Return of Yosemite Falls
By John P. DeGrazio
We hiked the Yosemite Falls trail yesterday to reap the benefits of the weekend’s storms. On the way up the trail, we ran into a family who had just come from the short hike to Bridalveil Fall. They expressed their disappointment in the low amount of water in the waterfalls. Here we were, overjoyed that the Yosemite Falls were reborn; and they were disappointed that there wasn’t enough water. After explaining that neither of these waterfalls were active a week ago, they became more appreciative. It’s all a matter of perspective.
One thing we all agreed on was how fortunate we were to be able to hike in such a beautiful place on a splendid day. Yosemite National Park is one of the sought after destinations for landscape photographers. Unfortunately, days like yesterday illustrate one of the biggest annoyances that challenges every photographer. Unless you want to alter or enhance your image artificially, contrails left in the sky by overhead commercial airplanes will cause you to leave your camera in your bag for most of the day. It was a clear day with beautiful light and a resurgent waterfall, but this first image is proof that air traffic is tarnishing our Yosemite landscapes. Contrails light up the sky and are impossible to avoid even in this second image.
I have been on flights where the pilot will proudly boast “if you look out the right window, you will be able to see Yosemite National Park” and while it may be cool to see from 30,000, it is a problem of sight pollution in one of the world’s most scenic national parks. On warmer summer days, the contrails dissipate quickly. On cold mornings and afternoons, they linger which makes it nearly impossible to capture the pristine and iconic Yosemite image you’ve waited your whole life to capture without containing this sky graffiti. Yosemite currently bans all low flying vehicles from flight over Yosemite Valley. Why not increase that ban to all flights over Yosemite National Park? It will create a better Yosemite experience for everyone.
I excitedly took this second image to show a technique I have been using for months. One I termed the up arrow panorama. I’ve often shared it on my tours to the delight of many an iPhone user. The technique is simple and the results are enjoyable, especially when photographing taller objects like peaks, waterfalls, and sequoia trees. Yesterdays inspiration came from a visit to a lesser know spot on the Yosemite Falls trail. I was very excited to make this photograph and so pleased with the result, that I can’t wait to return in spring with a fuller flow and better lighting. And of course, no contrails.