than enough history and fascinating facts to keep any visitor enthralled. Case in point: Yosemite is also one of the few places in the US, indeed the world, where you can see a rainbow at night. Yes, the famous Yosemite waterfalls and their associated rainbows are pretty, but stick around until after sundown to catch a glimpse of pure magic. In spring and early summer, when the sky is clear and the moon is full, you may just catch sight of the park’s lunar rainbows or moonbows. The combination of a full moon and waterfall mist sometimes creates what is a shimmering silver arc to the naked eye, but full technicolour rainbow through your camera’s lens when set to long exposure.

Whether you subscribe to the woodsman life or not, visit Yosemite. Enchanted you will be.

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Comments (7)

  1. Francesca Andrews says:

    I love sequoia trees but you’re right in saying what really makes this place is just how many varieties there are here. I’ve read about Yosemite before of course, it’s even been featured in a few fiction books I’ve read in the past. It’s probably one of the most well known parks but it’s fascinating to learn more about its history. It’s a shame about the now “Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree”. Mother Nature can be very cruel sometimes. I’m not much into the sports side of things but I’d love to visit one day for the walks, the nature, the waterfalls. I imagine it being worth visiting year around because you’d get such a different perspective of it in winter than you would in spring and summer. Amazing photo capturing the mist. I’m not sure what the lunar rainbows or moon bows are but it sounds pretty, I’ll have to Google those because I’m curious now!

  2. Rob says:

    That’s quite am amazing other worldly picture. Though I watched the first episode of BBC’s series called something like “Win the Wilderness”. The isolation there in Alaska makes Yosemite look crowded. Lots more trees too.

    I only watched the first programme but basically it was about a guy who in the 1980s left the nearest populated hamlet and walked for 57 miles until he found somewhere to build a house. Four years later, heading back into civilisation, incredibly he found a wife to share it with him. Loads of trees, plenty of black bears and just 2 people.

    Now that they are in their 70s they want a worthy couple to win the house in what turns into the usual reality TV format so I haven’t watched any more.

    The first episode is quite inspirational in showing what people can achieve, even in a remote wilderness.

  3. Julian Bird says:

    That photograph brings back wonderful memories of my stay in Yosemite a long time ago. It was August and beautiful weather, no mist like in the picture.

    We stayed in a log cabin and one day I was taking the shopping from the car to the cabin. I suddenly got the impression that I was being watched.

    I’d read the notice warning about bears and their interest in food but that was the first time I’d seen a bear. The bear was obviously walking towards me but I raced indoors and he was probably only 30 yards away when I shut the door. I wasn’t too keen on going to the car after that.

  4. Sharon says:

    Oddly, I’ve played golf in Yosemite. I’m pleased to say that there weren’t as many trees around the course as in that picture. Although it wasn’t an exclusive club it was in reasonable condition, not ridiculously expensive like some American golf courses and also with fantastic views of the hills in the distance. A beautiful place to play.

  5. Barry says:

    I took a trip one time out to San Francisco. And on my way to Denver, Colorado to meet up with some friends, I drove across California. And believe me, this part of the country is one of the most beautiful. If you ever get a chance to visit here, you will not be disappointed!

  6. Jeff G says:

    As I have really enjoyed this series of Photograph of the week pictures it is becoming something of a bucket list ambition of mine to take a photo good enough to submit for one of these features. The trouble is, as this misty and highly evocative photo shows, the bar is being set fairly high.

    I’m fortunate to travel a lot and recently I’ve thought that I had a couple of opportunities to snap a great image.

    I got to the bridge from Abu Dhabi to Saadiyat Island early one morning and looking across to the Louvre, Abu Dhabi to my eye it seemed an almost surreal scene of a white spaceship hovering above an Arabic village. I took the picture excitedly but there was far more mist about than I’d thought and the picture was a real disappointment.

    I’ll just have to keep trying.

  7. Ann Mason says:

    I haven’t been to Yosemite in quite a while honestly. And I am wondering if all the things I loved when I visited are still there just waiting for me to come back. I remember taking photographs at the base of a waterfall, with my dad a ways back lest our cameras get wet in the mist. I also remember streams where ducks freely float about, and signs on camp grounds about keeping all food covered and trashbins locked for fear of wild animals smelling them an entering the camps. I remember El Capitan’s prominent dome in the background of many of our photos. Yosemite is a vast place and I haven’t even covered an eigth of it. When all this chaos dies down, it will be good to reconnect with mother nature once again.

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