Trip Report: Spring in Yosemite (standard) – May 2019

Our recently concluded Spring in Yosemite (standard) Tour was a huge hit.

We had great folks who were eager to see the valley during the spring season, and excited for waterfalls and beautiful weather. All of these things delivered in earnest and our guests walked away with full memory cards and huge smiles.

After meeting in Fresno for a get-to-know-you dinner and some logistical questions, we took off for the Yosemite Valley first thing Monday morning, eager to get going.

We stopped briefly at the Tunnel View, before proceeding to the Swinging Bridge to shoot a great view of Yosemite Falls.

Despite its name, the bridge did not swing but was rather a fixed footbridge, perfect for capturing reflections in the Merced River below. After shooting from the meadow below the falls, our group made our way to the Bridal Veil Falls overlook for our evening shoot, where we captured a great scene as the setting sun illuminating the walls on either side of the over 600-foot waterfall.

Chris Gheen

Our second morning was met with cool temperatures and clear skies as we photographed the Cathedral Group from across the valley, complete with a setting moon, and reflecting pools. A peaceful scene allowed us ample opportunity to compose shots as first light hit the tops of the peaks.

Later that morning, we walked from our lodge to the lower Yosemite Falls and shot some slow water blur shots looking up the gut of the booming cascade.

Chris Gheen

Chris Gheen

The evening of night two was met with a trip to shoot Half Dome from the famous Sentinel Bridge. Our group arrived early to ensure a prime spot on the bridge, and the longer we stayed, the more people arrived, curious as to what we were shooting. Slow shutter speeds allowed for the rushing Merced River to blur in the foreground, creating a compelling scene beneath Half Dome as the setting sun cast an orange glow on the giant granite monolith.

Chris Gheen

The morning of day three, we ventured into El Cap Meadow to photograph the largest unbroken piece of granite in the world. Standing over 3,000 feet above the valley floor, El Capitan is a sight to behold. We set up shop in front of a beautiful spring pool that granted us the opportunity for yet another reflection shot, but this time many of us had to stitch a vertical panorama in order to capture such a large scene.

Later that evening, we had intended to shoot from Valley View, but a professional film crew had claimed the space and were shooting footage of the sunset, so we opted for our back up plan at Tunnel View. We watched eagerly as the first few clouds on the horizon added some texture to our scene, only for them to dissipate before gaining any meaningful color. Nevertheless, our group was happy to be able to shoot at such an iconic location, which seems to be placed perfectly for photographers.

On our fourth morning together, we went right back to Tunnel View, this time in search of a sunburst over Half Dome. This time of year, the sun rises perfectly within a small notch to the right of Half Dome’s silhouette, creating a rather compelling morning scene as the shadows dance across the valley floor. Our group eagerly awaited the sunrise and fired away rapidly as the sun crested the horizon, right where we had anticipated it.

Chris Gheen

Oohs and ahhs were murmured as the sunrise provided a new compositional component to the scene we had shot less than 12 hours prior.

After a photo walk-around the valley that afternoon, our group went back to the Valley View location for our final evening shoot. We were granted beautiful clouds and magnificent color as the sunset. We shot many different compositions of the combination of the Merced River, El Capitan, and Bridal Veil Falls, and it seemed that our skies just kept getting better and better.

This would be a difficult scene to leave, but our final evening’s dinner reservation called us home.

On our final morning, we packed up and made our way to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, where we photographed and stared up in awe and wonder at the size and magnificence of these giant trees.

Chris Gheen

Our guests were shooting in every direction they could, trying to capture such a grand and beautiful scene, before having to head back home. These trees are among the largest on earth, and they provide an elusive image, simply due to their sheer size, but our guests were thrilled with their results regardless.

After a few goodbyes, we all parted ways, happy to have gotten the privilege of spending a week among one of the most beautiful places on earth, eager to come back and do it all again.

Chris Gheen







Chris grew up exploring the mountains of North Carolina, originally with his family on weekend camping trips and later as a self-taught rock climber and backpacker, leading him ultimately to a degree in Recreation Management from Appalachian State University with a focus in Outdoor Experiential Education. Immediately after graduating, Chris drove west, knowing the mountains and opportunities for adventure were much bigger. Since then, he has worked in a variety of guiding applications, from small leadership non-profits to adolescent wilderness therapy, to commercial hiking and tourism guiding in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, always with a camera in hand. Chris loves teaching and sharing his passions and experience with others and is sure to provide careful insight and education whenever the opportunity arises. Chris currently resides in Bozeman, Montana where easy access to Yellowstone National Park allows him frequent trips into the park to photograph wildlife and the unique geologic features of the area. When not behind the lens, he spends his time backcountry skiing, ice climbing, and mountain biking, always on the lookout for a new unique perspective to photograph. The mountains have always been a point of inspiration for Chris and he is excited to capture the beauty of the natural world in an effort to share the space he is so privileged to work in with those around him. For a look at some of Chris’ work, visit his website

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