Where to Shoot Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall

Horsetail Fall February 14
Wind Cyclone Up Horsetail FallHorsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley is backlit by the setting sun for roughly two weeks each year. As the sun falls behind the vertical face of El Capitan, it selectively lights this waterfall with its orange sunset glow.

This is an amazing spectacle to witness. Lasting only about 15 minutes before the sun goes down, the lighting gradually grows in intensity and color for the last 5 minutes or so. It is often like seeing a narrow strip of lava flowing down the face of El Capitan.  Con’t rule out other times of the day though.  The back-lighting can be great on the waterfall in late afternoon as well.

Different Take on Horsetail FallThe weather and the water flows often don’t cooperate.  You need enough snow above El Capitan, high enough temperatures up there for some of that snow to melt, and you need clear skies where the sun sets on the western horizon.  I was shut out by back to back blizzards in 2007, so I was fortunate to see this on two consecutive evenings from two different angles in 2008, and several times since then.

Sometimes there is little water flowing down the rock, but from a position to the south, the selective light on the wet spot makes it look like the waterfall is there anyway!

Other times, if there’s clearly too much cloud cover or valley mist to allow light through, heading somewhere else for a more traditional landscape shot may be the ticket for that evening.  You have to first anticipate where the best light will be, before you can be in the right place to react to the light as it develops.

Horsetail Fall February 15, 2017 In 2017 I experienced a new variation: there was little direct light on the waterfall at sunrise, but there was intense sunset color on the horizon a few minutes later, and while the main flow of water didn’t pick that up with any particular intensity, the surrounding wet spots on the rock reflected it beautifully.

Unfortunately most photographers seemed to have been waiting only for the direct light of the sun, so there was a pulse of traffic as they drove away, probably not seeing the sunset light that developed after the official sunset time.  Folks, that’s how sunsets usually work!  The best color is minutes AFTER the theoretical (zero degree horizon) sunset time. So stick around for at least 10 minutes “after sunset”, or even 15 or 20, just to be sure that you don’t miss that night’s color, whatever it may be.

Natural Firefall (266,301 views on Flickr so far!)1) Along the bank of the Merced River near the turnout just East of the Cathedral Beach picnic area (which is closed for Winter). This location is described on page 24 of my 320-page guidebook “Photographing California Vol. 2 – South”.

This angle provides the composition that compresses the complete length of Horsetail Fall against the rock of El Capitan.  You can zoom in for a composition with no sky, or use a wider focal length to include the profile of El Capitan.  This seems to be the most crowded location in recent years, as photographers pack together to shoot through an opening in the trees.

This is arguably a more complete view of Horsetail Fall, showing a longer stretch of its descent, making it look longer and skinnier.  The view of more of the vertical drop makes the water flow look skinnier, and seeing it all from a longer distance makes it look more abstract and lava-like.

Horsetail Falls at Sunset2) In the vicinity of the Cathedral picnic area on Northside Road in the valley, 1/2 mile East of the El Capitan bridge. That North road is closed for maintenance, so it’s a 1 mile walk each way from where the El Captan bridge road hits Southside Road. This location is also described in “Photographing California Vol. 2 – South”.

This is more of a side view than the position on the south side of the Merced River, with the upper reaches of the waterfall against the sky.  By showing less of the vertical drop, the flow of the water looks wider, and you see more of the rock face relief in detail.

The more northern location is probably the more common and iconic shot you see, although I don’t mean to imply that’s better.  It’s just another nice variation on a rare and amazing solar alignment event.

Winter WonderlandThe conditions required to make Horsetail Fall are unpredictable, so it’s important not to rule out all trips that look iffy.  You’re probably more likely to miss it than catch it, but it’s important to remember that Yosemite is beautiful this time of year, and generally more so if there are passing storms!  So missing Horsetail Fall may be the best possible outcome for your trip.  You may catch far better photos, of far more unique conditions.

Plan on some dates, prepare yourself for the trip (carry chains), enjoy a winter trip to Yosemite, and consider Horsetail Fall to be possible icing on the cake!  And expect to enjoy return trips to Yosemite in the winter if you don’t get the Horsetail Fall photo that you want on the first one.  Seriously, even when I lived in Sacramento, only 3 hours away, it was nearly impossible to predict when conditions would be great.

