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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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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Adam Ondra's Historic Free Climb of El Capitan

I was wondering who would be climbing El Capitan at night, but when you have a record to break, every minute is precious. I learned after my workshop last week that we had captured Adam Ondra on his record-breaking free climb of El Capitan on the night of November 15.

+Outside Magazine has the full story:
How Adam Ondra Pulled Off the Dawn Wall
http://www.outsideonline.com/2138561/how-adam-ondra-pulled-dawn-wall

#AdamOndra #climbing #Yosemite #ElCapitan #news #nightphotography #photographyworkshop #landscapephotography

 

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Yosemite Fall Colors at Night

Can't wait to be in Yosemite Valley tomorrow for my workshop!

It'll run Nov 12 – 16, so I should be able to post a photo from time to time, or at least at the end:
http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/yosemite-national-park-photography-workshops/

#photographyworkshop #yosemite #fallcolors #nightphotography

 

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End of the Season

Yosemite's Tioga Pass Road closed yesterday, but it will be in my dreams all winter long. If you have my guidebook "Photographing California Vol. 2 -South", you may recognize this location from page 42.

http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/photographing-california-travel-guidebook/
#yosemite #nationalpark #nightphotography #photoworkshops

 

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Yosemite National Park to Close Tioga and Glacier Point Roads

Yosemite’s Half Dome from Tioga Pass Road
If you have any plans to head over Yosemite’s Tioga Pass Road this year, you’d better get that in before 3 pm tomorrow!
 
Yosemite News Release – October 28, 2016 12:00 pm – For Immediate Release
Yosemite National Park to Close Tioga and Glacier Point Roads Incoming Storm Expected to Drop a Significant Amount of Snow in the Park’s Higher Elevations
With several major storms expected in the Yosemite Area this weekend, Yosemite National Park is closing Tioga Road at 3:00 pm and Glacier Point Road at 5:00 pm, on Saturday October 29, 2016 This Closure will be in place until further notice.
 
Tioga Road typically closes each fall and remains closed throughout the winter months. The road reopens when weather and road conditions permit in the spring. Yosemite National Park is open year-round with snow removal on all other roads within the park.
All roads within the park are subject to chain control or temporary closures due to hazardous driving conditions. All motorists are required to carry tire chains, even if their car is equipped with four-wheel drive, while driving in the park during the winter months.
For updated 24-hour road and weather conditions for Yosemite National Park, please call 209-372-0200

-NPS-
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Tioga Pass, summer 2016

I’m looking forward to my Yosemite Full Moon & Fall Colors workshop coming up November 12 – 16, and working on my schedule for next year, when you can join me to photograph the unique sights available away from the crowds of Yosemite Valley!

November 2012… join me here for a workshop November 2016!

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Sunset in Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows

Originally shared by +Jeff Sullivan Photography

A short hike and a long lens yielded this stunning view in the High Sierra Saturday night. I hadn't visited this vantage point in a while, but it seemed like it might pay off for this sunset.

www.JeffSullivanPhotography.com
#yosemite #nationalpark #landscapephotography #highsierra

 

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Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows Sunday Night

I headed up to the Tioga Pass Road in Yosemite to see how current summer water levels in the Tuolumne River might influence my workshop later this week. With water levels dropping, there are some nice calm spots for sunset reflections.

2016 Yosemite Schedule: http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/yosemite-national-park-photography-workshops/

#Yosemite #landscapephotography #photographyworkshops

      

In Album Tioga Pass Road, Yosemite National Park

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High Sierra Milky Way

Seeing this photo from one of my Tioga Pass/Eastern Sierra workshops this summer makes me want to go back out!

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

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New Album Covering Tioga Pass Road

I'll kick off this new album with 35 photos from my visits to the Tioga Pass area over the past couple of months. We should be able to access this area from four or five of my Yosemite and Eastern Sierra workshops this year. http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/yosemite-national-park-photography-workshops/

+Jeff Sullivan Photography #yosemite #nationalpark #NPS100 #landscapephotography #photographyworkshops #california

              

In Album Tioga Pass Road, Yosemite National Park

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