Yosemite Storm & Cloud Photography

On one hand, it’s hard to watch your beautiful, sunny day get swallowed up by dark, menacing clouds. On the other, you can adapt to your situation and end up with some once in a lifetime photos. I hope my Yosemite storm photography shows why valley thunderstorms are a blessing, not a curse…

Yosemite Storm Photos – El Capitan

Moody skies over El Capitan, black and white - Yosemite storm photography
Moody skies over El Capitan

Speaking of menacing, have a look at these clouds that overtook El Capitan one day while I was visiting Valley View Yosemite! Without a doubt, the photo below illustrates the beauty and contrast of Yosemite’s moods.

Dark storm cloud contrasting El Capitan - portrait, black and white
Dark storm cloud contrasting El Capitan

Seeing these dramatic, brooding shadows passing over valley icons such as El Capitan and Half Dome is something I planned all year for. Unlike most other locations, Yosemite thunderstorms are not an inconvenience. As a matter of fact, you’ll probably want a front row seat for one!

Half Dome in the Clouds

Surprisingly, on a nice day, this cloud creeping up over Half Dome appeared out of thin air (literally!). It almost looks like a hand, with fingers reaching up and grasping the face of Half Dome.

Low clouds swallowing Half Dome - black and white closeup
Low cloud swallowing Half Dome (closeup)

Surely this illustrates why it’s good to be patient when taking pictures in a place like Yosemite. Additionally, it’s good to have a long reaching lens. This shot was taken from far away at Glacier Point.

Yosemite Storm in the Valley

Dark storm clouds rolling in over Yosemite Valley, b&w
Storm clouds rolling in over Yosemite Valley

Yes, it’s definitely good to be prepared when visiting the park. After all, a perfect sunny day can transform into a dark and stormy scene in a matter of minutes. I was hiking to Inspiration Point one day when I turned around and saw how quickly these thick clouds had rolled in over Yosemite Valley.

Clearing Storms

Since too many (or not enough) clouds can equal boring, lifeless photos, it pays to be in the right place at the right time. For me during the past year, being based near the park was priceless.

Clearing storm with valley fog and low hanging clouds in winter - black and white
Clearing storm with valley fog and low hanging clouds in winter

For instance, I watched the weather religiously, and dropped everything to visit the park if I saw an incoming or clearing storm. That’s the best time to witness Yosemite’s stunning character & contrast.

Cloud Formations in the Hills

Smoke-like cumulus cloud formation illuminated on hilltop - black and white
Smoke-like cumulus clouds illuminated on hilltop

On this occasion, I noticed incredible, fuming clouds drifting up above the hills along Highway 120. Given that California had just endured a brutal forest fire season, I assumed there was another blaze up in the hills. Turns out it was just a beautiful, intense cumulus cloud formation!

"Steamy" clouds on snowy foothill layers, black and white - Yosemite storm photography
“Steamy” clouds on snowy foothill layers

As can be seen above, creeping clouds and filtered sunlight can transform even a simple hilltop scene into a dramatic work of art. Speaking of which, if you enjoyed this photo series, you might enjoy my fine art and black and white photography.

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About My Photos

The images on this website are available for licensing and/or sale as framed prints. If you’d like to purchase them for a blog, news article, or gift, feel free to contact me with the specifics. This way you’re supporting photographers such as me directly (as opposed to buying from a faceless stock photo corporation).

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– Nathan Allen

About Me

Photographer Nathan Allen

I’m Nathan Allen, photographer / creator of YosemiteParkPhotos.com (Yosemite Photos) and international travel site I Dreamed Of This. In truth, I lived in San Francisco, New York, & Singapore…but nothing compares to life in the mountains. I share my experiences HERE.