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Horsetail Fall, the Natural Firefall

2012 February 11
by YosemiteSteve

One year ago, I was intensly focused on capturing orange light on the ephemeral Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley. Pouring off the side of El Capitan, this seasonal waterfall attracts thousands of photographers every year in February when it is transformed into a natural “firefall” right before sunset. Last year, we had a fair bit of weather during the two week window that the firefall effect takes place, so getting good shots was a little tricky. I was trying to get a new episode of Yosemite Nature Notes out about ┬áthis phenomenon as well as the original man-made Firefall from Glacier Point. I never really got the “money” shot that I was hoping for, but the episode was saved thanks to fellow filmmaker Sterling Johnson, who let me license a few shots from his collection. I also interviewed Michael Adams, son of Ansel, Tony Rowell, son of Galen, and local photog Michael Frye, whose blog is a great source of information about photographing Yosemite.

We’ve had an extremely dry winter, so I haven’t been too optimistic about there being much water in the fall this year, but that may be changing. A new storm is rolling in, and the forecast calls for a couple of inches of snow for Yosemite Valley. Provided that it clears up after the storm, this should be enough snow to get the water flowing, so I’ll be out in Valley later this week, trying to get a few more shots for my library.

5 Responses
  1. Jack permalink
    February 16, 2012

    Any luck? How does it look for this weekend?

  2. YosemiteSteve permalink*
    February 16, 2012

    there was good light a little bit of water last night. Warmer today, should be more water, but overall still pretty low flow this dry winter.

  3. Jack permalink
    February 16, 2012

    I’m gonna try to head up on Saturday. I might have to just do a day trip from Bay Area since I haven’t found a place to stay yet. Crossing my fingers. I need to rent a lens too, my longest is 100mm. Last year I was at the Southside Dr location forgot if that’s long enough.

  4. YosemiteSteve permalink*
    February 16, 2012

    If you’re at El Cap Picnic Area, a 100mm can work pretty good, but any farther away and you’ll want a longer lens. Good luck!

  5. October 14, 2012

    The waterfalls were not flowing as strong during my visit this past week as they were in my prior ones even during around the same time of year. Still, the waterfall (as well as the glacial landscape sites) are fantastic. Sitting down by Lower Yosemite Falls is the most relaxing feeling because you can just pick out a place to sit and be looking right at the falls without effort (unlike at Bridalveil Falls where I had to look upwards which can get uncomfortable after awhile).Another new assessment from this visit is that the Tunnel View is probably the best vista point in the park which I didn’t realize before. It almost beats that of Glacier Point without the 20 miles driving to get up there from the valley (unless you plan to hike one of the trails up there, such as the Panorama Trail).The beauty of the highways leading to and from the park and valley (particularly the forested portions of Highway 41 and 120, and the site of the Tuolomne River on Highway 140) adds to the pleasure of driving to and from Yosemite.

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