Debbie Croft: Yosemite is focus of Michael Frye's photography

February 14, 2013 

Some photographers have a systematic style that's easily recognizable. Michael Frye isn't one of them.

"It seems limiting to only photograph the world one way," Frye says. "I've developed several distinct bodies of work ... including surreal nighttime images, delicate high-key work and classic landscape photographs."

Whatever style he chooses, the subject is always nature. And his main tool is light.

"Light is what allows me to create a mood, whether that mood is lyrical, playful or mysterious," he continues.

For close to 30 years, Frye has made his home in the Yosemite area. Sometimes he's up before dawn to capture images of the moon setting over a sleeping lake. In October, he makes his annual pilgrimage to the Eastern Sierra to photograph golden aspens draped in autumn's glory.

Bundled up against the cold, he'll roam the Yosemite Valley floor, taking pictures of snowy black oaks reflected in the Merced River. His patience waiting out a storm is rewarded with images of dissipating clouds among the park's tallest cliffs.

Frye conducts workshops, has published two print books and one ebook, and writes a blog with photography tips. Articles about art and technique of photography have appeared in magazines. His images have been published in more than 30 countries, including National Wildlife, Outdoor Photography, Sunset, and Britain's Professional Photographer.

The definition of photography in one dictionary reads, "The art or process of producing images of objects upon a photosensitive surface ... " But Frye disagrees.

"I tell students, we don't photograph objects. We photograph the light reflected off of objects. A great subject with poor light will make a poor photograph; an ordinary subject with great light can make a great photograph."

"Photography is a visual language, a very different way of communicating," he adds. "But the more you do it, the more fluent you become."

Frye grew up back East. Moving to California in the early 1980s, he landed a job in Yosemite National Park. That's when he got interested in photography.

Later, a position at the Ansel Adams Gallery connected him with other photographers and teachers.

The gallery is hosting an exhibit of Frye's photography. A reception in his honor will be held Saturday, noon until 2 p.m. The exhibit will be on display until March 2. The gallery is located between the post office and visitor center in Yosemite Valley.

At Frye's website,, watch for announcements of workshops, read articles, gather tips, follow his blog and see some of his best work.

Yosemite has been Frye's favorite photographic subject for three decades. He often refers to John Muir's nickname for the Sierra Nevada, "Range of Light."

"Having watched and photographed countless sunrises, sunsets, clearing storms and glowing reflections in these mountains, I think Muir may have been on to something," Frye concludes.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at

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