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Yosemite Snowstorm: the Day After

A modest snowstorm dumped 1-3 inches of snow on Yosemite (4-6 inches at 11,500'). I was allowed through the Tioga Pass gate, and being a little tired, slept in my car up near Saddlebag Lake, getting up the next morning for a hike very early, unaware that the road was closed.

The Sony A7R II and Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon proved just right for this hike (size/weight/resolution/lens performance). But I was frustrated operating the Sony A7R II controls with gloves, and the dials were problematic in the cold for a while (I had trouble getting the aperture-control dial to respond). Battery life in the cold is notably reduced. I cannot recommend the A7R II for cold weather shooting with heavier gloves; I was forced to use a thinner medium-weight gloves which on this day were (just) enough.

These images processed on my laptop; color and contrast and exposure might not be as per my usual standards.

 
Meadow just above Tioga Lake
f9 @ 1/50 sec, ISO 100; 2015-10-29 07:45:53
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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The trail up. No one around, only the sounds of the forest and wind.

 
Through the Forest in Fresh Snow
f5.6 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 100; 2015-10-29 08:04:23
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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After weeks of strangely warm weather for the California, seasonal cold finally kicks in.

 
Icicles in Creek
f5.6 @ 1/20 sec, ISO 200; 2015-10-29 08:16:42
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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Approaching treeline.

 
Sunstar Peeks Through at Treeline
f8 @ 1/80 sec, ISO 100; 2015-10-29 08:37:14
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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Boulder fields are never easy, but covered with snow, the risks go way up, and great care is needed. Much steeper and more difficult areas are ahead up the canyon.

 
Snow-covered Boulder Fields
f8 @ 1/500 sec, ISO 100; 2015-10-29 09:20:27
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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I find such scenes extraordinarily beautiful—one can wait all year for a chance at such stuff. Here the wind whips powder-dry snow into the air. Later in the day, my water bottle started freezing up. Post-holing through a boulder field like this takes constant attention to avoid a twisted ankle or similar.

 
Snow-covered Boulder Fields
f8 @ 1/500 sec, ISO 100; 2015-10-29 09:38:05
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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Wind whips snow devils into the air. At higher altitudes, mini cyclones could be seen. I continued on up through the huge boulder field / moraine under the snow devils.

 
Glacial Lake, Half Iced-Over with Wind-Whipped Snow Devils
f8 @ 1/500 sec, ISO 100; 2015-10-29 09:47:26
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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Ethereal beauty: blue/green glacial water (silt free) with ice stilling waves for a clear view to the bottom while wind whips snowdevils across the ice. Such scenes are rare and wondrous to behold.

 
Glacial Lake, Onset of Winter
f6.3 @ 1/640 sec, ISO 100; 2015-10-29 10:46:46
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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A daylong show of cloud and sun made this day stunningly exceptional. It feels overwhelming in terms of trying to capture the grandeur.

 
Mountain Cloud and Sun Glory
f10 @ 1/400 sec, ISO 100; 2015-10-29 13:29:36
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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A hard day’s effort and a lot of patience in mostly ice-covered lakes yields two or three dinners for the trip. I hate taking such beautiful creatures, but such is the way of life, and I never over-use a resource. A ranger at the park service told me the new policy is “catch and take” due to endangered frogs. I prefer the trout, and the frog population is very healthy in the areas I visit. Some lakes in the Sierra are being poisoned to kill trout. I hope the trout keep their place.

 
Golden Trout on Ice Before Gutting
f5.6 @ 1/40 sec, ISO 100; 2015-10-29 14:58:24
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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The only selfie of the day (too much trouble to use a tripod, all other shots over the day were handheld). Top layers: cycling jersey, Ibex wool hoody, Western Mountainering Flash down jacket, Ibex wool jacket. Bottom layers: mid-weight cycling tight, Ibex Northwood pant, North Face rain/wind pant. See Gear for the Outdoors.

 
Selfie by Icy Creek, Dusk
f5.6 @ 1/30 sec, ISO 640; 2015-10-29 17:52:58
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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A day of sun makes little difference to shaded canyon areas, this shot being taken at 18:02, after sunset.

 
Icy Creek at Dusk
f9 @ 1.6 sec, ISO 100; 2015-10-29 18:02:34
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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This clean and clear road is what qualifies for a road closure by the Park Service: no snow, no ice near 10,000' summit, nothing but a little sand on the road (applied by CalTrans). Closure like these are why locals (economy depends on the road) have a deep distaste for the NPS (Yosemite and Death Valley as well). That evening, after long day’s hike, I was locked in by a road closure down at the bottom of Lee Vining Canyon, but I did not know that until 6pm when I tried to exit and had to wait 90 minutes for CalTrans to open the gate! No note on my car, no note on the locked gate 3000 feet below. What if I had been injured? There were two other people in the Saddlebag Area (also in a car); the authorities were unaware of me or them. But as can be seen, my SUV is hardly hidden.

 
Snow and Ice-Free Hwy 120 at Tioga Pass
f2 @ 1/10 sec, ISO 250; 2015-10-29 18:19:24
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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