Bridalveil Fall, Just Before The Rain


Have you ever had a day or an afternoon that you just didn't want to end? For me, this was one of those days.

A 330AM alarm. Caffeinated, out the door and on the move at 355AM. Because of the last minute decision to head up to Yosemite I was unable to secure a campsite in the Valley so I was staying in a motel just outside the park. I always drive a little slower in the darkness of early morning because you just never know when a large critter like a deer or bear might suddenly appear right in the middle of your intended path. The results would not be good for either of us. So, with that in mind, I knew I was looking at a leisurely drive of just under 30 minutes to Tunnel View where I hoped to photograph sunrise.

I have to admit, the day started out a little on the disappointing side with a cloudless sky and a bust of a sunrise. Disappointed or not, I was in Yosemite and would find ways to make the best of it.

I spent a good part of my morning working on the "details" of my surroundings. A little after 9AM I found myself sitting in a peaceful shady patch of dirt under a impressive Ponderosa Pine three or four boot lengths from the placidly flowing Merced River. I was enjoying a hot cup of black coffee and eating a Berry Pomegranate Chia Cliff Bar while a Douglas Squirrel sat on a bowling ball sized rock not five feet from me. Starring at me. I don't know why, but I always seem to get a little nervous when squirrels make eye contact. I did my best to ignore it, but to be honest, I never let it completely out of my sight. Eventually it came up with better things to do and took off back into the forest to do those things.

Around 11AM I was working a new section of the Valley when I noticed the first few clouds drifting high above the Valley. "That's encouraging" I thought. Most people (not photographers) wish for cloudless blue sky days. Photographers like clouds! All sorts of clouds. Anything that adds a little punch, texture, interest or drama to what would otherwise be a boring blue sky.

As the day progressed the clouds continued to accumulate and build. Like slowly turning up the heat on the frog in a kettle of water, the clouds slowly continued to gather and darken hoping no one would notice until it was too late.

I noticed...

And decided to make my way back to where this day started. Tunnel View. I arrived just before 2PM. I topped off my coffee and made my way to the viewing area with my gear. I switched to my 70-200mm lens and was just reattaching my camera to my tripod when I heard the first faint rumble of thunder. Shortly after that a light rain began to fall bringing with it the most wonderful perfume of falling rain. I breathed in as deeply as I could, closed my eyes and tilted my head back and enjoyed the tickling of the cool light rain on my face. I continued to breathe deeply and noticed that the perfume of the rain was now accompanied by a sweet hint of pine. I smiled.

Another rumble of thunder, this time closer and louder. It seemed to be bouncing off of the amazing granite walls before me. The rain slowed and then stopped. I removed my lens cap and made a few photographs. The skies were now filled with the most magnificent steel grey drama. Drifting, floating and churning into new patterns, densities and shades of grey. It was like watching the most elaborate waltz performed by a thousand dancers. To say it was special is an understatement.

The first bolt of lightning really got my attention. 8 seconds passed before the booming thunder rumbled and rolled into the Valley. Another bolt of lightning. 7 seconds this time before the thunder once again rumbled loudly and seemed a little more angry than the last. There were only two of us left at the view point now. Rain started falling again and was noticeably harder than before. The next flash of lightning was the brightest yet and the thunder arrived in 5 seconds and was a violent deafening explosion that had me cowering and covering my ears! SHIT! I knew I was in a bad place and needed to get to my vehicle quickly.

Safely inside my vehicle I watched and listened to the approaching storm. More lightning. More thunder. The rain turned to hail. Hail somewhere between a BB and a marble in size. It rattled and ricocheted off of my roof, hood and windshield. As I took a sip of coffee I looked into my rear-view mirror and was surprised to see that I was smiling from ear to ear. I thought to myself "this is one of those days that I never want to end."

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