California

I just want to put together a little article of my experiences in California this summer. I also want to provide you with some information including locations, basic camera settings and some basic processes that I used to edit the images. Hopefully this will help some of your photography journeys. During my time there, I spent most of it in Yosemite National Park. I always wanted to visit Yosemite ever since I started landscape photography because of Ansel Adams. His work really inspired me and I had to see it with my own eyes. Below I will list out my day-to-day trip in chronological order. Hope you enjoy it!

These are the gears that I used to take all the photographs below, they are also amazon affiliate links that will help support me and to create more contents. Thank you!

D850 - https://amzn.to/2QJGaYX
DJI Mavic Pro - https://amzn.to/2B9geAT
Lee Filters Foundation Kits - https://amzn.to/2DGS9Us
Lee Filters 4x6 (100x150mm) Neutral Density soft edge grad - https://amzn.to/2ThwwOT
Lowpro Protactic 450 AW - https://amzn.to/2QLnLv3
Manfrotto MT190CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber 3-Section Tripod - Bundle with Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPRO Ball Head - https://amzn.to/2zct8fX
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E - https://amzn.to/2DFWJCb
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED - https://amzn.to/2DJ9bRZ

So let’s get to it, my first stop in California was Los Angeles. While most people visited the city, I headed straight to the mountains. I drove through the Angeles Crest Highway and I was so amazed of how beautiful it was, here are the two pictures I took on that day.

Angeles Crest Highway - Photo 1 (DJI Mavic Pro, 1/640 sec at F/2.2, iso 100 5 AEB shots merge.) GPS Coordinate: 34°17'03.9"N 118°11'18.8"W

Angeles Crest Highway - Photo 1 (DJI Mavic Pro, 1/640 sec at F/2.2, iso 100 5 AEB shots merge.) GPS Coordinate: 34°17'03.9"N 118°11'18.8"W

Angeles Crest Highway - Photo 2 (DJI Mavic Pro, 1/640 sec at F/2.2, iso 100 5 AEB shots merge.) GPS Coordinate: 34°16'47.9"N 118°12'46.7"W

Angeles Crest Highway - Photo 2 (DJI Mavic Pro, 1/640 sec at F/2.2, iso 100 5 AEB shots merge.) GPS Coordinate: 34°16'47.9"N 118°12'46.7"W

After getting some rest, my second stop was straight to Yosemite National Park. There were some issues with my plans that I would like to share if you are not familiar with Yosemite. I booked an Airbnb nearby in the town of Sonora, which was an hour and fifteen minutes to Yosemite but that only leads to the gate! There's another hour to Yosemite Valley. So my commute was tough for the 4 days there because I planned to stay in the park for sunrise and sunset, but in my opinion it was all worth it.

Road to Yosemite Valley (1/40 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 70-200mm len @70mm) GPS Coordinate: 37.716673, -119.724229

Road to Yosemite Valley (1/40 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 70-200mm len @70mm) GPS Coordinate: 37.716673, -119.724229

Upper Yosemite Fall shot from Lower Yosemite Fall Trail ((1/10 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 20mm len with Polarizer) GPS coordinate: 37°44'47.0"N 119°35'46.3"W

Upper Yosemite Fall shot from Lower Yosemite Fall Trail ((1/10 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 20mm len with Polarizer) GPS coordinate: 37°44'47.0"N 119°35'46.3"W

It was a fun day and I got to visit the Ansel Adam’s gallery but I felt like there was just too many people in the Valley.  So I decided to drive back out to one of the scenic view locations that I saw earlier and just parked there to wait for a sunset shot. This was what I got from that location.

Sunset light on Half Dome (1/13 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 70-200mm len @160mm) GPS Coordinate: 37°42'49.2"N 119°43'38.5"W

Sunset light on Half Dome (1/13 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 70-200mm len @160mm) GPS Coordinate: 37°42'49.2"N 119°43'38.5"W

My next stop was Tuolumne Meadows; this was probably my favorite place inside of Yosemite. It has less people and most of them were hikers. The place was just beautiful with a meadow located above 8600 feet, and there were mountain peaks in every direction you look. Here are the shots that I took at that location.