Life isn’t a destination, it’s the journey that occurs as you pursue your goals.  Enjoy and make the most out of every moment.

If you want a little help maximizing your odds of success and anticipating the light to be in the right place while you are in the park, I update my annual list of Yosemite photography workshops here.

#Yosemite #landscapephotography #workshops
http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/yosemite-national-park-photography-workshops/

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2017 Death Valley Photography Workshops

Death Valley Super Bloom Sunrise
So far I’m planning two Death Valley trips for spring wildflowers, two more in the fall:

Mar 1 – 5 – Death Valley Spring Landscapes & Night Photography – enroll: $1195
We’ll have all the normal wonders of Death Valley, plus the 2017 bloom.  I’ve been watching the rainfall pattern and I’m visiting the park in January and February to confirm where the wildflowers will be growing best at this time.  The travel day will be February 28, then we’ll shoot March 1 – 5.  There will be some moonlight in the evenings, and Milky Way available before dawn.

Afternoon Light at Mesquite Flat

Mar 22 – 26 – Death Valley Spring Landscapes & Night Photography – $1195
Like the early March session, we’ll have exotic landscapes plus wildflowers, and the Milky Way will be up in the morning if you want to capture it!  The wildflowers will be blooming in different areas for this visit.

Gold Desert of Desert Gold

Nov 16 – 19 – Death Valley Landscape & Night Photography – Leonid Meteor Shower
I’ve been chasing photos of meteor showers for ages.  Come see how it’s done!  This is a landscape photography workshop, with the bonus of a sky show at night.  More details coming soon.

Charcoal Kilns at Night

Dec 9 – 13 – Death Valley Landscape & Night Photography – Geminid Meteor Shower
In my opinion, Death Valley is the best place to catch the year’s most active meteor shower.  Join me for a landscape photography workshop with flying burning rocks at night! Details coming soon.

Perseid Meteor Shower 2015

Here’s my Death Valley workshop overview page:
http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/death-valley-photography-workshop-2013/

I live 3 hours from the park, and I’ve been exploring Death Valley several times per year for eleven years! If you can’t join me but want to explore the park, my 320-page guidebook “Photographing California Vol. 2 – South” includes 40+ locations in Death Valley.

#deathvalley #photographyworkshops www.JeffSullivanphotography.com

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Joshua Trees at Sunset

I don't usually think of Joshua trees as a "cloud forest" species, but in the winter when they get most of their moisture, a lot of them live up where they are in the clouds of oncoming storms. Although they are clearly a desert species, it's high desert, and much of the moisture falls as snow. This lengthens the time when the moisture can soak into the soil.

Joshua trees are an indicator species for the Mojave Desert ecosystem. They have been declining in geographical extent for thousands of years. One contributing factor may be the extinction of the giant ground sloth, which spread Joshua tree seeds, but disappeared around the time that humans arrived on the continent. As climate change shortens winters and raises snow levels, that may accelerate their decline.

www.JeffSullivanPhotography.com
#joshuatrees #landscapephotography #DeathValley #MojaveDesert

 

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Bodie’s 193 earthquakes over 1.5 Magnitude This Week

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The shaking in Bodie continues! When I search the USGS site for earthquakes 1.5 and over, it shows 193 in the past week.

Apparently some windows have broken, some brick buildings have been damaged, so the park has been closed through Sunday so the damage can be assessed and buildings stabilized. The activity could last two months, so there is the possibility of strong aftershocks as well.

For photos of the historic town of Bodie, see my album with over 400:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreysullivan/albums/72157630926160354
Photo usage permission may be granted with appropriate credit, so contact me with any requests.

#earthquakes #Hawthorne #Nevada #science #news

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Sixty-Three Earthquakes Near Bodie Last Night!

earthquakes-bodie-creek-aurora-bridgeport-hawthorneThe USGS reports 63 earthquakes between Bridgeport and Hawthorne last night, clustered around Bodie Creek, north of the historic town sites of Aurora and Bodie. The earthquakes included two of magnitude 5.7 and one of 5.5, in an area about 10 miles downstream from the town of Bodie, California.

