Milky Way over Half Dome

Half Dome is an iconic sight in Yosemite National Park. It is most often seen and appreciated from Yosemite Valley or Glacier Point. For those who are willing to do a little hiking there are many vantage points is the park for unique perspectives. One such view is directly across Yosemite Valley from the top of North Dome. North Dome can be reached by hiking four and a half miles from the Porcupine Creek Trail head on Tioga road. It was evident to me that given the relationship between North Dome and Half Dome the Milky Way should be visible over Half Dome from North Dome at the right time of year. 

I started planning to take the photo in 2016 but was unable to attempt the trip due to fires in the area in 2016 and 2017. The smoke filled Yosemite Valley making it too smoky to get a clear image of the opposite side of the valley. In 2018 a minor ankle sprain prevented me form completing the hike to the location. I did however get some practice that year from Olmsted Point – a location further east than I wanted to be but it did not require a long hike or overnight stay in the wilderness.

 Well, 2019 was the year all the pieces have come together. Essential to the planning was the use of the app PhotoPills which provides all he essential information needed to plan a nighttime photo. Early June was going to be the optimal time with the moon rise to allow a portion of the night in total darkness and a period of time with the moon still up to light the foreground. However, due to the heavy snow this season Tioga road did not open until July 1 preventing access the trailhead until this weekend. The plan was to hike down to North Dome and scout potential locations for the photo with the help of PhotoPills Night AR feature showing the location of the stars then set up for the night. Once I settled on a location it took a series of images for late afternoon, blue hour after sunset, foreground images before the crescent moon set and finally the dark night sky after the moon set. 

Here you can see the results. 

Happy Trails  – The Alchemist

Joseph Hawkins

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