Day 24 - Yosemite NP  
    The beautiful Wawona Hotel in the morning light.    
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

I awoke in the morning none the worse for wear from my dip into the creek that runs by the Wawona Hotel, and thankfully my clothes and shoes were dry. After a quick shower it was time to get some sustenance for the day and my travelling companion David and I headed to the restaurant for a good breakfast. The food was good and the morning light gave us a chance to appreciate our surroundings.

The Wawona Hotel was built in 1879 and it is truly a beautiful complex, nestled in the trees but with nice lawns leading out from it. It would be a lovely place to spend a few days with the family, where the kids could roam and mom and dad could relax in a sunchair with a good book.

Bathed in morning light, the building and griounds of the Wawona Hotel evoked a real feeling of tranquilty.
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala

After breakfast we farewelled the hotel and set off to drive the short distance to the famous Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoias. Apparently parking can be a problem in Summer, but at the time of our visit there was no trouble finding a park, and we ambled up towards the entrance.

Giant Sequoias are massive trees, up to 310 feet high and estimated at over 3,000 years old. While they aren't the oldest living things in the world (that honour goes to the Bristlecone Pine at 4,600 years) they are truly massive and are probably the largest living things on the planet. When discovered in the 1850's they captured the interest of the world, and they undoubtedly contributed to Yosemite becoming America's first National Park in 1872.

There are two areas with Sequoias at the Mariposa Grove, the upper and lower groves. Together they have about 500 mature Sequoias. To get to the upper grove we took an open air tram up to the end of the line, the Mariposa Grove Museum. This was the start of our journey.

The Mariposa Grove Museum.
Minolta X-570 with 17mm f/4 MC W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala

The walk from the Upper Grove back to the parking lot is 2.5 miles, and took about two hours to walk. The sights along the way are truly incredible. The trees are so massive that it is almost beyond comprehension that something can grow so big. Having the 17mm with me was a godsend - I pity the poor tourists walking through here whose widest focal length on their digital camera is 28mm.

Me holding a pinecone in the shadow of a mature Sequoia.
Minolta X-570 with 17mm f/4 MC W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala

Even with a 17mm it is virtually impossible to capture the size of these trees. Shots looking straight up just don't do them justice, because when looking at the prints you can't see anything to help you put the size of the tree in perspective. It is just a place where you really have to go and visit yourself.

The walk down to the car was relaxing and I took a lot of pictures. As usual, David was extremely patient with me, letting me take my time and photograph as much as I wanted. At one stage I found something particularly interesting to photograph, and he waited for about ten minutes as I took lots of shots before finally we walked on. I didn't realise he hadn't seen what I had photographed until we looked at the pictures afterwards. One of the photos is below.

A ten-point buck resting in the hollow that a fire has wrought in one of the Sequoias.
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

Naturally when David saw the shots he was amazed that he had completely missed seeing the buck! For some reason I thought he had seen it, and wanting to be quiet I mustn't have brought it to his attention. Goodness only knows what he thought I was photographing for all of that time!

After the walk back to the carpark and marvelling at all of the magnificent trees we headed out onto the road again for our drive up to Yosemite Valley, where we would be staying that night.

The drive took us past the Park entrance and we made a short detour to the general store just outside the entrance to pick up some food and drink for lunch. Just about everything around Yosemite is beautiful, and the view directly in front of the General store was no exception.

Nice view - now if only I had my fishing rod and a spare day or two to relax!
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

I must admit, while the dynamic range of negative film makes it a better choice for high contrast images such as the one above, I wish I had shot some of these images on slide film. The nature of slide film means that the image colours are generally accurate, while with negative film there is a degree of judgement required in adjusting the colour. I hope I did the scene justice, but the image was shot so long ago now that I don't really know. Just another reason for using slide film I suppose!

The front door of the general store was an interesting sight - I think this is the first general store I have ever seen with a dress code!.

No trousers appears to be acceptable.
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

While it was a long way out of our way werove up to Glacier Point for what is recognised as the ultimate view down into Yosemite Valley. Being the end of summer all of the waterfalls were dry, but the view was still breathtaking.

A view down into Yosemite Valley with Half Dome.
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC Rokkor Film: Fuji Superia Reala
Detail from Glacier Point.
Minolta X-570 with 200mm f/2.8 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

The views from Glacier Point are amazing, but it is difficult to get something that looks different from what a million other people have taken before you. I thought that these two were the best of my shots.

Yosemite cannot be described as anything less than breathtaking. Over the previous several weeks David and I had seen some incredible spectacles, from the dry desert cliffs of Canyonlands NP to the expanse of the Grand Canyon, and as a result were perhaps a little jaded as far as natural beauty was concerned, but this was still truly awesome. Yosemite deserved a lot more time than the two nights we were spending there, it is the sort of place I would like to visit for a week or so, and just really relax in the picturesque surroundings.

After spending about half an hour at Glacier Point it was back to the car, as we had a fair way to go to the Tunnel View rest area before sunset. Tunnel View rest area is situated immediately after a long tunnel on the road between Wawona and Yosemite Valley. If you are driving along be prepared to pull over as soon as you reach the end of the tunnel.

Also be prepared to lift your jaw up, because the view as you exit the tunnel is probably one of the most beautiful natural scenes in the world..

Yosemite Valley as seen from Tunnel View.
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

The panoramic viewpoint that Tunnel View offers shows many of Yosemite's great landmarks at once. You can see El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the middle distance, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rock & Bridalveil Falls on the right. Naturally the falls were dry at the end of summer, but in every other respect we arrived at just the right time, about half an hour before the sun would set, lighting up the cliff faces with a delicate warm glow.

Me with my trusty XD-7 full of Velvia to shoot the sunset.
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

By arriving a little early we were able to situate ourselves in a good position to take photos, and as the sunset got closer the carpark started to fill up with people who had driven up the short distance from Yosemite Valley to see the show. I used both of my cameras, shooting both print film and slides and giving my Cokin graduated filters a workout. I was in photographers heaven.

As the sunset progessed I tried playing with some coloured graduated filters and I had a load of fun, but when I finally got home and reviewed the shots, the ones that were the best were naturally the ones without any filter except a graduated neutral density to cope with the dynamic range. It seems that in some circumstances you just can't improve on nature.

A truly inspiring view.
Minolta XD-7 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC W.Rokkor Film: Fuji Velvia 50

After sunset David and I drove down into the valley to our home for the night, the Yosemite Lodge. Unfortunately we had only the two nights in Yosemite, and tomorrow we were off to the Napa Valley. Before then would have a morning shooting in the valley, which would include some of my favourite shots from the whole trip. The next update will include these shots plus a little taste of the Napa for you.

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