By coincidence I was editing this sunset photo from Hawthorne last night, captured on my way back from Utah last month. Walker Lake is important for migrating and nesting birds such as pelicans, but in recent years the lake level dropped significantly due to excessive diversions for agriculture. All fish including the Lahontan Cutthroat trout living in the lake have died as the lake level dropped and the lake’s mineral content and alkalinity rose. It is still used for water by bighorn sheep in the neighboring mountains.

One of the largest employers in Hawthorne is the U.S. Army, which stores and dismantles old bombs and ammunition there. How would you like to be working on a 700-pound bomb during a 5.7 earthquake?

#Nevada #landscapephotography #Hawthorne #walkerlake

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Candlelight Vigils in Every State Sunday Night

Photographers, these events could make for some interesting and historic photos, in this most interesting of recent elections.

http://www.vigilsforamerica.com
https://www.facebook.com/pg/uniteamericaorg/events/

#news #photojournalism #politics #electoralcollege

Vigils for America
Unite for America to Stop Donald Trump!

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Blue Hour at Mono Lake

After the "super moon" rise at Mono Lake last month, I stayed to get a blue hour photo of these tufa rock formations, back-lit by the light of the full moon. I entered this and several other photos in the annual calendar contest conducted by the +Mono Lake Committee… fingers crossed!

www.JeffSullivanPhotography.com #landscapephotography #photographyworkshops #monolake #california #easternsierrs

 

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Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

As I look towards possibly leading workshops in Grand Teton National Park in 2017, I've updated some of the edits on my photos from my past visits to the park.

#landscapephotography #photographyworkshops #grandteton #nationalpark

              

In Album Grand Teton National Park

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Grand Grape Celebration Wine Tastings in Yosemite

I signed up for a wine tasting in Yosemite right after my Fall Colors workshop November 12-16, featuring +Silver Oak Cellars, +Twomey Cellars , Martinelli Vineyards, and Tablas Creek Vineyard

The wines were outstanding, and both Silver oak and Tablas Creek poured verticals going back to 2001 so you could see how they can develop over time. This was overall schedule:

Session #4 ~ November 16 – 18
2016 Moderator ~ Dan Berger, Wine Journalist & Judge

Wednesday, November 16
1:00 PM “Tasting Nuances Between Site Specific Single Vineyard Wines”
Martinelli Vineyards & Winery Regina Martinelli

3:30 PM “Esprit de Beaucastel: The Evolution of a Flagship Rhone Blend”
Tablas Creek Jason Haas
6:00 PM Meet the Vintners Reception

Thursday, November 17
1:00 PM “A Deconstructed Tasting of 2016 Sauvignon Blanc”
Twomey Cellars David Duncan

3:30 PM “A Brief History of (Silver Oak) Time through Selected Wines”
Silver Oak Cellars Daniel Baron

6:30 PM Gala Vintners’ Dinner

I received a promo email touting $149/person attendance to the 2016 series of wine events:
<a href="http://z.aramarkparks.com/arzh40/wmws/ARZH/1476994621194_220/w551346.php?custcode=ARZH&bid=98006925737007&pbid_=98006925737007" rel="nofollow">z.aramarkparks.com/arzh40/wmws/ARZH/1476994621194_220/w55...</a>

Given that you'll pay about $75 for a dinner in the Ahwahnee anyway, it's not a bad price for four tastings, reception, and a four course dinner at the Ahwahnee paired with wines!

Here's the full schedule:
<a href="http://www.travelyosemite.com/media/487082/grand_grape_schedule_of_events_82516_2.pdf" rel="nofollow">www.travelyosemite.com/media/487082/grand_grape_schedule_...</a>

There will be far fewer of these events in 2017, since the kitchen in the Ahwahnee is due for a remodel.

I looked up this photo from November 14, 2005 to see how the conditions might be in Yosemite Valley during my workshop, and around the time of the event..

#wine #traveltuesday #travel #winetasting #yosemite #fallcolors

 

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Super Moon Rise at Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra, California

With the full moon occurring at dawn this month, there were actually two full moon rises close to sunset. This was the first one, captured over Mono Lake in California's Eastern Sierra region..

#easternsierra #california #landscapephotography #astrophotography

 

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