Latest posts by Holly Higbee-Jansen (see all)
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Yosemite Photography is in my blood. I’ve been there too many times to count, but my favorite time is winter. Yosemite in winter is the best time of year because it’s quiet. The crowds of summer are gone and just the hardy, adventurous types are there to experience nature at its finest.
On one particular trip, just two days before Christmas, December 1964 — it was raining like crazy. We were spending the holidays in the Yosemite Valley, just like we did every year. The rain was coming down in buckets. We slept peacefully in our cozy housekeeping cabin at the Yosemite Lodge unaware that the Merced River was starting to flood. When the river started to threaten the little cabins at the Lodge, we were evacuated to higher ground in the middle of the night, out of harm’s way.
You never know what you’re going to find in this beautiful valley in the winter.
But we were there looking for snow, and it finally arrived Christmas morning. The rain had turned to snow and we woke up to the peaceful quiet beauty of ice crystals falling all around us. We were able to ski back to our old cabin to look at the flood levels on the side of the structure. The high water line was halfway up the building, but that didn’t seem to matter. We were experiencing beautiful winter in Yosemite.
Those housekeeping cabins are gone now. They’ve been replaced by rustic, yet comfortable two-story buildings located far enough away from the river to avoid any future floods. What I love about these newer buildings is when I walk out of my second-floor room in the morning, I’m greeted by the view of Yosemite falls in all its frozen glory.
Because we returned to Yosemite each Christmas, we made a lot of friends there. It still isn’t the same for me if I’m not there during the holidays. That was our family tradition.
One special individual, in particular, had a lot to do with our infatuation of photographing that wonderland. My Father and sister took photography workshops with Ansel Adams in Yosemite the summer before the flood. Ansel knew my father, and would come over and chat with us when we were hanging out in the lodge by the fire, or playing backgammon on winter evenings. My sisters and I always looked forward to seeing him and hoped he’d give us some suggestions to help beat our father in the game. We were awed by his presence, his stature, and his white beard.
A lot has changed there since 1964, but civilization can’t change the immense beauty of Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite is in my blood. I go for the feeling I get when I’m there. It’s a place that understands me and my history. The valley welcomes me when I arrive, but only in the offseason. We come for the snow, the crisp mountain air, the incredible views, and that feeling of home. That’s why it seemed natural for us to create a photography excursion to the Yosemite Valley in winter. On one of our winter photography workshops, we had a private client who is an accomplished photographer ready to bear the elements for a special wilderness adventure.
Yosemite is at an elevation of 4,000 feet and the weather in winter can vary greatly. In January and February, we’ve experienced a frozen winter snowstorm, a flood (as mentioned above), and 65-degree weather. When we book one of these photography workshops, we never know what we’re going to get. What we do know is that it’s always an amazingly beautiful experience in a place we know and love. We returned to Yosemite in January of 2017 for our yearly private photography workshop. As we entered the park it was snowing pretty heavily with no stopping in sight. Fortunately, our 4 wheel drive truck easily managed the snowy road, but as we headed towards the valley, the entrance gates closed behind us, no more people allowed in the park until the snow storm cleared 3 days later.
There was snow everywhere after all was said and done, there were at least 20 inches that had fallen in a few days time. When we arrived in the valley, we were relieved to find that our client had made it in as well. I don’t know how many people were in the valley that week, but it was so quiet and peaceful, no crowds, no busses, just Yosemite and the snow.
On our first day, we had little choice but to start our workshop on snowshoes. The snow was so deep but was easy to manage on snowshoes. We were able to capture this amazing park at its best.
Another reason we like this area so much better in winter is that no one else is on the trail. Very few people would brave the cold to get to the ultimate prize at the end of the road. It was well worth it for us.
Would you like to join us on our next photographic journey to this magical place in winter? We’ve have group or private excursions available to my lifelong home away from home, the mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
Explore private photography workshops in Yosemite Valley:
If you’d like personal assistance in nurturing your photographic creativity, we’ve got several options. Learn to be more comfortable with your camera and your personal vision. Single and multi-day photography workshops are our specialty, and if you’d like to take a longer trip.