The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley used to schedule multi-day cooking classes during winter months when the hotel was otherwise not so busy. With a group of friends, my wife and I signed up for one of these, which took place in early January.
When we arrived, there was a small amount of snow on the ground and plenty of ice along walkways and roads throughout the valley. The hotel is grand and had a wonderful, warm, welcoming feel in this weather. Classes were leisurely, making it possible to include some hikes in the valley to explore the winter side of Yosemite, which we had not previously seen.
I found time for some early morning and late afternoon photo walks. The weather deteriorated after a couple of days, and overnight snowfall set in. I was both excited by the look this would bring to the iconic scenery and concerned that we might be trapped here by the weather. As it happened, we had a little of both. The roads were closed to those without tire chains (we had them), so the valley soon became uncommonly deserted. We had the rare opportunity to hike to some great scenic locations and view them alone.
While the major snow had ended, there were still low clouds and blowing snow at higher elevations. Half Dome, my subject here, is already a commanding scene, but it takes on an especially fearsome and threatening feel when the weather sours.
This shot was taken from the valley floor with snow and fog blowing fiercely across the face of half dome. It was late in the day, with very flat and fading light. I took several shots from different perspectives with a tripod.
It is so tempting in post-processing to try and draw out the famous craggy structure of the granite by cutting through the haze and managing contrast. In this case, I felt the scene had more power by doing the opposite.
The weather was dominant that day, and I went for lower contrast, maximizing the visibility of the hazy fog and blowing snow to emphasise better the relentless attack of the weather on the face of the mountain I saw. I wanted the viewer to be afraid of the mountain on that day but comforted by the relative calm of the snowy foreground where I was standing.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor