Yosemite National Park: Can’t see the forest for the missing trees

Yosemite National Park ©Michael E. Gordon

I mentioned being injured in my last blog post on June 17. That comment did not go unnoticed, and I’d like to thank everyone for their concern, well wishes, and generosity. I am indeed on the disabled list, and I will address this in a forthcoming post. In the meantime, there’s something more pressing that I need to get off my chest…

Approximately 5-6 years ago while traipsing cross-country through Yosemite National Park’s incredibly beautiful Tuolumne Meadows – within eyesight of Highway 120/Tioga Pass Road – I discovered scores of young pines that had been cut and removed from the meadows. All that remained of the trees were very short and slender stumps. It had to be the National Park Service (NPS) that cut the trees, and that they were most likely cut to preserve the views for those driving Hwy 120 in the vicinity of Tuolumne Meadows. In late 2008, I learned that the large pines that had grown in front of Yosemite’s famous Tunnel View also got the chop, all in the innocuous-sounding name of viewshed restoration. I was upset. Finally, just this week, Yosemite National Park approved its Scenic Vista Management Plan, and word has gotten out (Mercury News article; L.A. Times article).

In short, the NPS says that the Scenic Vista Management Plan “…is needed to reestablish and maintain Yosemite National Park’s iconic views, vistas, and discrete lines of sight that are obscured by vegetation growth.” The question is WHY? Trees grow, vegetation grows, and natural processes occur. I know you know this, yet I have to wonder if the NPS does. It is not and should not be NPS policy to interfere with natural processes in the name of viewshed restoration, yet that’s exactly what they plan to start doing. I encourage you to have a look at the NPS Mission Statement. Even if broadly interpreted, I cannot see how this action is within the bounds of the NPS’s mission.

The public is at odds with the NPS regarding this issue, and it is vitally important to note that most of the thinning will take place alongside roads, turnouts, and at scenic viewpoints. It should be noted that I support tree thinning and controlled burns to control wildfire – Yosemite NP engages in both every year. But by its name alone, it should be evident that this Plan was primarily enacted to restore scenic views that have become obscured by trees and brush.

For some historical and geologic perspective, let’s have a look at Yosemite Valley’s famous Mirror Lake. Once upon a time, Mirror Lake was much larger and lake-like – you can see this in early Ansel Adams photographs. Mirror Lake is today partially filled with sediment, and is slowly becoming a meadow. Years from now, Mirror Lake and Mirror Meadow will be no more, and the area will be recognized as a forest. This is the standard geological process in the Sierra Nevada. We can’t stop it, we cannot change it. Once upon a time, Tuolumne Meadows was also a lot wetter than it is today, but like Mirror Lake, the expansive meadows are filling with trees and obscuring roadside views – much as forests do. Even the NPS acknowledges Mirror Lake’s meadow conversion on their website (Mirror Lake/Meadow).

It’s a done deal and there’s little we can do about it (the public comment period ended long ago), yet All photographers have a vested interest in this discussion. My concern is that trees and other biota are not killed so that opportunity is created for tourists and photographers. This is not why we created Yosemite National Park and the National Park System. This is not America’s best idea!

I appreciate your comments and contributions on this subject.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Advertisements

Valley Portal

I made this photograph on Monday, December 7, during a beautiful winter storm in Yosemite Valley (see this post for more info). Frankly, I haven’t worked in such poor conditions for some time! When I first spied this scene, it was windy and snowing heavily. I did not let this stop me from setting up the camera, yet for nearly an hour following the setup, I fought to expose a sheet of film. The snow was deep; my dark cloth was blowing around; my ground glass and lens kept fogging; snow kept landing on the front element of the lens; I was covered in snow; and ultimately, it was simply snowing too heavily to make the photograph I had hoped to make. But I couldn’t quit it, as the idea of this image gnawed at me. So I fought the conditions for an hour, using randomly placed expletives along the way, and finally got my negative exposed. And then the idea of the image once again bugged me and bugged me until I finally got the chance to develop film a couple of days ago.

And now I am at peace. When I have business to attend to and can’t get away, this photograph will serve as my magical portal to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Happy Holidays, folks! Thanks for staying tuned to my blog during 2009!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Happy Holidays!

photo, picture: Yosemite Chapel, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, snowstorm, Christmas, snow,

Yosemite Chapel, Yosemite Valley

I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Holidays with best wishes for prosperity and good health in the coming year. May your 2010 be joyful!

Download a large desktop version of this photograph by clicking the thumbnail at left. Simply right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) and select ‘Set as Desktop Background’ to save it to your desktop. Enjoy!

On December 7, 2009, I placed myself in Yosemite Valley for the arrival of California’s first winter storm of the season (see my previous post for more). And boy was it a good one! I awoke at my campsite in Upper Pines to two inches of snow, and by the time my coffee was ready (home roasted! mmm…), it began snowing again in earnest and would not let up until after 4pm.

The Valley received at least a foot of snow from this storm, and it was magical. I was alone, the roads were deserted, and all was quiet in that beautiful world. Around midday I found the Yosemite Chapel in these beautiful conditions and couldn’t resist pointing my camera at it. You can see the snow streaking across the frame if you look at the Chapel facade.

If you ever get the chance to experience a snowfall in the Valley, do it. It feels like one of those once-in-alifetime experiences.

I sincerely Thank You for your continued support of and interest in my work!

Michael

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Yosemite Valley SNOW!

(L to R) Large Format Photography workshop client David, and Michael

I had yet another private workshop last Saturday, this time in the Happiest Place on Earth: Yosemite Valley. I worked with David Okner on Large Format photography, helping him to gain control over view camera movements and teaching him my easy system of metering and exposure (no more bracketing or failed negatives!). We had a great day together, with David displaying a sense of wonderment (how could it be this easy?) and camera confidence by day’s end.

