Yosemite is a really big park but the vast majority of it is declared as wilderness. A few thin roads carve their way through the park but to get the most out your visit you need to get out of the car. I understand that not everyone is capable of strapping on a pack and venturing into the back country for 5 days, but just about everyone can handle walking a mile or two. Doing so can open up views of the park that you’d never know existed if your only vantage point is a parking lot.
This image is an example of what a short 2 mile, almost completely flat, walk can allow you to see. Many folks who visit the Tuolumne Meadows area just see a gentle stream meandering through a meadow. They have no idea that just on the other side of the meadow is a series of cascades that the river tumbles down on its way to [wikipop]Glen Aulin[/wikipop] and [wikipop]Waterwheel falls[/wikipop]. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful area but you most certainly can’t drive to it.
The next time you’re in the park stop by a visitors center. The rangers that staff the centers are more than happy to help you find a destination that’s within your ability. Whether you choose to walk 1 mile or 1o you’ll open up a whole new side of the park that you may never have known existed. Pack a lunch and make a day of it; you won’t be sorry.
This image was taken a short distance from where the Tuolmne river leaves its namesake meadow. The river tumbles off of a granite ledge and heads off, sideways, down the canyon. To get the shot I had to carefully climb down the wet, and quite slippery, granite to this vantage down in a crevice. My camera is nearly level with the upper surface of the river. I was very close to the water, and getting a little wet, so I used my Canon 17-40 f/4L to exaggerate the perspective. To make sure that I had adequate depth of field I stopped down to f/16 which resulted in an exposure of 1/20th of a second. Even with the overcast, the sky was still a stop or two brighter that the camera was able to capture so I brought the very top of the frame down with a Singh-Ray 2 stop, soft, graduate neutral density filter. An alternative approach would have been to capture two frames, one for the sky and one for the river and combined them in post processing.