A Juniper Tree in Yosemite

A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend in Yosemite. It was yet another reminder how fast the weather can change. At 6pm the sun was shining, at 7pm it rained and at 8pm, the clouds parted for a beautiful sunset. For that sunset, I went to Olmsted Point since it provides nice views in different directions. Additionally, there are several trees spread apart that can serve as a foreground for my images. Instead of moving to different trees, I had decided to select one, a juniper, and work the scene with it.

The plan was to be on location before sunset, but dinner and the drive there took both a bit longer than expected. Fortunately when I arrived, the light was still beautiful and clouds dotted the sky.

Jeffrey Pine and Western Juniper at Dusk
Jeffrey Pine and Western Juniper at Dusk

 

As I said earlier, the objective of the evening was to work with this juniper tree. Here it is; I even managed to include Half Dome in the mountain panorama.

Juniper Tree with Half Dome
Juniper Tree with Half Dome

 

Fifteen minutes later, the sky turned dark and stars popped up all over the place. I was surprised to see how well the Milky Way was visible. This was two days after full moon and the moonrise was just 30 minutes away. The orange light in the background is actually created by the rising moon.

I am not well versed in star constellations, but thanks to the StarWalk2 app on my phone, I can identify some objects. The bright star well above the tree on the left side is Altair. And just above the tree and a bit to the right is a satellite flare.

Juniper Tree and Milkyway
Juniper Tree and Milky Way

 

The entire scenery changed just a few minutes later. The rising full moon became more powerful and lit the firmament. I could not believe how many stars were still visible.

Juniper Tree and Milkyway after Moonrise
Juniper Tree and Milky Way after Moonrise

 

Once the moon rose behind the mountain chain, the entire landscape came to life. Aside from the stars in the sky, it is difficult to tell that this image was taken at 10pm. It always amazes me to see how powerful a full moon or a near full moon is.

Most of the time I use multiple exposures to create my night photography work. Like the previous image, this one is a single exposure where I just added a bit of light to the tree using my flashlight.

Isn’t it funny that one of my last images shows almost the same scene as taken a few hours before while it was still day (2nd image)?

Stary Sky in Yosemite
Starry Sky in Yosemite

 

Last but not least, I have below a very different picture. Taking it was a challenge since the sun was setting right behind the tree. This created a big dynamic range problem for the camera. I took different exposures so I could merge them using the HDR technique. But in the end I wasn’t satisfied with the results I got and decided to try something else…. I used some artistic license to process the image and added a texture to make the sky more interesting. I am really happy with the outcome.

Juniper Tree
Juniper Tree

 

It is only now while looking at my images of this juniper tree, that I realize that I haven’t taken one facing north. This could have been a nice picture with the tree and a star trail. Well, maybe next time…

 

Prints and Licensing: All images are available as fine art prints and for licensing. Please contact me for more details.

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