U.S. Road Trip: Chapter III

The iconic Yosemite Valley seen from Tunnel View

The iconic Yosemite Valley seen from Tunnel View

A dream coming true!

Ansel Adams photographing in Yosemite. This is one of the photographs I was happy to buy at his gallery inside the park.

Ansel Adams photographing in Yosemite. This is one of the photographs I was happy to buy at his gallery inside the park.

Yosemite has always been a dream of mine since the very first I came across one of the iconic photographs made by Ansel Adams. I remember seeing his amazing images and day dreaming of one day making it to that place that seemed so magical to me. 

As the years went by and I found myself getting into climbing, Yosemite once again started appearing on my dreams as the ultimate place to go and test our abilities. 

So when I was given the opportunity to photograph Saskia's wedding in Santa Cruz, I didn't think twice. "We must go to Yosemite", I told my girlfriend. 

A dry scenery along the road to Yosemite. Fires are a huge threat to the region. 

A dry scenery along the road to Yosemite. Fires are a huge threat to the region. 

And off to Yosemite we went the day after the wedding. Saskia was kind enough to let us borrow her car (Sas, thank you so much!) and although the drive from Santa Cruz to Yosemite was not really that impressive, Ale and I were both super excited about our road trip, and about finally making it to the park. 

It took us about 4 hours to get to the park entrance. When we got there and bought our ticket (U$30 per car for a week pass; cheaper than what I was expecting), I just couldn't believe that was really happening.

It was about midday, and we were planning on spending two nights there. We didn't have any reservations, and we didn't really know what to do and see apart from visiting "Tunnel View", "Glacier Point" (two of the most famous spots there) and the legendary Camp 4, the birthplace of the climbing culture in Yosemite

As soon as you get into the park, those giant trees and huge granite walls start leaving you in a permanent state of awe. 

Ale taking it all in during a quick stop on our way to the valley

Ale taking it all in during a quick stop on our way to the valley

It's even hard to find adjectives to make Yosemite justice. That place is so majestic and monumental that I just can't come up with a way to describe it as beautifully as it deserves. 

When you have that view, driving becomes very slow...

When you have that view, driving becomes very slow...

A quick stop for a picture at the valley

A quick stop for a picture at the valley

Wandering and photographing...

Wandering and photographing...

Textures...

Textures...

We got to the valley and, as pretty much everyone else, made numerous stops along the way to wander around and make some pictures. Yosemite is a wonderland and everywhere you look at over there there is a beautiful picture waiting to be made. 

Following our original plan, we only had two nights there, so we had to be quick. The park is huge and it has countless hiking and climbing trails. We made a quick stop to have lunch and then made our way to the Ansel Adams Gallery, where I bought three of his iconic photographs.

Some beautiful deers we saw roaming free next to the gallery

Some beautiful deers we saw roaming free next to the gallery

Ale showing her love for Nature

Ale showing her love for Nature

After that, it was time to drive to "Tunnel View", which offers a perspective of Yosemite that has been immortalized by Ansel Adams. When we got there, it was just a "Wow!"

The Yosemite valley in all its majesty 

The Yosemite valley in all its majesty 

We spent quite a good time there, trying to absorb at least a fraction of all that beauty that was being presented to us. While seating there I felt immensely grateful for everything I've been able to see and experience over the last years.

Moving on to our next destination, we drove to "Glacier Point" to see the sunset and we got there with plenty of time to wander around and find a quite spot, far away form the other tourists. Naturally, though, we made quite a few stops for pictures before actually getting there.

Ale photographing with my X100S, with the impressive Half Dome in the background

Ale photographing with my X100S, with the impressive Half Dome in the background

Yosemite is a true photographer's paradise

Yosemite is a true photographer's paradise

Nature "details"

Nature "details"

Stunning views 

Stunning views 

Finding a spot for a quick picture. Half Dome is always there...

Finding a spot for a quick picture. Half Dome is always there...

When we finally made it to "Glacier Point", it was freaking cold but the views from there...oh man, they can certainly keep you warm for quite a while... 

Half Dome in all its beauty, rising 5,000 feet above Yosemite valley

Half Dome in all its beauty, rising 5,000 feet above Yosemite valley

A moment of quietude at Glacier Point

A moment of quietude at Glacier Point

And it was right there, while watching the Sun goes down and Half Dome becomes red with the last rays of light, that my girlfriend became my fiancé...

She said "yes", and we then watched our first sunset together as an engaged couple

She said "yes", and we then watched our first sunset together as an engaged couple

We have kind of a out-of-a-book story, and perhaps one day I will share more about it, but for now, all I can say is that I could't be happier for being with such a special human being, with such a wonderful woman.

Then, Yosemite gave us it show, and presented us with a spectacle of light, colors and shadows that it was just too beautiful to be "photographically ignored". I did try to just sit there and enjoy the views, but it was all so irresistibly gorgeous that it would be a sin to not photograph it... 

How not to photograph that?!

How not to photograph that?!

Exploring "Glacier Point", part I

Exploring "Glacier Point", part I

Exploring "Glacier Point", part II

Exploring "Glacier Point", part II

Half Dome painted in red by the warm rays of sunlight 

Half Dome painted in red by the warm rays of sunlight 

When light finally went away, it was time to get back to the car and find a place to sleep...we didn't have any reservations for one of the campgrounds or hotels inside the park, and we were not really keen on driving outside the park, so we did what seemed the most logical to us: we slept in the car.

First, though, we had to find a quiet spot, so we headed back towards "Tunnel View" and parked there to have dinner (we had bought some food at the supermarket inside the park after lunch) and check the park's map for a potential overnight parking. 

Time went by and after a good meal with some good wine, I found myself outside the car, setting up my tripod and attempting to make a night shot of the valley. This is what my X-Pro2 and its ISO 12,8000 allowed me to get:

A shooting star and climbers making their way up "El Capitan"

A shooting star and climbers making their way up "El Capitan"

It was already late, and we were both super tired after our long day, so we decided to give it a try and spend the night parked there exactly where we were. We were afraid a park ranger would come during the night to get us out of there, but, fortunately to us, that did not happen.

So the next morning, when I woke up, cars were already parking and fellow photographers were already in a rush with their tripods trying to get a spot for the sunrise, which turned out to be kind of less than what everyone was expecting.

Ale and I were both hungry, and I was dying for a black coffee, so we made our way back to the valley. Our plan was to have a big breakfast and then take the Panorama Trail, but after some consideration, we came to the tough decision that it would be better for us to just spend the morning in the park, and then leave towards Big Sur

Our time in the U.S. was short, and we still had a lot to see, so we agreed to enjoy our breakfast and then wander a bit more around the park before leaving. We passed by Camp 4 and "Valley View", and took some pictures before making our way towards the park exit. 

Camp 4

Camp 4

Snacks break

Snacks break

"Valley View"

"Valley View"

Gorgeous Autumn leaves

Gorgeous Autumn leaves

It was not easy to leave the park so abruptly and after seeing just a tinny little fraction of it, but I know we will be back there soon...

Yosemite had always had a special place in my heart and it now has an even bigger one. It was there, after all, where Ale and I formally and officially committed to each other, to the relationship we want to have; one that push us, individually and as a couple, to the best version of ourselves.

"It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter", John Muir once said, referring to Yosemite

I've been fortunate enough to see many wonderful places in the world, but I would not disagree with him on that. 

I will be back here next week,

Saludos!

Bernardo Salce