Intro: The Land Before Time
I used to think skyscrapers were tall.
Never had I seen such huge rock formations as tall as giants, staring back at me. Bathing in the blue sky, you can see them stand proud. Shrouded in fog, you can hear them whisper to each other of days past. You feel insignificant, overwhelmed, but captivated as you wander amongst the trees and rivers, exploring a Land Before Time known as Yosemite National Park.
- David Leong (Instagram)
- Winnie Tsai (Instagram)
- Alex Gilham (Instagram)
- Levi Burks (Instagram)
- Kristine Torres (Instagram)
- Bonnie Zeng (Instagram)
- Jihye Kim (Instagram)
Yosemite Valley National Park
Day 1: The Calm Before The Storm
We woke up on an early Saturday morning and met at a Starbucks in Pleasanton, groggy and wishing for warm blankets. After a 3 hour drive into the heart of the mountains, we finally arrived at Tunnel View, the most iconic place in Yosemite for obvious reasons. I literally jumped out of the car and ran to the vista point to start shooting; even got to see a little child of fog wander around Bridalveil Falls over there.
At this point, David and Jihye went off to shoot a client, leaving the rest of us to decide where to go next. We decided on Taft Point, an hour's drive up the slopes of the Valley, and hoped to see the sunset by taking a (not so) short hike to the clearing.
Unfortunately, clouds had already started to gather during the day, hinting at the impending storm system's visit as we approached the cliff. We were greeted by wind, rain, and eventually hail that pelted us as we tried to appreciate the view (how rude) rather than a golden sunset.
Nevertheless, the view was spectacular. There were a few hazardous spots though - seemingly small cracks in the rock gave way into large crevasses you could easily fall into if you weren't careful.
As the sun set, we began to make our way back to the car, trying to communicate with David and Jihye (oh, I failed to mention that service was slightly worse than spotty there - be prepared. Learn to read maps!). After an hour or so of driving down and around the entire Valley, we finally met up with them at a small hotel/restaurant just outside, and feasted on pizza and wings before we headed off into the night for our AirBnb, which was located in the middle of nowhere. Literally, if there was a town for the neighborhood in which the house was located, it'd be called Nowheresville. That + the dark of night + special appearance by the random guitarist playing at the bus stop + the impending storm was the perfect set up for one of your feature length horror films (you know, the one where the photographers visit an area far from civilization and stay at a house, only to meet their impending doom); thank goodness Google Maps didn't die on us (and for Alex's Verizon connection).
The AirBnb was surprisingly quaint and festive! I wish I had taken pictures; they had decorated the house with various nature displays and maps of Yosemite, and had set the table for us in case we chose to eat there. It was a very rustic but cozy place to stay for the night, away from the storm and the rain. We settled down, edited our iPhone photos, and prepared for Day 2.
Day 2: Whispers of the Giants
David had planned for us to wake up at an ungodly hour in order to drive back to Yosemite and up Glacier point to see the sunrise - luckily, we had decided to skip that the night before after seeing the clouds the day before. Back at Tunnel View, we were greeted by our old friend, the Fog - seeing how abruptly the Valley's complexion could change from the day before left me stunned.
High above the trees, we reached Glacier Point. Cold, rainy, and windy, we huddled together as we walked to the Vista Point, then to the Geological Site - a small house on the top of some rocks, overlooking the other peaks.
The rain came in waves, drenching us at one point, but leaving us dry the next. It became a game of cat and mouse, where we would run out and shoot while the rain was calm, and running back to shelter or hiding our equipment when it picked up again.
Color had escaped with the sun and the sky, leaving a beautifully faded scene in front of us. If you don't know me, I'm a person who enjoys the clouds and moody feeling it captures - it just makes you feel alive...I can't quite explain it.
The rain started to turn to downpour as we left Yosemite Valley, driving past the redwoods and fog. The stone giants grew smaller and smaller in the rear window until they disappeared, swallowed up by the clouds. I was tempted multiple times to stop on the side of the road and shoot a bit more into the opening of the Valley, but my friends in the car ahead were navigating, and the constant (first world) struggle of spotty network connectivity told me I had to follow closely, otherwise I'd be here forever.
The weekend was filled with surprises and setbacks (change of plans, storms, people getting lost), but all in all, that's what makes a perfect trip. I'd be concerned if everything went too smoothly - something was bound to happen. You just have to be prepared to be flexible; for instance, a place like Yosemite is prone to rapid weather changes, so be prepared (#EagleScout) and pack things like warm clothes, extra socks, and rain gear (not just a dinky umbrella either - invest in a North Face jacket so you stay warm and dry).
For more photos by our group, look up the hashtag #TreatYosemite2016 on Instagram!
I'd like to thank David Leong for planning the entire trip - usually I'm the one planning our friend excursions, so it was nice to step back and just follow the leader. Definitely check out his site and blog - he's a fellow Fog Chaser like me!
It was also fun exploring a new place with fellow photographers and models - it changes up the dynamic a lot when you're with a group that isn't always set on getting to the destination - the journey is half the adventure. However, be warned: if you're traveling with a group of photographers, you'll constantly stop to take pictures of something, anything that catches our eye!
I guess I'll start blogging a lot more - it's fun to be able to create little entries of the places I've been to, whether it's a small morning trip, or a week long adventure. You can follow some of my adventures on Instagram as well.