Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows #1

Photo Spot Summary

Country: United States

Category: Landscape

State: California

GPS Latitude: 37.877148

GPS Longitude: -119.377655


This area can only be accessed by car when Tioga Pass or Highway 120 through Yosemite is open (typically late May-early November). During winter it is only accessible by cross country skiing or snow shoeing.

Photo Spot Details

The meadows are characterized by the meandering Tuolumne river and are much bigger in size than they look at a first glance. A photographer will benefit tremendously by spending a few hours exploring after parking the car at 1) Lambert Dome parking area or 2) Cathedral Lake trailhead. The former is at the eastern end (close to the Wilderness Center) while the latter is about 2 miles west of 1).

Due to the sub-alpine nature, the area changes appearance really quickly during the spring and summer months. Usually, just after the Tioga Pass is open, the Tuolumne Meadows take an appearance of a big snow-melt pond and one can photograph beautiful reflections. Also, the Tuolumne river is raging from snow melt and there are beautiful cascades to photograph just 0.25 mile downstream from the western end of the meadow. In summer, the meadow takes a carpet of green with some wildflowers popping out in July. Thunderstorms roll in during summer months usually in late afternoon, which can give exceptional photographic opportunities especially around 30 minutes from sunset to dusk. Deer can be commonly spotted with an occasional Marmot. I have also seen Coyotes, especially late in the season (October).

Tuolumne Meadows #2
NIKON D610 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 102mm, ISO 100, 1/40, f/16.0

Best time: Dawn to early morning and late evening to sunset.
Tripod: Important for stability due to slow shutter speeds resulting from small apertures for DOF.
Split graduated ND filters can be handy to open up the shadows while maintaining color in the sky/glowing peaks.
Lens: This is a place where you may want to have it all covered from 20 mm to 200 mm in focal length (FX equivalent). Creativity also often stems by limiting yourself to few primes: 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm and using your feet.

Tuolumne Meadows #3
NIKON D700 @ 24mm, ISO 200, 4/1000, f/8.0

Other activities: For hikers, this area provides almost unmatched opportunities. To name a few, the Cathedral lakes trail is an exceptional day hike anytime the road is open. One can also hike to Glen Aulin and eventually to Waterwheel Falls (20 miles round trip) to explore the pristine Yosemite back country.

Tuolumne Meadows #7
NIKON D700 @ 200mm, ISO 200, 1/8, f/11.0
Tuolumne Meadows #6
NIKON D200 @ 55mm, ISO 100, 2/1, f/14.0
Tuolumne Meadows #5
NIKON D700 @ 31mm, ISO 200, 1/8, f/11.0
Tuolumne Meadows #4
NIKON D700 @ 20mm, ISO 200, 1/200, f/16.0

About Vaibhav Tripathi

Vaibhav Tripathi obtained his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 2014. He started pursuing photography as a hobby around 2008. Experimenting for about 2 years to find his niche, Vaibhav stumbled upon a few photos made by the late Galen Rowell. Inspired by Galen’s phenomenal work, he became a student of outdoor lighting and natural atmospheric phenomenon and began the quest for finding quality light. This never ending pursuit has resulted in numerous trips and hikes both close to home and in the wilderness. Having witnessed Nature’s grandeur from up close, Vaibhav strives to keep his photos look as natural as possible, thus reflecting his direct experience. You can visit his portfolio and purchase prints at Lyrical Outdoors and you can also see Vaibhav's work on his Facebook page.


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Do you sell your photos. Beautiful tuolumne meadows one of my favorite places in Yosemite