Sunset at Tuolumne Meadow. (1/6 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 70-200mm len @70mm) GPS coordinate: 37°52'30.1"N 119°21'60.0"W

Sunset at Tuolumne Meadow. (1/6 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 70-200mm len @70mm) GPS coordinate: 37°52'30.1"N 119°21'60.0"W

A panoramic shot of Cathedral Peak at Tuolumne Meadow. (5 shots panoramic stitched, 1/20 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 70-200mm len @70mm) GPS coordinate: 37°52'21.8"N 119°22'10.5"W

A panoramic shot of Cathedral Peak at Tuolumne Meadow. (5 shots panoramic stitched, 1/20 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 70-200mm len @70mm) GPS coordinate: 37°52'21.8"N 119°22'10.5"W

On that same day, I was able to drive through Tioga Pass and visited the lakes around the area. It’s a completely different mountain range and it gives you a very different feel compared to Yosemite. Most of the mountains were still covered in light snow even in the summer. Here is the photo that I took on Ellery Lake.

Ellery Lake at Tioga Pass ((1/50 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 20mm len with polarizer) GPS coordinate: 37°56'21.8"N 119°14'29.8"W

Ellery Lake at Tioga Pass ((1/50 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 20mm len with polarizer) GPS coordinate: 37°56'21.8"N 119°14'29.8"W

Overall, it was a very successful day. I was able to explore so much in such a short period of time but I still have one sunrise left to spend in Yosemite. With only a few hours of sleep, I drove back into Yosemite at 3 am in the morning to visit one of the most iconic places inside the park. Most of you probably seen this many times but I had to see it myself and hopefully capture my own image of the beautiful scene. Something about the Tunnel View just gave off such a special feeling and seeing it in a photo doesn’t justify it enough. It was a calm and beautiful morning, you would hear the birds chirping in the background and the sun slowly lit up the valley with the golden warm color. It reminded me of why I decided to get into landscape photography, you really get to see some of the most beautiful moments of nature where most people can’t.

Yosemite Tunnel View (5 shots Panoramic merge, 1/25 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 70-200mm len @70mm) GPS coordinate: 37°42'56.0"N 119°40'36.8"W

Yosemite Tunnel View (5 shots Panoramic merge, 1/25 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 70-200mm len @70mm) GPS coordinate: 37°42'56.0"N 119°40'36.8"W

I was a bit sad that I had to leave Yosemite because there is still so much to explore but time was running out. I had to get back to the city and get ready for the flight back home the next morning. On the drive back to San Francisco, I was deciding if I can or should squeeze in one more sunset shot before I leave. I know that if I don’t at least try, I will be regretting it. So with some more coffee, I pushed through again and found a place inside of Point Reyes National Park. When I arrived, I completely forgot how tired I was and got excited again. I did a quick search online and found a couple of cool rock formations. Luckily, the sunset was also at that direction, so I had to at least check it out. It was just beautiful, the beach is so different compared to the east coast. Initially, I tried to see if I can photograph the Elephant Cave in Mcclure’s Beach but the tide was too high for me to cross to the other side of the beach in order to see it at the right angle. Instead, I climbed one of the rocks there and settled in to watch the sunset. The temperature changed so quickly in the coast and it got really cold but it was a very relaxing evening. I just setup my camera, sat there, and enjoyed the view with some snacks while waiting for the sun to set. Here is the shot that I took at that location.

Sunset at Mcclure’s Beach (1/3 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 20mm len) GPS coordinate: 38°10'59.8"N 122°58'01.1"W

Sunset at Mcclure’s Beach (1/3 sec at f/8.0, iso64, 20mm len) GPS coordinate: 38°10'59.8"N 122°58'01.1"W

I had a blast visiting California and the national parks, it was an unforgettable experience. I hope this will give you some ideas of the photographic opportunities in California and even if you are not there for a photo, you should still pay a visit and enjoy the best of what nature has to offer.

Van LamComment