Yosemite Photography Tips
- The Time of Year Makes a Huge Difference
- Don't Forget the Small Stuff
- Yosemite Photography Tips: Nighttime Offers Epic Photographic Opportunities, Too
- Head to Yosemite With a Pro
Yosemite National Park is one of the most spectacular (and popular) parks in the National Park System. As photographers, it's a location that we dream of exploring with our camera and lens, capturing the beauty of soaring peaks, lush valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and much more.
It can be a bit overwhelming, though...
Yosemite is a massive park with nearly 760,000 acres. The park also has dozens of iconic photography spots (and dozens more that are lesser-known) that are hard to resist photographing during your visit.
With the Yosemite photography tips I outline below, you'll be able to plan an ideal photography trip to one of our nation's most spectacular parks.
Editor's note: The images used in this article are by our good friend Jeff Sullivan, and are used with permission.
Table of Contents
The Time of Year Makes a Huge Difference
The first Yosemite photography tip I want to share is a pretty obvious one - the time of year you visit will have an enormous impact on your images.
Don't get me wrong - no matter when you visit Yosemite, you'll find beautiful vistas to photograph. But the season during which you visit will change how those vistas look and feel.
For example, if you want to catch the epic "Fire Fall" of Yosemite Falls (shown above), when the sun's rays illuminate the falls and make it look as though it's on fire, you'll need to visit sometime between October and February.
On the other hand, if you want to capture wildflowers in bloom, you'll need to head to the park in late spring or early summer. If fall colors are what you're after, a trip in mid-October to late-October will give you the best chance of capturing the most vibrant fall foliage.
And it isn't just the time of year that makes a difference - the time of day also influences what sorts of shots you can get.
There are many beautiful river valleys in the park, and in the early morning, you're likely to find fog and mist hanging around that gives Yosemite landscapes that extra bit of intrigue and beauty.
Of course, getting to your shot location that early in the morning requires some planning (and some coffee, no doubt), but the time and effort you put into getting out of bed early and to your shot location with ample time to spare will pay dividends with the images you capture.
Remember - capturing beautiful photos like those that Jeff has given us for this article requires a lot of work. These aren't images you snap off the cuff out of your car window in a pull-out on the highway! Instead, you'll need to plan ahead, take your time, and invest yourself in each shot to get the most spectacular results.
Don't Forget the Small Stuff
Yosemite is obviously full of epic scenes like Tunnel View, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Bridge that demand to be photographed.
But these locations aren't just epic - they're also very busy. You will have to navigate throngs of people to try to get your best shot.
Don't get me wrong - these and other "postcard" locations in the park are well worth your time and photographic effort. However, it's important to remember that there are many other beautiful scenes in the park that you can capture with your camera - without the big crowds.
You might photograph individual flowers on a sunny spring day. Perhaps you focus in on a small vignette of a boulder-filled stream.
Heck, you might even take one of the epic vistas that Yosemite has to offer and frame up a telephoto shot that highlights a very small portion of the scene that focuses on texture, shape, color, or another feature.
Truly, the possibilities for what you can photograph in Yosemite are endless. Be sure to take this Yosemite photography tip to heart - take the time to appreciate the small stuff, and you'll end up with a much better collection of Yosemite images.
Yosemite Photography Tips: Nighttime Offers Epic Photographic Opportunities, Too
Just like it's important to take the time to find the small, beautiful vignettes in Yosemite, it's also important to capture Yosemite's beauty at night.
Whether you're out for a Blue Hour photography session or you want to capture the moonrise or you want to photograph light trails as cars pass by, there are many opportunities to use your camera for exploring Yosemite's beauty at night.
As with the other tips on this list, photographing Yosemite at night requires some planning and forethought.
For example, if you want to photograph the moon rising above Half Dome, you'll need to invest time into research about the phases of the moon.
As another example, if you want to capture star trails, you'll need to brush up on your mastery of manipulating the shutter speed to photograph the movement of the stars across the sky.
As noted earlier, Yosemite has many different looks and feels throughout the year, and the same is true of the park at night.
The night photography opportunities are plentiful, and give you yet another chance to photograph the park in a different light, so to speak!
Head to Yosemite With a Pro
A final tip I'd like to offer is this - head to Yosemite with a professional photographer.
Taking a photography tour in a place like Yosemite opens up so many possibilities for exploring the park and learning new skills while you're at it.
Jeff Sullivan's Great Basin School of Photography offers photography tours in Yosemite (and many other locations) that get you off the beaten path and in the park during the right times of year for the most epic photos.
On a tour like this, you don't have to worry about where to go in the park or how to get there. Instead, experts like Jeff can lead you to the best locations and teach you critical skills while you're there.
I've seen Jeff and his wife Lori in action on a photography tour, and I can tell you first-hand that they are the epitome of photography professionals. You'll learn a lot, make great photography friends, and see parts of the park you likely wouldn't otherwise explore.
That sounds like a great combination of benefits if you ask me!
So, use these Yosemite photography tips, sign up for a photography tour, and get some gorgeous photos of Yosemite!
For a detailed look at Yosemite and its many photographic opportunities, check out Jeff Sullivan's book, "Photographing California, Volume 2 - South." In it, you'll find everything from suggested times of year to visit to hidden gem photography spots to instructions on how to get to locations throughout the park. It's a one-stop-shop of Yosemite photography tips!