2 Days at Yosemite Horsetail Falls

This past weekend I was up in Yosemite for the opportunity to capture the once a year ‘Fire Fall’ affect that happens at sunset on Horsetail Falls. For about two weeks a year, weather permitting, the sunset lines up perfectly to illuminate Horsetail Falls on the eastern side of El Capitan. As the sun sets, a shadow is cast along the side of El Cap until just a sliver of light is left to illuminate Horsetail Falls.

Yosemite's El Capitan and Horsetail Falls catching the last light of sunset to create the back lit Fire Fall that only happens in February.

Yosemite’s El Capitan and Horsetail Falls catching the last light of sunset to create the back lit Fire Fall that only happens in February.

Positioning oneself at the right angle, that sliver of light turns the water fall into a nature made Fire Falls, where the water seems like it’s on fire. While there are a number of days each February where the earth/sun alignment is right to create this affect (it happens in the fall as well, but the water fall typically only exists in the winter/spring) you are always at the whim of mother nature and if she’ll grant you clear skies. The amount of recent precipitation and temperatures are also a factor in how much water is flowing over the falls, more water means more dramatic effect.

This year, we are lucky to have a streak of perfect weather with clear evening skies. From other photographers I talked to up in Yosemite it was perfect conditions Friday as well as Saturday and Sunday with this Thursday being the ideal angle of the sunset. One photographer even said that this was the best he had seen in the past twelve years of coming up in February.

Yosemite's Horsetail Falls catching the last light of sunset to create the back lit Fire Fall that only happens in February.

Yosemite’s Horsetail Falls catching the last light of sunset to create the back lit Fire Fall that only happens in February.

Most photographs I have seen of this lighting of Horsetail Falls tend to focus tightly on just the falls. The downside of this is that most people don’t have a good idea of what they are looking at. With this in mind, I made sure to capture both close up as well as wider photos to give the full affect. I also shot some video on Sunday and plan on having a Sunday Morning Short of Horsetail Falls soon.

You can view more Yosemite National Park photos in the Archive, where Art Prints can be purchased.

10 thoughts

  1. This is a beauty, Greg. Something I will have to see one of these years… You know the last time I was in the valley was on a day that could have had the firefall (feb. 28) but I forgot and was shooting Half Dome instead.

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  2. Hi Greg,

    It’s Ramsey from Saturday the 13th…your shots are lookin’ good.

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    latoga Reply:

    Thanks Ramsey. Hope that your exposures turned out as well.

    Since you’re still devoted to the art of film, you should also check out a new film specific blog that I recently heard about, FeelingNegative?

    [Reply]

  3. Curious as to where the best spot is to photo it from. I’ve seen most from somewhere in the valley but a few from the rim as well.

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    latoga Reply:

    Paul,

    Been meaning to do a post on this topic specifically but just been slammed with other work since my trip. I setup across the valley from the falls. The key places tend to be the El Capitan Picnic area on the north side of the valley (much steeper angle) and the parking area along the south side drive before the Sentinel Beach picnic area.

    After talking to other photographers over the weekend I was there, we all thought there should be a unseen photo angle from upon the south side ridge, like from Taft Point. The problem is getting there with all the snow that time of year–you’re probably talking snowshoes/skis and snow camping overnight!

    [Reply]

  4. Pingback: latoga photography | Sunday Morning Short: Yosemite Horsetail Falls

  5. Pingback: X Marks the Firefall | latoga photography

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