A Photographer's Guide to Yosemite National Park

Zach Louw /
Zach Louw / | © Culture Trip

Hub Photographer

Since the great photographer Ansel Adams captured Yosemite‘s surreal landscape on film, the national park’s bulbous rocks, waterfalls and jutting mountains have provided inspiration for generations of photographers. Follow their footsteps if you seek otherworldly forms casting unusual shadows and peaks with heart-stopping views. The spots below are those we’ve found the very best – at these you’ll find compositions magically fall into place.

Zach Louw /

At Yosemite, the first challenge you’ll face during busy periods is booking accommodation. We trawled all the official campsite webpages two months in advance and still had to book something outside the park. The closest camping spot we could find was Kelty Meadow, located 23 miles from the South Gate. Despite the distance, we had a fantastic experience. The grounds were immaculately clean and, as it was July 4, Carmen, the host, even put up decorations in celebration.

Tunnel View

Here you can get ‘the’ iconic Yosemite shot and take in some of Yosemite’s largest attractions. The point gives you an incredible view of Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan and Half Dome. Arrive at sunset and you’ll catch some beautiful pinky hues lighting up the valley; linger after dark to capture some incredible long exposure shots.

Tunnel View

Bridalveil Falls

Located near the west entrance to Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Falls roars as water plunges 620 ft (189m) over its precipice. The best time to shoot the attraction is just before sunset when the evening rays accentuate the waterfall’s silver torrent. In spring and early summer, you’ll find the fall at peak volume, so if you decide to hike the Bridalveil Trail during these months, expect to get wet. For shots capturing the waterfall’s sheer height, head to Tunnel View andthe fall’s full length will fit in your lens.

Zach Louw /

Taft Point

A great short hike leads you to Taft Point where you’ll find incredible views for very little effort. Beginning just off Glacier Point Road, the route is a gradual one-mile meander at the end of which lies a breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley and El Capitan. The most popular shot is taken out on one of the many fissures, but not without leaving bystanders with a lump in their throat.

Taft Point

The drop from Taft Point to the valley floor is 3,500 ft (1,067m), so be sure of your footing when approaching the edge. Sunset’s the best time to capture this spectacle – your bravery will be rewarded with some epic results.
Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.Ansel Adams

Taft Point

Glacier Point

Not without good reason is Glacier Point one of Yosemite’s most popular viewpoints. Located on the south wall of the valley at an elevation of 7,214 ft (2,199m), the viewpoint has a commanding position over the park’s most famous landmarks.

Glacier Point

This 360-degree panorama induces a selfie-frenzy as spectators are treated with views of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and Vernal, Yosemite and Nevada Falls.

Glacier Point

Clouds Rest

Positioned northeast of Yosemite Village, Clouds Rest’s proximity to the valley makes it an excellent place to view the valley floor, despite there being many peaks in the park with far greater elevation.

Clouds Rest

The photographic feast starts at Tenaya Lake – a cerulean blue refuge among a sea of green. Start by following signs to Sunrise Lakes and walk the flat 1.5-mile (2.4km) trail, after which the real climbing begins. The route takes you, literally, above the clouds – you’ll ascend 1,500ft (457m) in 4.5 miles (7km), that last 500ft being the final push and a steep climb to the summit. From Clouds Rest, a 360-degree view stretches over Half Dome, Tenaya Canyon and out towards the peaks of the Cathedral and Clark Ranges on the horizon.

Clouds Rest

After all the jaw-dropping views, endorphins and lens flares, you’ll leave Yosemite grinning, with memory cards full of shots capturing the top of the world, and a decision to return.

Zach Louw is self-taught photographer from South Africa.

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