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Spring in Yosemite Valley is usually bursting with waterfalls, full lakes, flowing rivers and rushing creeks. In the fall there is less water, but the park is still bursting, this time with sensual seasonal color. So I planned my visit for late September, early October. On this particular early morning, I hiked on a dirt path along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley setting my tripod up and taking shots as I went. The thin cloud cover was a perfect filter for the intimate landscape images I was hoping to capture. As the clouds dissipated and the sun rose higher, though, the greatly increased contrast wasn't what I was looking for, and so I decided to head back to my car, figuring I was done shooting until early evening.
As I stepped out of the forest and onto the road, this vibrant blaze of reds, yellow, and oranges greeted me. It was a nearly noonday sun by this time, and its rays were piercing the scene with ease. The open sky above the road added its own lighting effects. I did end up with some pretty nice images of the kind I'd planned for, but this one--the one I didn't plan for--is my favorite of the bunch. And so I learned once again what all photographers learn over and over again: make all your plans but save some room for the unexpected.