“If polled, the resident local photographers would rate this as one of their favorite spots. Disdaining obvious subjects like El Capitan or Yosemite Falls, many would prefer to train their lenses on the tiny waterfalls of Fern Spring, the dogwood blossoms that fill this area in early May, or the colorful leaves turned out by the dogwoods and bigleaf maples in autumn…” Michael Frye, The Photographers Guide to Yosemite.
I will admit, if it wasn’t for this quote from this invaluable guide, I would never have stopped at this spot that, more often than not, doesn’t even show up on most maps of Yosemite Valley. Indeed, even if it did, I would have most assuredly given “Fern Spring” a miss. “Fern Spring”? Sounds like a bad Disney cartoon or an even worse perfume.
And it’s tiny–holy crap, it’s tiny. No bigger than a cheap coy pond/lawn fountain display at Home Depot, you would be forgiven for driving right by it. The only thing that might draw your attention to its general area are the horses of photographers that jockey for a great shot at certain times of the day. And that is no exaggeration. There is probably only one spot to really get a good composition from, and even then, you are going to be on your hands and knees to get it.
Fortunately for me my wife bought the book and fortunately for us we arrived at magical Fern Spring on a rainy Monday afternoon. The rain washed away the hordes of photographers and gave me a clean (yet wet) spot to place my bum for the 20-30 second exposures required to shoot this beautiful and dark place. I have to admit; it’s certainly a change of pace from photographing wine bottles in a studio!
If you ever get a chance to visit Yosemite Valley, do yourself a favor and seek out this watering hole for photographers, turtles, and the soul.
– Bryan Gray, Napa Valley Winery and Wine Bottle Photographer