Yosemite, CA

For our anniversary (the very FIRST) we decided to take some vacation and planned our first trip to Yosemite!

For this trip I knew I needed some serious R&R and really wanted a luxury experience. I had zero desire for sleeping on the ground, bugs, bears, or anything in between. We stayed at a cozy resort recommended by a friend that offered cabins, no TVs, so the experience felt authentic, while we still had convenient access to a restaurant and general store. It was a great choice, especially for our first trip into the area, where everything is extremely remote. I could do without the country music we were tortured with through every meal, but I digress!

Although the road between our resort and the valley was closed during our stay, turning what would have been a 15 minute drive into a 3 hour drive (one way), we thoroughly enjoyed the time we found to explore country roads hidden away from any tourism, especially that which would follow us over the Memorial Day weekend. Sheesh.

While everything there is absolutely gorgeous (you can’t find ugly if you try), I think the most beautiful was the private sunset photography flight over Yosemite that my sweet hubby surprised me with for our anniversary. I haven’t shot anything in a year or two (or three – the covid dark times makes the timeline hazy), and I had never shot photography (with a real camera) from a plane before so I was pretty unsure of myself going in. I figured we’d be moving fast so I needed to shoot with a fast shutter speed, so I tried to shoot at a 1/1000s, letting ISO creep up as high as 1800 at some points, and aperture as low as ~3.5 which felt kind of counter-intuitive to shooting landscapes. It was very hazy when we flew (time of day was surely a factor), so many of the flight shots took quite a bit of processing to remove haze – which also left a lot of noise, but overall I was happy with the results and think I did the best I could have done, given the variables that were in my control. The views were phenomenal, the light was magical, and that flight is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Oh, I also got to fly the plane for about 10 minutes. Woop!

Even though I took my 14-24mm and used that for quite a bit of my feet-on-the-ground shooting, I still preferred my 18-105mm kit lens for the flight and for general shooting – I even bought a new one before the trip, since the motor on my original one died. I shot with that one on the flight, and think it was a good choice (otherwise I’d have gotten wing/tail in the shots if I had used the wider angle lens).

Before and after the flight, I was toted around in a super luxurious SUV by my very patient hubby who would stop on a dime to let me shoot anything and everything I asked to. As you can image, there were a lot of stops. I forgot how much I enjoy shooting photography – and how it gets my adrenaline pumping, watching the light change and planning out my shot.

After the trip, I took another week off and spent it re-learning Lightroom (which has changed since the last time I was in it), and sunk a lot of time into culling / selecting / processing this week. It was cathartic for sure. Out of the roughly 650 photos I shot over the 6 days we were there, I managed to select only 28 as my top shots. That process of narrowing it down to the creme de la creme is always the most difficult part (not that any of them are Nat Geo worthy). I do think I’ve gotten better about re-shooting the same thing 20 times over in the same way, though, which makes processing faster (otherwise I’d have had 5k photos).

I’m sure we’ll visit again. We didn’t quite make it to the Valley to see (from the ground) the things tourists go to Yosemite to see. We actually sat in traffic for about an hour and a half trying to get there before heading back to Fresno for our flight home, but ended up turning back because we were running out of time.

I’d definitely recommend this time of year to visit – everything is so alive right now. However (!!!) I’d avoid the Memorial Day weekend. We were glad we were on our way out as the resort and area filled up. It was a night and day experience from earlier in the week when we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

Enjoy Yosemite through my eyes (including the crazy one)!