Yosemite Chapel in fresh snow, photo, picture

Yosemite Chapel in fresh snow

The first big winter storm of the season was slated to arrive after midnight on Sunday (and it’s not even yet winter!), so I stayed in The Valley and hoped to awake to snow on Monday. Sure enough, the National Weather Service nailed it. There were two inches of white stuff on the ground when I awoke, and by the time my coffee was ready, it had begun snowing again in earnest. By 4pm Monday – after a full day of non-stop snow – approximately one foot of new snow covered everything. It was absolutely beautiful, and there’s hardly a better place to enjoy a beautiful winter storm like this one.

photo, picture: Merced River, Yosemite Valley, snow, storm

Fresh snow on the Merced River, Yosemite Valley

Right around sunset I made the photograph at left and then decided to try to head home via Hwy 41/Wawona. It was a slow drive out, as it was snowing, foggy, icy – you name it. Driving conditions were challenging and required vigilance. Heading south on Hwy 99, I learned that Caltrans had closed both the Grapevine/I-5 and Hwy 58 to snow, so I did not make it home that night and drove back into the Sierra (southern) to find a place to bivouac and photograph in the morning 🙂

Thanks for a great workshop, David!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Yosemite Meadow

Yosemite Meadow

Yosemite Meadow

I made this photograph in early November 2008 in one of Yosemite Valley’s numerous meadows. It was a chilly, frosty morning, and the last bits of early morning mist were evaporating as I tripped the shutter. I was initially drawn to the contrast between the darker tree trunk and the higher-key balance of the scene, although the texture of the frosted and dried grasses and flowers throughout the meadow really put it over the top for me. Out came the camera.

I used my vintage Wollensak Verito lens at a wide aperture (f8), and combined with camera movements, I placed the focus (pun intended) solely on the trunk and foreground grasses which left the rest of the scene soft and dreamy. Despite how cold it was that morning, this photograph evokes for me a warm, soft place to take respite and ponder the beauty of the Valley and life itself.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Yosemite Renaissance XXIII – Turlock, California

The Yosemite Renaissance XXIII exhibition is now on the final leg of it’s nearly year-long tour, and will be on view in the Turlock City Gallery, inside Turlock City Hall. The exhibition will run from November 10 through December 31. Contact the Turlock City Arts Commission at 668-5599, x4615 for more information.

My photograph of Bridalveil Falls received an Honorable Mention in Yosemite Renaissance XXIII, and can be viewed at Turlock City Hall through December 31. I hope you’ve had an opportunity to see this wonderful traveling exhibition.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

September 2008 Newsletter

[You can receive future editions of Michael’s newsletter by email by subscribing at his website. ]

Dear Friends: I hope this newsletter finds you well and enjoying your summer! Autumn is just around the corner!

On Exhibit:
Spring Arts Collective Gallery – Los Angeles
Opening Reception: September 11, 7-9pm

Burned Pinyon Pines in Fog. Mojave National Preserve, California

Burned Pinyon Pines in Fog. Mojave National Preserve, California

For the month of September, I’ll be one of the featured artists at the Springs Arts Collective Gallery in Downtown Los Angeles. Beginning Thursday, September 11, I’ll be showing four photographs from my Desert series. Coinciding with the Downtown Art Walk, Thursday night’s opening promises to be busy and exciting as literally hundreds of art lovers will pass through the gallery. I hope you’ll join me this coming Thursday – stop by and say hello! Please see the Springs Arts Collective Gallery website for more information and travel directions.

 

On Exhibit:
Yosemite Renaissance XXIII
King’s Art Center – Hanford, California

Bridalveil Falls. Yosemite National Park, California

Bridalveil Falls. Yosemite National Park, California

In case you missed it while it was in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Renaissance XXIII has now traveled to the King’s Art Center in Hanford, California, and will remain on display there through September 21. My photograph of Bridalveil Falls (which received an Honorable Mention) remains part of this traveling exhibit. There are many fine photographs and paintings included in the exhibit, so I hope you’ll get a chance to visit the King’s Art Center if you’re in the area.

 

 

Recently On Exhibit:
Glimpses in Time – Joyce Gordon Gallery
Oakland, California

Drivers Wanted

Drivers Wanted

I’m happy to announce that my photographs Drivers Wanted (left) and The American Dream were selected by renowned San Francisco gallerist Stephen Wirtz to be part of the juried Glimpses in Time exhibition during the month of August. My two photographs were selected from over 350 images from nine countries and twenty-nine U.S. states.

 

Article/Interview
Hanford Sentinel – Hanford, California

Joe Johnson of the Hanford Sentinel (a central California newspaper near Yosemite) recently interviewed me for an in-depth article that heralded the annual return of the Yosemite Renaissance exhibit to the King’s Art Center in Hanford, California. Although you won’t be able to see the large reproduction of my Bridalveil Falls photograph, the article is available on the Sentinel website for your reading pleasure. I had a great time speaking with Joe and sincerely thank him for featuring me in his article!

 

Recent Awards and Recognition
I am happy to announce that several of my photographs have recently received awards and recognition in international competitions:

    * 3rd Place, Nature:Trees, Prix de la Photographie, Paris. 2008;
    * Finalist, 28th Annual Photographer’s Forum Spring Photography Contest (2008);
    * Honorable Mention; Trees; 2008 International Photographer of the Year Awards (22,000 entries from 124 countries).

 

As always, I sincerely Thank You for your support of and interest in my work. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.