In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

Sierra Thunderstorms

Half Dome and Nevada Fall at sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and Nevada Fall at sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite

While summer is the dry season in California, monsoonal moisture often pushes up from Mexico during this season, triggering afternoon thunderstorms in the mountains. But there hasn’t been much of that this year. It’s been one sunny day after another. While the typical late-summer monsoons made their way to Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado, they never reached this far west.

Last week, however, some of that monsoonal moisture finally arrived in the Sierra, and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, clouds and thunderstorms developed over the high country.


The Range of Light: Yosemite and the High Sierra

The Range of Light:
Yosemite and the High Sierra

• Instructor: Michael Frye
• July 9-13, 2020 (five days)
• Yosemite National Park High Country and Mono Lake
• Focus: Field and Classroom
• Level: Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced
• Maximum 10 Participants
• Tuition: $1375
Workshop FAQ

This workshop is full!
Please email us to sign up for the waiting list.


Yosemite is as famous for its crowds as its scenery. But just beyond the pavement, crowds, and over-photographed vistas lies a beautiful world that few photographers reach, in the high alpine basins of the Yosemite high country. In this workshop I’ll take you to sparkling alpine lakes, polished granite basins, flowing creeks, flower gardens, and ridge top views that lie within a few miles of the teeming roadways, yet feel like they’re deep in the backcountry.

You’ll also learn the techniques needed to make beautiful photographs once you get to these spots, including how to master light, exposure, and composition. Part of this learning process includes portfolio reviews – one of the best ways to advance your photographic skills.

This workshop will include moderate to strenuous hiking (up to 6 miles per day) at high elevations. Participants MUST be healthy and in good physical condition. The workshop is based in Lee Vining, outside the eastern entrance to Yosemite, but the field sessons will take place in the high country of Yosemite National Park and the adjacent Inyo National Forest, at elevations of 8,000 to 11,000 feet, and the elevation makes the hiking much more difficult. You must be prepared to hike on trails with elevation gains of 1000 feet within one mile that contain rocky and uneven hiking surfaces. If you have any questions or concerns about your ability to participate in this workshop, please email me.

All camera formats and levels of photographic experience are welcome.

More information about this workshop…

Legal Stuff:

This workshop is conducted by Michael Frye Photography and is operated under special use permit with the Inyo National Forest. In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, and reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the responsible State or local Agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information is also available in languages other than English.

To file a complaint alleging discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027, found online at, or at any USDA office or write a letter addressed to USDA and provided in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by: (a) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; (b) fax: (202) 690-7442; or (c) email:

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

2019 Workshops

Eastern Sierra in Winter

Early-morning light on Lone Pine Peak and the Alabama Hills, CA, USA

Early-morning light on Lone Pine Peak and the Alabama Hills, CA, USA

Claudia and I drive over to the eastern Sierra frequently in summer and fall, when Tioga Pass is open. We love it over there. But in the winter and spring Tioga Pass is usually closed, turning a two-and-a-half hour drive into an eight-hour drive. Until recently I had never been to Mono Lake in winter except during a couple of exceptionally-dry years when the pass stayed open later than usual – which hardly seemed like winter.

Our trip to photograph the lunar eclipse gave us an opportunity to do something we had always wanted to do: visit the east side in real winter conditions. I photographed sunrise at the Alabama Hills on Sunday morning before the eclipse, and then again on Monday morning, after the eclipse, as a storm was clearing over the Sierra.


Autumn in the Eastern Sierra

Autumn scene along Rush Creek, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Autumn scene along Rush Creek, Inyo NF, CA, USA

We just finished our workshop on the eastern side of the Sierra. When I arrived a few days before the workshop the aspen color was rather mixed, with bare trees, green trees, and every stage in between. But the weather was cold, and things turned quickly. By the time our workshop started most of the green leaves had turned yellow and orange, and we found lots of beautiful color – particularly along the June Lake Loop.


Eastern Sierra Fall Color Update

Carson Peak and aspens during a clearing storm, June Lake Loop, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Peak and aspens during a clearing storm, June Lake Loop, Friday morning

The past week has been very warm, so there hasn’t been a big color change at the lower elevation aspen groves in the eastern Sierra during that time. But there’s definitely more color in those areas, and some great spots, although much of the June Lake Loop and Lee Vining Canyon are still green. Conway Summit, which is a little higher, has some very colorful groves, although it also has some bare trees, and green ones as well. Several spots in the greater Lee Vining area seem to have more oranges and reds than usual.

We also found some beautiful color in Bishop Creek Canyon. North Lake is past peak, though there was still some nice color along the shore. But lower down we found lots of colorful trees, especially along the road to South Lake.