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A Moment On The River | by WJMcIntosh
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A Moment On The River

It was a was a pretty disappointing afternoon when I arrived back at my car at a pull out just West of the Southside viewing area for Horsetail Falls. My plan was to hike above the treeline to a spot that I had been to previously, but those plans came to an abrupt end when I ran into drifts that were approaching 5 feet deep in very steep terrain. I don't give up very easily when I really want a shot, but after a chasm opened up in front of me and I realized I could have been sucked under a huge boulder and buried with snow...I gave up. My kids would have been pretty ticked at me if I broke my leg and froze to death before anyone could find me.


So I plowed back out of the deep snow (without snow shoes) and limped back to the car. I knew it was my last day to shoot Yosemite in the new snow...possibly for the season, and I really wanted a shot to salvage the afternoon. I already have a barrel full of horsetail shots, and the idea of diving into that mass of humanity behind me wasn't very appealing. The tunnel? Too far away. I'd never make it with the crazy horsetail traffic. Sunset was due in half an hour. Knowing that the sun would spill across El Cap at some point, I headed back down to the river hoping that I would catch some light...and possibly a shot very different from the dozens of Horsetail shots I already had.


As I arrived, my heart leapt up into my chest. The sun was lighting up some clouds and snow covered trees just below El Cap and it looked amazing! I rushed forward to grab the shot....tripped on a hidden branch, and fell flat on my face in the deep snow. By the time I dug myself back out, the light was gone.


What the....???


So if you were in the valley on that particular night and heard a horrible bellowing sound like a wounded buffalo...that was me. This was the second major blow in less than an hour. After pulling myself together...I began laughing. Partially because I was clearly losing my mind at this point....and partially because that really was pretty funny. The light was now a stony gray...and my chance was gone.


However....from past experience, I knew that once a storm begins to break up in Yosemite, it can clear out in a hurry. I was pretty sure the sun would come out again...and so I waited. And sure enough, the sun broke through again, this time lighting up the trees on the other side, toward the Three Brothers.


I looked around and suddenly realized that I was completely alone in a park that was teeming with photographers jostling for Horsetail Fall shots. I shot for at least another 20 minutes and came away with another dozen comps before two other photographers joined me. They said they had tried to get up to the tunnel but a car was stuck and was blocking traffic and they couldn't make it up there.


When the light finally died, I headed back to my car, very grateful for my moment on the river. It took another hour to drive out of the valley, passing hundreds of other photographers who were walking back to their cars from shooting Horsetail. As I mentioned in an earlier post, some of my colleagues have sworn off of Yosemite due to the crowds and the fact that it has seemingly been instagrammed into oblivion. I doubt I'll ever be done with that park, and on some days...I think I'm just getting started. :)




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Taken on February 17, 2019